Plaintiff or Defendent?

“God’s judgment.” “The Day of Judgment.” If you are like me, something about those phrases makes me tremble.

And yet, how do the ancient Jewish believers talk about the judgment of God? These verses may surprise you…

Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! For You shall judge the people righteously…” – Psalm 67:4 (NKJV)

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth. – Psalm 96:12-13 (NKJV)

According to these Psalms, God’s judgment is an occasion to rejoice, not an occasion to dread. In fact, one Psalmist even invites the judgment of God: Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness… – Psalm 35:24 (NASB)

Those verses reframe things, don’t they?

This morning I was reading Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis and what you just read above are things I gleaned from that book.

Let me ask you a question…. Why do these ancient Jewish believers in God have a very different view of God’s judgment than we do? Here is a paraphrase of how Lewis’ answers that question: The reason for this is clear. The ancient Jews, like modern day Christians, think of God’s judgment in terms of an earthly court of justice. The difference is Christians picture the court case as a criminal one with themselves as the defendants. In contrast the Jews picture it as a civil case with themselves as the plaintiffs. The Christian hopes for acquittal, or rather for pardon; the Jew longs for justice from the “just” Judge.

When thinking about Judgment Day and God’s judgment in general, I guess for me it all comes down to this. Deep down do I really believe God is for me or against me? Do I believe God is good…only good?

So as I am reading the book by Lewis and reflecting on thinking about how I picture God and what I believe about Him, God did something very cool. Let me set the stage for what happened….

I spend every morning doing my focused time with God in an old, somewhat beat up La-Z-Boy Chair down in our basement (which doubles as my office).

As I am reading this book and reflecting on how I picture God, my oldest daughter Faith, comes walking down the stairs with a huge smile on her face. She runs over to her daddy and jumps up into my lap and curls up. I am forced to put the book down, knowing this is a holy moment. Faith and I talk a bit about how she slept and how kindergarten is going. By the way, as a 5-year-old Faith doesn’t do that kind of thing on a regular basis. I think she was following a prompting of the Holy Spirit, even if she couldn’t describe it that way.

No sooner than she hops off my lap, Evelyn Grace (3-years-old) comes walking down the stairs and does exactly what her big sister just did. Runs over. Jumps into my lap.

As Evelyn sat there curled up on my lap I felt the goodness of God wash over me. I felt the love of God, not as an abstract truth, but as a reality. I felt that God was for me, not against me. I felt that God was good…only good.

The Scriptures talk about the need for us to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 18:1-3). I don’t know what this looks like for you, but may you crawl up into your heavenly Father’s lap today. May you sense His smile as you approach Him. May you know that your Father loves you. May you know that He is for you and not against you. May you experience His goodness.

***Join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. We’ll be continuing our verse-by-verse look at the gospel of Matthew. My sermon is titled “Up and Down the Mountain” and is based on the transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17:1-13. Plus as always there will be worship, communion, and an opportunity to receive 1-on-1 prayer. October 14th. 10:30am. More info at***


About Dan Kopp

In 2010 Dan and Kellie felt the call by God to plant a church somewhere in Macomb County, Michigan. Several months later The Eastside Vineyard Church launched and currently meets inside Shelby Jr. High in Shelby Township. This blog began in the pre-launch phase of the church and has exceeded 50,000 hits. Thanks for reading!
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4 Responses to Plaintiff or Defendent?

  1. Melissa says:

    A dear friend once used that same image of crawling into the lap of God when illuminating Romans 8:15-17 in the Message: “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!”

    We are the children of a good, just Father. Thank you very much for bringing that image back to mind.

  2. JP says:

    Thanks Dan for redefining judgement this AM for us… and for great word pictures to sum it all up. Praise Him for the 3 little ones He has blessed you with four Your lap!

    • Dan Kopp says:

      Thanks JP! I know this is one of those blogs I’ll need to read over and over again as “judgment” carries a lot of baggage for me. For years my default picture of God was a very angry cosmic judge up in the sky waiting for me to die so he could pronounce me GUILTY! and do so with glee.

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