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Bible verses about Living by Faith and God's Justice
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 10:1-3

Surely these men did not deliberately intend to sin. However, notice how quickly God's sense of justice reacted, striking these men dead in their tracks and burning them to cinders. Obviously, they either did or failed to do something far more serious than ever entered their minds. Is not God's reaction a vivid warning, especially to those who come near Him? Are we not among those who come near Him?

Look at the evidence more closely and observe God's sense of justice. First, these men were the sons of Aaron, and Moses was their uncle. One would think that, if anybody among those two to three million Israelites had a close relationship with God, that family did. So one might think there may have been some leeway in God's judgment, but there was not! God reacted swiftly and violently.

Second, the charge against them was not because they consorted with prostitutes. No human sacrifices were planned or made. The charge was that they used "profane" (NKJV) or "strange" (KJV) fire.

But we need to look further. Just a few days before this startling event, Exodus 40 reveals the construction of the Tabernacle had been completed and its furniture arranged. Leviticus 1 begins listing the final procedures made for God to dwell in the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 8, the priesthood was consecrated, and in Leviticus 9, they made their first official offering using the Tabernacle and its furniture. Leviticus 9:22-24 says:

Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This spectacular and serious event shows the offering's acceptance by God.

To this point, all was well, but we must consider a solemn command given by God to the Levites regarding their responsibilities in Leviticus 6:12-13:

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it shall never go out.

The altar fire was to be rekindled continually from its own coals, which remained from God's acceptance of the original offering. What was Nadab and Abihu's sin? They used coals from a fire not ignited by God. It was not from His hand and therefore was foreign fire.

If we read between the lines here, we can easily see that Aaron was shocked. He went right to the top of human leadership to get this straightened out, and Moses gave him God's answer: Do not mourn. Do not show any agreement with Nadab and Abihu. Do not show any disagreement with God's judgment.

Why? God's judgments are never wrong. Nadab and Abihu got what they deserved. God saw every aspect of their act as it unfolded. They had added or subtracted to what God commanded and died. They had tried to get by with what they carnally felt was acceptable.

The instruction is clear: Among those consecrated by God to serve Him and His family, His instructions must be explicitly followed. They totally disregarded what He had commanded in Leviticus 6:12-13. There is no ambiguity in the instructions. They had been completely and adequately informed. Each step and each instrument in the process had been designed to teach certain spiritual concepts. They had thought that common fire was good enough, but in their careless, presumptuous neglect, they had blatantly twisted God's Word.

This incident vividly illustrates that the wages of sin is death. Leviticus 10:3 says Aaron held his peace; he knew the judgment was correct. It was a shocking demonstration, but we can be certain that, because God is love and is supremely sovereign in His judgment, His every decision will be as correct as His judgment of Nadab and Abihu, since He Himself is the standard.

God is not a holy terror lying in wait for us to do something wrong, but He provides us examples such as this and several others of what He can do in response to sin. When He responds like this, He is fully justified. He wants us to consider His justice so that we will be better prepared to evaluate our calling properly and then live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Psalm 11:4-7

A major point of instruction in this brief psalm is that, though it may seem to men as if God has gone off somewhere and is not paying attention, He is indeed very aware and patiently timing His interventions. Many evil people believe that God exists and created all things, but their belief is shallow. He is not part of their choices of conduct, so they live assuming that He is not personally managing His creation. Life goes on, they believe, without His involvement. This psalm refutes that, as do many other passages. It is a foolish, careless, and presumptuous basis for life's choices.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Proverbs 21:16

Notice the use of the word "wanders." God's children do not ordinarily deliberately plan to go astray, but whether they do or do not, regardless of the intention, the result is the same.

Hebrews 2:1-3 provides an illustration in which there is no deliberate intention to sin:

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.

The metaphor in "lest we drift away" is of a boat slipping its moorings and drifting away, caught in the currents it was tied against. Paul makes clear that the spiritual drifting is the result of neglecting the priorities set by our calling into the Kingdom of God, just as a boat will drift away if it is not tied securely. Other parts of the book of Hebrews show that neglect becomes a factor when one is not consciously living a purposely directed life. The epistle's recipients were neglectfully drifting through life.

Hebrews 5:11-14 shows us the result:

. . . of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

These people had become "dull of hearing" and apparently were rapidly regressing toward unconversion. Neglect is particularly spiritually dangerous. Through neglect, they were seriously drifting into a lack of faith deep enough to have to relearn the fundamentals of this way of life. When dullness of hearing is tied to Romans 10:17—"faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"—we can understand that, if one does not hear correctly, motivation to live by faith greatly diminishes.

Hebrews was written to encourage a congregation of neglectful and drifting people to repent, to get back on track toward the Kingdom. Considering their dullness of hearing, the book of Proverbs provides what might be a shocking reality, one we hope we will not have to face if we will repent.

Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death. (Proverbs 8:32-36)

Bluntly stated, Wisdom's sage and exhortative counsel is, "Listen carefully and apply what I tell you diligently. If you do not, but instead live a life of sin, then the conclusion of the matter is that, in reality, you love death rather than life." Since our calling, have we ever pictured ourselves as loving death? Those who do not consciously and purposefully direct their lives by faith toward obedience to God in reality love death!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Romans 11:19-22

Paul directs this passage toward Gentiles as part of an admonition he wanted them to consider regarding their calling into the church. We, too, must seriously consider God's goodness and severity. God is not only what we commonly think of as love. His character is perfectly balanced by a sense of justice for all concerned and for His purpose too. To be just is to be fair, evenhanded, and impartial. God will always be fair because even His justice is executed in love and is an act of love.

God is not only supreme in power and authority, but He is also supreme in judgment. His mind pierces through all of the justifications we make to excuse our bad attitudes and conduct as measured against His righteous standard. So, if we desire to live by faith, we must seriously consider His sense of justice because what we may think is a small matter, an event of no great magnitude, may trigger God to react with terrible swiftness and severe consequences that leave us wondering why. Scripture records a number of these sudden, violent reactions.

We must begin by understanding that we do not see the entire picture as God does. The reality of God's justice helps us to perceive three important factors to living by faith: 1) The wages of sin is indeed death (Romans 6:23); 2) we are headed toward death and do not know its time; and 3) God means exactly what He says.

Jesus declares an important principle in Luke 12:48: "But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." We need to think about the seriousness of our calling, knowing that human nature contains a strong strain of self-deception. This verse should remind us that because we have been given so much, our judgment will be sterner.

God states in Romans 1:18-20 that mankind is without excuse regarding His existence, but it is easily seen in the immoral conduct committed throughout the world that people are paying little or no attention to their responsibilities to God. As people go about their daily activities, they ignore Him; a relationship with Him is not perceived as a vital, everyday necessity to life.

Some may talk of Him on occasion and even pray, but they are not seriously committed to true devotion to Him. They are neither learning more of His truth nor further broadening and deepening obedience to Him. Besides those folks, some are openly and aggressively antagonistic toward Him and His laws.

However, in the face of these attitudes, we cannot allow ourselves to disregard the fact that God is very serious about His intentions to fulfill His purposes for His creation and most especially in the lives of His children. His purpose has been revealed to us, and we are more responsible than others.

Though by our reckoning of time God's justice often seems long delayed, the prophecies will be fulfilled and His Kingdom established under Jesus Christ. God commands that we must live by faith, so we cannot let down. We must push on in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Romans 11:22

Paul admonishes us to consider both God's goodness and severity. Both of these characteristics are part of what He is, and therefore we must respect both.

We can make the contrast between them very sharp: Until Adam and Eve sinned, they received all goodness from God. After their sin, it appears that His severity hit them immediately; they were ushered out of the Garden.

In Genesis 4, Cain sinned by killing Abel. At first, Cain received goodness from God in that he was permitted to live, but he also received severity in that he had to live as a marked vagabond.

In these two early examples, both sides of God's judgment appear, and a pattern has become especially clear: Severity results because of sin.

Whether we are immediately aware of it is not the issue. For instance, when Adam and Eve sinned, their decline into death began immediately, regardless of whether they were physically aware of any deterioration of their health. Cain immediately became a vagabond separated from his family roots. The only real difference between the carrying out of the death penalty between Adam and Eve and Nadab and Abihu is the effect God desired to create by His immediate, shocking display of severity.

We who draw near to God must know that the God we serve is to be served as a holy God—especially because He is a holy God. He permitted no opportunity for them to repent because they should have known better. The wages of sin is always death.

In the days of Noah, the goodness of God spared only eight souls, but His severity terrifyingly destroyed the remainder of humanity. In a matter of a few days, perhaps billions of people, even innocent unborn and newborn babies, died because of sin.

Following King Saul's paranoia-driven reign, God showed His goodness to Israel by raising up David, a man after His own heart, to rule over Israel. Yet, then David committed a disastrous double sin by entering into adultery with Bathsheba and deliberately bringing about the death of the loyal Uriah. God mercifully forgave the sins, but that does not mean there was no painful punishment laid on David and his family. God's severity against David and his family was hard and long. First, the son born of that illicit union died shortly after his birth. Later, David's firstborn son, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar. Tamar's brother, Absalom, seeking revenge, killed Amnon and fled from David, not seeing him for two years.

Then Absalom revolted against David in his desire to take over the throne. Absalom arrogantly proceeded to defile David's concubines in the sight of all Israel. Several thousand were killed in this revolt, and eventually, Absalom himself was killed by Joab. The family's pain did not stop even then, washing over into Solomon's reign when he put Adonijah to death because he sought political power by asking for Abishag's hand in marriage.

David was a man of blood, as God Himself mentions, but his children carried a moral cancer until death stopped them. Have we ever noticed how much deceit and illicit sex was involved in David's family's sins? God was not present in that family's life as He had once been. He could have stepped in at any time and stopped the holocaust ripping through David's family, but He did not. Living as they did, despite being the progeny of a man God greatly loved, they felt the severity of His judgments.

Deeply consider how long God's severity lasted! He did not simply let David off the hook. He had been chosen to draw near to God. Much was required of him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Romans 11:33

This fervent outburst of praise follows soon after his admonition about the goodness and severity of God in verse 22. We have grown up in a very permissive culture, making us almost totally unfamiliar with the tough love God uses because He loves His children so much. Because the stakes are so high, He cannot permit Himself to be permissive.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Hebrews 3:12

The Israelites in the wilderness could not live by faith, despite having strong visual evidence of God's nearness to them daily. For example, He killed the firstborn of Egypt; He divided the sea; He provided water from a rock when necessary. Every day for forty years, He witnessed to His presence by providing manna and the cloud over the Tabernacle! On occasion, because of their unbelief, He triggered an earthquake or caused poisonous snakes to invade the camp, sending many to their deaths. He did much more, but these examples make the point: Those who lived by sight fell by the wayside.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Revelation 16:5-7

There is no injustice with God. His justice is never divorced from His righteousness. He never condemns the innocent; He never clears the guilty without repentance; He never punishes with undue severity; He always rewards righteousness. His justice is perfect justice.

He does not require absolutely perfect obedience, or nobody would make it. The blood of Jesus Christ is available to cover us (Revelation 1:5). However, He does not always act with justice because He sometimes acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, as injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace; it does no violence to righteousness.

Those who live by faith must seriously consider God's justice. It constantly reminds us that the wages of sin is death, that sin is disloyalty to God, and that God means what He says. It reminds us of the tremendously precious value of Christ's sacrifice. When we enter into the covenant with God, we are pledging our lives to serve Him in gladness and faithfulness so that He might create us in His image.

God's grace helps to prod us to live continuously by faith. We must know and appreciate His grace without abusing it. His justice is a reality, and so is sin's penalty, but His mercifully given grace overrides both.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

 




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