Many cultures have traditional moral stories. Aesop’s fables from ancient Greece, Panchatantra from ancient India and many more. These commend good and denounce wrong by making the characters derive benefit from good deeds and suffer punishment from wrong deeds, usually very quickly. This philosophy is not restricted to moral stories and most of us subconsciously subscribe to this thought process. When the Biblical character Job suddenly lost his oxen, sheep, camels, children and his health, that is what his friends and towns folk believed. Eliphaz said “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more.” Job 4:7-9 (NIV). Bildad said “Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” Job 8:3,4 (NIV). Zophar said “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung.” Job 20:4-7(NIV). On the contrary, God gave a completely different appraisal of Job saying “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8 (NIV).
We know that “God is true, even if everyone is a liar” Romans 3:4 (ISV). So we have to dismiss the philosophies of the ancients, Job’s friends, our own ideas and turn to the Bible for answers. Job himself observed and said “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not on them. Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry. They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre; they make merry to the sound of the pipe. They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.” Job 21:7-13 (NIV). Such observations are not limited to Job and it is found in other parts of the Bible. Asaph says “… I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like — always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” Psalm 73:3-12 (ISV). Another Psalmist says “… How long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.”” Psalm 94:3-7 (NIV). Jeremiah says “Why are wicked people successful? Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives?” Jeremiah 12:1b (NET). We would also personally know people who live wicked lives but are prospering.
Job gives us a clue about the punishment of the wicked “Here is the fate God allots to the wicked, the heritage a ruthless man receives from the Almighty: However many his children, their fate is the sword; his offspring will never have enough to eat. The plague will bury those who survive him, and their widows will not weep for them. Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver.” Job 27:13-17 (NIV). This principle is found in other parts of the Bible. The Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” 1 Kings 11:11-13 (NIV). The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite saying “have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” 1 Kings 21:29 (NIV). It may surprise us but that is also how God introduced himself to Moses when he went up to Mount Sinai saying “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6,7 (NIV). It is also an integral part of the 10 commandments “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Exodus 20:5 (NIV).
When people are quickly punished, they avoid doing wrong just to escape punishment. Jeremiah 17:10 (ISV) says “I am the LORD who searches the heart, who tests the inner depths to give to each person according to what he deserves, according to the fruit of his deeds.” When justice is meted out immediately it is impossible to test the heart and the motives. So God may defer his justice to subsequent generations to verify if the person truly believes and fears God. This does not exempt man from having a judicial system and passing out justice quickly. God clearly specified the judicial system for Israel and for the church. There also remains a final judgment that nobody can escape. Acts 17:30,31 (ISV) mentions “God now commands everyone everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world with justice through a man whom he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Many find it difficult to believe in God when they see injustice everywhere Are you willing to believe that there is a God who metes out justice to every one, even if it is not instant? God is testing us to see if we will walk in His walks even if not walking in His ways does not seem to have consequences. Do not live a life ignoring God’s commands just because God seems to be ignoring your rebellion. Your future generations will face the wrath of God and you cannot escape the day of judgment.