God Judges The People With Equity
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 12, Jan 2016
Scripture Reading: Psalms 96
‘Oh sing unto Jehovah a new song: Sing unto Jehovah, all the earth. Sing unto Jehovah, bless his name; Show forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, His marvellous works among all the peoples. For great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised: He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols; But Jehovah made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him: Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Ascribe unto Jehovah, ye kindreds of the peoples, Ascribe unto Jehovah glory and strength. Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come into his courts. Oh worship Jehovah in holy array: Tremble before him, all the earth. Say among the nations, Jehovah reigneth: The world also is established that it cannot be moved: He will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; Let the field exult, and all that is therein; Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy. Before Jehovah; for he cometh, For he cometh to judge the earth: He will judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with his truth.’
I would like to focus on Psalms 96:10 which is read as ‘Say among the nations, Jehovah reigneth: The world also is established that it cannot be moved: He will judge the peoples with equity.” Also Psalms 96:13 further define the equity of God; “Before Jehovah; for he cometh, For he cometh to judge the earth: He will judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with his truth.”
We are told that YHWH will judge with equity. Equity is defined as the quality of being fair, just or impartial. In law equity is also called chancery when conscience is applied to the settlement of controversies. A Senior Pastor with 5 of his staff were charged with criminal breach of trust by the government of Singapore. They were accused of misappropriating S$50 million. The government was wise in that being a multi racial society, they chose Christians to prosecute the senior pastor with his 5 staff; the judge and the prosecuting team are all Christians. On the other hand the senior pastor gathered all his church members to pray for them. Just recently all 6 of them were found guilty. The judge is known to be heavy in his sentencing. But to my surprise the judge gave the Senior Pastor 8 years of jail and the rest were given 23 months to 6 years. S$50 million dollars is a lot of money and I find that the judge is fair and all majority of the Christians felt the sentence was reasonable. But the prosecuting lawyers, which represents the government were unhappy with the judge and appealed against the light sentence. The Senior Pastor with all the 5 staff, on the other hand, felt the sentence was too heavy and they too appealed against the sentence. Both the prosecuting team and the Senior Pastor with his 5 staff are not happy with the megachurch Pastor’s prison sentence. But I felt that the case has been judge with equity. Well, YHWH will judge with equity; fair, just, impartial with conscience applied to the sentence. He is treating a person according to justice and reason.
“Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” (Ezekiel 18:25). It is very sad that men even within the church does not deal with equity.
“Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.’
Here we are told a few things about the church.
a. The heads judge for reward
b. The priests teach for hire
c. The prophets divine for money
Yet they all lean on YHWH and are positive that YHWH is among them and no evil will befall them.
The head of the church judge (deal, measure) people for rewards. I heard of a Senior Pastor who is surrounded with elders that are all filthy rich. I know one of them. They gave by the hundreds of thousands to the Senior Pastor continually. So he deal and measure people for rewards.
The priests teach for hire. I am going to attend a Discipleship conference in Manila. If I am not wrong at least a few thousands will attend. I paid 3500 for the registration. That is already discounted. Late registrants have to pay 5000 pesos. This does not include lodging, food and materials. I have to pay my own hotel and find my own food. Assume that 5000 people will attend the conference. That is 25 million pesos. I agree you have to finance the hotel bills and give a good honorarium for the speakers. Also they are electrical bills for the air-conditioning and the administration cost like materials. But 25 million pesos? Actually I heard that this conference was in line with a similar conference in Singapore. I was told by someone in LSBC that there is a similar conference and everybody has to pay $300; that is 10000 pesos. My friend wants to send Pastor Lily and I to a conference in Singapore and the fee is S$1000.00. I want you to imagine Jesus charging $50 for his sermon on the mount. I don’t know. This is what the verse mean when it says ‘the priest teach for hire.’ I don’t think this is equity. The bible also says the prophets divine for money. The last day has ushered in the Days of the Prophets. But here the bible says the prophets prophesied for money. There was this famous prophet from Singapore. He was prophesying about the blood moon. So this incident just took place in the month of October last year. An old lady was so moved by the message that Jesus is coming back, that she wrote a cheque of S$1 million to this famous prophet and another $1 million to OMF. Well the blood moon came and pass and Jesus did not come back. The children of this old lady felt that she was unwise and wrote to the famous prophet and OMF whether they can return the $2m back to the old lady. The prophet refused and said the money was already given and specified for him and anyway he has already spent the money. On the other hand the Head of OMF was shocked at what the lady had done and immediately called his finance department to return the $1 million back to her. The children of the old lady has decided to sue the prophet and it is going to be a big news in Singapore.
YHWH will judge with righteousness. YHWH will judge with truth. The Mesopotamian term for righteousness comes from a “river reed” which was used as a construction tool to judge (measure) the horizontal straightness of walls and fences. God chose the term to be used metaphorically of His own nature. He is the straight edge (ruler) by which all things are evaluated in straightness.
The root meaning for the word “equity” in the Hebrew generally refers to a straight line, to be equal, level, etc. It is a beautiful concept and ideal. And, of course, it is in fact a judicial ideal. God, the Judge of All the Earth, is the ultimate source and well-spring of the reality and value of equity, equality, and fairness. Man did not invent equity, God did. Equity itself emanates from God’s very being, it is a facet of who He is, for God Himself is the very “habitation of justice.” God aims to make known that he is a God of equity, that he does what is right. I see this in verse 10: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for thou dost judge the peoples with equity.” When the judgment of the nations comes, God will not be partial. No one will be condemned for the colour of his skin, or the size of his brain, or the place of his birth. No bribes will be considered, no sophisticated plea-bargaining. All will proceed on the basis of God’s unimpeachable righteousness. Let this be known to all the peoples of the earth. They will stand on an equal footing with Israel and the church when it comes to judgment. The standard of justice will be the same for both.
In Psalms 75:2 YHWH says “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. Justice will come one day! God’s people do not understand His timetable. He delivers on His schedule, not His people’s. Often judgment, even invasion, is His will! But one day He will set all things straight! He will do it fairly based on His revelation.
Several years ago there was a popular movie titled “The Doctor.” It was about an insensitive, heartless, physician with a terrible bedside manner who cared very little about people. He was a professional who treated his patients just a little better than he treated animals, although he was aware that these patients were the means to enable him to maintain a more than adequate income for his lifestyle. As the story goes, the physician became ill himself. He soon discovered that he had cancer. He had to become a patient and learn to deal with the complicated medical giant of hospitals and doctors as any other patient. He soon became very acquainted with some of the difficulties of being sick and having to survive medical tests and treatments which he had been prescribing for others for years. The physician recovered from his bout with cancer, but it changed him completely. As the movie ends, it shows a physician at work who feels compassion for all his patients.
We often have heard the proverbial “he got a dose of his own medicine.” That was the theme of the movie. Other fitting sayings are “What goes around comes around,” “tit for tat”. It is a principle of Scripture that God often executes his own justice in this world in such a way that those who do evil get a dose of their own medicine. What goes around does indeed come around! The equity of God’s justice is not always reserved for a future life, but sometimes can be clearly seen in the life we live now. We always think that because we are Christians, God will not judge with equity but close one eyes. We are so wrong. On the contrary, more often than not, because of His love for you, he will allow you to be judge severely so that you will learn and be preserved for heaven.
We must understand a few things concerning equity. First, God himself mandated this equity principle in the judicial laws of the Old Testament. Second, we can find numerous historical examples in the Bible where God executed this principle in the lives of men. Third, modern examples can be illustrated which should make us all fearful of sin and God’s justice. The penalty received for sin in this life is often identical to the harm perpetrated against a victim.
Look at God’s dealings with human in terms of equity. I mean we are sinners. And God has to be fair in His dealing with us. Because YAHWEH judges with equity. So what does He do? It reveals the ethical aspect of Yahweh. He allowed His Son to be judged for our sins and pay the penalty for our sins. The soul that sins it shall die. Jesus who did not sin died for our sins. God did not compromise but was fair. God himself did not break the law of equity.
God Himself had to take the initiative to restore covenant-breaking humans. He did this by
1. Declaring mankind righteous through the work of Christ (i.e., forensic righteousness. There is the physical proof that Christ died on the Cross and the penalty is paid for sins.)
2. Freely giving mankind righteousness through the work of Christ (i.e., imputed righteousness)
3. Providing the indwelling Spirit who produces righteousness (i.e., Christlikeness, the restoration of the image of God) in mankind
4. Restoring the fellowship of the Garden of Eden (compare Genesis 1-2 with Revelation 21-22)
1. Biblical Teaching
God himself mandated this equity principle in the judicial laws of the Old Testament.
First, the equity principle that “what goes around comes around” was mandated by God in the judicial laws of the Old Testament. Leviticus 24: 17-19 states, “Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death (that is why I believe in the death penalty). Whoever kills an animal shall make it good animal for animal. If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him — fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.”
This underlying principle of equity reflects God’s character of justice. The penalty received is identical to the harm perpetrated. This law has often been referred to as the “lex talionis” (law of vengeance) of Scripture, but I think we have missed a more important point since it teaches something of the attributes of God, and his methods of executing justice in the world in which we live. Damage to the eye must be penalized with damage to the eye. Death itself is the only satisfactory penalty for murder. The point is, “as he has done, so shall it be done to him. . . .” What goes around will come around. God’s demand for equity in this life is manifested by his mandating it in his judicial laws.
2. Biblical Examples
Second, this principle is taught by example in the Scriptures. Events occurring in Scripture demonstrate that this is the way God deals with people. Examples of this are easily found throughout the Bible.
In 2 Samuel 12:9-11, we find David, after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba had been confessed. Interestingly, this passage occurs after Nathan the Prophet had said, “Thou art the man,” and before David’s confession in verse 13, that “I have sinned against the Lord.” Following Nathan’s rebuke and before David’s confession, the Lord said,
‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house, and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of the sun.’
After David heard that the penalty would be identical to the crime perpetrated, he confessed his sin to Nathan. Adultery perpetrated against another man will be punished by knowing the suffering that comes with adultery. His son Absalom committed adultery with David’s concubines in broad daylight. Take another man’s wife, and another man will take your wife. His son Absalom was killed because David was responsible for the death of Uriah. What goes around comes around. Oh it was painful. David totally lost all will, life when Absalom was killed.
In 1 Kings 15:28-29, we see that when King Baasha became King of Israel, he killed all the house of Jeroboam. “He did not leave to Jeroboam anyone that breathed, until he had destroyed him. . . .” However, it should be noted that King Baasha would know the same suffering he had inflicted on the household of Jeroboam. In 1 Kings 16:11-12, we are told of King Zimri, the successor of Baasha, “Then it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he was seated on his throne, that he killed all the household of Baasha; he did not leave him one male, neither of his relatives nor of his friends. Thus Zimri destroyed all the household of Baasha. . . .”
When you destroy another man’s household, expect your own household to be destroyed. It is again the principle of judicial equity applied in the providence of God. The penalty suffered often is identical to the crime perpetrated. What goes around comes around.
In Matthew 27:5, we are told that Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ committed suicide. It is interesting how he died. He died by hanging. “Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Jesus died hanging from a tree. Judas hanged himself on a tree. So we see again, that the penalty received is virtually identical to the suffering from the crime perpetrated. What goes around comes around.
3. Modern Examples
Having looked at some Scripture passages which demonstrate both from judicial law and from the execution of God’s providence, let us now look at some examples in our modern world obvious to those today who have eyes to see.
One of the best examples I know which illustrates that God is actively carrying out providence in such a way today is that of modern state education. For years children in the state schools in America have been taught the theory of evolution as if it were scientific fact. Man came from monkeys. Monkeys were our ancestors. This teaching seemed harmless enough in the state schools, but in the long run it proved to be a dangerous lie. Looking at the state schools today, we see that the penalty which they are suffering is identical to the crime perpetrated. Many teachers in the state schools can’t wait to get out of what they call the “zoos.” They retire early at the age of 55 and some even at the age of 50. The students are behaving like monkeys. Well, “Monkey learn, monkey do.” You are reaping what you sowed. If you teach children they come from monkeys, then do not be surprised when they start acting like monkeys. What would you expect? God’s law of judicial equity teaches us that the penalty received is identical to the sin perpetrated. What goes around comes around.
Another prime example is the effect of liberalism in the modern church. When neo-orthodox preachers emptied the Bible of its authority, God began emptying their churches of his people. An empty Bible will result in empty pews. Everyone knows how the mainline churches are losing membership and closing down churches year by year. It is said that 3700 churches closed down in America alone in the year 2015. I know of a Pastor in the States that just closed his church last year in 2015. What goes around comes around. The penalty received is identical to the harm perpetrated. Likewise, preaching the whole counsel of God will eventually bring us full (and whole) churches. As we shall see shortly, it works both ways, curse for curse and blessing for blessing. When you take away the bible (the law) from the school, then there will be lawlessness. We hear yearly of massacre on school compound, often gruesome and heart-breaking.
Don’t look far. Look at our own life. I notice this is to true of myself. I may be the Senior Pastor of Evangel Tabernacle. But God deals with me like any other human beings. He deals with me in equity. I notice that what I did to people, I eventually receive it myself. What goes around, comes around. We reap what I have sown in kind in the lives of others.
Before I conclude this sermon, I need to mention three other points. I hope we see the divine threat of receiving in kind the penalty which results from the crime or sin perpetrated. This ought to make us all fear God more than we ever have before. It ought to make us pursue holiness and to mourn over our own sin. You are not exempt! Examine yourself to see if you are reaping what you have sown in kind in the lives of others!
a. The Sovereignty of God
However, we must also be careful to remember that God is sovereign and oftentimes we may suffer much, and it may be presumptuous to associate all suffering with the principle of “what goes around comes around.” God has various reasons for causing men to suffer different trials. It may be wise to examine yourself to see if your malady is identical with a sin committed against another. Yet, we must also remember, that what we suffer may not always be a penalty in kind for some particular sin.
b. The Rewards of God
Second, it is important to remember that this principle of “what goes around comes around” has also a positive aspect, as I mentioned previously. As curse may be returned for curse, the Scriptures also teach that blessing will be returned for blessing. Gentleness and patience given to others will come back to you in the form of gentleness and patience from others: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” (Mt. 5:7). If we do good unto others, then we should expect good to be done unto us. This is so in line with our theme for the year 2016. Honor God; honor all men. Generally, what we give is what we will receive. To love our brother in Christ is to build up a storehouse of love that will return to us in times of need. As a pastor I see this principle of blessing for blessing manifesting itself in the church all the time. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul says, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Not only does lacking good works result in a life lacking real joy, but overflowing kindness will bring to you overflowing charity from others. Christ said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be give to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
I see the principle of equity concerning the Barbaza Church and Libertad Church. Since the beginning Pastor Rizaldi has stayed loyal to Pastor Lily and I when all has forsaken us. Jan just said recently that Rizaldi is one of those church planters that received the most scolding from me and yet he stayed loyal. What happened? I did not create Typhoon Yolanda. It is God’s hand. Because he did good and has built a storehouse of love for Etab, God gave him literally a new church building, boats, chickens and a host of other things. We bought a 4 hectares land in Barbaza and Rizaldi will also enjoy the benefits one day. As for Pastor Roger and Rosemarie, they made this statement to us, ‘We have chosen the wrong side and we are not going to make the same mistake again.’ She pledged her loyalty to Pastor Lily and I. Yet somehow, God sees everything and is a God of equity. They lost everything when they chose to be loyal but in her own Facebook statement, she said that God returned back to them 10 times. If you do good unto others, then we should expect good to be done unto us. To love our brother in Christ is to build a storehouse of love that will return to us in times of need. I just read God’s word this morning and it says, ‘I am a friend to all your loyal followers.’ Another example is Sis Maricel Bechayda. I just found out that she is older than me. She is 58 years old. She has served God so long. Recently when Pastor Lily was invited to preach in her church, her introduction of Pastor Lily surprised both of us. She said that a person she respected the most and look up to is Pastor Lily. We knew she was sincere in her speech. And she really had served God well. How did God reward her? Just last week, her daughter is among the top ten in the latest Nursing Board Exams. Please remember that God loves to reward us. What goes around comes around.
c. The Gospel of God
Thirdly, this principle can also help us to understand the gospel. In regard to justification by faith, this equity principle is not the basis for our relationship with God, or our hope for the future. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite. In terms of our justification, what goes around does notcome around. Christ himself takes the penalty for our sin, and he guarantees our future free from the final condemnation of God. This is the good news, that what we should justly expect from God we will not suffer, because Christ became our substitute and the penalty of our sins was laid upon him.
In conclusion, as we hold onto the hope we have in Christ in being justified by faith, we still must remember that the equity of God’s justice is still operative in this world as we deal with other people on a daily basis. We can generally expect to get back what we give. Paul wrote to the Galatians and said,
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
It is true that “what goes around comes around.” This is not just good material for a popular movie. It is not just a proverbial saying captured by men living under the common grace of God. It is not natural law. This is the evidence of God’s justice exhibited in the judicial laws of the Old Testament, and executed in his providence both in history and in the modern day. To God be the glory for both his justice and mercy.