The Judgments of God
December 30th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
2 Kings 23:36
THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 23:36
12-30-84 10:50 a.m.
And no less do we praise the Lord for the great throngs who share this hour with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Judgments of God: A Plea for Revival. It is actually the first of a duet of sermons, this one and next Sunday’s. Actually also, it is a quadruplet; it is one in a series of four messages. Next Sunday, the State of the Church sermon, the annual sermon of the pastor on the first Sunday of the year; then the next Sunday, the third message, Soul-winning Laymen, laymen, laywomen in soulwinning; and then the fourth one is The Soul-winning Church, the church in soulwinning. And this first message of the four, The Judgments of God: A Plea for Revival, a plea for the intervention of heaven. For our beginning text, in the Book of Romans chapter 2, beginning at verse 2; Romans 2:2:
. . . the judgment of God is according to truth . . .
Thinkest thou, O man, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
. . . thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
Who will render to every one according to his deeds:
To them who by patient continuance in work, in well doing, seek for glory and honor and immortality, to them eternal life:
But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, to them indignation and wrath,
Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile . . .
For there is no respect of persons with God.
He has, in respect to judgment, no favorites, whether they be of a chosen people, whether they be of this dispensation or a previous one, whether it be man or woman, God has no favorites with respect to the judgments of God. We’re going to look at the great, panoramic review of the hand of God in human life, and we’re going to see in it two things: first, the inevitable and inextricable judgments of God upon unrighteousness; and second, the intervention of God in repentance, in contrition, and in confession.
First: the inexorable and inevitable judgments of God upon unrighteousness. We are told in the Book of Genesis that there were two angels, beautiful men; they are in the form of a human life, a human stature. Two beautiful angels, beautiful men, came down from God in heaven to visit the Sodomites, to see whether or not it was as it had come up to God in heaven, the deep wickedness of the Sodomites. And when the two beautiful men, beautiful men—when the two beautiful men came to the gate of the city they were met by the mayor who sat in the gate of the city; his name was Lot [Genesis 19:1]. And Lot welcomed those two beautiful men into the city of Sodom, and they walked through the streets of the Sodomites; two beautiful men. And they came to be guests in the home and house of the mayor, Lot. And while Lot was entertaining those two beautiful men, attractive men, angelic men, messengers from heaven, the Sodomites gathered outside the door of the mayor of the city, Lot. And they said, calling with a loud voice to the family of Lot on the inside of the house, “Bring out those two beautiful, attractive men that we may sexually know them” [Genesis 19:2-5].
And Lot came out instead and he said to the Sodomites, he said, “I have two daughters, virgins; they have never known sexually a man. You take my two daughters, and you rape them, and you abuse them, and you violate them, but the two beautiful men who are guests from heaven, do not abuse them” [Genesis 19:6-8].
And the Sodomites in anger replied, “Who is this stranger Lot? Where did he come from? And who made him a judge over us?” And as they pressed toward the house to seize Lot, the two angels on the inside, of the house took hold of Lot and pulled him inside and shut the door [Genesis 19:9-10].
And when the Sodomites deigned to rush the door and to open it in violence and to seize those two beautiful, attractive men, the angels struck blindness on the Sodomites, and they groped for the wall and the door and could not find it [Genesis 19:11]. And on the inside of the house the two angels said to Lot, “You get your family, and you escape for your life, for God shall rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom” [Genesis 19:12-13]; the judgments of Almighty God.
When I read in the paper of a parade through San Francisco of two hundred fifty thousand sodomites, what do you think someday God will do? And when I read in the daily paper in Dallas of a lesser number of sodomites, marching and parading through the city of Dallas, what do you think some day God will do, the God who visits judgment?
I turn again to the Holy Scriptures, and I am introduced here to Israel. And in the providence of God the kingdom is divided. There are ten tribes of Israel to the north, whose later capital is Samaria, and they are called by the name of Israel, separated from the two tribes to the south, which are called Judah [1 Kings 12:16-17, 21]. And Jeroboam, the first king of Israel, builds and molds two golden calves. And he says to his people, “These are the gods that brought you out of the land of Egypt. These are the gods you are to worship” [1 Kings 12:26-28].
And from the succession of every king from Jeroboam on down to the last one, including Ahab and Jezebel, every king of Israel was a wicked king. On every high place they built an altar to a heathen god. On every day in the year they bowed down before Asherah, the female goddess of fertility, whose licentious rites of worship were indescribable to us. Every king of Israel was a vile and wicked king. And finally, ultimately, inexorably, I read in 2 Kings 17:7:
And so it was, that the children of Israel sinned against the Lord their God . . .
And they walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before them . . .
The Lord testified against Israel by all the prophets and by all the seers saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and statutes . . .
Notwithstanding they would not hear . . .
they left all the commandments of the Lord their God . . .
They caused their sons and their daughters to be offered up, as sacrifices to Molech, in the fire . . .
Therefore the Lord was angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only . . .
So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.
[2 Kings 17:7-23]
That’s the day in which the author wrote it; that’s the day in which we live. To this day, Israel, the northern ten tribes, are referred to as “the lost ten tribes.” They were forever scattered over the face of the civilized world, and their nation and their capital were forever destroyed; the judgments of God [2 Kings 17:23]. In 722 BC the bitter and hasty Assyrian came and forever destroyed Israel, the northern kingdom. Do you notice in reading the Scripture, it says, “but the tribe of Judah only”? [2 Kings 17:5-6, 18]. God destroyed them and moved them, except the tribe of [Judah] only.
So Judah remains. Judah with her capital city of Jerusalem stands before the Lord. But how does she stand? In those divided days there were kings of great revival and reformation like Hezekiah [2 Chronicles 31:1-21], and like good King Josiah [2 Chronicles 34:1-33], but other than once in a while a godly king of the house of David, Judah also was led into vast, permeating idolatry by her nobility [2 Kings 21:10-15]. Then we read in 2 Kings 23:
The Lord turned not from the fierceness of His great wrath, wherewith His anger was kindled against Judah . . .
And the Lord said, I will remove Judah also out of My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city, Jerusalem, which I have
chosen . . .”
[2 Kings 23:26-27]
Then the first verse of the next chapter, chapter 24 begins:
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came up . . .
according to the word of the Lord which He spake by His servants the prophets.
At the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of king Manasseh . . .
For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.
[2 Kings 24:1-4]
And if I could speak of the destruction of the nation and of the city in the lamentable words of Jeremiah the prophet: Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried to his people, “Repent! Get right with God!” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And Nebuchadnezzar came in 605 BC and took some of the nobility captive and made them eunuchs in his palace in Babylon, among them being one named Daniel, a statesman-seer [Daniel 1:1-3, 6].
Jeremiah, in Jerusalem, cried to his people, “Repent! Get right with God!” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And Nebuchadnezzar came in 597 BC, and this time he took all of the royal family, and took all of the craftsman, and took the leaders of the army, and ten thousand of the people, among whom was Ezekiel, the prophet-priest [2 Kings 24:11-14].
Jeremiah, remaining in Jerusalem, lifted up his voice and cried saying, “Repent! Get right with God!” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And Nebuchadnezzar came in 586 BC [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30], and this time he needed not to return. He took the nation into slavery. He destroyed the temple and the city, and they became exiles and slaves in the Mesopotamian nation of Babylonia. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried,
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we, we are not saved.
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the [hurt] of the daughter of my people healed?
[Jeremiah 8:20, 22]
The judgment of Almighty God.
In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew our Lord is lamenting over Jerusalem; the twenty-third chapter of Matthew:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, leaders of the people. Woe unto you!
Behold, He says, your house is left unto you desolate!
And the twenty-fourth chapter, the following chapter of Matthew, begins and the disciples pointed out to the Lord the great vast stones in the temple. And the Lord said, “See these great stones? Not one shall be left upon the other” [Matthew 24:1-2]. And within a few short years, a few years, the great seething rebellion came into Israel, and the Roman legions came under Vespasian. Then when he was crowned as Caesar, continuing under Titus, and the city was taken, and the people into captivity, and the city was destroyed: the judgments of Almighty God!
And through the years and the centuries to our present day, God doesn’t change. The same omnipotent Judge who weighs the nations in the balance is the same omnipotent Judge who reigns forever and ever [Revelation 11:15].
The judgments of God today. A few months, several months, after the Second World War, I went through Germany from the south to the north and from the east to the west. Nor is it possible to describe the vast, unmitigated destruction of the Allied force as they rained fire and bombs down from heaven, the instruments of the judgments of Almighty God.
I stood, for example, in the middle of Hamburg, a city as large as Chicago, and from horizon to horizon, as far as my eye could see, there was not one building standing. And the whole nation was like that: prostrate, pulverized, bombed, fired, destroyed, in misery and unmitigated agony. As you stand there in the midst of that indescribable destruction, anybody with mind at all could not but poignantly view the preachers that Hitler had placed in prison and slain. The people of God, the Jews, that he had incarcerated and tortured and destroyed by the millions, and the violence that he had done to human life and human right and human nature: the judgments of Almighty God!
I am old enough to remember, though I was a child, I am old enough to remember the revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia; the Rasputins, the priests using the church for vile and vicious ends. And the Lord God looked down from heaven and said, “It is enough!” And the whole nation was thrown into the throes of an awesome confrontation. And out of it came not something that glorified God. Instead of turning to the Lord Christ in penitence and in confession and in plea for help, they turned to atheistic communism. And the story since, every chapter to this present moment of the violation of Afghanistan, every moment of it to the present in its insurrection and infiltration in Central America, every, every paragraph and chapter of the story is written in blood and in terror. Until finally, in Ezekiel chapter 38 and chapter 39, there is coming an awesome judgment upon Russia and her godless, atheistic communism: the judgment of Almighty God [Ezekiel 38:1-39:29].
But the same wonderful Book that reveals to us the mind and character of the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25; Hebrews 12:23], also reveals to us His abounding grace [Ephesians 2:8], and mercy [Titus 2:3], when a people turn, when they repent, when they confess, when they come before the Lord in plea and in confession and in repentance [Acts 20:21]. You have a poignant illustration of that in the life of the people of Nineveh, that great capital city of the Assyrian Empire. Jonah, God’s prophet, entered into the city crying and saying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed!” [Jonah 3:4]. And it came to the ears of the Assyrian emperor what God’s prophet was saying. He left his throne. He sat in an ash heap. He covered himself with sackcloth. He made it a decree that every citizen in the city was to cover himself in sackcloth and to cry mightily unto the God of heaven in confession and in repentance [Jonah 3:5-9]. And the next verse says, “And God repented Him of what He had proposed to do against Nineveh” [Jonah 3:10].
When men repent, when men change, God repents, God changes. God never changes in regard to His character. God will change any time in His response to a nation, or to a man, or to a family, or to a youth. That’s the kind of a God that rules and reigns over this earth. He is a God who is moved by the cries and the contrition and the repentance and the confession of men.
Another poignant illustration of the mercy of God: the same Assyrian army that destroyed Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel [2 Kings 17:5-6], it was that same Assyrian mighty power that came down to destroy Jerusalem and Judah [2 Kings 18:17]. At that time there was a godly king in Judah named Hezekiah. And when Sennacherib and his Assyrian army came down and shut up Jerusalem like a vise, Sennacherib, the Assyrian emperor, sent his general Rabshakeh and representative with a letter to Hezekiah [2 Kings 19:14]. And in that letter the Assyrian emperor spoke of the terrible things that lay before Hezekiah and his people: debauchery, and rape, and slavery, exile, death, blood. And Hezekiah took the letter from Sennacherib and went into the house of the Lord, and he laid it before Jehovah God and read it in the presence of the Lord, and in tears, and prayers, and confession, and repentance, and appeal, asked God for deliverance and salvation and help [2 Kings 19:14-19].
And the Lord God sent Isaiah, His messenger and His prophet, to Hezekiah the king to say to Hezekiah, “The battle is not yours. It is Mine. It is Mine. I will fight this battle” [2 Kings 19:20-34]. And that night the angel of death passed over the great army of Sennacherib. And the next morning they counted one hundred eighty-five thousand dead corpses [2 Kings 19:35]. What God will do for a people who turn, who plead, who pray, and who confess, and who repent!
The story of the mercy of our Lord continues even beyond the pages of that Holy Bible. In 390 AD, Antioch, the third city in the Roman Empire, first, Rome, second, Alexandria, third, Antioch; in 390 AD the emperor, the Roman Caesar Theodosius, was on his way to Antioch with the Roman legions to destroy the city, to burn it with fire and to take the people into slavery and captivity. They were guilty of insurrection, of insubordination, of riot and sacrilege. And it was the purpose of the emperor Theodosius to punish them and to make them a spectacle before the whole civilized world.
In those days, there stood up to preach a flaming prophet of God named Chrysostom, John Chrysostom, John “Golden-Mouthed,” John Chrysostom. And that glorious preacher, like Savonarola of Florence, Italy, Chrysostom poured out his flaming zeal in calling the people of Antioch to repentance, to faith, to confession, to contrition, to prayer, to bowing, to intercession, interceding, pleading with Almighty God. And when Theodosius, the Roman Caesar, arrived in Antioch to destroy it, he found a people in the midst of a great revival meeting. The power and the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon Antioch, and God saved the city and the Lord spared the people. And Theodosius just bowed in worship before the Lord God, who brought about such a vast, deep, penetrating, universal repentance and contrition on the part of the vast population—revival, revival, the interposition of God.
There is no section or no chapter in history as encrimsoned with human blood as the story, the record, of the French Revolution. Under Robespierre and those terrible men of the Commune, they guillotined by the thousands, they murdered by the other thousands, they killed and slew by other thousands. They literally encrimsoned Paris with blood; the streets ran with human blood. They would move the guillotine from here to there to there because the ground and the very cobblestones were soggy with human blood. And in the days of the terrible visitation upon French worldliness and French wickedness and French compromise, unrighteousness, iniquity; in those days when the Lord God looked down upon France and judged it; in those horrible, indescribable days of blood and terror and violence, in that same day the Lord God from heaven looked down upon England.
And what did He see in England? And what I am about to describe is a part of my imagination. But it is the universal verdict of history, universal, that England was saved and spared and delivered because, when God looked down from heaven upon England, He saw a great revival, a great moving of the Spirit of God, poured out upon England and through England upon America. In England it was the Wesleyan revival; in America it is called “The Great Awakening.” And under the preaching of George Whitefield and John Wesley, and under the singing of Charles Wesley, the whole nation turned to God.
They were not allowed to preach in the churches. The churches looked with disdain upon the kind of preaching that the Wesleys and the Whitefields were doing. They preached outside. They preached in the squares, in the commons. They preached where the miners came out of the ground. They preached wherever men would listen. They went up and down the towns and cities of England, preaching the gospel of Christ, calling men to repentance, to faith, to confession. And all England bowed in contrition before the Lord. And they sang the songs of Charles Wesley.
I can imagine, this is just my imagination, but I can imagine: in those days when the Lord God, the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25], was looking down upon England, judging France at the same time, the horrible encrimsoning of the nation of France, looking down at the same time upon England. And I can imagine, I can imagine the angel Gabriel, the messenger of the Lord, I can imagine the angel Gabriel coming before the Lord and saying, “Lord, come here. Come here, Lord. I want You to look down. I want You to listen, and listen, Lord, listen to these people.” And the Lord God in heaven bowed down His ear to listen, and He heard John Wesley and his people singing:
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high!
Hide me, O my Savior, hide—till the storm of life is past;
Safe unto Thy haven guide, o receive my soul at last!
[“Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” Charles Wesley]
And Gabriel to the Lord God, “What do You think about that, Lord? Listen to those people as they sing.” And Michael, God’s great warrior representative, the hand of the Lord God in judgment, Michael comes to the Lord God and says, “Lord, come over here. Come over here, Lord. Lord, look down, look down. What do You see? And listen, Lord, and what do You hear?” And the Lord God looked down from heaven and listened and He heard:
O for ten thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my Lord and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
[from “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” by Charles Wesley]
And Michael says to the Lord God, “Lord, what do You think about that? Charles Wesley and those people singing, what do You think about that?” And I can imagine, Uriel and Raphael, the angels of God, saying to the Lord, “Lord, come with me, come with me. Look down, Lord, look and listen. What are they singing?”
Hark! Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to our Lord and King!”
[from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” by Charles Wesley]
“What do You hear, Lord? Listen to them as they sing.”
Lo, He comes on clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
God [appears] on earth to reign.
[from “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending,”
by John Cennick & Charles Wesley]
“What do You think about that, Lord? What do You think about that?”
And the Lord God in heaven said, “For My name’s sake, for My name’s sake, I will spare the people of England.” And England never experienced anything comparable, even approaching, the terror and the blood of the French Revolution. I repeat, the universal verdict of history—it’s not just my observation—it is this: England was spared because of the great Wesleyan revival.
I hasten to our own country. The announcement was made in our little city where I pastored, “When D-day comes, when the hour arrives for our men to storm the bastion of Germany, when they cross the Channel in Normandy, when the word comes, we’re going to meet in the church and pray.” The church at Muskogee, Oklahoma, where I pastored, is built like this, just not as large, with a balcony, horseshoe balcony all the way around. The telephone rang about 1:45 in the morning, “The American soldiers are storming the bastion of Hitler.” I dressed as hastily as I could, went down to the church, and I could hardly get in, it was jammed and filled with people, at two o’clock in the morning, lifting holy hands in prayer, asking God’s mercies and grace upon our men who were fighting our war for our liberties, for our government, for our nation, for our people, for our families, for our churches, for our children.
And the Lord God looked down from heaven and the Lord spared our nation, and He gave victory to our forces, the great God of all the universe. We live in the imponderables of Almighty God, whether He says yes or whether He says no. And He judges according to the contrition and the confession and the repentance and the commitment and the faith of His people [Psalm 7:8].
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
A humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
[“Recessional,” by Rudyard Kipling]
But a nation is made up of people, of you. A nation is “we.” And a nation cannot bow if I do not bow. A nation does not repent if I do not repent. A nation does not confess if I do not confess. A nation is not saved if I am not saved. A nation is not baptized if I am not baptized. A nation does not respond if I do not respond. The revival, the repenting, the committal, the dedication, the consecration, the appeal, the intercession, the prayer begins in me. And this is our plea, the plea for revival.
Lord God, as we enter our new year, and as we program these days that lie before us, may there be in our hearts, in our lives, in our time, in our homes and families, and in our church, may there be a great wide-open invitation to God; Lord come down, come in, bring with Thee healing, and salvation, and encouragement, and love, and joy, and peace, and glory. Do it, Lord. Make it the finest year we have ever known, and through us and our intercessions, spare our city, save our nation, and bless the world.
Now, as we come to our invitation hymn, whatever the Spirit of the Lord lays upon your heart, respond. Maybe some of you for the first time in life, “I accept Jesus as my Savior, and here I am, pastor” [Romans 10:8-13]. Maybe some of you coming into the fellowship of the church, “Pastor, my wife, my children, all of us are coming today.” Maybe some of you, answering a special call that the Spirit has pressed upon your heart; as God shall say the word, shall make the invitation, as the Spirit shall open the door, answer with your life. “I’m coming, I’m responding, pastor, I’m doing it now.” In the balcony round, there’s a stairway down, in the press of the people on the lower floor, there are aisles everywhere. “I’m on the way, pastor, here I am.” May angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.