If God is love, why does He judge?
The Bible says a lot about love and yet a lot about judgment, why?
In reading about God’s judgment in Joel I was struck by something in Joel 3:10. It says, “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.” It’s saying take the farming implements that you use during times of peace and plenty and prepare to use them for war. It’s a poetic way of saying things are going to get bad. War is coming. Instead of prosperity there will be pillaging. Instead of wine and feast, war and famine.
Joel 3:10 is interesting because it’s the reverse of two other Old Testament verses. Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 say, “Beat your swords into plowshares, and your spears into pruning hooks.” Those verses are saying the weapons of warfare are no longer needed because peace is here to stay. So, why the seeming contradiction?
Joel, Micah, and Isaiah are all actually saying the same thing just in different ways. Here’s the pattern:
- Sin & Injustice →
- Judgment & Justice →
- Peace & Prosperity (cf. Is. 1:27-28; 2:4).
Joel 3 says the LORD will bring judgment “because they… have traded a boy for a prostitute and have sold a girl for wine” (v. 2-3). That’s an example of the injustice that was going on. So, the LORD brings justice and judgment “for their evil is great” (v. 13). And it results in peace. That’s what Joel 3:17-27 tells us. Even the desert shall bloom.
Note, therefore, that the LORD doesn’t rashly bring wrath. Sin is a rebellion and a rampage. It destroys and damages. Thus, we should see that it’s a good thing that the LORD takes sin seriously. He does not appease those who perpetrate evil, He will deal with each issue as is warranted and right. Although now He is being patient to give people time to repent (2 Peter 3:9-10).
Amazingly, He also offers to save us from the punishment that we deserve because of our sin. Joel 2:32 reassures us that “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Judgment will indeed be poured out “but the LORD is a refuge to His people” (Joel 3:16).
So, in Joel we see judgment results from injustice and peace and prosperity will ultimately result from the LORD’s just Judgment. When the LORD carryouts perfect Judgment, perfect and eternal peace will come.
When Eden’s enemies are forever banished, Eden shall eternally bloom. Sin marred God’s good creation but our good Creator will remake the world, and He will make it so it can be marred no longer. God’s just justice to injustice is good and it alone will end injustice and bring perfect peace and prosperity. Until that Day may we call people to call on the LORD (Joel 2:32) through Jesus the Messiah and may we fight for justice and pursue peace.
The final book of the Bible points us to the great Day of Judgment, and it also points us to the great day of peace. The two go together. They follow one upon the other. To have peace is to have an end to opposition. Just as in World War II, D-Day must come before VE Day.
So, if God is love, why does He judge? Because love does not take the destruction of that which it loves lightly. Instead, to love—to love fiercely and deeply—is to protect and provide. The LORD both provides a way for all those who would come, to come; and He fiercely and furiously protects His own who do come.