18 And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:18 (NASB)
God is fair and loving. And because of His goodness, His mercy never fails in the end.
Some of us have lived our lives believing that the Lord is unfair and punishing, often carrying with us an example to readily demonstrate to ourselves and others why we should not have to pay any attention to God in our lives. The reason may be a bicycle we never received after praying for it as a child, the early loss of a parent through death or divorce, the absence of money, or a painful situation we observe others going through or have experienced ourselves. (I have heard most of these reasons given for rejecting God).
Some of these difficult situations were brought about through the sinful acts of other people. Yet, God usually gets the blame. And when He steps in to address it, some are then quick to criticize Him as being a punishing and unloving God.
God did deliver a harsh judgement on Jerusalem and Judah in Ezekiel’s time through King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It was a terrible time of chastisement and pain for the suffering nation. Many of its people had already been taken into exile in Babylon, having been sent there by God for their own protection. Among these were the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel.
But many of those who stayed in Jerusalem to fight Nebuchadnezzar were living a life of idolatry and did not believe God or heed His abundant warnings to surrender for their own preservation. They relied on false gods and idols to save them, not realizing that by fighting they were actually opposing a divine judgment of God.
Ezekiel told his fellow exiles exactly what was happening back home in Jerusalem, and shared God’s message that many survivors from there would soon be joining them in Babylon. God spoke this message through Ezekiel to defend His name and to point out the fairness of His judgment. The Lord wanted to make it crystal clear to everyone that those who ignored His warnings and were going through this trial were doing it by choice and were only reaping what they had sown. Yet even many of these would be pulled from the fire and redeemed due to His grace and mercy.
21 For thus says the Lord God: “How much more it shall be when I send My four severe judgments on Jerusalem—the sword and famine and wild beasts and pestilence—to cut off man and beast from it? 22 Yet behold, there shall be left in it a remnant who will be brought out, both sons and daughters; surely they will come out to you, and you will see their ways and their doings. Then you will be comforted concerning the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, all that I have brought upon it. 23 And they will comfort you, when you see their ways and their doings; and you shall know that I have done nothing without cause that I have done in it,” says the Lord God. Ezekiel 14:21-23 (NKJV)
It is in our nature to make a judgment without having all the information available to us. We actually need to do this just to live our lives, and our jobs often require us to make interpretations without having all of the necessary data in hand. But with God, we will never have all the information that He has. At some point, we will encounter something we do not understand, and will be tempted to think that God is unfair or unloving. Here, we can either trust His goodness in faith until we can see the big picture or decide to turn our backs on Him and reject Him, based upon the limited evidence that we can see.
God is in the saving business. He has done everything He can to extend life, hope, joy, and peace to us. Jesus Christ even went to the cross to suffer death in our place. Yet, based upon limited information, we can still be quick to criticize, condemn, or ignore God’s loving nature, and choose to walk away from Him.
Even the hardest atheist must admit that judgment is sometimes necessary. For example, when someone commits a horrible crime such as murder, if caught and convicted, they will spend most if not all of the rest of their life in prison. If the evidence against them is clear and their trial was fair, most people will agree that this judgment is necessary.
Similarly, God’s judgment is always completely fair. And just as with the remnant in Jerusalem that joined the exiles in Babylon, He will not give up on people even after judging them.
Many years ago, I was driving to church one morning and received a spiritual nudge from God. This served as my call into the prison ministry. Since that day, I have witnessed many incarcerated lives touched and changed by Him into lives having hope and joy. But despite God’s abundant blessing and forgiveness and walking with them each remaining day of their incarceration, their prison sentences were still carried out in full. Their judgment was fair.
The number of redeemed lives in incarceration is known only to God. It may be a small remnant of the entire prison population, but each person is still vitally important in God’s eyes. These are the Lost Sheep that Jesus was seeking. For many, if they had not been judged and incarcerated, they would likely have been killed on the streets given their dangerous previous lifestyles.
We may not have done anything to deserve a long prison sentence, but because of our own sins, we are all deserving of God’s judgment.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NASB)
Because of His great love for us, Jesus Himself bore the punishment we deserve on the cross at Calvary, including a sentence of death. After three days, the Father raised Him to life, to live and reign in glory with us at His side, forever and ever. Our judgment was fair, but the sentence was paid by Him.
We are able to see a more complete picture of God’s heart and love for the lost in Jesus’ parable of the Lost Sheep. Who among us has not been in such a position, or might find ourselves right there now? The Lord is searching for you.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep, from Luke 15:
1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Jesus to listen to Him. 2 And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to complain, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 And so He told them this parable, saying, 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost!’ 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:1-7 (NASB)
Father, thank You for searching me out to rescue and redeem me. I am not deserving of Your great love, rather, deserving of judgment. But I am so thankful that instead of punishment, You now grant me forgiveness, grace, mercy, patience, and an eternal life in Christ. Help me to walk with You today and to do the next right things. Teach me to love and forgive others. May You be glorified and worshiped forever. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.