Tuesday, March 8, 2011

God's right to judge

All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
Micah 1:5

Some of the most awe-inspiring pictures of God in all of scripture come in the prophets as they describe the ways in which God will deal with the sinful idolatry of Israel. It is clear that God is serious with His people. He will not stand for the treachery of divided loyalties. He is what He told Moses He is: a jealous God. He will not give His glory to another.

In the book of Micah, an opening description of God shows Him coming down in full power and judgment. He is so intense that the earth literally melts beneath Him in the imagery of judgment. Why is God's wrath so strong? It is directed at Israel and Judah because His people have turned from Him. God is coming to judge the transgression of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel.

The issue is the degree of offense and the right for God to judge. The Israelites were in covenant with God. It began for them at Sinai, even though it began for God much earlier with His promised covenant with Abram. The terms of the covenant were summarized in the first covenant: you will have no other gods before me. The exclusivity of the worship of Yahweh was essential for Israel. And that had fallen away for generations. God was coming to bring the curses of the covenant upon His disobedient people. He had the right to judge.

When we understand the offense against a pure and holy God, we can begin to process the enormity of His holy wrath. God does not get mad like we do. He is incapable of being capricious or arbitrary. He is not able to fly into a rage. He is holy, loving, gracious, merciful, sovereign and all powerful even in His wrath and judgment. He cannot be just part of who He is... ever. So His wrath is holy. And when we sin against Him, we sin against what is best in the universe. It is a high offense.

It is only when we have a low view of God that we place ourselves as "judge" over His right to exercise judgment. This is true in both this world and the next. God is truly the only person who can truly judge sin. We can in confidence know what sin is by reading what He has revealed as sin. And there are times where we are told to know that, like when Jesus said: "By their fruits you shall know them".

But we only know sin and judgment by God's revelation. That is why it is so tragic to disregard what He has in a loving relationship told us we should do in relationship with Him. And to do so puts us in a position where God has every right to judge us. Fortunately, for the child of God in Christ, He also disciplines in love to see us restored. But even Christians can disregard the correction to the point where God may choose to take us home. Paul warned the Corinthians about this possibility in 1 Corinthians 11. There is a lot to think about when we read the minor prophets. They aren't just angry little books. They are windows into a greater view of God.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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