The Righteous Referee

Genesis 18:25
“Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Ecclesiastes 12:14
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

John 5:28-30
28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”

If you have ever watched a sporting event, you know that referees have a tough job. For example, in a football game, you have one referee watching the ball, others watching the sidelines, others watching the offense, some watching the defense, and even some watching the coverage shown by the TV cameras. They try to be everywhere and see everything, and because they are trained to know all the rules and to watch for problems, whatever they say goes. To put it bluntly, “The ref is always right.”

Of course, even so many referees can miss something now and then. Before the days of TV cameras and instant replays, referees undoubtedly missed a lot of good calls. Let’s face it, we trust them to be impartial, to do the best they can, to see all they can, and to enforce the rules and call the points based on all they know.

In chapter 18 of Genesis, God tells Abraham about the judgment He plans for Sodom:

20 And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

Before God has a chance to get His report back from the angels He sent to Sodom, Abraham questions God’s fairness. And so begins a bargaining session between God and Abraham, finally ending with God agreeing to spare Sodom if He can find as little as ten righteous men there.

When I read this passage, I have to ask myself: Do I really want God to bargain like that? Do I want a referee who says “Well, that guy was mostly within the boundaries” or “She didn’t play fair but she got the shot into the basket”? What kind of righteous Judge would God be if He didn’t have absolute standards? God sees all and knows all, and so it isn’t possible that He should make a mistake on a call. But should He compromise His own standards?

After bargaining with Abraham, God was willing to extend mercy to the sinful majority in Sodom based on the behavior of a righteous minority – just TEN in a city of THOUSANDS. It’s not so much that God was willing to spare the lives of the thousands of wicked people living in Sodom, rather He was willing to SAVE the precious few (ten or more) whom He saw as righteous. As it turns out, the angels sent to Sodom didn’t find even ten righteous men, and so they saved ONLY the righteous few (Lot and his family), and then God destroyed the rest of Sodom with fire. In the end, God truly was every bit as fair as Abraham had asked Him to be.

I know in my heart of hearts that my own life has been its own Sodom. As God said about Sodom through the prophet Ezekiel, I have “had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness” and I didn’t always “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49) When I consider my own past, I have lived an ugly and sinful life, but I am striving to make myself better through Christ. I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus, and I believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, and so I am confident that God will save me from my Sodom. I know that my Merciful God will see the Spirit of righteousness that His Son has planted within me and save me from myself.

I daily praise God that in my own life, He is willing to cast my transgressions as far as the east is from the west. I praise Him for recognizing that alone I am unworthy of His presence, and that He has sent His Son to intercede for me, to drag me out of Sodom before it is destroyed. And I also praise God for being utterly fair in His judgments – willing to “call ’em as He sees ’em.” Because of that, I know that when the Day comes, those who have accepted His Son as Savior and Lord will be among those called to the “resurrection of life.”

Father God, thank You for being the Righteous Referee, the One who can make the right call at the right time, the One whose standards are the same yesterday, today and forever. I praise You, Lord God, for being able to search out the secret places of my heart and, through Your Spirit, reveal them to me so that I may learn to repent. I beseech You, Holy God, to carry me away from the Sodom part of my life and to destroy it utterly, that I might live a life of righteousness in You. In Jesus’ Holy Name I pray. Amen.

– written May 15, 2009


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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