“God’s Timing and Judgment”
Genesis 15:16, “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”
This morning, people today tend to put God “in a box” with their notions. Truth be told, we have all fallen prey to this thinking from time to time. God is so infinitely wonderful that mere mortals cannot fathom any of His attributes or actions in their fullness. Plumbing the depths of His grace, understanding the breadth of His righteousness, or climbing the peaks of His majesty is beyond our abilities to discover. (Isaiah 55:8-9) When we encounter something in the Scripture that seems to run counter to the God that we love and adore, the problem is not on the page but in the foggy recesses of our own minds. He declares the end from the beginning; we do not. There is nothing that is hidden from His eyes; ours are consistently clouded. Therefore, we should approach the Scriptures in attempts to learn and understand things about Him that we can learn and know to help us worship Him better and adore Him all the more.
Our study verse is in the midst of God’s declaration to Abraham about His promises to him. God loved Abraham and made him a father of many nations, that in him would all the nations of the earth be blessed. God’s covenant to him on this occasion also brought a prescient history of what Abraham’s heirs would encounter. God foretold of their Egyptian captivity and eventual dwelling in Canaan. The ground that Abraham now stood on would be inhabited many centuries later by his descendants from the Almighty’s declaration. God lists as a reason they would be so long in inhabiting the land was due to the decorum of the current inhabitants. Canaan was inhabited by a number of “ites,” and God said that the Amorites were sinners. However, their sin/iniquity was not yet full.
God deals with nations in different ways, and sometimes the answers are beyond us to understand why God does some of the things that He does. For example, why would He call a wicked, pagan king (Nebuchadnezzar) His servant? (Jeremiah 27:6) This wicked man ruling a pagan kingdom would be used by God to mete out judgment against the land of Judah and hold them captive for 70 years. Were the inhabitants of Judah wicked? Surely. But why use a wicked king to punish wickedness? The Bible does not specifically say, but we bow in the knowledge that the King of all the earth always does that which is right. Jeremiah 18 gives a declaration of how God repents of His purposed judgment or blessing upon a nation. Years and years of wickedness can be overturned by displays of righteousness while years and years of righteousness can be overturned by displays of wickedness. The Amorites were going to be dealt with by God in the days of Abraham’s descendants. Yet, it did not happen exactly like it should have, due to Abraham’s descendants own wickedness.
Fast forward to Numbers 13 and 14, and we read a sorrowful tale of doubt and disbelief. Abraham’s descendants were being led at this time by Moses and Aaron, and they sent 12 spies to look into this very land that God promised Abraham in Genesis 15. The purpose for the spies was to see how good a land God had promised them. Yet, they came back and 10 gave a woeful tale of how big the Amorites and other “ites” were. They failed to see that the One who promised them this land was bigger than any “ite” before them. The report of the 10 not only overwhelmed the good report of Caleb and Joshua, but it turned the heart of the congregation in fear. They accused Moses of bringing them out to die in the wilderness and that their children would die untimely deaths. God thundered from heaven and declared that the current generation of the congregation (20 yrs and above) would perish in the wilderness with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. Their children – whose fates they lamented – would go in without them.
Simple question. Had the spies not turned the heart of the people into doubt, would they have gone into the land right then? Just a mere handful of days after leaving Egypt, would they have entered into Canaan’s Land the same year they came out of Egypt? Caleb and Joshua plainly said (and God smiled on their actions), “if the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land” (Numbers 14:8a). God was pleased with these two men, and they attributed God’s pleasure in them going into this land promised unto their patriarch Abraham. What does this mean? Had the nation of Israel obeyed the Lord and gone in, they would have discomfited the Amorites, Amalekites, Jebusites, and the other “ites” of the land. This is precisely what they did in the book of Joshua 40 years later. The implication is that the Amorites iniquities had reached the “full” by this time. God was pleased to remove them. I do not know when the “full” is reached and God’s longsuffering reaches an end. But there is a full and an end of His longsuffering. Yet, the Amorites dwelt in the land 40 full years more past the full mark due to the doubts and disbeliefs of His own nation.
Today, we do not have clear declaration of how God will deal in the future with the nation of our dwelling. God does not have a chosen nation today like He did then. Rather, as Peter understood in Acts 10, God is not a respecter of persons but men from all nations are accepted with Him when they fear Him and work righteousness. (Acts 10:34) Yet, God still blesses nations and judges nations at times and in ways as is pleasing to Him. There is no doubt in my mind that the country of my dwelling has been blessed for many years now according to His kind protection and providence. The fact that I have lived my entire life with religious liberty and freedom is priceless. My forebears also lived with this blessing, and doubtless, God’s hand has been kind to us even in the midst of our waywardness. How does Israel’s action then coupled with God’s prophecy to Abraham correlate today?
Nations rise and fall. Kingdoms come and go. Only one King and kingdom is everlasting. If we find ourselves in a land smiled upon by the Almighty, we need to strive to live as salt and light so that His presence would go continually before us. If we find ourselves in a land being judged by the Almighty, we need to strive to bear it patiently and pray fervently that He would relieve us if He sees fit. Consider the centuries of sins that the Amorites committed from Abraham’s day to Moses’ day. All those remembrances being filled up before the Almighty. Yet, He suffered it till the day it became full and the time had arrived for His nation to enter in and overthrow them. However, at the 11th hour, He suffered it some more, due to the waywardness of His own people.
Later during the times of the kings of Israel and Judah, we see a litany of names and reigns. Some were good; most were bad. At times, the reign of a good king was undone by his wicked son – see king Manasseh following king Hezekiah. At other times, a good king staved off judgment by his righteousness – see God’s prolonged and delayed judgment because of king Josiah. Mere mortals do not see what God sees, nor do we operate and think like He does. Today, we see a litany of rulers and magistrates. Some are good; most are bad. Sometimes the righteous actions/edicts of an administration or generation are undone by the wickedness of the next generation. Sometimes judgment is prolonged or staved off by righteous people at the right time. Surely the 20th century of this country serves as a guidepost of the former, while the early 19th century is a good marker of the latter.
Over the last several years, I have heard many express anxiousness about what God thinks about all the wickedness going on in this country. Good is declared evil, while evil is celebrated. How long will God’s judgment abide or suffer? The short answer is that I do not really know. Is there a “full” mark? Yes there is. When full is reached is it the end? Perhaps. If God suffered the Amorites to continue another 40 years in their iniquity due to the slackness of His people, I do not doubt that God can suffer us to continue on for a time due to the righteousness of His kindred. Jonah discovered that fact in Nineveh, and we can experience that same goodness today. While God should not be tempted or put to the test, we can rejoice today knowing that He has been so very good to us. If I could see what He sees all the time, I would likely say, “I’ve had it with you!” Yet, He abides with us in this sin-cursed sod and smiles upon us even though we deserve none of it. May we pray to Him that our sins do not come full, and if they do that He will find enough salt to preserve the blessings and freedoms that we enjoy so that our children will enjoy them as well. The children of Israel declared their children a “prey” when God’s longsuffering for that generation ended. The children ended up better off than the parents. May we not limit God during our time or our children’s time. He is still just as infinitely powerful and majestic now as ever. Let us trust Him all our days for all things and at all times.