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Friday, May 01, 2009

Judgment's Surprise

The Old Testament book of Zephaniah is an interesting book. Actually most of the books of the Old Testament books are interesting; each time I read through them I seem to notice something different. This week it was my time to notice something new in Zephaniah.

Zephaniah is a book that discusses, amongst other things, punishment for sin. It speaks of God's wrath; His fury over evil and the terrible acts He'll unleash to purge it. And then I noticed it. Even God's people - you know, the ones who are "saved" - have to go through that judgment.

Now we know God's judgment has a purpose for evil (to destroy it). And we also know that He is very much a purpose driven God. (Yes, it's true ... God never does anything or allows anything without some purpose that serves His will.) So what then could be the purpose of God's chosen people - the ones who are "saved" - getting to experience God's judgment?

And there is is. Judgment would not be merely for punishment for sin. It will not be limited to destroying those evil-doers in life. But it will also be a means of purifying people - those ones who are saved - the remnant of God's people.

So what will this look like? The thorns (in our sides) will be taken away. No longer will we have to make do with God's grace. We will be sinless. We will be untemptable. Can you even imagine! There will be nothing that can tempt us. No vice. No thought. No memories even. We will be pure. This is big!

You know, the Apostle Paul talks in the New Testament about the thorn in his side, which God refused to take away from him. Paul never reveals what exactly it was. But apparently he implored God to take it away. God said, "No, my grace is sufficient for you." In other words, God decided He would be glorified if Paul walked with that thorn in his side. He also knew He'd empowered Paul to handle it. It might annoy and trouble or aggravate Paul, but it would never overtake him.

You may remember Paul as the guy who wrote Romans 7 - where he talks about his inability to stop sinning. He said something along the lines of, "I know what to do - but I don't do it. I know what not to do - but that I do. Oh what a wretched man am I!" Now I don't know about you, but I have always figured that Paul was probably speaking to that thorn in his side. I just assume that some temptation, some sin pattern or something that would make Paul look less than stellar as an Apostle was the thorn in his side. Maybe he struggled with lust. Maybe he was fearful. We'll never know. But it was a thorn, it was bad, and God asked Paul to live with it.

So when God's judgment comes upon us all, the thorns will be wiped out. In all these years of studying God's ways and learning His character, I somehow missed the significance of that! God's judgment will surely destroy evil and wipe out the evil-doers. But of those that are "saved" and belong to Him - the remnant of God's people - the thorns will be taken away. We will be purified.

May we never consider God's wrath and judgment the same ways ever again!

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