There are a couple of scenes in the movie Cold Mountain that really speak to the biblical presentation of judgment. The first is when Ada and Ruby find Sally Swanger propped up and stretched out in her yard, her hands being held down by the weight of a split rail fence. Not far from her hangs the body of her husband. She has just witnessed her two sons being shot and killed. Ruby Tewes furiously says, “This world won’t stand for long. God won’t let it stand this way for long.”
The second scene occurs toward the end of the picture, when the men responsible for killing the Swangers show up to kill Ada, Ruby, and Ruby’s already wounded father. This time it is Ada who speaks to Teague, the leader of the terrorizing Home Guard. She tells him, “There will be a reckoning when this war is over, there will be a reckoning.” Teague replies, “A reckoning is for your world, not mine.” Wow! There is so much that is right in those two snippets.
- The righteous often suffer helplessly at the hands of the unrighteous.
- At such times, their only recourse is to know (and proclaim), that judgment will come day where all wrongs will be righted.
- Their certitude that such judgment will come.
- The wicked thinking that judgment won’t come—they will somehow get away with their wickedness.
Contrast all of that with our culture’s judgment about judgment, which calls into question everything about it from its morality, to its scope, to its very need (we experience our own heaven or hell during this life). We’ve pretty much deboned judgment so that it just sits there like an anachronistic lump of religiosity, with nothing to support it and dissolving quickly under our acidic pronouncements. Believers tend to be pretty passive about it all because we’ve been convinced that only haters support such an anti-tolerance concept. We’ve been converted to believe that no judgment is good news.
The truth is quite the opposite—no judgment would be the ultimate in bad news. It would mean that all of the atrocities and evil deeds that have gone partially or completely unpunished in this life would never be righted. It would mean that there would never be justice for all of the Sally Swangers, Adas, and Rubys of the world. God cares passionately about justice (even when man doesn’t), and He will bring it about. That’s what the judgment is about. Those committed to righteousness rejoice in this and there is absolutely nothing to apologize for or feel badly about!
Psalm 94 is a call for God to “shine forth” and “rise up” (v. 1-2), in judgment. The wicked have been successful in their sin for too long (v. 3-7). It is time for them to be paid back (v. 2). The psalmist celebrates the deliverance of God in personal terms (v. 16-19), and in a larger, more universal sense (“Can a corrupt throne be allied with You — one that brings misery by its decrees?—v. 20). In all of this, God’s judgment is righteous (v. 15).I think that’s what we moderns tend to miss. To wish for judgment is to be cast as unmerciful or mean-spirited. That would only be true if God’s judgment were that way! But it’s not—His judgment is 100% righteous. As humans, we’re incapable of ferreting out who should get what for how long, but our Father suffers from no such limitation. What He decides will be right for He can do nothing else. If that’s the case, then to long for judgment is to wish for what is right and there is never anything wrong with that!