Thursday, May 29, 2008

Only the Merciful May Judge

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits
of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. (Rev. 5:1-7)

The Lamb proceeded to open one seal at a time. As these seals were opened, catastrophes occurred on the Earth. These disasters, according to Rev. 11:18 and other passages, were God’s judgments against the wicked.

Here's what struck me about this passage: God apparently does not capriciously or hastily pass sentence on wrong-doers. No one was judged until after the Lamb had died for mankind, and even then judgment could only begin at his signal. And I'm guessing that his signal did not come until all hope of remediating earthly wrongs was gone, because of the message stated loudly and clearly from the beginning of the Bible to the end:

“God our Savior . . . wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” ( 1 Tim. 2:3).

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

“Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13b).

Only the merciful One is allowed to judge. The one who will do anything to save and transform us, to love us into becoming good—only he is allowed to decide our eternal destiny. Aren’t you glad?

Afterthought: Do you suppose this means that the Lord does not approve of our judging anyone unless we love them? believe in them? will do anything to help them become reconciled to God and find their God-given destiny?

What does this say about our tendency to respect and accept one person, while despising and rejecting another? Here’s a scary truth: The first part of James 2:13 says,

“because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”

So none of us are God’s pets. He actually loves the wicked, just as he does his children who are already redeemed. If we break his heart, and anger him, by refusing to show patience and mercy to the wicked (whom he loves), the Lord will likewise judge us “by the book,” instead of with a heart of mercy.

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