Archive for the ‘judgment’ Category

17:15 A Dilemma of Justice

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 17:15

Christ bore our penalty.

Citizens are rightly outraged when judges don’t do their job. When one slaps a child molester on the wrist or excuses a murderer on a technicality; when one buckles before a rich playboy or releases a thug who has some powerful organization behind him, everyone recognizes justice has miscarried. We grumble and protest.

Nonetheless there is a widespread expectation that God ought to let all of us (except maybe a few Hitlers and Stalins) off the hook. No matter how we have slighted him for idols, blasphemed him with doubts, perjured ourselves before him, stolen his glory, hated his righteousness, not a few of us think it unfair of him to punish us for what we’ve done. We forget that because he is infinite, any sin against him is infinite and deserves infinite punishment; and we resent the knowledge that he has prepared a place of such punishment.

God is pure and holy. He hates the smallest sin. He cannot justify the wicked. He cannot condemn the just. Yet from the first he had promised to provide salvation for us. That gave rise to a dilemma. How could he be just and yet justify the wicked?

His solution became the most astonishing fact of all history. He himself became a man and took man’s punishment. This was no light thing. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit had enjoyed an unbroken communion of love through all eternity. When Christ became sin for us, that communion was destroyed. God had, in effect, torn himself in two, a spiritual agony that makes the physical misery of the cross pale by comparison.

19:29 Beatings for Fools

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

The Flagellation of our Lord Jesus by William-Adophe Bouguereau (1880).

Penalties are prepared for scoffers, and beatings for the backs of fools. —Proverbs 19:29

Caning is a punishment seldom used in America these days although common to Western countries up to a century ago. In other parts of the world it is still used. Singapore, for example, employs caning—a fact brought to the attention of Americans in 1994 with the punishment of an American teenager accused of vandalism and theft.

That corporal punishment, properly applied, can restrain lawless and foolish behavior was generally conceded until the last century. I know that the fear of a spanking kept me from much wrong-doing as a child, although it did nothing to eradicate my sin desires.

God has penalties for those who mock and rebel against him. The more light we have, the greater our penalties. As Jesus told his listeners “And that servant, who knew his master’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47).

In his compassion for us, God does not make his true children bear the penalty of their sin. Christ took that penalty for us. As we are told in a Messianic prophecy: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

31:8,9 Justice for the Little Guy

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8,9.

King Louis IX dispensing justice.

King Louis IX of France was named a saint just twenty-seven years after his death in part because he pled the cause of the little guy. He appointed just men to hear grievances throughout his kingdom. There are instances in which he punished powerful lords for contempt of the laws, compelling them to pay compensation to those they had trampled upon. If they were acting on an order from a previous king, he paid the compensation himself. As a consequence of his even-handedness, he was even asked to arbitrate the quarrels of other nations.

No one, however, embodied this dictum more faithfully than Christ, who not only spoke up for all of us, poor and needy in our sin, but died for us and remains our advocate to this hour in heaven.

18: 1 Being Exclusive

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

John Nelson Darby

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment. Proverbs 18:1.

Two of the most influential theologians of the 19th-century were probably not men you would have felt comfortable with for any length of time. J.N. Darby and Arthur Pink each felt they had the corner on truth and had no use for anyone who didn’t hold their opinions and methods. It was a sad spectacle to see how each narrowed their circle and narrowed it again until almost no one remained in it. Darby, who had once been a leader in the Plymouth Brethren, formed his own small exclusive group of churches called Darbyites. Pink and his wife moved to an island to live alone, refusing association with any church at all, although issuing an influential teaching newsletter.

You have to realize that the men they were renouncing were of the caliber of George Mueller and D. L. Moody.

Contrast that with their Lord, who took a much broader view. When John told him “Master, we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and he does not follow us: and we forbade him, because he does not follow us.”

But Jesus said, “Don’t forbid him: for there is no man who will do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

5:21-23 Ensnared by Sin

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Cardinal Wolsey

Godless Cardinal Wolsey

For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. Proverbs 5:21-23.

Cardinal Wolsey, after a long life of wickedness, which included every kind of self-indulgence, extortion, political maneuvering and worldliness, fell afoul of his master, King Henry VIII. The King summoned him to London to give an accounting.

Knowing that he would most likely be found guilty and executed, the churchman dosed himself so heavily with purges that he died. Before death took him, he said, “Had I but served God as diligently as I have served the king, he would not have given me over in my gray hairs.”

What a contrast Christ Jesus presents to Wolsey. Because of his faultless and disciplined life, which sacrificed everything for obedience, God did not allow him to see corruption, but raised him from the dead, to reign forever and ever. He had no lament of failure as he went to his death.

20:8 Royal Justice

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

King Alfred the Great, a stickler for justice.

King Alfred the Great, a stickler for justice.

A king that sits in the throne of judgment scatters away all evil with his eyes.

This proverb tells us how it ought to be, not how it is. Many kings have created injustice from their thrones.

One who genuinely tried to scatter evil was King Alfred the Great. Ruling at a time of war with serious social breakdown, he was determined to restore justice in his land. Consequently he required all his judges to learn to read the law, or to have it read to them. An old document says he hanged forty-four justices in a single year for sentencing men who had been acquitted, for allowing irregular juries, for sending a madman and a minor to death, for punishing a man for an offense committed by his wife, and for usurpation of jurisdiction. He also ejected a number of judges for lesser abuses.

When Christ comes, he will judge his church with faithful justice. There will be no eluding his piercing eyes and complete knowledge not only of our actions but of our motives. He is the ideal king who fulfills this verse perfectly.

15:3 God’s Active Eyes

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Paul preaching in Athens.

Paul preaching in Athens.

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Proverbs 15:3.

Preaching to the Athenians (Acts 17), Paul quoted their sages as saying of God, “In him we live and move and have our being.” The quote has been traced back to Aratus, an Athenian philosopher who lived nearly three centuries earlier and was echoed in Cleanthes’ “Hymn to Jupiter.” It goes without saying that since God is everywhere, nothing can be hidden from Him. Unfortunately, because He cloaks himself in invisibility, however much we know His oversight to be a fact, none of us live consistently as if we believe it. And yet the Lord sees everything.

Christ by his teaching and by his behavior affirmed this proverb. First, look at his teaching. He endorses the idea when he says, “your Father in Heaven, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly.” Jesus taught us to act on the principle of God’s oversight.

Second, look at Christ’s behavior. Jesus had limited his divine abilities in becoming a man; thus he often had to ask questions in order to elicit details. Nonetheless, he modeled this proverb. In the power of the Spirit, he described Nathanael’s actions under a fig tree and declared Lazarus’ death from a great distance. He knew of Peter’s exchange with the priests over the temple tax before Peter said a word.

At other times, Jesus kept his eyes open as any man might, marking both good and bad. Thus he noticed the good act of the widow dropping her two little coins into the temple treasury, and the childish behavior of the Pharisees who grabbed the highest seats at dinner–not to mention their many acts of hypocrisy. If Solomon had not penned this proverb, we could derive it from the behavior of Christ Jesus.