In our study of the Sevenfold Will of God, we have dealt with the first four aspects – His Directive, Cooperative, Preceptive and Permissive Will. In our article today, we will continue with the fifth aspect – God’s Punitive Will.
5. Punitive Will
When dwelling on God’s Punitive Will, Rev Timothy Tow aptly commented: “Every servant of God must be attentive to the Master’s command. To take lightly His Word and to question Him is death” (The Clock of the Sevenfold Will of God).
For an Old Testament illustration, Rev Tow used the story of Balaam, a Gentile prophet, in Numbers 22-24. Finding Israel’s approaching army a threat (Num. 22: 3), Balak, the king of Moab, asked Balaam to “curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed” (v 6).
When the Lord forbade him to do so, Balaam initially obeyed (vv 12-13). However, when Balak sent more honourable princes with greater rewards for the prophet, Balaam, motivated by his lust for material gain, consulted the Lord again in the hope that He would change His mind. This time, the Lord – knowing Balaam’s covetous heart – told him to “rise up, and go with them” (v 20). Though God gave him permission to go, He was, in effect, telling the prophet: “Go – but go and suffer the consequences of your wilful disobedience.”
As the prophet set out on his ass, “God’s anger was kindled because he went” and “the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him” (v 22).
“The presence of the Angel in his path was designed to open his eyes, blinded by sin, to the real character of his course of conduct” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible). We are told that the ass saw the Angel of the Lord three times and tried to turn out of the way. But Balaam showed his displeasure by smiting the ass (vv 23, 25, 27).
The prophet was sharply rebuked by the Angel “because thy way is perverse before me: 33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive” (vv 32-33). Thus was Balaam “rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (II Pet. 2: 16). For resisting God’s will, Balaam was ultimately punished with death – “Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword” (Num. 31: 8b).
o Judas Iscariot
The New Testament counterpart to Balaam is Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. During the Last Supper, the Lord hinted that He knew of Judas’ evil design and warned him against carrying out his treacherous plan: “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (Jn. 13: 18); “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (v 21). When asked by the apostle John to identify the traitor, “Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon” (v 26).
“It seemed as if Jesus wished to give Judas every opportunity, even at this late hour, of repenting and making his confession” (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia).
Ignoring the Lord’s attempts to recall him from his wicked act, Judas set his heart on betraying his Master. Finally, Jesus said to him: “That thou doest, do quickly” (v 27). John tells us that Judas, “having received the sop went immediately out (to accomplish his design): and it was night” (v 30).
For betraying his Master, Judas paid a heavy price. We are told that he went out and “hanged himself” (Matt. 27: 5), and when he fell to his death, “all his bowels gushed out” (Acts 1: 18).
In the same way that God gave permission for the covetous prophet, Balaam, to “rise up, and go with them” to his own detriment, Jesus told His unfaithful disciple, Judas, to “do quickly” the evil he had planned, and so face the sad consequences of his wicked action.
May the lives of Balaam and Judas be a sobering reminder of God’s punitive will upon those who take His Word lightly. May we learn to walk in complete obedience to God’s revealed will. (… to be continued)