God's judgments will be visited upon those who are seeking to oppress and
destroy His people. His long forbearance with the wicked emboldens men in
transgression, but their punishment is nonetheless certain and terrible
because it is long delayed. "The Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim,
He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that He may do His work, His
strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act." Isaiah 28:21.
To our merciful God the act of punishment is a strange act. "As I live,
saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked."
The Lord is "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in
goodness and truth, . . . forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin."
Yet He will "by no means clear the guilty." The Lord is slow to anger, and
great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked." Exodus 34:6, 7;
Nahum 1:3. By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate the
authority of His downtrodden law. The severity of the retribution awaiting
the transgressor may be judged by the Lord's reluctance to execute
justice. The nation with which He bears long, and which He will not smite
until it has filled up the measure of its iniquity in God's account, will
finally drink the cup of wrath unmixed with mercy.
When Christ ceases His intercession in the sanctuary, the unmingled wrath
threatened against those who worship the beast and his image and receive
his mark (Revelation 14:9, 10), will be poured out. The plagues upon Egypt
when God was about to deliver Israel were similar in character to those
more terrible and extensive judgments which are to fall upon the world
just before the final deliverance of God's people. Says the revelator, in
describing those terrific scourges: "There fell a noisome and grievous
sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which
worshiped his image." The sea "became as the blood of a dead man: and
every living soul died in the sea." And "the rivers and fountains of
waters . . . became blood."
Terrible as these inflictions are, God's justice stands fully vindicated.
The angel of God declares: "Thou art righteous, O Lord, . . . because Thou
hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and
Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." Revelation
16:2-6. By condemning the people of God to death, they have as truly
incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been shed by their hands.
In like manner Christ declared the Jews of His time guilty of all the
blood of holy men which had been shed since the days of Abel; for they
possessed the same spirit and were seeking to do the same work with these
murderers of the prophets.
In the plague that follows, power is given to the sun "to scorch men with
fire. And men were scorched with great heat." Verses 8, 9. The prophets
thus describe the condition of the earth at this fearful time: "The land
mourneth; . . . because the harvest of the field is perished. . . . All
the trees of the field are withered: because joy is withered away from the
sons of men." "The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid
desolate. . . . How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are
perplexed, because they have no pasture. . . . The rivers of water are
dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness." "The
songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God:
there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth
with silence." Joel 1:10-12, 17-20; Amos 8:3.
These plagues are not universal, or the inhabitants of the earth would be
wholly cut off. Yet they will be the most awful scourges that have ever
been known to mortals. All the judgments upon men, prior to the close of
probation, have been mingled with mercy. The pleading blood of Christ has
shielded the sinner from receiving the full measure of his guilt; but in
the final judgment, wrath is poured out unmixed with mercy. In that
day, multitudes will desire the shelter of God's mercy which they have so
long despised. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will
send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to
sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to
seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." Amos 8:11, 12.
The people of God will not be free from suffering; but while persecuted
and distressed, while they endure privation and suffer for want of food
they will not be left to perish. That God who cared for Elijah will not
pass by one of His self-sacrificing children. He who numbers the hairs of
their head will care for them, and in time of famine they shall be
satisfied. While the wicked are dying from hunger and pestilence, angels
will shield the righteous and supply their wants. To him that "walketh
righteously" is the promise: "Bread shall be given him; his waters shall
be sure." "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and
their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of
Israel will not forsake them." Isaiah 33:15, 16; 41:17.
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the
vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no
meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd
in the stalls;" yet shall they that fear Him "rejoice in the Lord" and joy
in the God of their salvation. Habakkuk 3:17, 18.
"The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The
sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall
preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul."
"He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome
pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings
shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt
not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by
day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the
destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side,
and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only
with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High,
thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague
come nigh thy dwelling." Psalms 121:5-7; 91:3-10.
Yet to human sight it will appear that the people of God must soon seal
their testimony with their blood as did the martyrs before them. They
themselves begin to fear that the Lord has left them to fall by the hand
of their enemies. It is a time of fearful agony. Day and night they cry
unto God for deliverance. The wicked exult, and the jeering cry is heard:
"Where now is your faith? Why does not God deliver you out of our hands if
you are indeed His people?" But the waiting ones remember Jesus dying upon
Calvary's cross and the chief priests and rulers shouting in mockery: "He
saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him
now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him." Matthew 27:42.
Like Jacob, all are wrestling with God. Their countenances express their
internal struggle. Paleness sits upon every face. Yet they cease not their