If God is love, why does He judge?
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.
Pervasive Peace through the Second Advent
In Christmas, we celebrate the advent or coming of Christ. The first coming enabled a way for peace to be realized. Humans can, through Christ, have renewed fellowship with God. Yet, as Jesus Himself said, in the world we will have trouble and tribulation.
So, if that’s the case, if in the world we will have difficulty and distress, then how can we have peace? This Sunday I get to preach on the “Pathway to Peace” from Isaiah chapter 11. I’m excited and thankful to be able to do that.
I, however, have too much material. So, I thought I’d share here, part of how that peace is possible.
First, Isaiah paints a beautiful and powerful picture of peace (see Isaiah 11:1-9). A little baby can play with a king cobra without fear (v. 8). How is this possible?
Isaiah 11:9 tells us: the knowledge of God is intimately experienced. And so: nothing will “harm nor destroy on all [the Lord’s] holy mountain.” Instead of harm, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
The Messiah will make it so not only the knowledge of the LORD is pervasive but intimacy with the LORD is too. Knowledge in the Old Testament is not merely head knowledge, but it is experiential (When Adam “knew” Eve, Genesis 4:1, it was not mere cognitive knowing, it was experiential).
Also, we should ask, how is it that the waters cover the sea? The waters cover the sea by filling it to the fullness of capacity. God and His goodness will be experienced and known to maximum capacity! We will have the strength together with all the saints to comprehend and know “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and we will be “filled with all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3:18-19).
Look at what’s going to happen when Jesus reigns on earth!:
“Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7).
Of peace, there will be no end!
Justice and righteousness forevermore!
Of course, this is not yet a reality. First, Christ came as a Lamb to be slain. Next, He’s coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (see Revelation 5:5).
In that day, when perfect peace comes upon the earth, the LORD says, “my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands” (Is. 65:22). The most precious moments that we experience on earth—whether that’s a Thanksgiving dinner, a beautiful sunset, or being lost in a song or prayer of praise—will be multiplied infinitely.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
How ironic, how sad, that the Rejected One, is the One who brings renewal of the whole earth.
Fellow Christians, please share the message that is so needed in these days of distress. And pray for your neighbors, that they would have peace that surpasses understanding.
Please pray that the Rejected One, the one alone who brings perfect and pervasive peace, would no longer be rejected.
“…yet to be filled…”
Today’s culture believes that you can’t be fulfilled unless you can have the “partner” you want, whether male, female, multiple, or in some other combination that is preferred, and yet so many signs tell us that humanity has yet to be fulfilled. Take, for example, all the recent rich and famous people, people that many of us would think would be fulfilled, that have committed suicide or died of drug overdose.
What does all this tell us? Or as Blaise Pascal says,
“What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”
We have eternity in our hearts. We seek for good gifts, that have become tainted fruit, to fulfill. But they can’t, they were never designed to. Legalizing same sex marriage isn’t the solution. Drugs are not, sex is not, success is not… Not kids, money, things, marriage… They all fail. There’s nothing to be finally gained under the sun.
We need that for which our souls were made. We need the LORD. Jesus the promised Messiah alone gives eternal shalom for our souls.