THEME: Is God Fair in His Judging?
This week’s lessons show the importance of repentance in view of the certainty of a coming judgment, which in God’s mercy is being delayed.
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 6:24-27
So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
All of the wicked practices that Israel was warned against were present in a most perverted and dangerous way in the Canaanite culture. It is, incidentally, something similar to what existed in the time of Noah, and in my view, is one of the reasons for God’s judgment upon that culture as well as upon the Canaanites. God is in the battle against the demonic forces of evil, and where there’s a great outcropping of those in society, God’s judgments are particularly swift. All of that was true of the Canaanites.
When we begin to talk about God’s judgment on these people and ask how this could happen, the first part of the answer is that the Canaanites were far from innocent. They were actually a most perverted people. But when we begin to answer the question in that way, we need to be careful because the answer can be misunderstood. When we say God judged those people because they were sinful, we inevitably suggest and probably firmly believe that God’s judgment hasn’t come to us simply because we’re better. Whenever we get thinking that way, we are in even more serious trouble than they were.
I think in that respect of the conversation the Lord Jesus Christ had with some people in His day, as recorded at the beginning of Luke 13. People had come to Jesus raising a moral question, precisely the question that involved the destruction of the Canaanites, though in a slightly different form. They said, “Look, some time ago here in Jerusalem, there was a tower known as the Tower of Siloam. This tower fell over on one occasion, and killed people. Now why did that happen? Why did it kill those poor people who were just innocently walking nearby?”
“Or,” they said, “here is another situation. Some time ago there were some Galileans down from the north to Jerusalem. They had gone up to the temple to offer their sacrifices, and they were standing there in the very act of offering them. While they were there doing that, for no reason at all, Herod’s soldiers fell upon them and killed them. How can that happen in a universe ruled by a powerful and benevolent God?”
Jesus said something most interesting. You might have expected him to say under the circumstances, “Well, after all, it’s just a small detail. It’s a very big world. Just think of all the things that God has to attend to every single second of the day. It’s inevitable that a few things like that happen now and then.” You might have expected him to say something like that, but he said nothing of the sort.
Instead He responded, “Do you think that those people who were killed by the Tower of Siloam were more sinful than all the other people in Jerusalem? I tell you no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Then he said, “Do you think those Galileans who were killed by the soldiers of Herod were more wicked than all the other Galileans who had come to the feast?” He answered, “I tell you no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus was teaching something very important. When you ask, “Why did God allow these Canaanites to be killed” or “Why does God allow someone to perish” or “Why does God allow the great atrocities that we see in our world?” you’re really asking the wrong question. The questions we should be asking is not why does God allow that to happen to other people, but “Why doesn’t that happen to me, because I am a sinner too?” “Why hasn’t judgment come to all of us already?” “Why aren’t we all in hell, every single one of us, this very moment?” When you begin to ask questions like that, you’re brought up not against some supposed injustice in God, but with the reality of his mercy, which is what the postponement of judgment is all about.
The second part of the answer is that although God does postpone judgment, often for long periods of time, God is nevertheless the judge and God does and will judge sin. I think here of those key passages in the New Testament that talk about the coming of judgment, and which raised this question from the perspective of those who were living in the day. Peter is one who deals with it in 2 Peter 3. He’s talking about the last days there, and he’s saying, “Look, in the last days, scoffers are going to come, people who are following their own evil desires and who are raising moral questions. They are asking, ‘Where’s this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has from the beginning?'” There are people like that today.
Then Peter answers the question, “Look, they are willfully ignorant.” The New International Version says, “They deliberately forget.” That is, they want to forget and they make themselves forget. “Long ago, by God’s word, the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and with water, and by water also the world of that time, God’s first creation, was deluged and destroyed.” He said, “You see, God has given judgments in the past as proof of the fact that he does judge sin. Just because he delays the judgment of sin in our generation does not mean that he has forgotten his judgments. They will come in due time.”
I think of a second passage. We turn to Jude, who is also writing about evil scoffers. Jude is also talking about the judgment, and he gives three examples. In verse five he says, “I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but he later destroyed those who did not believe.” Among the Jewish people, those who actually left Egypt, we would say those who were actually within the organized church, there were those who perished. God gave evidence of his judgment there. All who had left Egypt perished in the wilderness, except for Joshua and Caleb.
Then in verse six we read, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home, these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day,” So here is the judgment of the fallen angels. Then in verse seven: “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. These serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
Peter and Jude are saying, “We well understand that in this day of God’s grace there are going to be people going about saying, ‘Well, none of this is really true because year succeeds year, generation succeeds generation, and this promised judgment, this thing that the Christians have been talking about for ages hasn’t come.'”
In trying to answer why God has the right to judge as he does, what is the first part of the answer that Dr. Boice gives? What do we need to remember so that it does not get misunderstood?
What is the second part of the answer?
Peter and Jude both write about judgment, and scoffers still deny God’s coming judgment. How have you seen this today? In what ways do people mock God?
Just because God delays the judgment of sin in our generation does not mean that he has forgotten his judgments. They will come in due time.