Essentials of Old Testament Theology - Lesson 5

The Heart of God in Judgment

God's judgment and lovingkindness.

Paul House
Essentials of Old Testament Theology
Lesson 5
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The Heart of God in Judgment

The Heart of God and Judgment in Old Testament Theology

Judgment is rarely on today's church's agenda, but it was certainly on the early church's agenda. In fact, they warn and speak openly of it often (see Acts 2:36-41; 17:29-31; 24:25; 2 Ti 4:8; 2 Pt 3:1-13). Thus, it is important to put judgment on our agenda, and studying a few basic elements of Old Testament Theology may help us do so.

I. God's Character and Judgment: The Law

  • God assesses, grieves, and punishes by specific act (Gen 1–10).
  • God forgives the penitent and holds the rebellious accountable (Ex 34:6-7). His mercy is primary, not solitary.
  • God promises to judge Israel (Lev 26; Dt 27–28).

II. God's Warnings and Judgment: The Prophets

  • God desires repentance, not destruction (Hosea 6:1-3; 9:5; 11:1-9; 14:1-9).
  • Repentance stays judgment (Joel 2: 12-14).
  • Intercession may stay judgment (Joel 2:12-14).
  • Repentance stays judgment for Jew and gentile (Jonah 3: 10; 4:1-2).
  • Lack of repentance leads to judgment for Jew and gentile (Nahum 1:1-8; Zeph).

III. God's Action and the Terrible Reality of Judgment: The Writings

  • Judgment is horrible (Lam 1-2; see Dt 28, Lev 26).
  • Judgment is merited, or it does not occur (Lam 1–2).
  • Judgment does not come God’s heart, his faithfulness endures forever, and the Lord is good (Lam 3:19-39). Thus, judgment ends (Lam 4:21-22). It has a redemptive, corrective, cleansing purpose.


These two and a half hours of foundation-level lectures will introduce you to the beauty of the Old Testament and its major themes. They are summaries of Dr. House's full Old Testament Theology class available in the BT Institute.

Essentials of Old Testament Theology

Dr. Paul House


The Heart of God in Judgment

Lesson Transcript


Open your Bibles to Exodus 34. Want to talk about the heart of God in judgment in the Old Testament? I'm reminded that in Christianity these days, I don't know so much in our church or in other good churches, but in general judgments rarely on our agenda. We don't speak of it much, but the early church certainly had judgment as a theme on its agenda. As you have Exodus 34 there, I'm reminded of a couple of passages in the early Church's preaching, like Acts chapter ten, verse 42 and 43. In a sermon which Peters preaching. He says. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he, Jesus, is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead. To Him, all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. It's interesting to me thinking about tonight what I heard can't preach so effectively. Sunday morning from second Timothy four eight. Paul's talking about his future and he says henceforth there is laid out for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge will award to be on that day. Paul's anticipating meeting his judge or in a passage like second Peter Chapter three. It's a long passage. No read all of it. But he says in verse ten, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the heavens will pass away with a roar and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved. The earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.


Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness? I've started thinking about passages like this, partly because. Of two academic assignments, one to write a commentary on the Book of Lamentations. These are the results of judgment God's people enduring the day of the Lord as He promised them, that if long term ingrained sin continued, God would indeed judge Israel. And He did. And because of some Ray I've been doing on the minor prophets that talked repeatedly, of course, about the Day of the Lord in the New Testament talks about judgment the same way the Day of the Lord. And so it's important for us to put judgment on our agenda. And so I want us to study just a few basic elements of the night so that when you read those New Testament passages like Acts ten and Second Peter three and say, Timothy four might have some idea of what they mean when they say on that day, because there was a term that denoted something from the Old Testament. And so we'll start with God's character in judgment in the law and then go to God's warnings and judgment in the prophets and finish with God's. Action and the terrible reality of judgment in the writings, so God's character in judgment. And thus we started X to 34. Now, you may recall that Israel has received the initial installment of God's Covenant. They've promised to keep it. And yet, while Moses is gone, they make and worship the golden calf. You remember all this and how this creates a terrible breach in their relationship with God and God acts to judge them. Moses prays and intercedes, and God renews the covenant.


And as part of that, he reveals his character in 34 six Xs, 34 six, The Lord pass before him, that is Moses and proclaim the Lord the Lord a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression, sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, the children's children, the third and fourth generations. Which is to say he will be as thorough in judgment as he is in blessing. If they be picturesque language to the thousands and to the generations. Now, then the nature of God here is set forth very clearly. God forgives the penitent. He holds the rebellious accountable all at the same time. But we need to notice that his mercy is primary. Primary? What is set forth here? The Lord is a God, merciful and gracious and slow to anger and a bearing, steadfast love and faithfulness. And he forgives. That is his primary, his first impulse. Yet his mercy is primary. It's not solitary. It's not by itself that in all there is. He says, I will by no means clear the guilty. And he might as well throw it. And I will not ask you the timing and how to meet that out. He is yet to ask my opinion on how fast he ought to judge people. I often offer my opinion. He is interested, but he is not moved by it. He has a better plan. But this is his basic character. If you turn to Deuteronomy 27 and 28 particular Chapter 28 with me, Deuteronomy 27 and 28, like Leviticus 26 passages in which God promises to bless Israel beyond their wildest dreams, giving them all their needs, taking care of them, giving them security.


He does not say there will always be wealth and joy, but he says, I will meet your needs and I will care for you. I will do all these things as you serve me. And then in chapter 28, this warning comes that if indeed they continue to sin over a period of time, verse 45, all these curses are consequences shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord, your God to keep his commandments in his statutes that he commanded you. How bad will it be? Chapter 28, verse 52. This speaks of ancient warfare. Sounds rather brutal to us, but you've seen what modern warfare looks like in the Sudan. We hope and pray that we won't see more of what modern warfare looks like in the Persian Gulf. So I'm not sure we should be superior in our mindset. But 52, they shall besiege you. That is, they'll set siege to your towns. They'll cut off all the food water coming in until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down through all, all your land and they shall besiege you in all your towns, throughout all your land, which the Lord has given you, and you shall eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your sons and daughters in the Lord your God has given you in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you. And it goes on. One of the ways God brings judgment is to turn us over to our own ways throughout their history. And it is an uneven history that has some glorious ties. But after a while, Israel finds sides. They would rather have alliances with other nations and follow the ways of other nations and the religions of the other nations rather than what God had revealed to them.


And God eventually says, I will turn you over to those nations. And eventually and again, God's timing is known by God alone. I don't have a one, two, three, four step that says if you're at step three and a half, God's about to turn you over. I don't have such a clock or a timetable for nations either. But it's clear in the scriptures that as nations, particularly nation that Israel but other nations will, as they continue to turn away from the Lord, eventually Lord will give them over to their choices. And that may be the worst judgment of all. Do you remember what David said when God offered him two possible punishments? You'll either suffer at my hands or I'll turn you over to your enemies. David response was, You don't turn me over to my enemies. There's mercy with the Lord, but not with human beings. And surely we can see the truth of that. But as God's own people chose these other nations and the prophets say, you chose those lovers. God gave them over. Those relationships is a terrible thing. A friend of mine said One of the scariest words phrase in the Bible is God gave them over, whether it's to a reprobate mind or to their choices or whatever else. God's mercy is such that he doesn't give us over. He gives us his word, He gives us one another. He gives us the truth. And so God's character is primarily to be merciful, but he will not clear the guilty will not do so. Now, God's warnings and judgments in the prophets. Remember Exodus 34, because we're going to hear these phrases again, but turn to the Book of Hosea and Chapter six. And if you know anything about the book of Joseph, you know that God compares how Israel is treating him with hosannas, terrible marriage, and a wife who's gone astray committed adultery, That's a horrible thing.


It's a horrible comparison. The prophet says. And Joseph, chapter six and verse one Come, let us return to the Lord, for He has taught us that he may heal as he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days, he will revive us. On the third day he will raise us up that we may live before him. Let us know. Let us press on to know the Lord His going out is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. Hosanna has two or three other passages that are relevant in Hosier, but he makes it very clear God desires repentance. And repentance will always stay judgment. It's a biblical principle. I'm going to say it now. Sometimes intercession stays. Judgment. You read of Amos praying for the people and God waits to send judgment. You read of intercession, but repentance stays judgment. Look at Joel Chapter two. Just a few pages over in your Bible, Joel. Chapter and verse 12. See if it starts to sound familiar to you. Having stated the need to pray and fast, they need to change their attitude toward their behavior. Verse 12 Yet even now declares the Lord. Yet even now, if he gave them over some of the saddest words in the Bible, maybe some of the best news we have yet, even now returned to me with all of your heart, with fasting, with weeping, with morning, and rend your hearts, not your garments. The whole of the Bible. The testimony is that a relationship with God begins in the heart. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.


And he relents over disaster. That is, God has every right to tell us that judgment is on the way and will come if there is no repentance when repentance comes. God indeed does not send that judgment, that disaster. Repentance always stays judgment. And so who knows whether he will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering, a drink offering for the Lord your God. It's in God's hands when we turn to God's hands, when we repent, when we turn away from doing what is wrong and return to the Lord. Repentance, stage judgment, intercession may stage judgment. Now, let's go on to Jonah Chapter for Jonah Chapter. Well, actually, chapter three and verse ten, if you would. The text says that Nineveh. Repent at Jonah's word. In verse nine, the king of Nineveh says, Who knows? God may turn from his fierce anger so that we may not perish. Verse ten When God saw what they did, how they turned from the evil way God relented of the disaster that he said he would do to them. And he did not do it. This displeased Jonah exceedingly. The text doesn't tell us why. And as I said to the men's Bible study a few Friday mornings, Bill. I'm kind of glad God did it because I've heard some teaching. Your daughter said, well, Jonah was a racist. So some of us would say, if we're not a racist, well, then we can excuse ourselves. No, it leaves it open. So for whatever reason, you would have to be displeased that these Nineveh writes these Assyrians repenting. He was angry and he prayed to the Lord and said, Oh Lord, is this not what I said when I was yet my country? That's why I made haste to flee to Tarsus, for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster.


Joel knew it. Hosier knew it because Exodus taught it. This is the nature of God. This is nature of God. The good news is, if Nineveh can repent and God forgive, well, then who really is outside the possibility of the grace of God? Who's outside that scope? No one. And he turns from the disaster. On the other hand, one more passage is going to sound the same words. The book of Nahum, Chapter one and verse two something over 100 years later, in a letter that relates to the same city, Nineveh, Nahum says in chapter one, in verse two, the Lord is a jealous and avenging God. The Lord is avenging and wrath while the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for His enemies. Verse three The Lord is slow to anger great power. And a Lord by no means clear the guilty exs 34 again. And it goes on to say in verse six, who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? God's primary impulse is to forgive. Jonah shows that repentance, even from the grossest of sinners, merely shows what, as Paul says in first, Timothy merely shows the greatness of God's patience and kindness and forgiveness. But for those who are God's enemies and as human beings do not know what God's timetable might be. Who do not fear the fact that God will not clear the guilty. Lack of repentance leads to judgment, and just as repentance led to forgiveness for Jew and Gentile, both and Jonah, lack of repentance leads to judgment for Jew and Gentile, like in the book of Nahum. So we see God's warnings and judgment in the prophets. And of course there are the text, but the prophets preached so that repentance might occur.


I am told that in the book of Jeremiah, the longest book in the Bible, by word count, that over something like 111 times, Jeremiah used some form of the word repentance. And so by the end of the book, when you see that he's garnered at least two converts in 40 years. At least the message went out. The offer of grace went out. But now a sobering thing, and I guess it's not a real upper in the middle of the week. I want to end with Lamentations. God's action. The terrible reality of judgment. And I guess this is something that I've needed to consider. When I think of how a lie should cry because of what the King of Syria was going to do to his people, or how Jesus, when he thought about Jerusalem and wept over them. Knowing that in 70 A.D., that city would be taken to the ground and terrible things would happen. And sometimes I get tired of hearing Jeremiah called the weeping prophet is off. All he did was sit around and use up a box of Kleenex an hour. And it wasn't just because he had to converse in 40 years. I think I've read the book enough. I may have identified a third convert. I'm that hopeful. He knew what the Lord was going to do as he turned the people over to the Babylonians. As they did not trust him. Chapter one, verse 17. Just for instance, Zion stretches out her hands, but there is none to comfort her. The Lord has commanded against Jacob that his neighbors should be his foes. Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them. Chapter two, Verse two. The Lord has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob in his wrath.


He has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah. He is brought down to the ground and dishonor the kingdom and its rulers. How about some specifics in chapter four, verse one, how the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed. The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street, the precious Sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of potters hands. What about the mothers? Even jackals offer the breast they nurse their young with The daughter of my people have become cruel like ostriches in the wilderness, and they were believed to leave their eggs. The tug of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst. The children beg for food, but no one gives it to them. Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets. Those who are brought up in purple embrace achieved. And it goes on. Verse nine Happier were the victims of the sword, then the victims of the hunger. All throughout strategic places. The text shows us that this is indeed the day of the Lord that is threatened. No repentance came. The prophets lied, the text says, as to the notion that the enemy would never come. The false prophets lied. Judgment is horrible. And when God judges, judgment is always merited. I always thought I had a low view of the human race. I think as I get older, I get more hopeful about people I didn't know that was supposed to happen to me. And I tend to think folks make mistakes and I forget we are sinners and we are dead in sin and outside of Jesus Christ, we are his enemies and we do not serve him.


We are so desperately in need of salvation and redemption and reconciliation with our maker that we can't even express it adequately, and only God can express it adequately through the gift of his son. I forget that. And whatever punishment that I would ever receive or that God would ever send on anyone is always merited. Sure. Sometimes. And in this text, it's clear others can suffer for our sins. We saw a lot of that tonight in the presentation on Sudan. There's a lot of people innocently suffering for the sins of others. But when we are judged, which is a different thing, we always merit that. So back to God's heart. Chapter three of Lamentations. Having stated that, the people have merited their judgment. One who is among the people who've seen affliction with them, who's lived among them, he says. And in chapter three, verse 19, as he prays, Remember my affliction in my wanderings, the wormwood in the gall, my soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind. And therefore I have hope. And he had just said in verse 18, his hope had disappeared. When hope is gone, what brings hope back? The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. God's covenant mercies cannot come to an end. There are some things that God cannot do because they're against his character and his mercy can never come to an end. They're new every morning. And I just think for every one of us, they're new every morning. There is hope for those who would turn to Lord because great is your faithfulness. This word is always used for God's faithfulness. That's interesting part, I think, too, for it's the faithfulness God gives us as we believe in him.


Extraordinary thing. Verse 24, a phrase that's used of the Levites the tribe set aside for the Lord, the one not given a piece of the Promised land. The Lord, as my portion says, my soul. Therefore, I will hope in Him. Some of you know quite well there are days where that is all there is, and that is all that is needed to be able to say. The Lord is my portion. In my part of her testimony, no missionaries from Sudan, but people from the Sudan who said, if the Lord is our portion, it is sufficient. I tend to think that sort of thing if money's tied or something. When all there is is the Lord. Verse 25, The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. And then down to verse 31 for the Lord will not cast off forever. But though he caused grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love, the steadfast love we saw in verse 22, verse 33 is critical. We mentioned a couple of weeks ago, for God does not afflict from the heart, from his heart, literally. What's that? What's the heart of God in judgment? He does not afflict from his heart. That is not his first impulse, as Isaiah says, is God's strange act. He does not reflect from his heart or greed. The children of men. So when we think about judgment and the terrible reality of judgment, it is horrible. When it comes, it is merited, whether it's in this life or the next. But even as we look at the results and some of the people who live through the judgment of God and Book of Lamentations, the hope is not gone because God's mercy is not gone.


His faithfulness is not gone. Him being our portion is not gone, and he never judged from his heart in the first place. But he is willing to judge because he cannot and will not clear the guilty will not. So there must be reconciliation to himself. And as we know in the wholeness of biblical theology through Jesus Christ, that redemption can come. And this is. One reason we go to the ends of the earth and why we support missions, right? Judgments real. People will stand before God and give an account for what they've done in this body, whether it's good or bad. That there is revelation portrays that a great white throne judgment in the nations will stand before God. Well, I don't know if my heart can take. I'm not anxious for now to start a topical series on judgment that lasts as long, say, as Harry Priestley, Luke or something. But if you. Priestley, Luke, as he did you see all those times Jesus and John the Baptist in the early church said King of God at hand. Judgment has come. Repent and believe the gospel. He's trying to scare people into heaven. I don't know that I can scare anybody into King, but I think, at least for those of us tonight who are believers, we should understand and shudder to think that anyone. We face a judgment of God and for ourselves, we ought to say what we read that Paul said. Second Timothy four eight because of Jesus Christ. I'm ready for that day. And we ought to be able to say with Peter, what sort of people ought we ought to be? And then at one place, as you say, if judgments begin at the House of God, what will it be like for all the rest? So I guess at the risk of having a series on a downer, I just really want to say.


It's altered my thinking. Calm, terror, lamentation. I thought I would study these lament and think about prayer and deep seeded seeking God. And you read the book and you realize this is a report Survivors of the Day of the Lord. And every one of them would say to us, Don't go there, don't go there. If you have gone there, remember, the heart of God is faithfulness is loving, kindness is mercy. Go there.