I’ve been reading through the old testament (slowly) for the past couple of months. Though now trekking through the Dueteronomy, I was in Numbers earlier and at several points had a reaction sort of like this:
Because sometimes it gets a little scary. I was left feeling like Boo who accidentally caught my Father getting really mad and destroying people (Numbers 16:49). It was scary and I didn’t really know how to react. I did however pray that the Lord would give me the right perspective, because its says a bazillion times we should fear God… but I don’t think it should be a fear that keeps us from trusting Him or that makes us run from Him. (But stand in awe of him because he has ALOT of power!) Then I read a verse in Psalm 33:5 that says “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” God’s wrath is an interesting thing to try and grapple with, but if the Lord LOVES righteousness and justice… he would not punish the innocent. “The Lord detests differing weights and dishonest scales do not please him.” (Proverbs 20:23) God’s promise was that if they (the Israelites) obeyed his commands and kept his decrees, God would bless their lives and keep them from disease along with a lot of other good things (Deut. 7:12-15). He even gave them signs and wondrous miracles in Egypt to prove He was God (7:19). And so I find myself in Deuteronomy feeling more assured that God in fact carries out justice, though it is hard to imagine the depth of their hatred towards God (and yet, I think I can). Better yet, God explains himself clearly (as He always does when I seek) that while He was humbling Israel for the hatred and forgetfulness towards God in the desert for forty years to reveal their true hearts, he was specifically disciplining them like a good father should. As God commanded Israel to defeat certain nations, God points out something very clearly: it was not because of Israel’s righteousness that they were allowed to defeat these other nations as they traveled to the promise land, it was because of those nation’s wickedness.
Deuteronomy 9:3-6 (Moses is speaking to the Israelites) “But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out quickly, as the Lord has promised you. After the Lord has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on the account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to posses, for you are a stiff necked people.”
God will punish the wicked. That’s a hard to truth to tell, but I’m grateful that He does because that means justice. I think its hard to watch people die, and I’m sure it breaks God’s heart too as he desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), but from reading the Old Testament I can trust that God really does love righteousness and justice and He wouldn’t punish those who didn’t deserve it. It’s hard to imagine that people are so turned away from God, so cold, and distant… but it’s true. All God asks is that we turn from our stiff necked ways and fear Him, remember what He has done (in our lives and on the cross) to give him the glory He deserves.
If I don’t trust, while reading about God’s wrath, that He is still good and loving, my understanding of God starts to fall apart. When I start making excuses for people’s sins, I start giving the devil a foothold to take my perspective of God and twist into something that isn’t true. Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… right?
I’m thankful I have a mighty savior who stands to test against my questions and give me answers.