God’s Right to Judge
Justice is a common desire. When someone has committed a terrible act against another, we want to see justice done. We know there is something wrong about someone getting away with a criminal offense. Consequently, societies have systems in place in order to try to bring about justice for the offended. Since they involve humans and human governments, these systems are imperfect. We don’t always get the resolution that we desire, and sometimes we err. Yet we continue trying because it is the right thing to do.
If we, as human beings, desire justice, then how much more shall we think that God desires justice? God was certainly concerned about justice under the Law (cf. Exod 23:2, 6; Deut 10:18; 16:19; 24:17; Isa 1:17, and… so much in the prophets!). His desire is, always, that His people “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Unlike mere human beings, however, God knows the way of perfect justice. He knows the beginning from the end and knows the hearts of all. He sees what we cannot see, knows what we cannot know, and has the perfect wisdom and understanding to carry out judgment and justice without the finite flaws of imperfect societies. Consequently, when God brings judgment, it will be right. We may not always be able to understand or see why God judged a nation at a particular time, but those calls are His right to make. Our lack of knowledge and understanding hardly constitutes reason to call God into question over His judgments. God owns life and death (Deut 32:39). He is the Creator, the Potter, the King, and the Judge.
Abraham understood that God had the right to judge the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. He pled with God, to be sure, hoping that God might spare the cities if only only ten righteous people could be found. “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen 18:25) He was calling upon God’s just nature, hoping to spare his own family from what was about to happen. The ten could not be found. Yes, the Judge of all the earth will do what is just. He will make no mistakes in carrying out justice so it should not surprise us when God finally brings down the gavel.
Why would God bring such judgment? When human beings are violated, we rightly want justice. Again, how much more ought God to desire justice, especially when He has been violated? This is the nature of sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Sin violates the nature and glory of God. Just as crime against other humans violates human rights, God has “divine rights,” and these are violated when we sin. In detailing the sins of God’s people, Isaiah said that they were being judged “because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, to rebel against His glorious presence” (Isa 3:8, NASB).
Shall we, then, think it right that we would “get away” with crimes against the Almighty Creator? Shall we think to remove His divine right to judge? Should we think that He is out of place for bringing justice and doing so perfectly with complete wisdom, knowledge, and understanding? He could do it with the nations and He can do it with us. One day, there is, indeed, a final day of judgment coming. As Paul told the people of Athens, God “commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31; cf. 2 Cor 5:10)
This can be rather frightening, especially when we realize that our crimes against the Divine Glory, when met with justice, means suffering “the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1:9).
Yet here is where the Gospel becomes so powerful. God Himself stepped in, took on human flesh (John 1:14), and suffered as a sacrifice on our behalf so that He would be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). By doing this, He does not give up being just while forgiving the sins of those who turn to Him. His justice stands. His holiness stands. His glory stands. His grace is magnified. To God be the glory!
God’s right to judge is established by the fact that is the Creator. Just as human beings expect justice when human rights are violated, so God brings about justice due to His divine rights beings violated. He does this with perfect knowledge, wisdom, and power. Will the Judge of all the earth do what is just?
He already has, and He always will.