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Godly Judgment

 

Either, or; neither, nor: what are those words and what do they describe? Grammatically, they are called correlative conjunctions because they correlate one thought with another thought. Conceptually, they present two choices. Thatís what really fills our daily lives. Every day we make decisions, judging between two or more choices: truth or falsehood; right or wrong, good or bad.

Our first parents, Adam and Eve, had to make choices. We know the outcome of one of their worst choices. When faced with the decision of obedience to or rebellion against God, they made the wrong choice. Eve believed Satanís lie rather than the truth she had been taught by God. That confrontation was all about proper judgment. Two choices were weighed in Eveís mind but the wrong one was followed. Adam made an even worse judgment by going along with Eveís decision and not standing firm for the truth they had both been taught by God. Proper judgment needs proper discernment; but just what do you know about judgment?

Websterís New World College Dictionary defines judgment as: 1) the act of judging; deciding 2) a legal decision, order, decree, or sentence given by a judge or law court 3) a debt or other obligation resulting from a court order. Stop right there. What theme is common to all three of those definitions? Itís the weighing of choices to arrive at a decision.

When we weigh choices, itís a lot like actually weighing something on a balance scale. Think of the old-time balances. In order to accurately weigh an object, you needed standards. They were precise weights that were known to measure up to an already-established standard of weight. Itís much the same for us today regarding weighing moral choices. Moral choices require a moral standard.

 

The Source of Authority

Who is any one of us to say what is an appropriate basis for moral standards? Do we just wake up one day and say, "this is my standard for choices todayÖ but maybe it will be different tomorrow"? Thatís no standard. A standard is something firm and reliable. Where is the authority in that? Is it merely the standard of our forefathers through their traditions? Well, in some societies, that may carry a certain amount of authority. In most, however, the attitude of "what was good enough for Grandpa is good enough for me" is really not a rigid standard to which others may seek attainment. We, as individuals, and our society at large need clear, unambiguous, authoritative standards for our moral decisions; but to whom should we turn?

Except among atheists, even though it may show itself in many variations of belief, there is generally widespread agreement in most societies that, before man, there was God. Therefore, it is no stretch to deduce that before mankindís authority, was Godís authority. Authority comes from God and God is the source of authority. Since God is the ultimate authority, those of us who seek to live our lives under Godís authority willingly admit that our authority is not our own. It is God who sets the standards of acceptable conduct. It was he who had the authority to set the moral standards for decisions thousands of years ago before the creation of our first parents and it is he who has the same authority to maintain those moral standards for decisions today.

Through his instruction book, the Bible, God freely gives us his standards for proper decision-making. Letís go back, again, to Adam and Eve and "the big lie." In Genesis 3:2, look at Eveís initial response to Satanís question. She should have been grounded in the knowledge she had just been taught from God.

(Gen 3:2-3 NASB) And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; {3} but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'"

So far, so good; but look next at Satanís reply in verse four.

(Gen 3:4-5 NASB) And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! {5} "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

It wasnít just one lie. It was several lies, all rolled into one. Letís look at them, one by one, beginning at the last.

  1. The serpent said Eve would be "knowing good and evil." Wrong, because Satan never defined the standard by which good and evil was measured. Was it good and evil as defined by Godís righteous standards or by some other standards? Just think for a moment: would the one whom Ezekiel said rose to heaven in a rebellious attempt to "be like the Most High" actually admit to knowing good and evil by Godís standards? No, Satan is the author of his own standards. Without the knowledge from God, there is no knowledge of good and evil according to the truth of Godís standards.
  2. The serpent told Eve she would "be like God." Consider again: if Satan wasnít able to "be like the Most High" by force through his assault on Godís heavenly throne, where is his authority to claim that the forbidden fruit would do what he could not achieve on his own? Again, without the knowledge that comes from God, there is no way to "be like God." How can one become like the source if one cuts herself off from the source?
  3. Finally, the serpent told Eve, "you surely shall not die." The third of his lies was really the worst. For the fleeting "wages of unrighteousness" referred to by the Apostle Peter, Balaam revealed to Balak, the King of Moab, the secret of the way for him to manipulate the Israelites into cursing themselves and cutting themselves off from God. In Revelation 2:14, Christ filled in the missing parts of the Old Testament story when he addressed the Church of God at Pergamom.

(Rev 2:14 NASB) 'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality.

In a similar manner as Balaam, Satan was able to manipulate the first humans into cursing themselves and cutting themselves off from God and from the knowledge that comes only from God.

Even David knew that the true knowledge given by God is the key to proper understanding and judgment. Earlier today, we sang the song, Our God is Good and Upright, from Psalm 25. Letís look again at Davidís words, this time from the Darby translation.

(Psalms 25:12-14 Darby) What man is he that feareth Jehovah? him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. (13) His soul shall dwell in prosperity, and his seed shall inherit the earth. (14) The secret of Jehovah is with them that fear him, that he may make known his covenant to them.

Notice, itís not just any person who is privileged to receive knowledge from God. The one who fears God is the one who receives proper instruction in discerning the proper choices in life. Verse thirteen shows that such a life led by the instructions of God becomes a life of prosperity both for himself and for the inheritance of his future generations. Verse fourteen again shows that the special knowledge possessed by God is not available to all. God chooses with whom to share his knowledge. He shares that hidden knowledge and the knowledge of his covenant, or agreement, with the sons of Abraham is made known only to those who fear and obey God. Such voluntary submission to the instruction of God is the key to the source of hidden knowledge not otherwise discernable apart from the source of moral authority.

If, throughout the world, there are different standards by which decisions are made, then it makes sense that the quality outcome of those decisions is highly dependent upon the standards employed in judging. Correctly weighing between the possible choices is the very essence of judgment. By the judgment standards used, there results either proper judgment or improper judgment.

 

Evil Judgment in the World

The world is full of examples of improper judgment ranging from appeasement of tyrants and dictators to toleration of evil in society to just outright failure to perform correctly, even when given opportunity. In Psalms 10:3, David describes the actions and attitudes of those who voluntarily cut themselves off from fearing God.

(Psa 10:3-11 NASB) For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire, And the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD. {4} The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, "There is no God." {5} His ways prosper at all times; Thy judgments are on high, out of his sight; As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them. {6} He says to himself, "I shall not be moved; Throughout all generations I shall not be in adversity." {7} His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; Under his tongue is mischief and wickedness. {8} He sits in the lurking places of the villages; In the hiding places he kills the innocent; His eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate. {9} He lurks in a hiding place as a lion in his lair; He lurks to catch the afflicted; He catches the afflicted when he draws him into his net. {10} He crouches, he bows down, And the unfortunate fall by his mighty ones. {11} He says to himself, "God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it."

In Psalms 50:16, David went on to explore the arrogance of the wicked who refuse to accept the standards of God or even include them in their judging processes. Weíll read from the World English Bible.

(Psalms 50:16-22 WEB) But to the wicked God says, "What right do you have to declare my statutes, That you have taken my covenant on your lips, (17) Seeing you hate instruction, And throw my words behind you? (18) When you saw a thief, you consented with him, And have participated with adulterers. (19) "You give your mouth to evil. You harnesses your tongue for deceit. (20) You sit and speak against your brother. You slander your own mother's son. (21) You have done these things, and I kept silent. You thought that the "I AM" was just like you. I will rebuke you, and accuse you in front of your eyes. (22) "Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you into pieces, and there be none to deliver.

In Psalms 73:3, Asaph took another view of the wicked. His consideration was from the point of envy over their temporal success. The rendering in the English Standard Version is more insightful.

(Psalms 73:3-12 ESV) For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (4) For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. (5) They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. (6) Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. (7) Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. (8) They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. (9) They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. (10) Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. (11) And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?" (12) Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

In Isaiah 47:5, God speaks to an entire nation of wicked men. They were a nation used by God but they, too, rejected the knowledge of proper judgment from God.

(Isa 47:5-10 NASB) "Sit silently, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; For you will no more be called The queen of kingdoms. {6} "I was angry with My people, I profaned My heritage, And gave them into your hand. You did not show mercy to them, On the aged you made your yoke very heavy. {7} "Yet you said, 'I shall be a queen forever.' These things you did not consider, Nor remember the outcome of them. {8} "Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me. I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know loss of children.' {9} "But these two things shall come on you suddenly in one day: Loss of children and widowhood. They shall come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells. {10} "And you felt secure in your wickedness and said, 'No one sees me,' Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me.'

In Psalms 94:3, the psalmist shows that the arrogance of the wicked shows itself in their actions of affliction against the widow, the stranger, and the orphan. They do so with such boldness because they think their actions are unseen or ignored by God.

(Psa 94:3-7 NASB) How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult? {4} They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. {5} They crush Thy people, O LORD, And afflict Thy heritage. {6} They slay the widow and the stranger, And murder the orphans. {7} And they have said, "The LORD does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed."

You see, itís because of their ignorance of God that their judgments, their very thought processes, are perverted. Thatís not just a reality that David and the other psalmists knew. It was obvious to the New Testament apostles as well, such as Paul. In Romans 1:18, he went into great depth on the subject of humanityís rejection of Godís knowledge.

(Rom 1:18-32 NASB) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, {19} because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. {20} For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. {21} For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. {22} Professing to be wise, they became fools, {23} and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. {24} Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. {25} For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. {26} For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, {27} and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. {28} And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, {29} being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, {30} slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, {31} without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; {32} and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

So, whether mankindís rejection of Godís knowledge shows itself in the form of homosexuality or some other debasing behavior, the source of the problem is the same and the outcome is the same. Paul said, "they exchanged the truth of God for a lie." Just think of that for a moment. That statement shows the very source of mankindís problems in this world. The rejection of God and the rejection of Godís knowledge and standards leaves a vacuum in the minds of humans. That vacuum has to be filled with something. The foundation of decision making in most human minds, therefore, becomes founded on lies. Decisions built on a foundation of lies cannot result in proper judgments. If the source of the process begins on error, the outcome will be error.

 

What Applies to All

On the other hand, if the foundation of oneís judgments is built on the truth of God as the source of knowledge, the result will be sound judgments. Job was one who possessed soundness of judgment because he possessed the wisdom given by God. In Job 28:12, we can hear him expounding God as the source of understanding.

(Job 28:12-24 NASB) "But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? {13} "Man does not know its value, Nor is it found in the land of the living. {14} "The deep says, 'It is not in me'; And the sea says, 'It is not with me.' {15} "Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, Nor can silver be weighed as its price. {16} "It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, In precious onyx, or sapphire. {17} "Gold or glass cannot equal it, Nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold. {18} "Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls. {19} "The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, Nor can it be valued in pure gold. {20} "Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? {21} "Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living, And concealed from the birds of the sky. {22} "Abaddon and Death say, 'With our ears we have heard a report of it.' {23} "God understands its way; And He knows its place. {24} "For He looks to the ends of the earth, And sees everything under the heavens.

Solomon was the wisest king to have ever ruled Israel. His wisdom came, however, not because he conjured it up on his own or because he had the great traditions of his forefathers on which to rely. It was because his wisdom was founded on the source of truth. That very source gave him the knowledge and great wisdom he expounded for the benefit of others; but it was not his own. It was Godís.

In 2 Chronicles 1:10, we can see why God bestowed such a gift upon Solomon.

(2 Chr 1:10-12 NASB) "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can rule this great people of Thine?" {11} And God said to Solomon, "Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth, or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge, that you may rule My people, over whom I have made you king, {12} wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed, nor those who will come after you."

In Ecclesiastes 12:13, Solomon boiled down all his wisdom from his entire life into just two sentences.

(Eccl 12:13-14 NASB) The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. {14} For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Proper judgment is very important to God. So far, weíve examined the motivations and actions of the ungodly but what of those who willingly submit in obedience to the standards of God? How is their judgment process different from the rest of humanity and what lies in the future for both groups?

 

The Submissive Ones

Throughout our years of studying the Bible, weíve seen over and over that it is the few, not the many, in the world who are called by God. We remember well Matthew 7:12 and Jesusí description of the way that leads to life. In fact, many of us can recite it by heart.

(Mat 7:12-14 NASB) "Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. {13} "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. {14} "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

We also remember Matthew 22:2 and Jesusí description of the parable of the wedding feast.

(Mat 22:2-14 NASB) "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son. {3} "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. {4} "Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' {5} "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, {6} and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. {7} "But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. {8} "Then he said^ to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. {9} 'Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' {10} "And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. {11} "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, {12} and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And he was speechless. {13} "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' {14} "For many are called, but few are chosen."

We only have to look around us each day to see the way the world has become, with men leading lives voluntarily cut off from God. That is not, however, the way it should have been, even among the nations of the earth. When God called out a special nation for himself from among the heathen nation of Egypt, he gave them instructions to establish a government of righteousness, making decisions that were right according to his perfect laws and statutes. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses lists several instructions of righteousness that God gave Israel. This time, weíll read from the World English Bible.

(Deuteronomy 1:16-17 WEB) {16} I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the foreigner who is living with him. {17} You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike; you shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.

Now skip over to Deuteronomy 16:18 and weíll find the same emphasis.

(Deuteronomy 16:18-20) Judges and officers shall you make you in all your gates, which Yahweh your God gives you, according to your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. {19}You shall not wrest justice: you shall not respect persons; neither shall you take a bribe; for a bribe does blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. {20} That which is altogether just shall you follow, that you may live, and inherit the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

In Proverbs 17:15, Solomon also acknowledged the validity of Godís righteous ways.

(Prov 17:15 NASB) He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

Again in Proverbs 24:23, Solomon speaks of the perversion of righteousness with wickedness.

(Prov 24:23-25 NASB) These also are sayings of the wise. To show partiality in judgment is not good. {24} He who says to the wicked, "You are righteous," Peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him; {25} But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight, And a good blessing will come upon them.

Moses and Solomon werenít the only ones who taught about proper judgment. So did Jesus in Matthew 7:1.

(Mat 7:1-2 NASB) "Do not judge lest you be judged. {2} "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

Once again in verse 22, Christ used the example laid out through Moses to further teach the concept of righteous judgment.

(John 7:22-24 NASB) "On this account Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. {23} "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? {24} "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

 

Godís Righteous Standards of Judgment

Job knew a lot about righteous judgment. In Job 31:1, we can read how Job upheld the standards of righteous judgment established by God.

(Job 31 NASB) "I Have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin? {2} "And what is the portion of God from above Or the heritage of the Almighty from on high? {3} "Is it not calamity to the unjust, And disaster to those who work iniquity? {4} "Does He not see my ways, And number all my steps?

Job acknowledges that God sets the standards of righteousness and Job says it is his own duty to live by Godís standards. Beginning in verse five, he enumerates several of Godís standards.

(Job 31:5 NASB) "If I have walked with falsehood, And my foot has hastened after deceit, {6} Let Him weigh me with accurate scales, And let God know my integrity. {7} "If my step has turned from the way, Or my heart followed my eyes, Or if any spot has stuck to my hands, {8} Let me sow and another eat, And let my crops be uprooted. {9} "If my heart has been enticed by a woman, Or I have lurked at my neighbor's doorway, {10} May my wife grind for another, And let others kneel down over her. {11} "For that would be a lustful crime; Moreover, it would be an iniquity punishable by judges. {12} "For it would be fire that consumes to Abaddon, And would uproot all my increase. {13} "If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves When they filed a complaint against me, {14} What then could I do when God arises, And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him? {15} "Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb? {16} "If I have kept the poor from their desire, Or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, {17} Or have eaten my morsel alone, And the orphan has not shared it {18} (But from my youth he grew up with me as with a father, And from infancy I guided her), {19} If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, Or that the needy had no covering, {20} If his loins have not thanked me, And if he has not been warmed with the fleece of my sheep, {21} If I have lifted up my hand against the orphan, Because I saw I had support in the gate, {22} Let my shoulder fall from the socket, And my arm be broken off at the elbow. {23} "For calamity from God is a terror to me, And because of His majesty I can do nothing. {24} "If I have put my confidence in gold, And called fine gold my trust, {25} If I have gloated because my wealth was great, And because my hand had secured so much; {26} If I have looked at the sun when it shone, Or the moon going in splendor, {27} And my heart became secretly enticed, And my hand threw a kiss from my mouth, {28} That too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment, For I would have denied God above. {29} "Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy, Or exulted when evil befell him? {30} "No, I have not allowed my mouth to sin By asking for his life in a curse. {31} "Have the men of my tent not said, 'Who can find one who has not been satisfied with his meat'? {32} "The alien has not lodged outside, For I have opened my doors to the traveler. {33} "Have I covered my transgressions like Adam, By hiding my iniquity in my bosom, {34} Because I feared the great multitude, And the contempt of families terrified me, And kept silent and did not go out of doors? {35} "Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; Let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, {36} Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it to myself like a crown. {37} "I would declare to Him the number of my steps; Like a prince I would approach Him. {38} "If my land cries out against me, And its furrows weep together; {39} If I have eaten its fruit without money, Or have caused its owners to lose their lives, {40} Let briars grow instead of wheat, And stinkweed instead of barley." The words of Job are ended.

We just read how Job dealt with the fairness and equity of Godís righteous standards for all people. Masters and slaves, rich and poor are all held to the same level of righteousness by God. It was no different for King David. In Psalms 9:7, David addresses the same issue of fairness and equity for the benefit of all in the righteous judgment of God.

(Psa 9:7-8 NASB) But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, {8} And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.

Asaph also knew about Godís standards of righteousness in Psalms 50.

(Psa 50:3-23 NASB) May our God come and not keep silence; Fire devours before Him, And it is very tempestuous around Him. {4} He summons the heavens above, And the earth, to judge His people: {5} "Gather My godly ones to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." {6} And the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is judge. Selah. {7} "Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. {8} "I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, And your burnt offerings are continually before Me. {9} "I shall take no young bull out of your house, Nor male goats out of your folds. {10} "For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. {11} "I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. {12} "If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all it contains. {13} "Shall I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of male goats? {14} "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High; {15} And call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me." {16} But to the wicked God says, "What right have you to tell of My statutes, And to take My covenant in your mouth? {17} "For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you. {18} "When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers. {19} "You let your mouth loose in evil, And your tongue frames deceit. {20} "You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother's son. {21} "These things you have done, and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you, and state the case in order before your eyes. {22} "Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. {23} "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God."

 

The Execution of Righteous Judgment

Jesus plainly dealt with the topic of judgment when talking to the Jews who were testing him and seeking to kill him. In John 5:18, it says "For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. In the next verses, however, Jesus makes it plain and clear that they were wrong in their assumption that he was making himself equal with his Father. This time weíll read from the Christian Standard Bible.

(John 5:19-22 NASB) Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. [Notice, Christ acknowledges that all power and authority are possessed by and emanate from the Father] {20} "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel. {21} "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. [Notice again, it is the Father who possesses the power to raise the dead back to life and he gives to Christ the power of deciding whom to raise] {22} "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,

Notice, even though Christ carries out the execution of all judgment, he does so only because it has been given to him by the Father. Again, it is, ultimately, the Father who possesses the power of judgment. He gives that power of judgment over to Christ only because the Son doesnít do anything that isnít in agreement with the will of the Father

(John 5:23-30 NASB) in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. {24} "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. {25} "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. {26} "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; {27} and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. [Notice, Jesus didnít have authority to execute judgment until he was given that authority from the Father] {28} "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, {29} and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. {30} "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. [Notice again, Jesus doesnít judge according to his own standards: he judges only according to the standards of the Father]

 

The Last Day and the Day of Judgment

With the knowledge that he would be the one executing Godís judgments when the time comes, Jesus sent out his own disciples to various towns and regions to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 10:11, he referred to that coming time of judgment when the people of those communities would be called to remembrance for their lack of repentance.

(Mat 10:11-16 NASB) "And into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it; and abide there until you go away. {12} "And as you enter the house, give it your greeting. {13} "And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. {14} "And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. {15} "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. {16} "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.

A little later in Matthew 11:20, Jesus personally accosted the cities he visited also because of their lack of repentance after hearing the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God.

(Mat 11:20-24 NASB) Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. {21} "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. {22} "Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. {23} "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. {24} "Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."

Thousands of years before, even David foresaw the coming time of Godís judgment. In Psalms 98:4, he remarked of Godís fairness for all and the righteous standards by which he would judge.

(Psa 98:4-9 NASB) Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. {5} Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre; With the lyre and the sound of melody. {6} With trumpets and the sound of the horn Shout joyfully before the King, the LORD. {7} Let the sea roar and all it contains, The world and those who dwell in it. {8} Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the mountains sing together for joy {9} Before the LORD; for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with equity.

 

Godís Judgment Throne

Earlier today, we sang praise to God in the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." It focuses on the coming of the Lord for judgment. We sang, "He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seatÖ"

What of that actual judgment seat? Can we gain more insight of that time? Yes, we can. Daniel was given a privileged vision of that coming time. In Daniel 7:9, he describes the vision he was given.

(Dan 7:9-14 NASB) "I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. {10} "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened. {11} "Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. {12} "As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. {13} "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. {14} "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

We know from what weíve studied so far that God will judge according to his own standards of righteousness. He will separate the peoples by the filtering of those standards. In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist even made reference to Godís sifting process, as Jesus will sift the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork.

(Mat 3:8-12 NASB) "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; {9} and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. {10} "And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. {11} "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. {12} "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

In Matthew 12:34 when expressing disgust at the Pharisees, Jesus mentioned another item of distinction by which we would all be judged.

(Mat 12:34-37 NASB) "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. {35} "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. {36} "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. {37} "For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned."

So, clearly, our words and the tenor of what comes out of our mouths is another issue by which we will be judged. In 1 Peter 4:17, the Apostle Peter went even deeper and got to the heart of the matter of our responsibility toward God at this present time.

(1 Pet 4:17 NASB) For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

 

Judgment of both the Good and the Evil

Judgment is intrinsically interwoven with salvation. What about the common notion in most of modern Christianity that the God of the Old Testament is a harsh God, full of vengeance for those who disobey him. Such a view leads to the philosophy that today is the only day of salvation. The very purpose of so many Christian missionaries is built on that foundation. They believe everyone must be taught and must accept the gospel message about Christ today in order to avoid being burned up in the fires of hell when they die. Is such a common notion in line with the truth of God displayed in his scriptures? Well, it may look that way when just a few scriptures are viewed by themselves but the answer becomes clearer when we look at many scriptures in an attempt to get the whole picture of God's plan. Letís begin with Matthew 7:12.

(Mat 7:12-14 NASB) "Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. {13} "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. {14} "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

In Revelation 22:12, Christ says that his slaves are to live in the manner of treating other people in the way we wish to be treated. That manner of life is the embodiment of the Law and the Prophets. It is the way of life set out for us by God in his Scriptures. That way of life leads to one of two possible outcomes shown in verses 13 and 14. Living by the words of God leads to life. Living in a manner other than by the words of God ultimately leads to destruction. The Greek word for "destruction" means "to destroy fully, to perish or lose." Verse 12, however, doesn't specify exactly when that will occur.

(Rev 22:11-12 NASB) "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." {12} "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

Revelation 22:11 shows that there are still two types of people with two types of behavior, one not in line with God's word and one that is obedient to God's scriptures. Furthermore, it implies that those who maintain God's standards of holiness should persevere in that holiness, despite the filth and degeneracy of the world around them. Verse 12 says that Christ is coming with his reward. The good reward will be given to those who maintain God's holiness and the bad reward will be given to those who rebel against God's holy standards. Again, though, it doesn't say when each reward will be dispensed by Christ.

Romans 8:5-7 says, essentially the same thing in describing the two ways of life.

(Rom 8:5-7 NASB) For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. {6} For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, {7} because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so;

Earlier, we read that John 5:26-29 shows that it is the Father who is the source of all things, including life. The Father possesses all authority to make judgments but he will give that authority to the Son. The Greek word for "judgment" means "decision." So, the decision making process will be in the hands of the Son but he will decide things according to the Father's will. Clearly, we see that the Son is a mirror image of the Father and he chooses not to do anything on his own or apart from the will of the Father. Letís read it again.

(John 5:26-29 NASB) "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; {27} and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. {28} "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, {29} and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

Was Christ the only one who spoke of two resurrections? No, Paul even spoke of the two resurrections to come. He said there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

(Acts 24:14-15 NASB) "But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; {15} having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

The writer of Hebrews also knew there were two resurrections when he spoke of the saints enduring persecution because they seek a "better resurrection."

(Heb 11:35 NASB) Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection;

Revelation 20:4 sheds even more light on the two resurrections in that it shows there will be 1,000 years between the two events.

(Rev 20:4-6 NASB) And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. {5} The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. {6} Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Further, Revelation 20:12 shows the rest of the dead (the non-saints) will be resurrected and their deeds will be measured against the things "written in the books". The Greek word for "books" is Strongís number 975, biblion, and it means a roll. Its source word is Strongís number 976, biblos, which means the inner bark of the papyrus plant, i.e. a sheet or scroll of writing. So, the rolls were opened and the people were judged by the things written on them.

(Rev 20:12-13 NASB) And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. {13} And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.

Keep your place in Revelation and turn, for a moment, back to the account of the judgment throne of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:10.

(Dan 7:10 NASB) "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.

This time, the Hebrew word is Strongís number 5609 cephar, meaning a book. Its root is Strongís number 5608 caphar, meaning to inscribe, and also to enumerate.

We know that the scriptures of God were originally written on scrolls, so, most likely, the books that are opened are the writings that teach the righteous standards of God. We have those scrolls in our hands today, compiled into one complete book and we should learn to judge ourselves by the words we can so easily read.

Ultimately, Revelation 20:15 does say that those whose name was not found written in the "book of life, "will be thrown into the lake of fire" but that ultimate decision is up to the Father, through the Son.

(Rev 20:15 NASB) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

 

The Mercy of God Displayed in his Plan for All

The deeds of the lawless ones (most of the world) will be condemned by the righteous standards of God written in the Scriptures. Remember, Paul said that ALL HAVE SINNED and fall short of the glory of God. That means both the righteous (saints) and the evil in the world. It is God's decision to extend mercy to whomever he wills to extend it, as we can see in Romans 9:14.

(Rom 9:14-16 NASB) What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! {15} For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." {16} So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

An example of that mercy is shown in Isaiah 30:15-21.

(Isa 30:15-21 NASB) For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, "In repentance and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength." But you were not willing, {16} And you said, "No, for we will flee on horses," Therefore you shall flee! "And we will ride on swift horses," Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift. {17} One thousand shall flee at the threat of one man, You shall flee at the threat of five; Until you are left as a flag on a mountain top, And as a signal on a hill. {18} Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. {19} O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. {20} Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. {21} And your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

Isaiah shows that God will provide teachers (most likely, resurrected saints) to teach Israel (and ultimately the rest of the world) the right way to go. We should keep this all in our minds and be full of the confidence that comes from the knowledge of the truth God has revealed to us through his scriptures. Our destiny is not to die without hope like most of the world. We are not going to rot in our graves like animals. Our hope, and the hope of all mankind lies in Godís promises to provide a resurrection back to life. He makes it clear that, through the resurrection process, there will be a sifting of men by God at judgment. Itís true, those of the household of God to whom he has revealed his knowledge in this present age are being judged now to be evaluated for that "better resurrection." To most of the world, however, God has not revealed his knowledge. Their day will come at the resurrection to judgment when their minds will be opened to the truth of God. Thatís when they will be taught, evaluated, and held accountable.

What a glorious plan God has for humanity! We should rejoice in the knowledge God has given to us and cherish the opportunity we have now to be among the privileged few given the chance to willingly obey God during this age.

 

Sermon given by Philip Edwards

April 14, 2007

 

Copyright 2007, Philip Edwards

 

 

 

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