Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The nearness of God's justice

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.
Obadiah 1:15

Two principles stand out from this verse concerning the judgment and justice of God. The first has to do with an eschatological urgency. The text calls both Edom and the Jewish nation to know that the day of the LORD is "near". Some people mistakenly mock certain evangelicals for the New Testament teaching on the "imminent return" of Christ. But right here in the Old Testament, God reveals that His day of judgment is as sure as tomorrow and just as close at hand.

The Bible has always stressed the fact that God's justice is uncomfortably close. The day of the LORD is a kind of theological shorthand in both testaments to refer to end days and the final judgment. And in Obadiah's warnings we find this vivid reminder that the dawn of each new day could bring with it THE day... the day of the LORD. Imminence then is not the invention of any one eschatological interpretive group. It is the clear teaching of the holy scriptures.

The second principle has to do with God's manner and standard of judgment. Judgment is always given on the basis of works. God will make the standard equal for "all the nations". The bais will be the things that people have done. And that is always what God judges. People mistakenly think judgment is about an arbitrary opinion. It is not. It is about our actions and whether they are right or wrong when evaluated by and holy and just God. He has revealed His standards in the Bible. Ultimately the scale of judgment is based on how my actions square up with the things that God does and says I should do.

Related to this is the means of judgment. Again, our specific actions will be the potential evaluation. "As you have done, it shall be done to you." This is the mechanism of "sentencing" or "rewarding". Jesus turned this concept around to an application for us in His famous "Golden Rule": "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Jesus is God and Judge and was simply teaching something consistent with His own clear standard of justice.

I should not fool myself into thinking God's justice is a LONG way off. It is as close as my next breath. And I should not think my actions affect only my outcomes for the moment. Deeds have eternal and "final consequence" as God evaluates them. In Christ my sin is atoned. But I still answer for my commitment to do deeds consistent with the holy standard of my Savior.

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

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