Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Don't Judge the Judge

Today is the third day in our 52nd week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Job 34-36; Revelation 20.

Jesus divides the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25)
I can't tell you how many times I have heard people talking about their experiences in courts of law.  They talk about how fair or unfair the judges were.  They say, "If you get so-and-so on the bench, you might as well hang it up."  Or, "This one is pretty lenient--you're lucky you got that judge."  I find it ironic when people talk like this, because (theoretically, at least) the judge is the one who determines what's fair or unfair.  We, the "little people" aren't in a position to judge the judge, because it's the judge's ruling that determines what's fair or unfair.

And yet, we judge the judge all the time.  Humanly, this isn't really such a bad idea, because all people are fallible--even judges.  But when we put ourselves in a position of judging the Judge of all the universe, we commit the sin of hubris.  We've elevated ourselves to the level of God, presuming that we can judge the decisions of the Lord.

In Job 34.5-6 (ESV), Elihu quotes his friend Job,who  accuses God of being an unjust judge:

For Job has said, ‘I am in the right,
    and God has taken away my right;
in spite of my right I am counted a liar;
    my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’

Then, in vv. 10-15, Elihu points out to Job that God is beyond reproach.

“Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding:
    far be it from God that he should do wickedness,
    and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.
For according to the work of a man he will repay him,
    and according to his ways he will make it befall him.
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
    and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Who gave him charge over the earth,
    and who laid on him[a] the whole world?
If he should set his heart to it
    and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
    and man would return to dust.

In his self-assured righteousness, Job has forgotten that he cannot judge the living God--for God Himself is the Judge of all.  Elihu continues his rebuke of Job in vv. 16-19:

“If you have understanding, hear this;
    listen to what I say.
Shall one who hates justice govern?
    Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty,
who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’
    and to nobles, ‘Wicked man,’
who shows no partiality to princes,
    nor regards the rich more than the poor,
    for they are all the work of his hands?

Finally, Elihu says that when Job presumes to judge God, he speaks without knowledge, and in his hubris he is guilty of rebellion.  

Men of understanding will say to me,
    and the wise man who hears me will say:
‘Job speaks without knowledge;
    his words are without insight.’
Would that Job were tried to the end,
    because he answers like wicked men.
For he adds rebellion to his sin;
    he claps his hands among us
    and multiplies his words against God.”

In Revelation 20, we read about God judging Satan, and sentencing him to the Abyss for a thousand years.  Then, after that millennium, Satan will be released again, to wreak his havoc for awhile.  I remember someone saying to me, "That's awfully dumb of God, to let the devil out again."  In so saying, that person put himself in the position of judging the Judge--a dangerous place to be.

In the end, we read that the Judge of all the earth does what is right.  Verses 11-15 (ESV) say:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Many readers don't like that final sentence, because they think that God punishes sinners too harshly.  One author I read recently has put himself in the position of judging the Judge, and thus declared that the Bible doesn't actually mean what it says.  That author insists that since God is good and kind and loving, all souls will eventually be saved.  It's a sweet concept--but that's not what the Bible actually says.

As believers form their own personal theology, it's important to remember that God is the Judge, and we are not.  We need to accept the Bible's teachings, and not commit the hubris of thinking that we know a better way to handle things than God does.  In Genesis 18.25, Abraham asks, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"  The answer, of course, is a resounding YES!  Whether or not that justice makes sense to us, it's God that we're talking about.  By definition, God is just.  So even if God handles something differently from the way you would have done it, you can trust that God is good.  And because God is more fair than you could ever hope to be, you can just relax--and don't judge the Judge. 

No comments: