If You Want to Know Who God Is
If we believe in a God who punishes, we cannot also believe that He is a God who loves. If we believe that God is love, we cannot also believe that He is a God who punishes. Conclusion suggested by Oct. 7, 2010 USA Today article “How America Sees God”
If you said this to Moses, I think he would furrow his brow and say, “Really?”
Pre-CNN press conference
I’ve tried to imagine some reporters sitting down with Moses for a press conference...
Q: Moses, do you believe God will judge those who choose not to follow Him?
A: You bet I do. Did I ever tell you about the plagues? Or how God sent venomous snakes into the camp of His own people when we rebelled against Him? They bit the people and many of them died. Then there was the time when I struck the rock—a wretched, faithless act, and God said to me, “You will not enter the promised land.”
The interviewers would begin shutting off their recorders at this point...
Q: Thanks for the interview, Moses. I guess you’re in the camp that believes in a God who judges. No surprise there—you’re an Old Testament guy. You’re not one of these people who believe in a God that pours out love and compassion...
A: Wait a minute… Don’t you know how God delivered us from Egypt? Or how God saved the lives of all those who looked at that bronze serpent up on that pole? What about the sacrifices God provided, so sinners like me wouldn’t be blotted out forever?
At this point, some reporters would be scratching their heads, others would be smiling...
Q: Moses, you can’t have it both ways! Which one is it? Is He the God of judgment and wrath? Or is He the God of love and compassion?
A: “Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God.” Romans 11:22 (KJV)
If you want to know who God is, you need to consider both His goodness and His severity, both His mercy and His judgment, both His love and His wrath. You cannot understand the coming of Christ, unless you grasp the goodness and severity of God.
God’s two-part drama
“When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people... And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses...” Deuteronomy 27:12-13
When God’s people went into the Promised Land, they went past two mountains called Ebal and Gerizim. The people were to send representatives from each of the tribes up the slopes of these mountains. Everyone was involved in this drama...
As the people went past Mount Gerizim, they heard their brothers shouting a blessing over them, “If you fully obey the Lord your God… all these blessings will come upon you (28:1). You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country (28:3), the fruit of your womb will be blessed (28:4), you will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out” (28:6). The abundant goodness of God could hardly be clearer.
Nearing Mount Ebal, they began to hear the shout of curses, “If you do not obey the Lord your God… all these curses will come upon you and overtake you. You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country (28:15), the fruit of your womb will be cursed (28:18), and you will be cursed when you come in and when you go out” (28:19).
God’s people knew beyond a shadow of a doubt—God blesses and God punishes. The message was clear—God loves and God judges. Blessings follow righteousness and curses follow rebellion. How could you forget? It was etched in your memory forever.
God set up this drama so that people wouldn’t drift through life saying, “God loves everyone all the time.” And so no one would go through life so discouraged that they would say, “I’m under God’s curse and there’s no hope for me.”
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This LifeKey is based on the message “The Goodness and Severity of God,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, delivered December 5, 2010, from the series “Take Two: The Power of a Fresh Start.” Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.