On The Judgments of God in History

by Ray C. Stedman

If I took a poll...and and asked how you felt after hearing this, most of you would say, I'm sure, that you feel uncomfortable. Why is that? Why do we feel uncomfortable when we read of judgments like these? Let me share these words on that theme from Eugene Peterson. He says:
'We do everything we can to make light of judgment. We use every stratagem we can find to avoid dealing with the consequences of sin. But God will not let us off. He will not indulge our inattention. He will be taken seriously. In a pause between trumpet blasts an eagle cries its warning. However practiced we become at tuning out sounds that we do not want to hear, including the sound of God's displeasure at sin, God finds new ways to penetrate our defensive deafness. The eagle cry catches us off guard.'

What we are seeing here in the judgments of the last days is really nothing new. It is simply commonly experienced penalties for evil increased in amount to an incredible degree. God has been sending judgments like this all through the history of mankind There have been volcanic eruptions, meteors falling upon the earth, red rain from the skies, poisoned waters, etc. All these terrible disasters have struck before, but now they grow to a climax. Yet we must not misunderstand them, for they are for our own good.

I list for you five effects of judgment upon us since we are all being judged in some degree, more or less. Hardships, trials and difficulties are all a part of the judgment of God upon human evil, and we all experience it.

First of all, judgments frighten us. They are intended to. They are sent to arrest our attention. They chill our blood. They alarm us. They scare the living daylights out of us. Like children at a horror movie we are fascinated by them but we want to hide our eyes from them and not look fully at them. That is the first effect of judgment. It arouses fear.

Then, because it terrifies us, judgment also sobers us. How many people in the Bay Area immediately rearranged their priorities five minutes after the earthquake hit on October 17? We heard many testimonies during that time of people saying, 'I'll never take life as lightly again. That taught me a lot. I began to see what is really important.' That is also what judgments do. They help us reassess our lives. They change our priorities. C. S. Lewis well says that fear or pain or judgment is "God's megaphone to reach a deaf world"

And so judgments correct us. They force us to face unpleasant facts about ourselves. We do not like that. We do not like to be told that we are not perfect. We know we are not, but we do not like anyone else to say so. We are uneasy at having these things pointed out. But judgment strips away our illusions. It restores us to reality. We begin to think accurately, clearly, as God thinks. We plan more carefully. We live more thoughtfully. That is why God sends judgment.

And fourth, judgment humbles us. We begin to see that we are really not in control. We do not run everything about our lives. We are not autonomous creatures. We are not little gods, capable of making anything we want to of ourselves, as the media keeps trying to tell us. We are not in charge. We see how foolish we have been in the past, that we have made many mistakes when we thought we were right. We begun at last to welcome guidance, to listen to others, and especially, to seek out the wisdom of the Word of God.

Finally, judgment reassures us. It comforts us. It answers Habakkuk's great prayer, 'In wrath, remember mercy.' We learn that God does not like judgment either. He calls it, in Isaiah 28:21, his 'strange work.' He keeps it as brief as possible. He gives ample warnings before it gets unbearable. He sends anticipations of it, forceful reminders, that this kind of thing can happen so that we might pay attention and act before it gets out of hand.

All this supports the view that the Bible gives everywhere of a loving God, 'slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.' Is it not strange that people who do not read the Bible very much almost invariably say, when you talk about judgment, 'Well, the God I worship is a loving God; he would never do anything like that!' My friend, it is the very love of God that makes him judge! God must judge in order to eliminate evil once for all from his creation and bring about the world of universal blessing which men have longed for throughout all of human history.

Last night I spent a quiet evening at home. The rain was falling, and that is always a comfortable sound. It was warm and cozy inside and quiet and peaceful without. There was no danger threatening me or my family. I spent a delightful time listening to good classical music. I had just been working through this passage of Revelation and it suddenly struck me how wonderfully protected I was.

If you and I were living in Calcutta we might feel much closer to these scenes in Revelation than we do here in California. If we were living in a ghetto of one of our great cities, where violence stalks the street right outside the door and you dare not go out, we would identify much more readily with these judgments. How wonderfully God has spared us, protected us and watched over us. All one needs to do to turn earth into the scenes we have here is to take the restraints off human evil for a little while. It could be like this tomorrow! But God has spared us, watched over us, loved us, guarded us, believers and unbelievers alike. How thankful we all ought to be for that! And how ready to hear and heed the eagle's cry!"

(Excerpted from Ray C. Stedman, Exposition of the Book of the Revelation.)

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