Why does God judge?
Isaiah preached during a very violent time in human history, especially in the area we call the Middle East. The message God spoke through Isaiah was a message of both hope and despair, destruction and salvation.
Kingdoms and empires were rising and falling all around Israel and Judah. Egypt had been a mighty nation for a long time, clear back into the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Other nations were flexing their muscle as well: Syria, Assyria, and Babylon.
The kingdom of Israel had at one time been a force to be reckoned with as well. Under David and Solomon they had commanded the respect and fear of the nations all around them. However, their infighting and greed had split the nation and weakened their influence in the world.
God would still use them to spread His Word to the world. He was not done with this family He had brought out of bondage in Egypt, to inhabit the land He had promised to their father, Abraham. He would use them to fulfill His ultimate plan to save mankind from His sin. He would use them to offer His Only Begotten Son as a sacrifice to bring us back into fellowship with Him.
In Isaiah's time they were fighting to stay alive, but refused to join together as a nation. The greed and envy of their leaders would eventually destroy this kingdom. Because they refused to trust God, they would experience heartache and misery. Even after they returned from captivity in Babylon years later, they were never the world class empire they had been under David. They would long for God to send them a descendant of David to lead them. When God did so, they did not recognize Him as their king as a nation. His followers have become known as Christians and have taken the Word of God to the world.
I have jumped a few chapters ahead in our study of Isaiah's messages from God. The intervening chapters were prophecies, sometimes called oracles, about the peoples around Israel and Judah. God spoke through Isaiah about Moab who were descendants of Abraham's nephew, Lot. He spoke of Syria, of Egypt and even of Babylon who had not been involved in Israel and Judah's struggles since Abraham had heard God's call years before.
In chapter 22 He spoke of Judah and Jerusalem, his own nation. Read with me beginning in verse 7...
7 Then your choicest valleys were full of chariots, and the horsemen took up fixed positions at the gate. 8 And He removed the defense of Judah. In that day you depended on the weapons of the house of the forest, 9 and you saw that the breaches in the wall of the city of David were many; and you collected the waters of the lower pool. 10 Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you tore down houses to fortify the wall. 11 And you made a reservoir between the two walls for the waters of the old pool. But you did not depend on Him who made it, nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago. 12 Therefore in that day the Lord God of hosts, called you to weeping, to wailing, to shaving the head, and to wearing sackcloth. 13 Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die." 14 But the Lord of hosts revealed Himself to me,"Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you until you die," says the Lord God of hosts. NASB
The people of God were not depending on God. They would not repent of their rebellion as He was calling them to do. They were depending on other things and other people. This was the failure that led them to destruction and captivity.
All of these nations would rise and fall because of their failure to trust in the One True God; because of their failure to go whee He led them and to obey His commandments. God would use other nations to carry out His judgment on His people and the nations around them.
One day, judgment will come to all peoples and all nations. Isaiah spoke of this final judgment in the 24th chapter. Begin with me in verse 1.
1 Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants. 2 And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. 3 The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the Lord has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. 5 The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. NASB
Nation after nation has risen and fallen. One day, perhaps very soon, a final judgment will come. Will you be found faithful or will you be found guilty of trusting in the gods of this world instead of in the One True God?
There is one who has the right to judge us. WE transgressed His laws. We violated His statutes. We broke the everlasting covenant.
7 The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level. 8 Indeed, while following the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, we have waited for Thee eagerly; Thy name, even Thy memory, is the desire of our souls. 9 At night my soul longs for Thee, indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently; For when the earth experiences Thy judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness; he deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, and does not perceive the majesty of the Lord.
11 O Lord, Thy hand is lifted up yet they do not see it. They see Thy zeal for the people and are put to shame; indeed, fire will devour Thine enemies. NASB
“When the earth experiences God's judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” We need to understand that God cannot be less Holy than He is. He cannot surrender for a second His Lordship. To do so would be disastrous. People learn about what it means to be righteous when they see God chastising us.
However, there are those who refuse to learn. When the wicked are shown favor, they do not learn righteousness. The wicked deals unjustly in a land of uprightness. The wicked do not perceive the majesty of the Lord.
God chastises us to teach us. Some of us will learn, others will continue to refuse to put their trust in God. Some of us will continue to love and trust God while the world is falling apart around us. The wicked, will refuse to change, even when they see the hand of God ready to strike.
Go back with me to Isaiah 25:1-9
1 O Lord, Thou art my God; I will exalt Thee, I will give thanks to Thy name; for Thou hast worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. 2 For Thou hast made a city into a heap, a fortified city into a ruin; a palace of strangers is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore a strong people will glorify Thee; cities of ruthless nations will revere Thee. 4 For Thou hast been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a rain storm against a wall. 5 Like heat in drought, Thou dost subdue the uproar of aliens; like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the ruthless is silenced.
6 And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine. 7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. 9 And it will be said in that day,"Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." NASB
Isaiah saw a day, far in the future, when God would prepare a banquet for those who have placed their trust in Him. Those who waited for God, while things were falling apart around them, have a glorious future to look forward to. One day we will sit down at the table with the faithful of God and feast with them on the manna prepared by the hand of God.
David said, in Psalm 23, that God would prepare a table for him while his enemies looked on. Isaiah echoes that sentiment here in Isaiah 25:6 “And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine. 7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.”
Nations will rise and fall until God says it is enough. Then, when He has settled accounts with those who refuse to love Him, He will feast with those who have submitted themselves to Him and trusted Him to see them through the difficult times of life.
Why does God judge? Because He must. To be true to Himself He must. To be true to those who follow Him, He must. Without judgment, no one would ever learn to follow Him. The world learns righteousness when God judges justly.
God's judgment points people to salvation. He must be true to Himself if He will save anyone. Salvation comes when we submit to His Lordship, to His right to judge us.
God chastises us to teach us and to help us to grow in our love and obedience. Those of us who are submitting to His judgment, to his chastisement, learn and love Him.
Those who refuse to love Him and accept His chastisement, are lost and without hope. They have put their hope in themselves or on lesser gods who will fail them in the end.
Why does God judge us? Because He loves us.
He is Lord and He cannot do less than be Lord. If He did otherwise and gave in He would destroy what He intended to save.
The greed and envy of the leaders of Israel led to the downfall of their nation and to the eventual captivity in Babylon. Even so, the nations who do not put their trust in God will all eventually fall because of their sinfulness. Because they put their confidence in lesser things, God allows them to reap the result of their sin and society crashes in upon itself.
When we love ourselves more than we love God, it will always lead to our fall. When we fail to put our trust in God, it will always lead us to destruction. When the leaders of a nation reign thinking only of themselves, that nation will fall.
When we put our trust in God and His kingdom, it does not matter what happens in this world. We have the promise of a better day before us. When we love God and seek His kingdom, we have the promise that HE will provide for our needs. When we seek to glorify God, He will meet our needs and lavish His goodness upon us in ways that we will not be able to contain.
Who, or what, are you trusting today? Who is your Lord?
If you trust God and are following Him, you do not need to fear His judgment. If you are not, you are without hope and have no promise from anyone who can fulfill those promises.
Why does God judge? Because He must; because He loves us.