In our culture, when we think of judgment or judging we think of it in largely negative terms. We often use phrases like “don’t judge me!” or “stop judging me!” As a result, when we think of the Lord (YHVH) judging, it often brings up very negative connotations as well. The question becomes whether that is an accurate reflection.
There are many verses in scripture that can answer that question, but today I’m going to focus on Psalm 9. Let’s begin with verses 7-8:
But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.
First off, it does confirm that YHVH does judge; however, it says He does so righteously. The word for righteousness here is meyshar (H4339), which has also been translated as a number of similar words including right, aright, and even sweetly. Meyshar (righteously) defined as follows:
1) evenness, uprightness, straightness, equity
a) evenness, level, smoothness
b) uprightness, equity
c) rightly (as adv)
The next question becomes do we need to fear righteous judgment. I’ll tell you the answer first and then support it with scripture, you only need to fear righteous judgment if you are in sin (i.e. choosing unrighteousness).
Negative Judgment (Curses) to the Unrighteous
Let’s look at several more verses from Psalm 9 to see this supported.
Verses 3-4 When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence. For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
As David acts righteously those who come against him in unrighteousness are judged. This also brings to mind Malachi 3:11 where He “rebukes the devourer for our sake” when we act righteously (which in this case is to give the tithe to the Lord – Malachi 3:10).
Verse 5 You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
Here we see that righteous judgment is destruction for the wicked. This is a good reminder to live righteously and encourage others to do the same as well as to pray for your nation. One can’t help but think of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19).
Verses 15-16 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught. The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.
Again we see the unrighteous judged by the Father turning their own wickedness against them. We see this principle again in Romans 1:28-32 and 1 Corinthians 5:5 where the judgment of unrighteousness can be the sin itself (or its natural consequences). And the Father turning the individual over to the sin (and the enemy’s power associated with it) is actually not just the punishment, but also one of the best remedies for turning the individual BACK to God! (This could be a whole blog in itself! I actually touch on this in Minding the Thorns.)
Positive Judgment (Blessings) to the Righteous
Since we’ve established that the Father righteously judges the wicked, the next question is does He judge the righteous as well. The answer to this is a resounding YES! We’ve actually already seen an example in verses 3-4 where the righteous one was protected from the wicked. That was the righteous judgment on the righteous man, God’s protection. This is where we start realizing that ALL judgment is NOT bad, nor should it have negative connotations for us if we are living righteously!
Verses 9-10 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Here again we see YHVH protecting the righteous. This makes one want to know what does it look like to be righteous. Many would simply say that we are made righteous through the blood of Christ, which is true from a salvation perspective; however, in 1 Corinthians 5 we see that people who call themselves brothers (i.e. have received the blood) can walk in habitual sin. This helps us understand there is also a righteousness that comes from our behavior (this is also how rewards are determined in heaven, but again, that needs to be a separate blog).
The righteousness from our behavior does NOT lead to salvation, but rather is a result of it. Out of our heart of gratitude for the gracious gift of the blood, we CHOOSE to walk in a way that pleases the Father because we love Him. But as I talked about in my post Worshiping God, WE don’t get to be the ones to decide what that looks like – the Father does.
What this means is to have righteous behavior is to walk in God’s instructions. We know this because to sin is to transgress the law (i.e. Torah) as we see in 1 John 3:4 (AMP)
Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect—being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).
This also aligns with Deuteronomy 28, which shows the blessing that comes from obeying God’s instructions and the curses that come from not following them. These blessings and cursings ARE righteous judgment. The beautiful thing about this is that the Father has made it clear to us what we can do to avoid curses (negative judgments)! So we don’t have to wonder, we can have assurance in the same way that we have the assurance of salvation based on the righteousness we are given through grace by the blood of Christ.
I realize that mentioning pursuing Torah may stretch some and I admit I didn’t realize this was the direction Father was taking me when I started this study this morning – LOL! But whether or not Torah is something we should be pursuing today is a topic I covered a year ago in my Is Torah for Today? post. I will tell you that now being over a year into this walk, I can attest that 1 John 5:2-3 is true:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
They are not burdensome. Though I confess at the beginning I thought they would be! But there is freedom in clearly knowing the boundaries Father has set up to protect us from harm.
I can complain all day that I don’t like that if I touch a hot stove I get burned, but not liking it and complaining about it doesn’t stop the fact that it’s true. Or I can simply follow my Daddy’s instructions and not touch the hot stove thereby avoiding the curse (i.e. negative judgment) of getting burned.
Father give us wisdom as we seek to pursue You and please You. We thank You that Your judgment is righteous and we thank You that in Your mercy You even clearly detailed out how to walk righteously so we are able to not fear Your judgment, but rather THRIVE in it as You protect us and bless us. You are such a good Father and Your love is greater than we can understand. Help us to walk in Your ways.