Many people see God as only loving.
God’s loving grace is emphasized in our churches today and that’s good. I love grace because it is the gospel. But you don’t have to read very far in the Bible before you run into judgement. Around page 3…or more specifically – Genesis 3, we see the fall of man and the judgement of God. And then a few pages later… in Genesis 6, we see the story of Noah and the Ark, and the flood that God used to judge the wickedness of mankind.
And then there’s our study through the book of Isaiah 1-23. As we read verse by verse, we can’t help but to take note, of chapter after chapter, of prophecy about the coming judgement of these nations:
- Babylon (Isaiah 13-14)
- Assyria (Isaiah 14)
- Philistines (Isaiah14)
- Moab (Isaiah 15-16)
- Syria and Israel (Isaiah 17)
- Ethiopia (Isaiah 18)
- Egypt (Isaiah 19)
- Egypt and Cush (Isaiah 20)
- Babylon (Isaiah 21:1-10)
- Edom (Isaiah 21:11-12)
- Arabia (Isaiah 21:13-17)
- Jerusalem (Isaiah 22)
- Tyre (Isaiah 23)
So, how can a loving God be so judgmental?
I have a friend who has known the Lord for a long time. A few years back, as she was studying the Old Testament, she began to grow troubled. I remember one day she told me, “Courtney – I don’t like the God of the Old Testament. He seems angry and almost mean. I just prefer to focus on Jesus and the New Testament.”
And so, we began to talk about why she saw God this way. Because well…to be honest, it’s not like God mellows out in the book of Revelation. Nor does Jesus avoid the topic of hell and actually…he talks about it more than anyone else in the Bible. So the New Testament shows God as both a God of love and a God of wrath.
This is what God’s Word says about God:
God is love. (1 John 4:16)
God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29)
Jesus said of coming persecution to his disciples:
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
We fear so many things in this world – we fear persecution, we fear the unknown, we fear dying, we fear financial troubles and we fear health issues, but do we fear God?
Maybe we fear so many things because we are not fearing God!
And so, we read in Romans chapter 2 that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance…but for those who harden their hearts towards God’s loving kindness, they are storing up wrath for the day of judgement.
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:4-5)
You see, in order to understand God’s love for us and Jesus’ death on the cross for our salvation, we have to understand what we are saved from. Our salvation saves us from the judgement of God. But when we reject Jesus and salvation, we store up judgement on ourselves.
I heard a pastor once explain it this way:
It’s like when we are using a credit card. In the moment, we don’t pay anything but then the bill comes.
We do this with sin. We think, look I can do all these sins, and nothing is happening to me. But as we continue to sin, we are storing up the wrath of God and then one day – we die, and we stand before God and we have to pay for all of that.
BUT on the cross, Jesus paid the debt of our sin. So, all that sin we accumulated and all the wrath we accumulated, he paid for on the cross.
We may have done terrible things but for those who have repented and believe in Jesus, we don’t owe him. He paid for it all!
His wrath is satisfied.
Look at Isaiah 53:5,6
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
So, while we indulge in earthly pleasures – caught up in debates about Covid and vaccines and politics, a battle is raging for the souls of people around the world. We are easily distracted by earthly comforts and daily media feeds, when we should be paying attention to the coming wrath of God.
I see a moral collapse in every level of society, and it reminds me of Romans 1, where eventually God just handed the people over to their own depraved minds. This handing over…is essentially judgement itself on a nation.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 18-20)
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
So, we see that God is both a God of love and he is also a God of judgement. And that’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?
My last few blog posts from the Book of Isaiah, have felt heavy for me. I want to be faithful to teach God’s Word, but a lot of these chapters in Isaiah are not a warm fuzzy. I don’t want to make people feel bad…but it’s not kind, to not let people know, that they should not trifle with God. We are not helping people when we don’t warn them – actually we could be harming them eternally.
I think there’s a balance that has to be found in the church between sharing the love and grace of God and the judgement and wrath of God and I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten it just right. What I do know is that God’s people are to leave the wrath and judgement stuff up to God.
Take a look at Romans 12:14-21 and notice how many times God’s people are told to love and bless their enemies or those who hurt them. Also, notice that God says, do not take revenge but “leave it to the wrath of God.” Essentially, let God do the judging – and we do the loving.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
And so that brings me back to the starting question – How can a loving God be so judgmental?
I think I’ll let God answer that, by pointing you to John 3:16-21:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
We see in Isaiah, the coming judgment of God but we also see in Isaiah, the love of God, through his promise of the coming Messiah.
As a child of God, may we never forget – even on the hard days – that God loves us so much! We will never have to face his wrath. He has forgiven us of all of our sins and he is Immanuel – God with us.
You are never alone. He is with you to the end!
Keep walking with the King,