How many times have you heard people ask why, if God is forgiving, loving, and compassionate, does he punish us?
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How many times have you heard people say that the God of the Old Covenant is harsh and cruel, but the God of the New Covenant is loving and forgiving?
Of course, that raises the question of which God is the real God?
The answer is, of course, there is only one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the father of the Messiah, Yeshua. He is the same God in the Old Covenant as he is in the New Covenant, and if someone needs proof, just read Acts 5:1-11 and see how “forgiving” the God of the New Covenant really is.
God punishes the guilty, but not right away, well, usually not right away. He holds his punishment in order to give us time to repent and save our lives. God doesn’t want anyone to die and says so in Ezekiel 18:23.
In fact, God is not only willing to forgive, he strongly desires to forgive, but because he is also holy and trustworthy, he MUST punish the unrepentant for their sins.
God ALWAYS follows the rules he sets.
The punishment God metes out is designed to do two things:
- Punish the wicked for the sins they have committed, as he promised he would do; and
- Bring people into communion with God by having them turn to him so they can be saved.
That’s right! God will slam you down hard not because he is trying to hurt you, but because he is trying to save your life!
Humans punish and hurt each other in order to make themselves feel better. I know you are denying that is what YOU do, but the truth is we punish almost always, from anger. And that anger comes from being ignored, which comes from our pride and that is what causes us to lash out at others, even those we love.
When your children disobey you, do you allow them to continue their bad behavior, and only after a while punish them? If so, then you are the rare exception because almost everyone I have ever known with kids, myself included, punishes in one way or another the moment the kids misbehave.
If someone at work is performing under their required standard and you are their boss, do you allow it to continue? Do you wait for a while, hoping that they will come around and get better? Do you give them a bad review without ever having told them where they needed to improve?
I hope not. Having been in charge of people most of my career I have learned that when people don’t do a good job it is often because they haven’t been trained or supervised well. However, there are those who just refuse to do what they are supposed to do, and they receive punishment after they have been told how to do it correctly, but refuse to do so.
These examples are based on being in a finite world where the punishment can’t last longer than your life. God, on the other hand, is not finite and his punishment is designed to set us straight while we are still alive because the ultimate result of disobeying God is eternal suffering.
I might lose my job if I continually ignore my boss, but I will be forever in torment if I continually ignore God.
God punishes us because he has to: he said he will and that is all there is to it. He waits for us to repent, and when he has waited long enough (which is entirely up to his timetable, not yours) the punishment for your crimes against God will first be to slam you down so hard that you have to look up to look down.
And that brings us to the second purpose for his punishment, to leave you no option other than to look up… up to God!
God’s punishment is designed to force you to realize that your way will not work, is not going to be acceptable anymore, and if you want to have joy and peace you had better get your head out of your southern-most orifice and get with the game.
God tells us exactly how he wants us to worship him and how to treat each other- that is found in the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible. In fact, that is the ONLY place where God, himself, dictates to Moses the way he wants us all to act. There is no place, anywhere else, throughout the entire Bible, Old and New, where God gives direct instructions on what we are to do.
As you read in the letter to the Romans, God has always been to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to learn, and then as God’s nation of priests (Exodus 19:6) to bring it to the world.
Humans punish almost exclusively as a result of their anger at being ignored, or at seeing someone doing wrong to others. God is the same way, in that he becomes angry with those who disobey him, but God’s anger is not a fit of selfish, prideful anger like a human being feels.
This is my belief: God’s anger is not based so much on people ignoring him, but on people spiritually killing themselves after he has done so much to provide eternal joy for us. Whereas we become angry for selfish reasons, God becomes angry for selfless reasons- he hates to see us hurt ourselves.
That is why I believe his punishment is not just to keep his word, but to bring us back into communion with him by making us realize that we cannot be successful by looking only to our own power. We need to realize the best path to success in this life, and eternal joy in the next life is through the power of God.
God makes us eat crow to teach us humility; when we accept his sovereignty, humble ourselves, and obey him, he then provides a feast of wonderful delicacies which we can enjoy for all time.
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That’s it for now, so l’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!