1 SAMUEL 2
I thought I would take a piece of Hannah’s prayer and use it as an opportunity to talk a little bit about what it means for God to judge us. This comes from verse 3: "I can tell those proud people, 'Stop your boasting! Nothing is hidden from the Lord, and he judges what we do.'"
The idea of God as judge is, of course, something that is prevalent in Christian theology. And it’s a theme that runs throughout the Bible. It’s interesting, then, that Jesus said, "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." (Jn 12:47)
I think the problem comes with our ideas about what God’s judging entails. Most of us think of God sitting in His big judge’s chair—much like a judge presides over a courtroom in America. That includes the judge (or sometimes a jury) making a determination as to guilt or innocence. Pronouncing a verdict. Meting out a sentence.
But I don’t think that’s what it means for God to be the judge. We’re not guilty because He says we’re guilty. We’re not innocent because He says we’re innocent. We are either guilty or innocent because that’s what we are. And since God deals in reality, He is in the business of revealing what is so.
Let me use an analogy. I grind my teeth. I have, apparently, done this for a long time in my sleep—long before I was aware of it. In fact, it is such a problem for me that I have a hairline fracture in one of my teeth that will get worse if I don’t continue to address the problem. Several years ago, my dentist suggested that I wear a bite guard at night. This is a piece of thick plastic that has been precisely molded to fit my upper teeth. I "snap" it in place at night, and it provides a barrier between my top and bottom teeth so I can’t injure them when I clench my jaw.
That bite guard has judged me! If you turn it over, you will find deep, deep grooves in the thick plastic where my bottom teeth have been grinding against the underside. And, just like that, I have been judged guilty of grinding my teeth. But that bite guard didn’t do anything to me. It didn’t have to pronounce a sentence. Instead, it simply revealed what had been unseen up to that point. It revealed the reality of what happens in my mouth at night.
That’s how God judges us. He is holy, and everything He does is right. He is pure truth, and how we respond to Him will reveal what has been unseen up to that point. That’s why Jesus continued in John 12 to say this: "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day."
God doesn’t have to condemn anyone, and He’s not in the business of condemning anyone. Just like my bite guard, God judges us by revealing what is true about us. And if we are condemned, it will be because we have condemned ourselves. The up side of all of this is that God doesn’t wait until some climactic moment at the end of time to suddenly reveal that we are guilty (or innocent). Because He is eager to save everyone, He is constantly revealing to us the condition of our hearts. He is constantly diagnosing our hopeless condition so that we will come to Him—Judge, Physician, Friend—for the remedy.