God the Judge
“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs … . But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve” (Gen. 15:13–14).- Genesis 15:12-16
Judgment ultimately belongs to God alone, which Scripture time and again emphasizes. He is the one who “will judge the righteous and the wicked” (Eccl. 3:17). On that final day, the Lord will judge “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16), and will admit into His eternal kingdom only those whose names are written in the book of life (Rev. 20:11–15).
The Word of God is clear that our Creator does not reserve all judging until the time of Christ’s return; rather, He may intervene in history to judge evil. As the great Judge, the Lord reserves the right to bring justice to bear upon evildoers before that day on which He will bring His plan of redemption to its completion. This is the teaching of today’s passage. In swearing an oath by Himself to keep His promise to Abram and his descendants, God pledges both to judge those who will afflict the patriarch’s children in Egypt and the Amorites dwelling in the Promised Land when Abram receives his revelation from the Lord (Gen. 15:12–16).
What is notable about this episode is how the twin themes of salvation and judgment are intertwined therein. The future Israelites will be rescued from Egypt and God is going to crush His enemy the pharaoh in order to accomplish this feat (Gen. 15:14; Ex. 3). This delivered people will inherit Canaan, but only after the wickedness of the pagan inhabitants rises to the level where God must cause the land to vomit them out (Gen. 15:16; Lev. 18:24–30). In every contest, there must be a winner and a loser. For the Lord to win the battle, His enemies must lose. Such is the case in every episode of judgment and redemption in history, and on judgment day, those who ally themselves with God will find themselves enjoying the final victory, while those who oppose Him will experience utter defeat. What John Calvin says in commenting on today’s passage applies to the salvation of all people: “The sons of Abram could not otherwise be saved, than by the destruction of others.”
God brings this wrath upon His enemies when He has determined that their iniquity is complete (Gen. 15:16). Those who impenitently add to their iniquity will fill up the cup of judgment to the point where the Lord will pour it upon them, but those who repent and follow Him will not meet eternal suffering.
Many people presume upon God’s patience since He does not execute His wrath every time they sin. They might think that He is overlooking their transgressions rather than postponing judgment so that they might find repentance (Rom. 2:4). Let us take care in presenting the gospel to make sure people understand that His patience will not last forever. May we also not take advantage of His patience lest we fall under the hand of His discipline.
Passages for Further Study
2 Timothy 4:1