As Isaiah put it, God’s ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts. He is holy, transcendent, distinct, and set apart from us. And He is, as Noah put it, the “Judge of all the earth,” and He will “do right.”
But we often answer wrongly on His behalf. Let me say that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t always explain things well. As a Pastor, I always like to think I have an answer, which sometimes prevents me from being honest enough to say, “I don’t have a clue why God has decided this, but He is right.”
Here are some reasons why God’s judgment is such a tough subject…
Our image of God has been affected by our experiences.
One who has been abused, rejected, or driven to resentment by an earthly father may perceive God as impossible to please. One who has endured suffering without the expected answer to prayer may perceive that God is unwilling to hear or to listen. But our experiences are not an inerrant source of information about the nature of God – Scripture alone is our perfect picture of God.
Our compassion causes us to reach for the easy answers.
We’re quick to say, “God doesn’t want anything bad to happen.” But then we encounter Deuteronomy 32:39 – “So now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” So God, at times, judges, whether we want to think of God that way or not. And He is righteous in doing so. A better answer is that God wants to heal, save, and restore and is willing to do so for anyone who will come to Him by faith.
We have a wrong understanding of holiness and righteousness.
We would like to compare God to ourselves and assume that His righteousness is just the sum total of all good human qualities, but God is really in a class all by Himself. As the Bible puts it, “He dwells in unapproachable light.” And His holiness demands justice, so judgment is inevitable, especially in light of how the creatures have so rebelled against their Creator.
We don’t like the doctrine of human depravity.
Of all the tough subjects in Scripture, this is, in my opinion, the most difficult of all for our current culture to swallow. The Bible repeats, from cover to cover, that mankind is inherently sinful. All the self-help books in the world can not erase our sin debt to God. We are sinful by birth and by choice, and there is no denying it. This is not to say that all people are as sinful as they could possibly be, but it must be acknowledged that we fail to meet the standards of a perfect God.
We undervalue grace.
That’s right. We undervalue grace. We cheapen it by assuming that somehow, God owes it to us in spite of our sinfulness. But it is ultimately against the backdrop of the judgment of God that His mercy and grace shine so brightly. We can’t really understand the value of His willingness to save us for eternity until we understand the necessity that our sin be dealt with, and that it was dealt with in Jesus on the cross.
Don’t assume you know when and how God is judging. Some people tried this with Jesus once and He rebuked them by calling attention to their own need for repentance. I never assume that a tragedy or disaster is God’s judgment, but I do believe that in all tragedy and suffering, there is a universal call for us to examine our hearts and our ways and to see that we are rightly relating ourselves to God.
The fact is, we’re all under judgment. As Jesus put it (in John 3:18), “He who believes not is condemned already.” We deserve hell. This is not so popular in a culture so dominated by humanism, but it’s eternal, absolute, and unchanging truth. However, salvation is freely available. Jesus “came not to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” And “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
I don’t have the perfect answers, but God does and will reveal Himself more fully to anyone who trusts completely in Him. I often struggle to understand His ways, as you probably do. But in the end I realize again, “He is God, and I am not.”