The Reformed believer confesses the sovereignty of God in all things. He acknowledges the kingship of Jesus Christ, to whom God has given “all power in heaven and in earth” (). Accordingly, the believer knows that nothing happens by chance. Jehovah reigns supreme.
The Reformed believer worships the Holy One, the God too holy to dwell with iniquity. That God hates all sin, and visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him.
With this realization, the believer looks back at 2012 with awe and reverence. God’s power, as well as His hatred of sin, were clearly manifest in the dreadful judgments sent upon the earth and upon sinful man. As I write this, the southern islands of the Philippines are staggering from the blow of a deadly typhoon that killed over 500 at latest report. That is a small part of the damage that God inflicted on this planet through floods. In the last three months alone, floods devastated parts of England, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Earthquakes shook the earth thousands of times in 2012. Adverse or shifting weather patterns destroyed cities (have we forgotten the deadly tornadoes in January-March of 2012?) and wreaked havoc on crop production, tourism, and economies around the world. And, most publicized of all, with days of predictions, untold careful calculations of wind and rain, and graphic pictures of the destruction by wind and water, hurricane Sandy was reported to the world.
Judgments of God abound. They will only increase. These are but the beginning of sorrows that the Lord promised ().
The believer is sympathetic to the plight of all those who suffer in these catastrophes. His heart goes out to those who lose their homes, their livelihood, and, most heart-wrenching, lose a husband, a wife, and/or children. The believer prays that God will care for the household of faith—that He will give them their basic needs, will uphold them by His grace, and will use this adversity for their good. Surely the believer is in no way callous regarding the horrible suffering that these judgments bring.
At the same time, Psalm 97 guides the believer in another proper response to these judgments, namely, rejoicing. Rejoicing?!? Indeed.
Psalm 97, exalting in the glory of God, begins, “The Lord reigneth.” Clearly this God is to be feared. “Clouds and darkness are round about him . . . . A fire goeth before him and burneth up his enemies round about” (). His lightnings flash, the earth melts at His presence, and thus “all the people see his glory” ( ).
And what does fallen man do with that glory of God?ff. tell us—refusing to give God the glory, they deliberately turn to worship idols. To this agrees , as it condemns “all . . . that serve graven images.”
The very next verse records: “Zion heard, and was glad.” Zion is God’s church, and that church “rejoiced because of thy judgments, O Lord” (v. 8). The church confesses that Jehovah is God alone, the God “high above the earth” (v. 9) who alone is to be worshiped. But knowing that wicked man nonetheless turns to idols, the church rejoiced to hear that God visited His judgments on the idolaters. Jehovah, whom they worship, is not mocked. Man may blaspheme God’s name or ignore Him and deliberately turn to idols, but God will visit their iniquity with judgment. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and earthquakes in divers places. The church is glad that the God of heaven and earth manifests His sovereign power in righteous judgments. And, at the same time, the church today rejoices that the Lord is coming.
A Different Kind of Judgment
God judges wickedness in different ways at different times. Jehovah God sent another kind of judgment on America in the election of Pres. Obama to a second term. And since “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (), it is certain that God has given to the USA this ruler who has every intention of promoting the most heinous sins. The ruler of the most powerful nation on earth in the year 2013 continues actively to support the murder of unborn children. Equally reprehensible, his policies promote the sin of homosexuality. He and his administration are determined that the entire country, indeed the whole world, approve this abomination.
Already in March of 2011 this administration brought to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva a declaration in support of the homosexual agenda. Reportedly, eighty nations supported that declaration. In June, 2012, that same United Nations council passed a resolution that endorsed the right of homosexuals to practice their abominations in all countries, and called for discussions of national laws that might discriminate against them. The support for these UN policies is predominately from Western nations.
God is visiting His judgment on the USA and on much of the Western world. Romans 1 emphatically teaches that homosexuality is God’s judgment on a people who reject Him, refuse to worship Him, and turn instead to gods of their own invention. God gives them over to this sin (see). That homosexuality abounds in these Western nations is God’s judgment on nations that at one time had faithful preaching, but whose people rejected the true knowledge of God.
God adds to that judgment this: leaders who promote the sin and force their citizens to approve it. The abominations will spread. These countries will become as Sodom of old.
The insight of John Calvin is being verified again—God gives to a people such rulers as they truly deserve (Sermon on). In the USA, the November elections not only continued the current administration, it seated open homosexuals in both houses of Congress, and approved same-sex “marriage” in three states. Homosexuality is come into our culture with a vengeance.
Reformed Christians submit to the judgment of God. They honor those in authority for the Lord’s sake, and even pray for them. And they submit to the judgment as a chastisement from God. As citizens of their respective nations, they know they deserve what God has given.
A Judgment on the Church
This is a judgment of God for which the church bears heavy responsibility. That which calls itself the Christian church has largely ceased preaching truth; she boldly proclaims the lie. No longer condemning sin, she rather approves it.
Significantly, the apostatizing churches long ago tolerated and then approved the open violation of a central creation ordinance of God, namely, the marriage of one man and one woman for life. Marry, divorce, and repeat as oft as you please, and yes, you are still welcome to the Lord’s table. The devil watched with glee. This willingness of the church to contradict so clear an ordinance of God—one man, one woman for life—held great portent for the future defilement of the church—something unthinkable, namely, the approval of homosexuality.
The argument is simple. If you are willing to justify divorce and remarriage, willing to contradict God’s clear teaching on the relationship of men and women in marriage, why not approve homosexuality? The pressure grew in those “Christian nations” as it became more acceptable in society.
And the church faltered. She surrendered to the pressure of the world, her false theology paving the way. The god she adores is love, all love, nothing but love. This god wants all to be happy. If a man can be happy only if he is allowed to fulfill his sexual desires with another man, then it must be allowed, no, approved in the name of love. God in His judgment gives these churches over to their sin. In an astoundingly short time, their ministers and elders are avowed homosexuals.
Lest the readers and writers of the SB, conservative Reformed and Presbyterian folk, become proud in their own conceits, and look with condemning arrogance on all those apostate churches, we must be reminded that the responsibility for these divine judgments rests on us as well. There is a corporate guilt akin to that of Daniel, who confessed that “we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments” ().
But our guilt is not limited to corporate. We have been influenced by the world. We listen to the songs of the world that glory in sex, rebellion, and earthly pleasures. We dress as the world that glorifies the body and provokes to lust. We seek the world’s entertainment, saturated with either blood or sex. It is all available, out in the open for the believer, to be seen and enjoyed. And we have.
At the very least, we Reformed Christians have become accustomed to it. Sins that once shocked, do so no longer, no longer repel, but rather entice. The entertainment today that many might consider ‘innocent,’ in the days of my youth the government would not allow in theaters, much less on the television screen. And the unspeakable iniquity of the Internet is available in the privacy of one’s own home. More than one marriage of Reformed believers, yes, Protestant Reformed members, has been destroyed by the pornography of the Internet. How many more souls are ensnared in this pit, only time, and the judgment, will reveal.
The question each of us must face is this: Do we hate and flee from this tide of iniquity? Or are we becoming increasingly tolerant, and even indulging in the iniquity of the world that surrounds us? Were any of our believing great grandfathers to return to this life for a day, he would surely be appalled not only at the development of sin, but that the church is so worldly—living with the world, living as the world.
In love for His church, therefore, God sends judgments. Those judgments begin at the house of God. The judgment of killing wrath on the ungodly, giving them over to their sins, with leaders that promote the same, will soon result in the land becoming Sodom. Believers will be as Lot, who “vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (). And the wicked of the land will not long tolerate God’s people, but will say, as they did with Lot, “This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot . . .” ( ).
Persecution. The worst that the church has ever faced. Dreadful to think about. But a judgment of God, on the one hand, that the church deserves because she has partaken of the sins of the world, and on the other hand, that the church needs in order to separate her from the world spiritually. These judgments underscore God’s call to the church throughout history: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (; ).
Our confidence is in the same God who loves and chastens every son and every daughter for their profit (). “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” ( ).