For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

34 To crush underfoot
    all prisoners in the land,
35 to deny people their rights
    before the Most High,
36 to deprive them of justice—
    would not the Lord see such things?

37 Who can speak and have it happen
    if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should the living complain
    when punished for their sins?

Whenever we read about God’s judgment in the Bible (and we do often; especially, though not exclusively, in the Old Testament prophetic books) we need to remember at least two things:

  1. We are all guilty before God and deserve His punishment (39);
  2. God does not willingly bring chastisement upon anyone (33).

The Cross supremely demonstrates God’s attitude to His own judgment. He substituted Himself – in Christ – in the place of those of us who deserve it. He willingly took our punishment so that we can go free, if only we will repent of our sins and place our full confidence in Jesus alone to save us.

As ever, John Stott has expressed this doctrine so clearly and succinctly:

‘The concept of substitution may be said to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.’ (From ‘The Cross of Christ’).