5.1 The Lord's Joy

The shepherd instinctively knows his sheep from his goats; it isn't as if he has to weigh up what they are. And likewise the Lord will see us His sheep coming from afar, and it would seem inappropriate for Him to conceal this fact. "A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes...even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure" (Prov. 20:8,11) would suggest that the look in the eyes of the Lord will elicit from us our own sense of the outcome. And surely for the truly serious believer, who loves his Lord and believes in His grace, we even now know the outcome. The figure of judgment would suggest a grim faced judge, with all the dignity and soberness of the courtroom, whatever the verdict is. But there are elements of unreality in the pictures of judgment which are put before us in the parables. This judge is emotionally involved in each case (unheard of in a human court); and He is also the advocate and the witness who finds nothing bad to say; and He exalts: "Well done...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Mt. 25:23). The picture is of the happy judge, breaking down in joy at the verdict, inviting the hesitant believer to share his joy in their victory. The picture seems so imaginable; "enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" suggests a reticence, an unbelief, at the outcome. Compare this with the one hour labourers receiving a day's pay (Mt. 20:9), and the faithful almost remonstrating with their Lord that they have not done the things he reminds them of (Mt. 25:38-40). Ps. 36:8 says that God will "make us" partake of the blessings of the Kingdom of God. It reminds us of how the Lord Jesus said that in his Kingdom, he will "make us" sit down at a table, and he will come and serve us (Lk. 12:37), knowing full well that he who sits at meat is greater than he who serves (Lk. 22:27). It isn't so difficult to imagine this scene: the Lord of glory wanting us to sit down to a meal, and then He comes and serves us. He will have to "make us" sit down and let ourselves be served. Perhaps "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom" (Mt. 25:34) likewise suggests a hesitancy of the faithful to enter the Kingdom. And perhaps the way the Lord had to 'make' the healed blind man look up and use his new sight was some kind of foretaste of this.

Perhaps this is typified by Joseph's revelation to his brethren; they slink away from him, and he has to encourage them: "Come near to me, I pray you" (Gen. 45:4). They absolutely knew that they ought to be punished and killed by him, and they obviously thought he would do it. Even years later, Joseph wept in frustration at their lack of full acceptance of his total forgiveness (Gen. 50:17). These scenes are so evidently typical of the future judgment seat of Joseph / Jesus. There is even the suggestion in Rev. 7:15 that after the judgment process, the Lord will come down off His throne and mix with us, after the pattern of Joseph. And another type of judgment makes a similar point.

The Bema Judgment

In Nehemiah 8 LXX we have a bema (used in the Greek NT for the judgment seat) set up (8:4), with people on the right and left hand of it, the Jews weeping in guilt with their faces to the ground (8:9), in the eyes of all (8:5), sure they were condemned, yet then persuaded of their acceptance (8:9), learning God's principles (8:8), then sharing a feast with each other and drinking memorial wine (8:10). Note how this all occurred on the first day of the 7th month, the feast of trumpets, known by the Jews as Yom Haddin, the day of the bema judgment.

We will enter the Kingdom as shy children. This is the implication of Lk. 18:17: "Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein". It doesn't just mean that we must now be as little children, but more that we will enter the Kingdom as little children. For Jesus had just said that "of such is the Kingdom". Children unspoilt by the hardness of this world and this flesh…this is how we will be as we walk away from the judgment seat into the Kingdom. And we should live the Kingdom life now.

But we will overcome our reticence; we will enter our Lord's joy; for we shall stand before the presence of  his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24). Rev. 14:3 paints the picture of the righteous singing before the throne of judgment. In Him, in that day, will be fulfilled Zeph. 3:17: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee...He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful (us) for the solemn assembly", when the Lord will keep Passover with us again.

As stressed before, the purpose of the judgment is for our benefit, to develop our appreciation and self-knowledge. This is perhaps reflected by the ten pound man saying that Christ's pound had gained, had worked to create (Gk.) the ten pounds he could now offer (Lk. 19:16). The man who achieved five pounds uses a different word in describing how the pound given him had made five pounds (Lk. 19:18), while the men in  Mt. 25:20,22 uses yet another word to say the same thing. This is surely a realistic picture, each of the faithful comes to the same conclusion, that what spirituality they have developed is an outcome of the basic Gospel given to each of us at our conversion; yet  they express this same basic idea in different words. The place of basic doctrine as the basis for the development of all true spirituality should need no further stress, if the Lord's teaching here is appreciated. But in the present easy-going attitude of the brotherhood, the importance of basic doctrine does need stressing the more. The man who didn't develop as he should have done accuses the Lord of reaping what he didn't sow (Lk. 19:21). But the Lord does sow the seed of the basic Gospel, as the parable of the sower makes clear. The point is that the unworthy fail to let that seed bring forth fruit, they fail to see that the Lord expects fruit from those  doctrines they have been given. But they fail to see the link between the basic Gospel and practical spirituality; they feel he's reaping where he didn't sow. Christ will require his own, i.e. that which he has sown, the basic Truths of the Gospel, with usury (Lk. 19:23). The parable of the tiny seed moving the great mountain was surely making the same point; the basic Gospel, if properly believed, will result in the most far reaching things (Mt. 17:20 cp. 13:31). There is an element of unreality in the parable of the pounds: wise use of a few coins results in power over several cities. We are left to imagine the men marvelling in disbelief at the reward given to them. They expected at most just a few pounds to be given to them. And in their response we see a picture of the almost disbelief of the faithful at their rewards.

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