Topic: The Justice Of God (STS 21 March 2021)
MEMORY VERSE: “For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them” (Psalm 75:8).
TEXT: Psalms 73 to 78
We live in a world of impunity where the wicked gets away with wrongdoings and the innocent is punished instead. The wealthy and powerful can literally purchase for themselves acquittal and absolution from heinous crimes. Besides, those who are given to lawlessness in the conduct of their daily affairs seem to prosper while the godly are relegated to the bottom of the rung. It was in bitter consideration of the above contradictions that the psalmist declared, “my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2,3). He further mused: “Behold these are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches” (Psalm 73:12). Believers are usually tempted to fall into the same disposition when they see the wicked prosper. If the wicked are not duly rewarded for their evil acts, what then is the incentive for doing good even when it is not convenient; and what is the deterrence for wrongdoing? This makes the study both important and imperative. Before examining the subject fully, let us establish and reiterate the following scriptural truths regarding divine justice. One, God is just and will by no means acquit the guilty (Nahum 1:3). His judgment may linger, but it is sure and will be a just recompense for evildoers. Two, His justice is not limited to earthly and human time scales; it extends to all eternity. Those who seemingly escape justice in this life will surely embrace the fullness of God’s wrath in eternity. Three, God’s judgment is true and impartial. He is the final Arbiter and there can be no appeal to His judgment, “shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4).
Question 1: Why was the psalmist bitter and downcast, according to our text?
DIVINE PREROGATIVE IN DISPENSING JUSTICE (Psalms 73:1-17; 74:1-23; 75:7-10; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Psalm 7:11)
Most often, our human limitations becloud us from having a proper perception of divine justice. We are impatient, forgetting that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). We jump quickly into wrong and unhealthy conclusions, which tend to jeopardise our spiritual lives and those of others. Some believers feel that God is too slow in judging the wicked and they resort to spiritual jungle justice. This is the root of the ‘fall and die’ prayer trend which has engulfed a greater portion of the Pentecostal movement. The psalmist fell into a dangerously miserable state of mind consequent upon a shallow contemplation of the fate of wicked people of his generation. As a result, he made some false deductions and went further to generalise them. With respect to the wicked, he moaned: one, “there are no bands in their death”; two, “their strength is firm”; three, “they are not in trouble as other men”; four, “neither are they plagued as other men”; five, “they have more than the heart could wish”; six, “they prosper in their ways”; seven, “they increase in riches”. It is obvious that the psalmist based the above ungodly men, as well as incomplete information. Surely his arguments do not apply to majority of the wicked. However, as the psalmist approached the Lord for explanation, his eyes were illuminated and he saw the bigger picture. “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (Psalm 73: 16, 17). Majority of ungodly people suffer and have encountered great tragedies. Those who seem to prosper among them represent a very insignificant proportion of all ungodly people in the world. A short-sighted believer is often dazzled by the flamboyant make-believe lives and exaggerated guise of ungodly men. Like Achan and Demas, many have made a shipwreck of their Christian profession by constantly comparing themselves with the ungodly that prosper in their ways.
Question 2: What is the danger of comparing ourselves with the ungodly?
God will judge the wicked, but His perfect will is that they should repent. If He was quick to judge and slay the ungodly, many of us would have died before we had a chance to hear the gospel. Unfortunately, many carnal believers spend their precious time praying for the death of wicked people rather than for their salvation. This is against the will and eternal purpose of God. Besides, no amount of earthly riches can compare with the riches of grace which we freely enjoy.
Question 3: Why does God seem to delay the judgment of sinners?
THE DANGER OF PRECIPITATING DIVINE JUDGMENT (Psalms 73:18-28; 75:1-6; 76:1-12; 78:9- 37,40-51,56-66; Deuteronomy 28:58-68; Leviticus 26:14-39; Hebrews 12:29; 10:31)
A gross misconception of the nature and character of God has given birth to some argument that a loving God cannot send anyone to hell. But this stands in stark contradiction to scriptural truths. The word of God clearly declares, “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished” (Proverbs 11 :2 1), God is love, but He is also just. Indeed, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Throughout the Scriptures, a foretaste of divine justice is clearly revealed. It will suffice to examine just a few of them. One, God judged the Egyptians for oppressing the Israelites (Psalm 78:12,13,40-51). In defence of His covenant people who had been subjected to hard labour and servitude, He unleashed terrible plagues on the stout-hearted and stiff-necked All those who oppress the children of God will receive their due reward either on earth or in eternity (Isaiah 13: 1 1; 26:21; Jeremiah 11:22). Two, God punished the Edomites for invading weary and wayfaring Israelites on their way to the Promised Land (Amos 1:9-11; Jeremiah 49:7-17). Three, God judged Nebuchadnezzar for his idolatry and arrogance (Daniel 4:28-33). Four, He judged Belshazzar for desecrating His holy vessels (Daniel 5:1-6,26,27). Like Belshazzar, ail those who defile the temple of God (their body) will receive severe recompense for their abominable acts. Persons who indulge in unrighteousness and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness will be weighed in the balances of His standard and shall be found wanting. Five, God judged the house of Eli for abusing the priestly office (1 Samuel 2:27-34). “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord”. They used their position to extort the people and defile the women who came to sacrifice. There are so-called ministers who rob people of their possessions in the name of the Lord and take advantage of hapless and ignorant women. These are people “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). Six, God judged Ahab and Jezebel for turning the people away from Him (1 Kings 21:17-29). Leaders and workers who cause the hearts of the people to depart from the Lord shall be cut off. Seven, He judged the Israelites for forgetting His goodness and going after other gods. “They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them” (Psalm 78: 10,11,56-66). Despite the preponderance of God’s wondrous works towards the Israelites, they soon backslid and despised His miraculous works; “And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness”. Regardless of the overwhelming number of miracles God wrought on their behalf, their hearts were full of doubt and unbelief. Though, they had left Egypt, their souls longed to return thither. As a result of their vicious cycle of backsliding and short-lived episodes of restoration, “The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel” (Psalm 78:31). “Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble” (Psalm 78:33).
The climax of divine justice will be consummated at the Great White Throne Judgment where all whose names are not in the Book of life will be consigned to the eternal lake of fire. All who, despite the wooing of the Spirit, persevere in sin will find to their utter dismay that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Jesus is the only refuge from the wrath to come!
Question 4: Give biblical instances of those who incurred divine judgment and why.
DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND DEFENCE OF THE JUST (Psalms 73:1; 75:9, 10; 77:1-20; 78:1-8,38,39,52-55,67-72; 31:19)
The justice of God does not only require that He punish evildoers, it also encapsulates divine benevolence, affection, care and provision for those who love Him. Our God is a vast repertoire Of goodness and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Even when things are not as we would have them, we must remember that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The psalmist acknowledged that, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Psalm 73: I). He further declares, “Thou art the God that doeth wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people” (Psalm 77:14). Believers often fall into a state of dissatisfaction because of inadequate contemplation of God’s goodness. They adopt worldly values as a measure of success and a good life.
A Christian songwriter urged believers to ‘Count your many blessings money cannot buy, [and] your reward in heaven…’ This consideration should lead us to declare, “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men” (Psalm 31:19). There is usually the danger of forgetting the kindness of the Lord. As a matter of fact, prolonged extravagance of divine goodness can easily be taken for granted or glossed over by believers. How quickly we forget our great salvation and deliverance from slavery to sin and the tyranny of Satan! Like the Israelites, we despise our salvation and begin to long for the cucumbers and garlics of Egypt. The Israelites got so used to manna (angels’ food) that their souls began to loathe it and they became ungrateful. We must avoid this pitfall by constantly counting our blessings and reminding ourselves of the dungeon from where God delivered us. “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old” (Psalm 77: 11).
Question 5: How can we avoid the pitfall of tightly esteeming the goodness of God?
Our responsibility as recipients of God’s mercy and grace is to, one, appreciate His great mercies towards us; two, talk of His wondrous works among the nations. and three, show “…the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his Wonderful works that he hath done” (Psalm 78:4). Our salvation through the atonement of Jesus is the climax and epitome of God’s love and kindness. It is worth more than all earthly treasures put together. It gives us access to “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (l Peter 1:4)
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