As we enter Revelation 15, we see seven angels fly out with seven final plagues. What is fascinating, and we have seen before in Revelation, is that before the judgment is laid out, there is a worship service.
Rev 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
Rev 15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
I know we have talked about this before, but let’s think about this idea that everyone is going to worship God when His judgments are made manifest. That seems somewhat counterintuitive. After all, I don’t know very many people that are thrilled about being judged. You would think that they would be mad at God.
This passage also does not seem to limit this worship to those who believe in God. It hasn’t happened yet because it is speaking in the future tense. Ultimately however, every knee is going to acknowledge the deity of the one and only God. As a result, it seems to me that this is rather confusing.
If God is everything He says He is, then God is just. If God is just by definition, then it seems to me that He cannot do anything that is unjust. If He is not capable of doing anything unjust by definition because it is not consistent with His character, then if the Christian God is real, He has to be just. This might sound like circular logic to some people, and I freely admit that for the purposes of this post, I am not providing a full apologetic defense for the reality of the Christian God. I think you can make that defense, but that is for a different post.
My main point is that we live in a world today that is yearning for justice. People want to see wrongs made right. It is not hard to see that. Therefore, maybe that is why every knee will bow even when they are faced with the judgment of God. Because we are wired to desire justice, when we actually encounter the source of that justice, I would not be surprised to see everyone worship no matter how they encounter God whether in adoration or judgment.
It is interesting that even as the judgments of being handed out in the beginning of Revelation 11, there is simultaneously a worship service going on in heaven.
Rev 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Rev 11:16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Rev 11:17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
Rev 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
This really makes me think about our earthly perspective in perspective as it were. We might not understand what God is doing. In fact, most of the time, I will freely admit that I’m not positive what God is doing. I think that God does open doors and close doors at times to help guide us in the right direction, but I am not Jesus Christ. I do not have that type of perfect sense of following the will of God at all times.
As a result, I don’t always understand all of the judgments of God. I don’t know everything about a situation that God knows. I don’t know the heart of people in the way that God does. As a result, it then challenges me to think about why I am so quick to say that God was unfair in a certain situation. I think that I can play God better than God is God. That is blatantly false.
In the scene in Revelation, even though God is handing down judgments that might not be pleasant for those being judged, there is a worship scene going on. It challenges me to think my limited perspective. I need to be worshiping God even when maybe I don’t know why certain things are happening. Even the judgments of God are just and are therefore something that we can worship Him for.
Potential is not something that should be wasted. In Acts 18, we meet Apollos. He was a great preacher, but he only knew up until the baptism of John. As a result, he did not understand all of the things about Jesus Christ. Rather than throw him out as a lost cause, two friends of Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, taught him the rest of the story.
Act 18:24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
Act 18:25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
Act 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
Act 18:27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
Act 18:28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
They could have said that it wasn’t worth the time. They could have said they were too busy to straighten this guy out and fill him in on the rest of the story. However, this husband and wife team understood that there was potential here, and they needed to help do what they could to educate.
I think about this today. Rather than writing people off as lost causes, maybe we need to look for the common ground. Maybe we need to look for areas where we can see the potential. For example, there are many people in the world today who have a strong commitment to justice. Christians believe that God is a God of justice. Therefore, maybe the better approach is to use that as an area of connection. Apollos understood the baptism of John, so I am sure that was how the conversation started, but it advanced to the point where he became a follower of Jesus Christ by understanding the entire picture. My hypothetical people understand justice, but maybe they do not have a firm reason for why they believe that other than their own opinion. Maybe that’s where the conversation needs to start.
I think that we have a kind of an interesting dichotomy that is set up here in Zephaniah 3. On one hand, we have seen throughout this book that God is going to bring justice. I think we can all agree that justice is a good thing, and it is something that we would like to see in the world.
That is what made one particular verse stand out to me because sometimes I feel like we only want certain types of justice to come out.
Zep 3:5 The just LORD is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.
This verse comes immediately after describing how Jerusalem is not going to learn. Even after all of this stuff has happened, they are not going to return to God. Therefore, we get this verse about justice and judgment. God is going to be perfectly just every day, and He will not fail. I think we would all be glad about that.
However, every now and then you get a sense that people don’t want justice. They think that God is somehow being unfair or even sinning against them for bringing about consequences that follow the actions they have committed. If you think about the ultimate sense of justice, the wages of sin is death. It is a logical consequence of the action of sin. That is why the verse stood out to me. We’re first assured that God does not sin, but we are similarly assured that God will bring His judgment and justice every day. Judgment from God is not sin on His part whatsoever.
We live in a world that certainly says it wants justice done, but often times it seems to be when justice will benefit us. We want people to be fair to us, but I think we all have times when we try to justify being unfair to other people.
Personally, even though it is not always pleasant to face those consequences, it seems better to have a God who is just than one who is selective.
Zephaniah is clearly not the most popular book of the Bible, and I have to be honest that the only time I have ever read it was when I committed to reading through the entire Bible in a year. Therefore, this is a lot of relatively new material for me as well. I think that I need to do more with the minor prophets.
Anyway, we’re clearly talking about judgment in this chapter, and one verse stood out to me as pretty much the summary of the entire chapter.
Zep 1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.
The nation of Judah might have money. They might have political power, and they might be able to look good on the balance sheet. However, when God is bringing the judgment which is described previously in this chapter, it is not like they can buy their way out of it. They are subject to justice.
If you think about it, that is justice by definition. We don’t want our judges on earth to be convinced by money. We don’t want them to change their decisions based on cash. When the judge comes to a conclusion based on the evidence that there needs to be punishment, that is a decision that needs to be made irrespective of social status.
I know that sometimes people have a problem with the justice of God. Why does God have to punish? However, when you see situations like this, I think it makes a lot more sense. Clearly, there are things that are being abused, and isn’t it better to have a God who is going to call a spade a spade and bring people back to the right path? Doesn’t that ultimately work out better than having a God who doesn’t bring about justice?
The bottom line is that we don’t like justice when we want to be justified in our sin. However, removing that emotion from it, justice is a natural desire I feel, and it is good that God doesn’t pervert it by caring about things like social status or money.
We often times wonder how much trouble people have to go through. We wonder why there are so many hard times on earth that push people to the limit. We see people who are oppressed, and we wonder if God even notices this entirely unjust situation.
The people of Babylon are going to be judged in Habakkuk 2, and even though they had done a lot of terrible things without being slowed down, they were not going to get away with it.
Hab 2:10 Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
Hab 2:11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
Hab 2:12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!
I think about this, and it makes me think about how we can certainly do things the wrong way. We can build the town with blood. We can trample people on our way to the top, and we can pretty much do exactly what Babylon did on a much smaller scale.
God notices that. Even though we might wonder where God is at the time, it is not like He has gone anywhere. We might not understand why the judgment is not coming immediately, but it is not like there is some kind of special pass that these oppressors are receiving. God is just, and He will set it right even if we do not understand the timing. We are never promised a time, but we are promised justice.
Their deeds will testify to what they have done.
Jonah is an interesting character because he seems to have done what a lot of us fall into. We have seen him run away from God, return to God, thrive through the power of God and now complain about God. In Jonah 4, Jonah is upset because God actually saved the people of Nineveh. Apparently, he did not want to see that happen.
Jon 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
Jon 4:2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Jon 4:3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
Jonah knew what God was going to do. He knew that God was going to be gracious. He knew that God would allow the people of Nineveh to have another chance. That didn’t mean he was happy about it.
I think that we do this quite a bit. I think about the justice of God for example. We know that God is perfectly fair. We know that intellectually, but then circumstances come that we don’t like. All of a sudden we forget what we do know intellectually and basically complain. Just like Jonah, we know that God is fair, but we want to deny that characteristic. We want to think that God is unfair so that we have some right to complain.
However, that isn’t what should happen. We kind of see that from God in the next verse when He responds to Jonah.
Jon 4:4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
Was there really any purpose to the anger? Not really, and Jonah knew it. He still went outside the city and pouted for a while, but he didn’t make any more arguments like did above. He knew they didn’t hold up.
That is a point that a lot of us come to. In my above example, we realize that God is not being unfair, but we still want to carry on our feelings at the time. As a result, we don’t argue anymore, but we just moan for a while.
Given that it is New Year’s Day, maybe we all can make that our New Year’s resolution. Feelings happen, so it is not that we disregard them all together, but our reactions can be changed. Rather than continue with complaints, why don’t we channel that energy towards something that is actually constructive?
Amos 4 is sad commentary on the way that human nature is. Often times, we have so many things in our lives that point us to God, but we willfully ignore all of those indications and continue doing whatever we want.
Amo 4:11 I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
Amo 4:12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
Amo 4:13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.
God is worthy of fear. Certainly, He is a God of love, but He is also more powerful than anything in His creation. He has even allowed cities to fall, but the people don’t recognize that He was involved in that.
I think that we often times think about the intervention of God as only coming through healing miracles or something like that. However, I think back to passages like some in Deuteronomy where God promises blessings for obedience or curses for disobedience. Is it not then evidence of God that He allows things to happen that He promised even if they are not pleasant things?
I think about the prophets who told Israel where they were going wrong. The people often times repented (think Jonah for example), but it was because they recognized that judgment was coming. The fact that it was coming was evidence that God was there.
Obviously, it is a lot more enjoyable to have our prayers answered in the way that we desire, and when that does happen, it certainly does point to God. However, these passages should point to God as well. He is being faithful to His promises. Even with this evidence though, these people refused to recognize that it pointed to God.
We made it to Amos 1. We are dropped right into the middle of the action where we have a list of people that are going to punish by God for their sins.
Amo 1:3 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:
Amo 1:4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad.
Amo 1:5 I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the LORD.
The other locations that are mentioned are Gaza, Tyrus, Edom and Ammon. They all begin with the same prelude regarding three and four transgressions, and God is not turning away the punishment thereof. Obviously, the following verses deviate a little bit regarding what is going to happen or why it’s happening, but the structure is very similar.
This reminds me of the fact that God takes sin very seriously. He has been generous and does not always immediately punish. We can see that from the fact that there were three transgressions already, but the people have reached the boundary where it is time to face the music. Yesterday, I wrote about justice, and I wrote how as humans, we are comforted by the fact that there will be justice.
God, being perfectly just, also executes judgment that we might not be so comfortable with. If you break the law, you pay the price. It is just like our system here in the United States. You do the crime; you do the time. It is perfectly consistent with the just character of God to discipline people for breaking the perfect law.
Some people argue that God should just let everything go. If He was truly loving, He would never punish anyone. However, they forget about this characteristic of God. He certainly is loving, but loving someone does not mean forgetting justice. We confuse our definitions.
In Joel 3, we’re faced with a prophecy concerning someday in the future. According to verse one, we don’t know a specific time, but it is obvious that it is a good time for the people of Israel. Those people who had been the oppressors of Israel are going to be judged for what they had done.
Joe 3:1 For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
Joe 3:2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
Joe 3:3 And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.
Joe 3:4 Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;
God is just. God will, in His time, set right everything that has been wrong. We do not live in a world where evil is going to go unpunished. Rather, oppression, among many other offenses, will have consequences.
This is comforting, because it tells me that God cares. He understands that there are things that happen on earth that require justice. He understood that the people of Israel had been treated cruelly for example. We are not alone, and God is not some kind of far-off deity who has no idea what is happening on earth. Instead, He sees what is happening and cares about it. That is our awesome God.