Mercy and Judgment
The God of heaven is a God of mercy. Yet he is also a God of justice. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. – Exodus 34:6, 7.
God promised ancient Israel they would possess the land of Canaan. On the borders of that land Joshua appealed to the people not to be afraid of the warlike Canaanites but to go up and possess the land. Joshua said, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not – Numbers 14:9. “Their defense is departed from them.” That is, the Canaanites had filled up the measure of their iniquity, and the divine protection was withdrawn from them.” – Page 160, Story of Redemption
The Israelites, however, were too afraid. They turned away to wander forty years in the wilderness before returning to the borders of Canaan. When they returned they crossed the river Jordan and took possession of the city of Jericho. . . they utterly destroyed all that was in the city [Jericho], both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword – Joshua 6:20, 21. This is genocide. All living creatures were put to the sword. Surely God could not be the advocate of this slaughter? But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth – Deuteronomy 20:16 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them – Deuteronomy 7:2. The Israelites were indeed commanded by God to show no mercy to the inhabitants of Canaan.
The Canaanites had abandoned themselves to the foulest and most debasing heathenism. They were idolaters practicing unspeakable things. They were utterly wicked; the foes of all mankind, justice demanded something be done. Likewise the generations in Noah’s day were utterly wicked (Genesis 6:5, 11-13). For any good at all to survive in humanity it was necessary the earth be cleansed by a flood. Yet God’s judgments are always tempered with mercy. God gave the people before the flood a long period of probation that they might change their ways. He gave them 120 years, warning them and giving them ample opportunity for repentance.
In the same way the Canaanites were given plenty of time and opportunity to change their ways. God had promised Abraham, the father of the Israelites, that he would possess the land of the Canaanites. However this was not to take place in his lifetime. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. – Genesis 15:16. God still had mercy on the Amorites in the time of Abraham. Hundreds of years passed between the time of Abraham and the Israelites possessing the land.
This is how God deals with nations. Through a certain period of probation He exercises longsuffering toward nations, cities, and individuals. But mercy has its boundaries. When they become so entrenched in their evil course and there is no possibility of something better God’s judgments are visited upon them. God will by no means clear the guilty.
Before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan to displace its inhabitants God gave them something to think about concerning mercy. As the Israelites approached the borders of Edom they sent messengers asking for safe passage through the land of Edom. They promised the Edomites in passing through their land they would touch neither wells of water nor any produce in the fields. The Edomites denied them passage and gathered themselves for war against the Israelites. The Israelites could have taken this as an insult and went to war. They could have justified it as the Edomites were wicked idolaters in some ways similar to the Canaanites. Instead God had the Israelites turn aside from the land of Edom and leave them alone. The Edomites were still probationers, and as such were to be mercifully dealt with. God delights in mercy, and He manifests His compassion before He inflicts His judgments. He teaches Israel to spare the people of Edom, before requiring them to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan. – Page 423, Patriarchs and Prophets.
God is Judge
Only God can make judgments concerning probation. Only He can find the true measure of iniquity and punish the same. What happens when mere men attempt to do this?
In the former dispensation, while sins against God were visited with temporal penalties, the judgments executed were not only by divine sanction, but under his direct control, and by his command. . . . Whole nations of idolaters were to be exterminated. But the infliction of these penalties was directed by him who reads the hearts of men, who knows the measure of their guilt, and who deals with his creatures in wisdom and mercy. . . When men, with human frailties and passions, undertake to do this work, it needs no argument to show that the door is opened to unrestrained injustice and cruelty. –Page 764, Appendix, Patriarchs and Prophets.
In the time of Joshua, Israel was a nation under God’s direct control. God communicated directly to the leaders of the nation. Since the nation of ancient Israel passed away no other nation has arisen that is directly controlled by God. When one nation slaughters another nation invariably it is through the injustice of man rather than through the justice of God. Man is not a good judge of iniquity neither of mercy.
In the year 1215 the Papal church decreed the Waldenses heretics. Thereafter papal armies slaughtered them. The Waldenses were not idolaters like the Canaanites. They were good Christians who studied and transcribed the Scriptures into their own language. Their study of the Scriptures led them to practice different than the Papal Church. This was the crime for which they were slaughtered. This is the injustice of man.
It is God’s prerogative to punish the wicked and to meet out justice. Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord – Romans 12:19. Even so God takes no pleasure in this work. As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? – Ezekiel 33:11. A true Christian, like God, should take no pleasure the demise of the wicked.
John Thiel – “What should you do with them? They are lost, turn away. Don’t waste your time. Don’t throw your pearl among the swine, they are swine. Why you are so judgemental people will say? I didn’t say this. This is not the decision of God’s word. It is very harsh but it only appears harsh as this is simply a reality. This is God dictating. This is a place of no return. If you try to work with these people that will not return, you are wasting your time. If you are trying to bring them to church, you will not succeed. If you want to have bible studies with them, you won’t succeed. How do you know their probation is closed? You will read it, you will know.”
Can we place ourselves on the throne of God presuming to measure iniquity and thinking we know when the probation of various individuals is closed? Can the minister in the pulpit impart his special powers to the congregation so they can all tell the probation status of relatives, friends, children and acquaintances? It is a dangerous thing when men start to usurp the prerogatives of God and presume to shut the door of mercy before God is ready to shut it. Let the injustice and presumption of men be overruled by the mercy of God.