For the week of October 18, 2008/ 19 Tishri 5769
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 33:12 - 34:26;
Bemidbar / Numbers 29:23-31
Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18 - 39:16
But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord GOD, my wrath will be roused in my anger. (Ezekiel 38:18; ESV)
I have been thinking about God's judgment. I know it is not a very popular subject. I have the impression that many believers in God don't want to think about this. We don't want to think about the possibility of God causing calamities that would in any way harm people. We would rather image God as a Really Nice Guy, a celestial teddy bear, who is always there to make us feel good especially when we mess up.
While the Nice Guy version of God has appeal, it is far from the biblical depiction of the God of Israel. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a complex character. The Bible teaches that in his love he has gone to great measures to restore us to himself. At the same time his patience only goes so far before he acts in judgment.
For example, in this week's Haftarah we read how God comes to the aid of his people by fighting against their enemies. There is speculation over the identity of the nations of Gog and Magog, but whoever they may be, it is God who saves the day. He does so through earthquake, sword, pestilence, torrential rains, hailstones, fire and sulfur, resulting in such destruction that it will take seven months to bury all the dead.
It is not the destructive nature of God's judgment that has been on my mind lately, but that this is one of the ways he is dramatically involved in our affairs. Judgment is not the only thing the Bible claims God does in history. God speaks to and through people. He performs signs and wonders; he heals the sick; raises the dead; he affects political outcomes. We could in fact say that the Bible is a record of God's involvement with human beings. According to the Bible, he is not a concept or a philosophy. He is not the product of man-made religion. Rather he has dramatically and effectively invaded the world in which we live.
Even though the Bible claims that God is involved in human affairs, that he is the primary cause behind certain cataclysmic events is not always obvious to the observers. It is not as if whenever God does something, he leaves his signature to ensure we know that "God was here". This is where the word of the prophet comes in. The prophet's job was to interpret the meaning of events. This is what Ezekiel is doing. He is telling the people of Israel that their coming victory over their enemies would be due to the specific involvement of God.
To some extent God is involved in all of life. There is nothing that happens that he is not aware of, that doesn't in some way serve his purposes. Exactly what his intentions may be may not be clear to us, but that he is involved is something we need to be aware of much more.
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