The Horror and the Beauty of God’s Justice

By Not Known

Our morning congregation is working through the Old Testament book of Lamentations this month. The book is well named, for it is a series of poetic laments for Jerusalem after its sacking by the Babylonians army in 587BC. The details are gruesome and the poetry is heart-wrenching.

Lamentations 2 is an especially bleak and difficult poem. It has one key theme: that Jerusalem’s sufferings were directly from God’s hands. This theme starts from verse one:

How the Lord has covered the Daughter of Zion
with the cloud of his anger!
He has hurled down the splendour of Israel
from heaven to earth;
he has not remembered his footstool
in the day of his anger.

Why did God do this to his own people in his own city? The answer is a painful warning to anyone who takes God lightly. God did this because of their many sins against him (eg 1: 22). Because they have greatly abused the privileges of God’s rich love towards them, they now had to live with the responsibility of his judgement. God’s judgement of Jerusalem may cause us to shudder (lest the same should happen to us). But is should not lead us to doubt God’s nature, for it was just suffering.

However, there is another act of God’s judgement in Jerusalem that should give us pause for thought. This is the judgement that came upon Jesus in his Cross. Paul puts the horror of it this way: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Co 5: 21)

The horror is that Jesus did not deserve the judgement of sin, for there was no sin in him. He is the one example of totally innocent suffering in the whole of humanity. Rather, he was judged for our sin, for he was our representative and substitute on that Cross: the punishment that brought us peace was upon him (Is 53: 5)

And there is the beauty of God’s judgement – that in the person of his Son Jesus, God himself bore the judgement that belongs to us. As we remember all this in the Lord’s Supper today, let us have a sense of horror and beauty: horror at what we did for Jesus and beauty at what he did for us.