Scripture tells us, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (a). How true, and how righteous? Is His way of judging anything like ours? In today’s world, justice means punishment. If you are guilty, you will be punished.
God however says: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice” (b). [See end notes for Scriptures]
How Then Does God Judge?
In the midst of giving Israel the Ten Commandments, His guidelines for relationship, He paused to shed light on His view of justice (c). God describes His sense of justice by using the words gracious and compassion. Moses repeated God’s insightful words back to Him as a prayer:
“The Lord…compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Numbers 14:18).
Descriptions such as this happen repeatedly throughout Scripture. There are additional insights regarding God’s sense of justice, hidden in these specific words.
God describes His sense of justice by using the words ‘gracious’ and ‘compassion.’
God Means To Clean Us Up
The Hebrew word translated ‘unpunished’ in the above verses is naqah, which actually means ‘unclean.’ When God speaks of the iniquity of the guilty and unrepentant, He promises to even clean them up.
Moses’ prayer may seem to say God punishes subsequent generations for the error of parents. Hebrew scholars point out that when ‘thousands’ is compared to the phrase ‘third and fourth generations,’ God demonstrates His tendency to forgive is five hundred times greater than His bent toward punishment. Amazing!
So, when God visits the following generations of the guilty, He comes to invite each into His cleansing ways. Could it be, God understands why we all continually come up short of the goal for children – mature reflective resemblances of His heart (d)? Thus, His mercy!
When God speaks of the guilty and unrepentant, He promises to even clean them up.
Perceptions of ‘Righteous Judgment’
Israel’s lack of understanding of God’s description of justice was addressed in Ezekiel’s day. God chided them for using the proverb; the fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge. Israel’s response was; “The way of the Lord is not right!” Then God replied; “Is my way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?”(e).
In like fashion, is it time to consider ‘our’ perception of God and what He considers to be righteous judgment may fall a bit short? His passionate heart for us is full of forgiving grace, even while we are not reconciled to Him (f). Truly!
The judgments (corrections) of the Lord are true…righteous altogether (Psalms 19:9).
When the earth experiences Thy judgments (corrections) the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9).
How do we keep God’s judgments and learn righteousness? God’s sense of justice considers our earthly beginnings: parentage, culture, environment, and impactful experiences. As a perfect Father, His righteous treatment of us is full of compassion and lovingkindness, intending to restore and reconcile (g). Similarly, we want to learn to extend merciful grace toward the guilty in efforts to restore.
Just as God does, we want to extend merciful grace toward the guilty in efforts to restore.
God’s Justice Is Better Than What We Think
Do we really understand the over-riding effect of God’s forgiving love? Any punishment we encounter from God is actually a corrective action that is meant for our own good, to clean us up (h). What child does the Father not correct? (j)
Let’s look at a frequently quoted verse. It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (k). The Hebrew word translated ‘judgment,’ fundamentally means ‘separation, a severing.’ This verse actually says; as we die to the over-rule of natural ideas, and see as God sees, we are separated – from our destructive perceptions and activity. This is so in this life and maybe in the next.
Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) tend to confirm this insight on God’s ways. Of the hundreds of thousands of NDE’s, a vast majority report seeing a more robust light and feeling a more intense love than anything they know in earthly life. Believers and non-believers alike report the same intense sensations of love, joy, peace, with no sense of fear or condemnation. Justice!
As we die to the over-rule of natural ideas, we are separated – from our destructive perceptions and activity.
Our Unlimited God
In Christ we transfer from our deathly walk and begin walking into newness of life (m). Is God’s loving kindness and forgiving mercy more powerful than we have perceived?
To our detriment, we tend to think God is like us and functions with the limitations of this natural world. We forget He ‘created’ this temporal system with the ‘productive and destructive’ effects of the tree of good and evil (n). Despite our Bible miss-translations, neither God nor eternity functions according to this natural realm’s perceptions and limitations.
When did this misperception of God’s judgment begin? In the Garden beginnings, the truth of God’s very nature became confused. Rather than to punish, God’s loving judgments are for our benefit, to correct and discipline us to be and do better (o). They help us improve and mature into better reflective resemblances of His grace-filled heart (p). And what a difference this understanding makes in our daily lives!
God’s loving judgments are for our benefit, to correct and discipline us to be and do better.
a) Psalm 19:9) b) Isaiah 30:18; c) Exodus 20:5-6; Deuteronomy 5:9-10; d) Ephesians 4:13; e) Ezekiel 18:1-3, 25; f) Romans 5:10; 1 John 2:2; g) 2 Corinthians 5:20; h) Hebrews 12:10; Galatians 1:12; j) Hebrews 12:5, 10; Proverbs 29:17; k) Hebrews 9:27; m) Romans 6:7-14; n) Genesis 2:9; o) Proverbs 3:11-12; p) Hebrews 12:5-11