How precise are the judgments of God? Scripture offers warnings such as these: “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there [prison] until you have paid up the last cent” (Matt. 5:26). And, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Are we to understand these words to be literal, an expression of mathematical precision, if you will? Yes, with God, the punishment always fits the crime—precisely, exactly, never too little, never too much.
You will remember that God’s people languished in captivity under Babylon and successive kingdoms for seventy years. Did God prescribe that period of chastening just because it was a nice round number or a fitting symbol of completeness (i.e., a multiple of seven)? No. It was a mathematically exact judgment. God had ordered Israel to observe a year of rest for the land every seventh year. He promised that He would make certain that their crops would be sufficient in the sixth year to allow them to store up enough grain and other produce to sustain them during the sabbath year’s rest for the land. But Israel never observed that sabbath during the four hundred ninety years the nation existed prior to its destruction by Babylon. Four hundred ninety years—that’s seventy sabbaths that were not kept. The chronicler informs us that God’s people went into captivity for seventy years “until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete” (II Chron. 36:21b). The people would not obey God and give the land rest. So God gave the land rest Himself and chastened His rebellious people for seventy years as well.
Would you like more evidence of the precision of God’s judgments? God gives this precise sign to His prophet Ezekiel. “As for you, son of man, take a sharp sword; take and use it as a barber’s razor on your head and beard. Then take scales for weighing and divide the hair. One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them. Take also a few in number from them and bind them in the edges of your robes” (5:1-3). Rest assured that God’s judgments are not haphazard. The weighing of the hair (How challenging that must have been!) demonstrated the exactitude with which God wielded his instruments of judgment. God’s judgment came in the three strokes described by the sign given by Ezekiel. First came the death and destruction wrought by the siege of Jerusalem. Then came the deaths of those who fought and resisted the Babylonian hoards, followed by those taken captive and “scatter[ed] to the wind,” or dispersed throughout the empire.
But that isn’t all. God commanded Ezekiel to take some hairs, “a few in number from them and bind them in the edges” of his robe. Those hairs symbolized the remnant that would be preserved, but calamity would follow some of them as well: “Take again some of them and throw them into the fire and burn them in the fire” (v. 4a).
God is never unjust, careless, or imprecise. Yes, the righteous often suffer with the sinners. But to borrow the words of Horatio Spafford: “let this blest assurance control.” God has measured His judgment down to the last hair. When the stroke seems heavier than we can bear (see Job 23:2, KJV), be assured that God has weighed the hairs. When the calamity that befalls an overt rebel strikes us as well, though God uses it to judge the sinner, the same stroke is intended to sanctify the believer—and it does both, perfectly. What punishes the sinner purifies the saint. Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace killed the soldiers that threw the three Israelites into the flames; it merely burned off the cords that restrained the three faithful ones. The king and all who watched saw “that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed” (Dan. 3:27b). He never misses by so much as a hair. All God’s ways are perfect, pure, and precise. He never chastens His own too little or too much. And as an additional encouragement, we may trust that His blessings are equally precise. He never gives more than Christ has purchased for us on the cross.
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