††††††††† This morning I want to take the time to pursue a rabbit trail that I ran into this past week as I was studying Revelation 15. In studying Revelation we have learned that there are three cycles of judgmentóthe seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, and the bowl judgments that we will be studying over the next two weeks. With so much judgment there are many who question the love and mercy of God. People, who have not taken the time to study Godís Word, will say, ďHow can you say that God is a God of love if He judges people?Ē† That is a fair question.
††††††††† First of all, let me say that there are different kinds of judgments that come from the hand of God. There are the judgments that come throughout our life, the discipline of God when we get off track, when we turn away from God.† Proverbs 3:11-12 says,
11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV)
††††††††† Just as a parent who loves their children punishes, or disciplines, their children so that they will learn that their choices can destroy them and to help them learn to make good choices, the Lord disciplines His children for the very same purpose. The Psalmist said,
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:71 NIV)
††††††††† We can see an example of this in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar. The King of Babylon was arrogant and God wanted to teach the king who had given him his kingdom and his power. Godís judgment, His discipline, came to turn King Nebuchadnezzarís heart around. Listen to these words from Daniel 4.
31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.† 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”† 33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.† 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.† 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.† 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:31-37 NIV)
††††††††† King Nebuchadnezzar was a good student wasnít he? Instead of praising himself, he praised God for all that He had done in his life. So, we see that Godís judgment comes to turn us around, to teach us.
††††††††† I want to share the Scripture with you that I ran into this past week that totally captured my heart. Turn with me to Ezekiel 33:10-11 and letís read together.
10 “Son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”‘ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:10-11 NIV)
††††††††† God doesnít delight, He takes no pleasure, in the death of the wicked. Isnít that an awesome thought!† We sure take delight in the destruction of the wicked donít we? When Saddam Hussein was hung a few weeks ago people rejoiced. When Tim McVeigh was executed by lethal injection for destroying so my lives here in our own city, people rejoiced didnít they? God takes no delight in the destruction of the wicked. His heartís desire is that they would turn from their sin and live.
††††††††† This isnít the only place where we see this thought. You all know the story of Job. He suffered so much hardship, so much suffering, and he was angry because God wouldnít answer him about what was going on in his life. Job knew that he hadnít done anything wrong so he wanted answers. Jobís friend, Elihu, spoke these words to him.
13 Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words?† 14 For God does speak– now one way, now another– though man may not perceive it.† 15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds,† 16 he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings,† 17 to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride,† 18 to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.† 19 Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones,† 20 so that his very being finds food repulsive and his soul loathes the choicest meal.† 21 His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out.† 22 His soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the messengers of death.† 23 “Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him,† 24 to be gracious to him and say, ‘Spare him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for him’– 25 then his flesh is renewed like a child’s; it is restored as in the days of his youth.† 26 He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state. 27 Then he comes to men and says, ‘I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved.† 28 He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.’† 29 “God does all these things to a man– twice, even three times–† 30 to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him. (Job 33:13-30 NIV)
††††††††† Jobís friend says that God does speak: He speaks in various ways, in dreams, visions, and as Elihu says, ďchastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones.Ē What he means is that God speaks to us in our suffering.† We can see example after example of these means of communication in Scripture. God spoke to Abimelech, the king of Gerar, through a dream. (Genesis 20)† Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, had a dream about the future of his country in Genesis 41. †Before catastrophe fell upon Nebuchadnezzar he had a dream warning him of impending judgment if he didnít change his ways. (Daniel 4)† We see that God used dreams and visions to speak to His people about their lives and the future of the country.
††††††††† God also speaks to us through our infirmities. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul spoke about his experience. Read along with me.
7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.† 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.† 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.† 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV)
††††††††† God is always communicating with us, trying to turn our hearts back to Himself so that we donít destroy ourselves. He can and will use any means necessaryóa dream, a vision, an illness, a hardshipóall of these are meant to draw our attention to Heaven, to set our thoughts and our hearts on God.
Now, Iím not saying that every sickness we experience in life, or any hardship for that matter, is a judgment from God. Hezekiah was sick to the point of death and God healed him and gave him 15 more years of life. (2 Kings 20) He wasnít sick because of anything specific he had done, it was simply time for him to die. In John 9, the man born blind wasnít blind because of his sin or the sin of his parents, Jesus said. Even though our infirmities may not be as a result of our sin, they are still an opportunity for us to look to the Lord for strength and direction in life. Everything in life is intended to draw us to the Father.
††††††††† I also want to encourage you not to seek dreams and visions and the like. We need to seek the Lord with all of our hearts. If God desires to speak to you in a dream then He is able to do, but you and I need to seek Jesus. Don’t elevate a dream†you may have had to the level of Scripture. God has spoken to His people over and over again by these means, but He has spoken most clearly in another way. Turn with me to Hebrews 1:1-2.
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,† 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV)
††††††††† God has spoken to us through His Son. We learn about what Jesus said, about how He lived, and how He wants us to live through His Word. The Word of God is our source for learning about our Savior. Godís Word, used by the Spirit of God, in your life in mine can not only teach us about Jesus and His life, but it can transform our own lives. Letís take a look at one more section of Godís Word before we leave here this morning. Turn with me to Hebrews 4:12-16.
12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.† 14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. †(Hebrews 4:12-16 NIV)
††††††††† God uses His Word to bring to light those things about our lives that He is wanting to address, change, and transform. Look to the Word for your source of information as well as transformation.
††††††††† Last of all, I mentioned to you that there are different kinds of judgment. There are those judgments, or Godís discipline, that is meant to speak to us, to turn us around. There is also a final judgment that each of us will face. The write of Hebrews wrote,
27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 NIV)
††††††††† I pray that you will hear God calling today and that you will cry out to Him. I pray that today you will recognize that God uses everything in your life and mine to draw us to Himself. Godís desire is that we would turn from our ways, repent of our sin, and allow Him to transform our lives. Make no mistake about it, judgment does come, but we need to understand why God disciplines those He loves. †Make sure that you will be ready when the last judgment arrives, by heeding Godís discipline today.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 14, 2007