God’s glory in salvation through judgment

4 Jan

If there is one thing wicked people don’t like to hear, it is talk of God’s judgment.

Listen to how the people of Micah’s day responded when he told them God would take vengeance on them for their abuse of the poor and vulnerable.

“Do not preach” – thus they preach – “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not over take us.”

Instead of humbly responding with repentance and crying out to God for mercy when Micah warned them of the consequences of their choices, they attacked the one who was bringing the message to them and, ironically, they attacked him by saying he’s perverting the character of God.

“Has the Lord grown impatient?” they ask. “Are these his deeds?”

In other words, they are saying, what kind of God would judge us the way you are describing, Micah? This doesn’t sound like the God we read about in our Bibles. I mean, after all, isn’t God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness?

It’s always been interesting to me how religious irreligious people become when they are being confronted for their self-centered, greedy, vicious lifestyle. They might never have shown an interest in God, but talk about judgment and suddenly they become experts in theology! Suddenly they are concerned about orthodoxy! And suddenly, these supposedly tolerant people become very intolerant. Don’t preach! thus they preach. This just isn’t the way a loving God, would act.

And the truth is, sometimes it is easy to be confused by them. I remember when I was in university, I struggled for a long time to understand God’s wrath and judgment. The turning point for me however was when I began to realize that God was not judging sinners because He lacked mercy. There is no one who is more merciful in the entire universe than God. That’s important. Because when I started there, I began to see instead of His wrath causing me to question God, it should cause me to question the lies I was being sold about sin.

The fact that a merciful God would judge sin the way the Bible describes shows us how awful human sin and rebellion really is.

Which I think is illustrated by the question God Himself is asking in Micah 2:7.

“Do not my words do good to him who walks uprightly?”

The only reason these people were getting so angry about these warnings of judgment was because their actions deserved judgment. And they wouldn’t give them up.

I mean, Micah says, look at the condition of Israel, look at the way these people are.

“But lately my people have risen up as an enemy; you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war. The women of my people you drive out from their delightful houses; from their young children you take away my spender forever.”

And really, isn’t this remarkable! These people are ruthless.  They are completely self-centered. They are abusing the vulnerable. They are stealing from the needy. And yet, they are absolutely shocked when Micah suggests that God sees what they are doing and is going to judge them for it.

How dare you, Micah!

How dare you!

They are not angry at the injustice. They are not angry at the sin. They are angry at Micah for pointing out the injustice andfor pointing out the sin. That’s the real crime, in their eyes, and they attack Micah where it hurts, by saying awful things about the God He is preaching, as if it were GOd’s fault, this judgment was coming, when, in reality, they were judging themselves. They were the ones who had taken the beautiful inheritance God had given them, a completely undeserved”place of rest,” and turned it into a battlefield.

And so God’s judgment, is a grace.

“Arise and go,” he says in Micah 2:10,  “for this is no place to rest because of uncleanness that destroys with a grievous destruction.”

It is kind for God to judge these sinners because if he just lets them continue without this judgment, they will just continue to abuse the mercy God’s shown them by taking advantage of others and what makes that painfully obvious is the way they responded whenever they were confronted with the truth.

They actually preferred nonsense to God.

As Micah puts it,

“If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink’, he would be the preacher for this people.”

I mean, if you ever wonder about the extent of human depravity, this example is just, really, epic.

Because, for hundreds of years God’s shown patience to this people, God’s revealed Himself to this people, God’s even stooped down and dwelt with this people. They’ve experienced almost every spiritual privilege you can imagine, and yet, their desire for their own way has so completely warped them and blinded them that they hate listening to God and actually prefer listening to foolishness, lies and wind and crazy talk.

I remember, I used to imagine people in hell lamenting over their decisions and longing for the ability to repent, but, verses like this, have made me wonder. I really don’t think that’s what is happening any longer. People don’t want the truth. Even if it is obvious. Even if it is right there in front of them. Even if their sin is ruining their lives and the lives of everyone around them. They don’t want the truth. The human heart is so sinful that left to itself people would prefer to hear people say absolutely stupid things than talk to them about the Word of God. It’s so sinful that they get angry, if someone  even suggests, there is a judgment coming for their actions, and they attack the messenger, and even worse, they attack the character of God, or they distort it, by trying to put God’s judgment in opposition to God’s patient, steadfast love.

As if they were enemies, when really, they are friends.

Because what’s really, really awesome about God is that He is both wise enough and powerful enough to take man’s rebellion and all the chaos that it causes and through the discipline and judgment He’s bringing upon sinners accomplish something absolutely remarkable for those who humbly turn from their sin and trust in Him.

That is verse 12 and 12 of Micah chapter 2. And if you have been following along, it kind of is a shock.

“I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel, I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. “

In other words, He is going to bring a remnant back from exile, to do what?

“He who opens the breach goes up before them, they break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.”

To establish Himself as their King.

And this is beautiful.

The Davidic king has failed, so God, is going to be their King. The human shepherd has failed, so God is going to be their shepherd. When all the other human leaders fail, He will not ignore their failures, but will judge them for their failure and come in and rescue those who trust in Him and establish Himself as their great and eternal King. Praise God He judges sin. But praise God He doesn’t only judge sin. Through His judgment, He makes a way to truly rescue sinners.

Or as one man has put it, “the story of salvation history is a story of God’s glory in salvation through judgment.”

 

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