I love to preach the Word, and I really love being surprised by what I’m preaching. Recently, in preaching through the book of Isaiah I was surprised by a particular sermon … how much I needed it and how much has remained deeply embedded in my soul. I suppose it just shows that you’re always learning and growing in the riches of the Gospel. Isaiah 13-23 proved to be a challenge as to how to preach this section of oracles against the nations. I chose to cover it in two sermons – the two “high-points” that emerge from this section – The Danger of Resisting God’s Sovereignty & The Danger of Emptying Salvation of Judgement. It was the second sermon that most surprised me … because who likes talking about wrath, hell, and judgement? But here’s some of what I discovered and will summarize here … Three Reasons God’s Character Demands Judgement:
Dealing with the Wickedness of Sin – God’s judgement is always set in relation to evil. He doesn’t judge the righteous, but the unrighteous. No innocent parties are ever effected by the judgement of God because there are no innocent parties. The whole world is under the curse, and every man, woman, and child are fully deserving of His wrath poured out on them. Now if you minimize that reality then you don’t get to see the glory and immensity of His grace toward His children, and how what you do tomorrow is never held against you because there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. The judgement of God on the wicked is a subset of his ultimate purpose in defeating evil and providing security and rest for His people.
Showing Mercy to the Violated – What would you think of the cop who saw a person beat up, and then left him there to suffer while he began his investigation of who did it? Or would you think a friend compassionate who only got mad at the sin done to you by an abusive father or husband, without ever saying “I’m sorry for all the hurt that has been inflicted on you.” God’s character not only demands judgement because of the wickedness of sin and rebellion, but because He cares for the broken and violated. He does chase down the bad guy deserving of judgement, and what motivates that is also a compassion for the wounded and hurt. Simply put – He loves to show mercy to the violated. How comforting would it be to have your car stolen, the thief is put in jail, but nothing is done to return or replace your car? You were wronged, and part of the wrong was made right, but you’re still left walking too work. God is not like this. I think this perhaps is one of the reasons the new heavens and new earth are for all eternity. So many wrongs done in the world of human history – joys stolen and crimes committed – that it’ll take eternity for the reversal of such wickedness for the delights that are to now be enjoyed! He restores your heartache, loss, and the many ways so many of you have been violated … because He is a God of judgement. And when evil is judged, mercy is shown!
Upholding Justice – It only naturally flows then that God’s character demands judgement because He is a God of justice. Isaiah’s “answer” to the wrongs in the world is “If you want help and refuge, then you must come to the LORD and His throne because He alone is the one who judges and seeks justice.” Here we see God is not the God only of the nation of Israel, but to all who come to Him as King! I don’t know all the places each of you have been wronged in your life. But if you truly care about those wrongs, at least two things will be true of you: 1- You will not seek revenge on your own as though you are judge and jury, and 2- You will not resent, resist, or remove the judgement of God from the Bible.
I have these vivid memories of my sister and I getting in trouble as we were running through the house and somehow a plant or vase got knocked over and broken. Either neither of us thought we did it, or we didn’t want to admit it, but the fact was still the fact – something was broken and someone would have to pay. It’s perhaps easier to talk about judgement, wickedness, and injustice when we are speaking of people “out there”, but the reality is I’m wicked Babylon, and I’m the one who has lacked mercy on the hurting, and I’m the one who has been unjust … and someone’s got to pay. There are no “get out of jail free” cards before the court of the High King. God the righteous judge looks on the one who has done the violating and the one on whom injustice has been committed and says, “Someone’s got to pay”. “What?! He did it … she did it”. And the judge says, “All have sinned and fall short”. And just then another man appears in the courtroom and says, “I’ll pay … I’ll take the judgement they both deserve”. Because of God’s holiness, every sin must be dealt with by judgement, no sin goes unpunished. There are only two places that sin gets judged – at the cross or in hell, through a substitute or by oneself, by an atoning sacrifice or by eternal condemnation. David Jackman writes, “In Scripture, judgement and salvation are two sides of the one coin because the justice and mercy of God are two aspects of his unchanging character.” Judgement always precedes salvation and healing, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sins” (Heb 9:22). As hard as it is to wrestle with the subject of God’s judgement, please don’t give in to the unBiblical notion that the God of love is different (or better) than the God of judgement. Because the minute you remove judgement from the character of God you have drained salvation of its sweetness, and the cross of its effect. May the wrath and judgement of the Father that was poured out on His Son be the most humbling thing you’ve ever conceived, and the greatest gift you’ve ever received!