It might seem strange to say that there is joy in judgment. Judgment is generally considered to be punishment for doing something bad. So, how can there be something joyful about that?
Psalm 96:11-13 gives us an answer to this question (New American Standard Bible, NASB):
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
12 Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
13 Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.
Notice how the earth is poetically urged to rejoice because the Judge is coming. I recall the comedy routine played by Sammy Davis, Jr. back in the ‘70’s. Dressed like a judge in a black robe and white wig, the singer/comedian appeared on the Rowan & Martin Laugh-In TV Show that got lots of laughs. Waving his hands in the air, he’d start chanting and prancing to the words, “I know to you I may look old! Hope this statement ain’t too bold! But here comes da judge! Here comes da judge!”
Well, “Da Judge” of all judges is truly coming as the prophets foretell. The reason all nature is pictured in the future as celebrating with joy in Psalm 96 is because the curse on the earth will be removed.
You may recall in Genesis 3 what happened when Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world. When our first parents disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the curse of sin was placed upon all humanity. The result not only included hard labor, childbirth pain, sorrow, and ultimately death, but decay and pollution upon the earth:
17 Then to Adam He said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it, All the days of your life. 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face, You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken, For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.
So, when the Judge does come, the whole earth will be rid of the curse and free from all the ugliness that marred the face of this planet. It was on account of human sin, that the whole world has suffered. And so, all cultures and nations will be judged “in righteousness,” (cp. Acts 17:31). In other words, what was wronged through sin will be brought to perfect justice by the righteous Judge. (Psalm 7:11; 11:7; 50:6; 90:9; 96:13.)
In my next post, I will address the beautiful transformation that will take place among nature when there will truly be joy to the world over all the earth (Rev. 22:3). Suffice it to say for now that when Judgment comes, it will be a great Day. It will be a great Day for those who are among the saved through Christ. On the other hand, it will be a dreaded Day for the others who are judged for everlasting destruction (Matthew 13:41-43; Revelation 21:5-7).
While the tendency may be to think of God’s Judgment (i.e., “the day of wrath”) as being a time of punishment, it’s equally true that it will be a time of receiving rewards (1 Pet. 1:4; 5:4; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). Note how the Apostle Paul speaks of this truth in Romans 2 when he addressed the stubbornness of those who refused to believe in Jesus as their Savior:
5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God. (NASB)
As we celebrate the advent of Jesus at his birth this season, remember that God, the Judge, is righteous and just. His Son was born to save us from sin by dying on the cross in our place so that we, who are converted to him, will be judged to received eternal life rather than eternal death (Daniel 12:2). So, when “Here comes da Judge” becomes a reality, we will be able to rejoice in the LORD, too.
Good News to You!