Grace Abounding - Part Five
THEME: Blessing out of Judgment
This week’s lessons review our study in Joshua, and demonstrate how the grace of God is seen even through His judgment against sin.
It’s interesting that this judgment upon Levi and his descendants turned out to be such a great blessing. When we begin to think of some of the great leaders in the Old Testament, we find that a number of them were Levites. Moses, for example, was of the tribe of Levi. He was a man who was raised up by God to lead Israel out of Egypt. He made his mistakes, as all of us do. After killing an Egyptian he was forced to flee, and spent the next 40 years in the far side of the desert in Midian. And it was only at the end of that time that God came to him again, when he was 80 years old, because the time for Israel’s deliverance had come.
By this time, Moses had learned great lessons in what it meant to walk with God. He was a humble man. We’re told he was a meek man. He came back trembling, no doubt, but obedient to God. He uttered the command that God had given to him: “Let my people go.” And God intervened and brought the people out with a mighty hand. The book of Hebrews writes about Moses. It says that this man could have enjoyed all the pleasures of sin in Egypt. He could have enjoyed all the power and all the prestige as a member of the royal family. Perhaps he could have even become the next Pharaoh. But Moses, nevertheless, counted it an honor to be reckoned with the oppressed people, his own people, for the sake of the glory of God, whom he desired to serve.
Aaron was also a Levite, since he was Moses’ brother. Aaron was appointed by God to be the first high priest. It was said of Aaron that God was going to establish his priesthood as a lasting priesthood. And indeed it was. Aaron made his mistakes as well. But Aaron hung in there with Moses over all those years. Just as God gave the law through Moses, so did God show the way of salvation through Aaron and what the other high priests did.
Phinehas was a Levite, and in the Old Testament there’s a wonderful story about him. The people had been involved in sin with the Moabites. There had been a great deal of intermarrying at the time, which wasn't allowed. And we’re told that Phinehas, who was a priest, was jealous for the Lord’s cause. God had punished the people with a plague that was sweeping over them, killing them right and left. And Phinehas, when he saw one of the Israelites go into a tent with a Moabite woman, took his spear, went inside, and thrust it through the Israelite and into the woman, killing both of them. God honored that and stopped the plague. Phinehas was an upright man. And the promise that was given to Aaron that his would be a lasting priesthood was reiterated in the case of Phinehas. It was said that the priesthood wouldn't depart from his family because of what he had one.
Eli, who served as a leader in Israel for more than 40 years and died in his 90s, was a Levite. Ezra, who served with Nehemiah at the time of the restoration, was a Levite. John the Baptist was a Levite. He was set apart, even before he was born, to be the forerunner of the Messiah. He preached repentance in Israel, and many turned in faith because of what John the Baptist did.
You see how important this is? When we talk about God’s judgment on sin, as we must if we’re faithful to the teaching of the Word of God, we stress that God cannot tolerate sin. And God will not tolerate sin in His people. Sometimes we can preach or talk about judgment as if God is almost anxious to pour it out when sins are committed. But it’s not the case. God is a gracious God. Even when God judges His people, as He will do if you persist in sin, none of us has ever received in full what we deserve. And God is always ready, if we draw close to Him, to transmute that judgment into blessing.
Haven’t you found that to be true? As you look back in your life, weren’t there times when you ran away from God, times when you knew that God was telling you to do one thing and you did another, or when God was telling you not to do a certain thing and you did it anyway. And then you suffered the consequences for it. You can’t sin against God and not suffer consequences, because sin always has consequences. But when you look back on it now, as God’s worked in your life to bring you back to Himself, isn't it true that as you look at that period in your life, you say, “Oh, praise God, I didn't get what I deserved?” Isn't it true that God was gracious to you in that He kept you from the worst of consequences that could have happened?
And if you think about it carefully, isn't it also true that in His own way, in spite of the fact that it was a judgment, He brought blessing out of it? I don't know how He did that in your particular case, but that is the way God operates. And if that’s how God does operate, doesn't it follow that it is wise for us not to flee from Him? Isn't it wise for us to draw near even when God exercises judgment? Washington Irving, the American author, had a saying: "It lightens the stroke to draw near to Him who wields the rod." And so it does! If God is bringing judgment into your life, if He is causing you to suffer the consequence of some sin, don't allow that judgment to push you from God. Instead, allow it to draw you near. And as you are drawn near, you’ll find that God will turn even that judgment into blessing for you because it will cause you to grow. And he will also turn it into blessing for others because you’ll become a blessing in their lives.
- From the lesson, what are some ways in which the tribe of Levi went on to be a blessing?
- What other examples in Scripture show the idea that God brings blessing from judgment?
God is a gracious God. Even when God judges His people, as He will do if you persist in sin, none of us has ever received in full what we deserve. And God is always ready, if we draw close to Him, to transmute that judgment into blessing.
In what ways has God brought blessing out of judgment in your life? How did he act in mercy by not giving you all that your sins deserved? How can you use your experience to help others in their own pursuit to live in obedience?