There are people who complain that God is not good. They use examples in the Old Testament. Even the men that he used to prophesy against the Jews had very harsh things to say. The edicts against Gentiles (or non-Jews) seemed very vengeful. He issued orders for death and destruction. For any group of people, he might mention the killing of soldiers, civilian men, women, and children.
This sounds terrible. This sounds like a mean, hateful, judgmental, and uncaring God.
Let us look at this closer. God’s original plan was for fellowship with mankind. His plan also included blessing after blessing. He demonstrated his love and kindness over and over. But that was in the beginning.
Even God lost his patience against the rebellion of mankind. It seemed that no matter how good God was they wanted nothing to do with him. They rebelled.
He gave them detailed instructions how to establish a worship system. It was not very long after that the priests within that system sinned and rebelled.
The purpose of this blog is to establish that God is merciful. In the midst of his judgment and punishment, he is merciful. What did that look like?
We will first speak in generalities. He said if you keep my covenant, I will bless you. Conversely, he warned them that if they did not keep his covenant, they would experience natural consequences. He made promises that would be fulfilled if they were obedient. This is no different than a human parent to a child. Repeatedly, God declared that though he would scatter his people as a punishment, he would also gather them back together.
Now let us use some specific examples:
Genesis 18:23-33 talks about Abraham’s intervention for Sodom and Gomorrah. God planned to destroy those cities because of their gross sin, but Abraham entered into a bartering situation with God. Abraham asked God if he would destroy should fifty righteous people be found in the city. God said he would spare the city for fifty righteous people. The negotiations went all the way down to ten people. Certainly, this is a merciful God willing to allow his judgment to be stayed.
Exodus 10:16-20 tells how during the plagues against Egypt, God was willing to hear Pharaoh’s claim of repentance and God stopped the plague of the locusts. In these difficult days God was merciful to the head of Egypt and the entire country.
Leviticus 16: 21 discusses a practice in which a goat was not killed but the sins of the people were confessed over him and he was turned loose into the wilderness. This is where we get the term scapegoat. This is a symbolic gesture of the mercy of God for the sins of a man to be taken away from him.
Jeremiah 3:12 is a great example of God’s mercy. This prophet was directed to go to Israel, the northern kingdom, and declare that God’s anger would be withheld should they return from their backsliding.
Zachariah 14:1-3 shares how that God would allow the enemy to overcome the people, but then God went forth and thought against those enemy nations. Mercy again has been displayed.
The entire book of Jonah is about God’s mercy. He instructed the prophet to go to the city of Nineveh and preach repentance. Jonah did not want to do this because Nineveh had a reputation of being fighters to a dastardly extreme even skinning people alive. In Jonah’s rebellion he was swallowed by a large fish and three days later spewed up on the shore. He did preach to the people and they did repent.
I think you can see by now that we could go book by book and chapter by chapter and discover how merciful God is even when disciplining his people. God is not a ruthless and vengeful God that some people would think of him. If only they would see his mercy in the midst of trial and tribulation.