All of us at one time or another have raged at the injustice in the world. Indeed, social inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our day. We see power imbalances everywhere, corporate greed ruining the planet, governments suppressing their citizens – and our hearts break.
Into this strife Augustine writes. He takes these challenges head on as he addresses the final judgment of the world in Book 20 of the City of God. The last judgment is the day when life as we know it will stop and the veil that has kept us from perceiving the presence and reality of God will be forever ripped in two. We will face our maker, our master, our martyr – but this time the lamb will become a lion and every single person who has ever lived will give account for their life.
While in this life the relative benefit of those who seek to be godly is obscure:
It will then be made clear that true and complete happiness belongs to all the good, and only to them, while all the wicked, are destined for deserved and supreme unhappiness.XX.1
Unfortunately how this will all work out is not clear to us, or possible for us to discover. Why God sometimes visits judgements on people who deserve it, and sometimes they seem to get away with it. Why those who seek to love God are often buffeted by the winds of adversity, and others who love only themselves are left alone – only God knows the reasons for these things. The important thing is that at the last judgment:
It will become plain that God’s judgements are perfectly just, not only all the judgements that will then be passed, but also all the judgements passed from the beginning, and all which are to be pronounced hereafter until the day of judgment.XX.1
The duty of the believer is not to watch the wind, seeking to discern the whys and wherefores of individual circumstances and connecting them back to individual behaviour. No our duty is to trust in the loving kindness of our Heavenly Father, for:
At that day, it will become evident by what just decision of God it comes about that at this present time so many, in fact almost all, of the just judgements of God are hidden from mortal perception and understanding. However, in this matter one thing is not hidden from the faith of the devout; and that is, that what is hidden is just.XX.1
Are we waiting patiently? Are we trusting implicitly? We who cannot predict with any certainty the path of a single starling as it swoops in the evening sky, let alone the dizzying murmuration of several hundred can certainly not predict the hidden course of perfect justice in the hand of the loving God in the life of one person.
Our response should be to ensure we are sowing seeds of righteousness that will bear a rich fruit on that final day, building our lives with solid gold and precious gems, plucking up the weeds and cleaning out the barn. The rest we humbly leave to the maker, master, martyr God.
3 thoughts on “Day of days”
Hi Martyn, I found a copy of your note about 25 things you learned while working and wanting to minister more and I wanted to respond (not necessarily adding to that conversation other than to say–a new hearer 🙂 In the present note you mention the question of judgment and the question of the apparent delay in judgment. The scripture that comes to mind is that God is not slow to judge but great in mercy, desiring that everyone be saved. What if he charged me what I owe? Yesterday I was watching an episode of the Blake Mysteries, not sure if that is the title. The main character was at the front of an empty church with vaulted ceiling looking at a golden image of a cross and a painted window of Jesus speaking as though to him. The whole thing is a filmed imagination, but it was not something that I would have asked that they portray. He made himself to have more mercy on people than God does. I think part of the answer is that the cause of sin in many cases, the hands and feet that deliver pain, is hands and feet of men and women. As I heard spoken in an account, God did not cause what happened in Vietnam. Related to judgment and wisdom, minutes before finding your list of 25 things, I read a chapter relating Charles Darwin’s work to a more recent research methodology which shared some of his work account. He wrote, “very few objections were raised against my views which I had not at least noticed and attempted to answer”. I thought of Proverbs 18:17 and Lamentations 3:27–bowing our head and not “answering” correction. Though it is nice to be spared correction at times 🙂 I hope my note doesn’t sound too scattered. The Lord loves you.
Thanks for your comment John, I fail so much but have learnt over the years to rest in the tenderness of God. Psalm 103 is a lovely comfort when we feel weak & broken… there is always grace to meet any sin at the cross. I believe we will be overwhelmed on that final day by the kindness and love of God for how he has treated us, blessings
Thank you for the note. I wasn’t meaning to over-emphasize personal failing, though if that was the subject, I might have to ask someone else to write the chapter. It’s terrible to remember wrong-doing, even as a child, well, the wrong-doings that I do remember from time to time. We do draw near to the Lord in these regards and turn from evil. I was mainly offering some thought about judgment. If we think to bring our complaint to God, Father, this is not just. Hmm, Jesus didn’t do that when tested the most. He asked, take this cup from me, but nevertheless, not my will but Your will. He also asked, Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Again, if we think to bring our complaint to God, Father, this is not just, I wonder if that might be the first utterance of believing prayer about the matter. That doesn’t make it invalid. I don’t think we can pray (or have the prayer answered “yes”) that there be no more pain (now), no more mistreatment (now), no sins working against me from outside (that everyone stop sinning just because it might make it easier for me). Jesus said the poor we would always have with us, so we cannot stop poverty with prayer and it appears we simply may not be able to stop it (now). I remember Phil Keaggy’s song about the tide rolling in and building up the sand to fulfill the promise to Abraham that his descendants would be more than the sands of the sea. I’m not sure now why that seemed the next thing to say 🙂 Oh, still not necessarily, well that follows, the tide rolls in from my comments yesterday, If I prefer that the utterance not go unchecked that man is more merciful than God or that the victorious runner still be checked for abiding by the rules–judge that–the tide does indeed bring to mind, what about me, and this may be for me a great cause of delay. (Surprisingly, there was also a Blake episode I’ve seen in the last two days with a runner doing something unfair.) It’s not easy to comprehend and I don’t. I’m going to have to go through the eye of the needle on my knees with nothing else even though in many measures I am not rich. I guess I still did not make an effort in this note to finish my statement, if I would prefer that wrong-doing (injustices) outside of me get dealt with, the word is working to accomplish that in me and I should, if I may say, get in the harness and pull that way. I’m speaking metaphorically and seeing your poetry (it’s nice) maybe my metaphors make sense. So much of the church is occupied with things that are not shown and taught in the gospel and letters to the churches and that are not “all that Jesus began to do and teach”. For the Lord is good and His mercies endure forever. This is a lot bolder than I’ve been near at home for quite some time. I should acknowledge and am glad to that you seemed to take my mid-tide thought 🙂 to where the tide would take me 🙂 Thank you. Maybe that would happen in preaching too. “I can’t see how I can make this work.” Just say it, bro. Of course, this can truly be dangerous, so I ought not imply that it’s such an easy thing to do. It is easier than making it work 🙂 God does the work.