One of the most controversial questions today is whether God works judgement upon people and nations, or whether He only ministers mercy and grace in this present age? Let me begin by reminding people that there are at least three kinds of judgement that can come to people and nations.
- Direct Action of God – We see this with Noah and the flood and also the plagues that came upon Egypt in the time of Moses. Also Herod struck down in Acts 12.
- The Result of Sin – We suffer the consequences for our own sinful choices (Romans 6:23).
- God Lifting His Hand of Protection – In many cases, judgement comes as God lifts His hand of blessing and protection from a nation that has turned its back on Him (Romans 1).
Now, What about number 1, ‘The Direct Action of God.’ Does that still happen today?
Recently, I came across a story that made me think about all this. It is from a book written by one of the early pioneers of Christian Television Rex Humbard, entitled ‘To Tell the World.’ It is a story that involves his Bible preaching father, who was often threatened with bodily harm by mob leaders who were trying to run him out of town for preaching against sin and moral corruption. I have called the story ‘Vengeance is Mine.’
VENGEANCE IS MINE
‘One night, in a tough town in the Ozark region, my father and another minister who was working with him were seized by a mob when they were closing up the local Masonic hall after a Bible service. They were taken to a lakeside park, stripped and whipped with long tree-branch switches until their bare backs were covers with bleeding wounds. The next day, a lawyer from the nearby county seat came to see my Dad, who was being treated at the home of a friend and told him that the identity of the five mean who had led the lynching mob was well known. One of them, a banker, was one of the wealthiest men in that part of Arkansas. The others were a local doctor, a lawyer who later became a judge, the janitor of the high school, and a railroad workman, who was the one that did the whipping. The attorney from the county seat urged my father to bring charges in court against these five men. He had already found witnesses willing to testify against them, and he assured my father that he could get a settlement of at least ten thousand dollars. Much to the attorney’s disgust, Dad refused to prosecute the leaders of the mob. He said, ‘I’m going to turn this case over to the Lord. Let Him deal with these men as He sees fit.’
Later on Dad heard that four of the five men had died within a short time after the lynching. The high-school janitor collapsed with a stroke and died in the schoolyard. The railroad worker, who had done the whipping, had a terrible death. He was crushed between two freight cars when he was trying to couple the cars together. The banker contracted tuberculosis after his bank failed and closed, and died in Arizona after moving there in an attempt to regain his health. The doctor died suddenly one day while he was mixing medicine for a sick patient. That left only the lawyer, who prospered and became a county judge.
About thirty years later, during World War II, when I was married to Maude Aimee and we were traveling on the road with my father, I heard Dad knocking on the door of our trailer early one morning. We were in a trailer camp at Houston, Texas, where we were putting on a revival meeting that week. Dad said he had just heard a report on the radio that the town in Arkansas, where he and his fellow ministry were lynched by the mob, had just been destroyed by a tornado. “I’ve got to go back up there and see what happened to that judge,” Dad said.
I tried to talk him out of making such a long trip, because our gasoline was rationed during those war years, but I could see that his mind was made up. Dad got into his car and drove to Arkansas. When he got to the destroyed town, he found it guarded by the police, but he was allowed to pass through the wrecked area because he was a clergyman. The tornado had completely wrecked the judge’s home, Dad learned, and the judge had been killed. But the strange and unaccountable thing about the judge’s death was how the tornado came to his house. The cyclone’s twisting tower of gales had been moving in a straight line across the countryside, following the path of a highway that ran from north to south, about two miles from the center of town where the judge had taken shelter in his house. When the tornado drew near the town, it made a sudden sharp detour from its straight path, circled around to the east, smashed the center of town and killed the judge while wrecking his house – and then returned to its original path beside the highway and headed straight off again to the south.’
That’s a story that makes you think. Undoubtedly, based on the witness of Scripture, the men involved would have had an opportunity to repent and turn to God. But who knows? Their hearts could have been hardened by it all. Rex’s father refused to prosecute them and the truth of Romans 12:19 was fulfilled “Beloved do not avenge yourself, but rather give place to wrath . . for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ says the Lord.”
A story like that will awaken you to the ‘fear of the Lord’ that God is a holy God, an awesome God, a God of justice and truth as well as a God of mercy and love.
THE NEED FOR BALANCE
In all these things, there is a need for balance in what we believe about God and judgement. A.W. Tozer brings out this need for balance as he writes,
‘There was a time when the church swung over to hell, judgement and sin. All she talked about was the justice of God. Consequently, God was looked upon as a tyrant, and the universe was a kind of totalitarian state, with God at the top, ruling with a rod of iron. That is the concept we will have if we think only of the justice of God.
Over on the other side is defining God solely as a God of love. God is love is our main text now; and so we have not a God of justice, but a sentimental, spineless God. God is love and love is God, and God is all in all. Pretty soon we have not a thing left, but theological cotton candy – nothing but sweetness – because we have magnified the love of God without remembering that God is just.
If we make God all good, we then have the weak sentimentalist of the modernists and the liberals.
Let us not separate God from himself – from everything that He is – but take God in the perfectness of His Holiness.’
Just to make it clear, whilst I believe that America faces judgement, I believe that there is hope for America. I continually go back to Isaiah 60:1-2 believing that in the midst of it all, revival will come and the glory of God will be seen upon God’s people. Let’s pray for revival in America and indeed the world.