Text: Genesis 18:25, Matthew 5:20
I’ll be honest, there are times in life when I really do not understand what God is doing. There are also difficult theological questions that I do not have the answer to. But rarely have those kept me up late at night (unless studying to write a paper for seminary). What is really bothersome, and what keeps me up at night, is when those difficult questions flow out of actual suffering. It’s one thing to hypothesize about the problem of evil and try to untangle theological knots in the safety of our study. But it’s quite another to wrestle with those God-questions that are asked by a teenager who has just been raped by her father. Christopher Wright is correct:
- The philosophical and theological problem of evil is one thing, however; the wrenching reality of actual suffering is another, and the more we see of it, the harder it gets to understand God in connection with it. (Wright, 17)
What do you say when you really have nothing to say? What do you do in those moments when the pain is so thick that all you really know to do is cry with another human being? How do you pick up the theological pieces when all your safe answers are dashed upon the rocks?
This is important to keep in our mind and heart as we read a narrative like Genesis 18. Sodom and Gomorrah are just the faceless names of destroyed cities to us. When we picture them, we picture a scene of rubble. A place destroyed. But this was most certainly not how Abraham viewed them. He saw faces. And this is, in part, why he was wrestling with God’s judgment upon them. So Abraham pleaded with God:
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” -Genesis 18:25
When the activity of God confounded the faith of Abraham he rested upon God’s righteousness. It’s not simply that God always does the right thing. It’s actually that God always does the right thing because he is righteous in his being. It is part of His character. Wayne Grudem defines God’s righteousness thus:
God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.
God always does the right thing. This is what we lean on whenever God doesn’t make sense. And it’s also something we use whenever we are given to lament. That is what Abraham was doing. “God this action doesn’t seem consistent with your character. Surely….” We must drop anchor here on the righteousness of God.
This unsettles us, though, because what we see in the flesh is a humanity which seldom gets it right. Even the best of judicial systems will blow it. We do not always act in accordance with what is right. If we’re honest a good many of the decisions we make flows out of self-interest and not out of righteous principle. Even our “righteous indignation” is seldom actually righteous. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:20, they are meant to be shocking because the Pharisees were known as the pinnacle of righteousness. Jesus extends the standard of God even further than they had assumed. His declaration that the Pharisees weren’t righteous would have left his hearers asking with the disciples, “who then can be saved?” The answer is clear, if our hope is in our own righteousness, then we will never meet God’s standard.
Thankfully, Jesus was perfectly righteous. All of the actions of Jesus flowed out of his righteous character. Thus, he had a perfectly righteous record before God—he always did the right thing. This is wonderful news for us because his record becomes our record. But it is also wonderful news because it means that Jesus is also in the process of changing our hearts and minds and restoring us to reflect God’s righteousness. In Christ, you truly can do what is right. We are being molded and shaped into the righteousness of God. Jesus not only gives us a new record he is also restoring our ability to accurately view the world.
Will you trust in the judgment of God or will you trust in your own judgment? Will you lean on your own righteousness and your view of what is right, or will you bank wholly on the righteousness of Jesus Christ on your behalf? God always does what is right, and he calls us to join him in this consistency. Do we trust him enough to do that?
Let this summary help you as you appropriate this attribute of God and preach the gospel to yourself.
God: The judge of the earth will always do what is right
Man: The history of humanity shows that we are seldom good judges
Christ: Jesus restores our ability to accurately view the world
Response: Do I trust the judgment of God for the tough questions?