BACK

There is also the positive side. There was blessing for the world that began when Noah went out of the ark (Genesis 9:8-17). There was blessing for the nation of Israel (Numbers 23/24). Cities are blessed (Psalm 46:4/5; 69:35). The household of Obed-Edom was blessed (2 Samuel 6:11) and so were individuals.: for instance, Abraham (Genesis 24:1), Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10) and Job (Job 42:12).

It is to be noted that even when persons are generally wrong God recognises what there is that can be commended. Take the case of Saul: The men of Jabesh-Gilead took the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, burned them and buried their bones (1 Samuel 31:11-13). The men of Jabesh-Gilead in doing this went, at any rate, some way to repaying the debt they owed to Saul in saving them from the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-11). King Zedekiah for all his faults did not put the prophet Jeremiah to death (Jeremiah 38:16); neither did king Nebuchadnezzar put Zedekiah to death (Jeremiah 52:11). Then there was Ahab: because he humbled himself the judgment on his house was deferred (1 Kings 21:27-29).

Similarly, when persons are generally right they have to suffer when they go wrong. Jonathan the son of Saul loved David (1 Samuel 18:1-3) and expected that when David came to the throne he would be next to him in the kingdom (1 Samuel 23:15-18). However, this never came about because Jonathan did not throw in his lot with David and remained with Saul, dying in battle on mount Gilboa (2 Samuel 1:19-27, particularly verse 23). Asa was generally a good king (2 chronicles 14:2), but he failed towards the end of his reign as we see in 2 Chronicles 16, particularly the end of the chapter. Again, Jehoshaphat was a good king (2 Chronicles 17:1-6), but failure was found with him. He had wrong associations and he suffered for it (2 Chronicles 18:28-32; 20:35-37).

Persons suffer for wrongdoing in appropriate ways. The ultimate penalty was death. If we think of Adam and Eve, apart from the death penalty, there were certain other penalties imposed as pronounced in Genesis 3:8-19. The ultimate penalty was not always imposed as we see in 2 Samuel 12:13/14 (the case of David and Bathsheba). We know that all must needs die (2 Samuel 14:14), but that is distinguishable from the imposition of the death penalty for particular wrongdoing (Numbers 27:3-5). Those that do specific evil and are executed, really die before their time (Ecclesiastes 7:17). Some like Baruch, though they had to suffer, had their life given them as a prey and were preserved wherever they went (Jeremiah 45:5). See also the case of Ebed-melech (Jeremiah 39:15-18). Where mercy was shown by God, as in the case of David, we learn from the New Testament how God showed his righteousness in respect of the passing by of sins (Romans 3:24-26).

Often judgment is not immediate. Space is given for repentance (Revelation 2:21). Adam did not physically die immediately after he sinned, but lived for 930 years all told. God rejected Saul from reigning over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1), but he was not deposed immediately but reigned for a good many years after his rejection as the narrative shows.

The Old Testament teaching regarding God's Government is carried forward into the New, so that we have references to judgment on the world etc. There is the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world (Revelation 3:10). Then we have the judgment on cities: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (Matthew 11:20-24). There was no judgment on Tiberias (John 6:23 - a mainly Gentile city, for which there is no evidence that Christ ever visited it) and although the cities of which Christ speaks no longer exist, Tiberias exists as a rebuilt city to this day. Individuals that came under judgment were Judas Iscariot who committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:18/19), Simon the sorceror (Acts 8:9-24), although Scripture does not tell us what actually happened to him, and Elymas the magician who was smitten with blindness (Acts 13:6-12).

Again God blesses the world etc. We have what is in effect a blessing on the earth at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14). Then we have individuals: Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:45) the bondman (Luke 12:43/44) and Christ himself (Revelation 5:12).

All these cases of blessing are distinct from the blessings of the Gospel which those that repent and believe in Christ receive on the basis of his atoning work.

In the New Testament the emphasis is on eternal salvation, rather than blessings here. However, blessings here are not omitted. Thus we have: "Piety is profitable for everything, having promise of life, of the present one, and of that to come" (1Timothy 4:8). Again: "There is no one who has left house... for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, that shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time... and in the coming age life eternal" (Mark 10:29/30).

There are also solemn statements that if we do wrong we shall be punished. "For he that does a wrong shall receive the wrong he has done, and there is no respect of persons." (Colossians 3:25) The context shows that we are not speaking here about the matter of sin against God, but what is due to ones fellow men. Christ atoned for sins against God (this includes all sins), but there is also what may be due to men. "Doing works worthy of repentance" (Acts 26:20) would involve putting things right with men. In the Old Testament when a trespass had been committed it involved restitution for wrongs done to others as well as atonement for sin against God (Leviticus 6:1-7). In Samuel we have the statement: "If one man sin against another, God will judge (as an arbitrator) him; but if a man sin against Jehovah, who shall intreat for him?" (1 Samuel 2:25). This passage makes it clear that there is not only specific sin against God, but also there is sin against man. In Genesis 3 we have sin against God (disobedience), but in Genesis 4 we have sin against man also (Cain killed Abel).

We get shown something of the way God works in government in Ezekiel. God's chariot described in chapter 1, depicted as if it were a living coat of arms, contains much symbolism. The face of a man would suggest intelligence. God's government is not random, but directed by an intelligent mind. The face of a lion on the right side would suggest strength. God's


NEXT