By Elizabeth Prata
God’s Four Sore Judgments:
This week I introduced a series examining the LORD’S “Four Sore Judgments.” In other translations they are called the “LORD’S Four Severe Judgments.” They’re mentioned in Ezekiel 14:21: “For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast!“
The four are Sword, Famine, Pestilence, and Beasts. Wesley's notes says, "How much more - If they could not be able to keep off one of the four, how much less would they be able to keep off all four, when I commission them all to go at once."
It is a very dread situation when all four are unleashed. If you read Revelation 6, you will see that the four are unleashed all at once, or in very rapid succession. Jesus called it the worst time on earth there ever has been or ever will be. (Matthew 24:21)
Knowing that eternal judgment awaits the unconverted, and knowing how we were once under threat of eternal judgment in hell, we should look at God’s judgments on the earth and feel compassion and eagerness to witness to those in danger as we once were of being lost forever.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11-13).
This bundle of four sore judgments are certainly not the only type of judgment God renders in wrath on an unbelieving person or society.
God judges and in so doing He has different judgments He dispenses. There is the Wrath of Abandonment. This is described in Romans 1:18-32 where, after persistent rejection of Him by individuals or a whole society, He leaves that person or nation to its sin. He did this with Pharaoh. He did this with Israel.
There is Cataclysmic Wrath. This is where God causes or allows natural disasters to happen, like tsunamis or earthquakes.
There is Consequential Wrath. Consequential wrath is the sowing and reaping wrath. If a person lives a certain kind of life he or she sets in motion certain forces that will produce judgment on them for that lifestyle or life choices.
There is Eternal Wrath. Even the Gentile knows about this, it’s hell, or more biblically, eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire for unforgiven sins.
And, there is Eschatological Wrath, the kind of wrath Jesus pours out in the Day of the Lord. This is Revelation 6-18.
Let’s look at the next of God’s four sore judgments, Famine.
Famine is increasingly a part of the world’s vocabulary. Famine takes a long time to set up. It is a problem with complex and varied origins, relating to poverty, agriculture, weather, wars, and more. Drought most often is the last symptom to appear before famine strikes hard and deep. War also is a catalyst for famine.
See Lamentations 5:9, which speaks of the sword and then the difficulty of getting bread:
“We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert.’
Famine does not happen overnight. Drought starts it. Lack of water from above and below continues it. War exacerbates it. Unemployment pressures it.
Famine is a terrible judgment. Watching someone die of lack of sustenance is a woe that sears the heart unbelievably. It also brings out the worst in humanity, that is, cannibalism. (Deuteronomy 28:53; 2 Kings 6:28).
God deliberately brought about famine in Genesis 41, even forewarning Pharaoh. Why would God do that? Aside from the fact that He is sovereign and can and does do anything in His creation He desires? Because He wanted to exalt Himself through Joseph and demonstrate His mercy in saving a people. He does deliver the righteous from famine. (Job 5:20; Psalms 33:19; 37:19).
God uses famine (and the other three judgments of sword, plague and beasts) to judge the unrepentant. Here in Leviticus 26:19-29 we see Him threaten His people with the sore judgments if they did not turn. In that set of verses, He actually threatens to bring famine 7X worse according to their sins. The purpose was to break their pride of power. Nothing reduces a proud people more than failure of crops, hunger, death by starvation. We are not in control of the skies, the rain, the growth of our crops. God is. He uses famine to demonstrate that when He deems such judgment necessary.
What we Christian believers can do is trust the Lord all the more. He is our Savior and Lord, the Shepherd who guards His sheep. We might struggle with earthly needs but He will provide those and so much more will He provide spiritual needs: comfort, faith, strength, discernment, clarity.
For the unsuspecting world, such upheavals are very trying. Immediately as these first four sore judgment seals are opened, a quarter of the world will die. (Revelation 6:8). It will be the largest death toll in history.
Prophecy is part of scripture so we study it, but as with any scripture, it should be put into action. We are called to be Ambassadors for His name–
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
So our action is first to be sure we are in the faith, reconciled to Him. Then, be ambassadors, so He will make His appeal to the lost through us. Be strong and hardy, never quailing in public, instead, relying on His strength to be calm and loving, even when sin is rising so palpably. That means sin is rising in your co-workers, families, neighbors, too. Not just “out there.” Don’t fall into the trap of becoming angry. We are Ambassadors, remember.
Prophecy should give us a reminder of the times and an urgency to seek Jesus all the more so His light will be evident in us to others. And, be salt. The salt must be in the food. We have to stay in the world but not be OF the world. Don’t retreat, as much as we might want to. We are Christ’s seasoning in this lost world. Let’s flavor it with love and patience.
Next in the series examining the four sore judgments is “Beasts.”
I wrote more about famine itself, what it does to the body, and how quickly starvation sets in, and how scarcity flows into its heightening, below:
Tomorrow, Judgment by Beasts.