I want to address the question I asked yesterday. I've heard from several of you that you are struggling with this section of Scripture because you don't like this vindictive or bullying God we're reading about. This is a common response. This is why most preachers tend to focus on the New Testament. I think they find it too difficult to explain away this "angry" God, when they just want to preach the love and grace of God. Here's a few things to remember while you're reading:
- Even though it might feel this way, you're not reading about two different Gods. The God who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us in the gospels is the same God who speaks judgment through his prophets.
- God removing his protection and allowing his children to experience the natural results of wandering away and seeking after other gods, is completely what you would expect from a loving Father. There are times when parents need to allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their rebelliousness. Not because we hate them or are unreasonably angry with them, but because that's what loving parents do. It is not love if a parent sees their child heading down a destructive path and just sends them on with a wag of a finger, a wink, and a smile. Love requires harsh behavior sometimes.
- When I read these prophecies, I honestly read love into every line. Remember this: GOD IS LOVE. God doesn't choose to love sometimes, and choose to be vengeful and murderous at other times. Love is not something God does; love is WHO HE IS. I see the judgment/punishment/discipline as God CHASING US. As a loving husband would pursue a wife who was trying to leave him, so God also pursues us when we sin--even if it means taking drastic measures to get our attention and get us to return to him.
- EVERYTHING God does is just. He is God. We live in his universe. He gets to decide what is just and what isn't. He sets the bar. If he does it, it's just. He alone has the authority to decide when to show mercy and patience or when to discipline or condemn.
I want to challenge everyone reading these passages to broaden your view of God. Embrace every part of God, not just the parts that sound pleasing to us. Read these passages with confidence, knowing that they are completely characteristic of a loving, holy, just God.