Swift Judgment a Reason to Obey Now

by J. Randal Matheny, editor
A few kilometers down the highway, in a small congregation, a regular visitor contributed weekly. The brother in whose house the saints meet told the 79-year-old woman she didn’t need to feel obligated to contribute, since she was a visitor. Contributing was a responsibility of the members of the body, he explained.
He offered again to study the Bible with her so she could understand the will of God, but she took umbrage at his statement and declared that she’d been baptized as a baby and wasn’t about to be forced to do it again.
The next day, as she crossed the street, a vehicle struck her and she was killed.
Since no one who is uninspired can say in such an instance when God acts directly, one must avoid pronouncements, but the story reminds one of several biblical events.
Like that of Herod Agrippa. In royal finery, he gave a stirring speech from his throne, and the Tyrians and Sidonians, seeking his renewed good graces, acclaimed him as The One. Because “he did not give glory to God,” immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:23 NET).
Or like Bar-Jesus the magician, who tried to keep the proconsul Sergius Paulus under his thumb by opposing Barnabas and Saul. After the latter called him a bunch of names and struck him blind, “[i]mmediately mistiness and darkness came over him, and he went around seeking people to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:11).
Of course, Ananias and Sapphira stand at the beginning of the church’s history as the prime example of how not to make an offering. The young men carried him out feet first after Peter rebuked the liar. The next day, the wife collapsed at once at the apostle’s feet after confirming the story of the sale price (Acts 5:1-11).
The Old Testament has its share of sure and swift judgment as well. On the Judean prophet who stopped in for lunch (1 Kings 12:33-13:32). On Nadab and Abihu’s offering of strange fire (Leviticus 10:1-7). On Uzzah’s ark-steadying act of impudence (1 Chronicles 13:1-10). On the incredulous caption at the end of Samaria’s siege (2 Kings 7).
Immediate judgment doesn’t happen often. But it does happen, perhaps as a warning to the rest of us who dawdle at decision or balk at obedience to the Lord.
Today, one can’t say for sure that an angel of the Lord strikes a person down, but examples of injury or death soon after refusal to follow Jesus still serve as a reminder that now is the acceptable time and today is the day of salvation (1 Corinthians 6:1-2).

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