If you want to know God as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture, you need to hold together his justice and his love. These are not two different sides of God, as if God is a split personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nor are these two different ways that God has dealt with his people throughout history, so that in the Old Testament he was all fire and judgement but in the New he is all love.
God has always been and always will be both just and loving toward us. At best, we can say love and justice are two different aspects of the same God, but one aspect never exists apart from the other. God does not have good days and bad days like we do. He does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed some mornings. He does not get hangry.
God is perfect in all his ways, including his justice and his love. He is our Helper, the One who is near to the crushed in Spirit, faithful in his loving kindness, but he is also the Almighty Judge of all the Universe.
The Lord judged Adam and Eve when he exiled them from the Garden because of their unfaithfulness (Genesis 3:24). The Lord judged the world when he sent the flood, because he saw the wickedness of humanity in Noah’s day (Genesis 6:5). The Lord judged Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire down on those cities, because of their very great wickedness (Genesis 18:20). He judged Egypt with ten plagues, because Pharoah refused to let Israel go (for example Exodus 9:14). He judged Israel by sending them into exile, because of their habitual disobedience and worshipping of false gods (for example Hosea 9:9). Moving on to the New Testament, he judged Ananias and Saphira with death for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). He judged Herod with death, because of his pride (Acts 12:23). He judged the Christians in Corinth with illness and sometimes death, because they were desecrating the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)
The Israelites were taught a song that, among other things, upheld God’s justice before them. One of the lines goes like this, “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly (Deuteronomy 32:35).”
What gives God the right to judge? I will explore this topic next week.