God’s kindness and severity is a hard concept to grasp. Trying to understand God’s character with our Greek views, legalistic religion, and false assumptions leads to muddled misunderstandings. Only when we hear His message with His Spirit do you hear freedom.
God’s way are unfathomable to our small minds, but you can be sure His ways are just, righteous, pure, and in love.
When bad things happen to seemingly good people, especially ourselves as believers, we often wonder how or why the Lord would allow such a thing. We modern Christians tend to be rather schizophrenic over how we see the Lord dealing with our lives. On one hand we say that God controls every aspect of our existence, but when something bad happens we blame the devil. We say that with the advent of Christ that the Lord only afflicts His people with mercy and loving-kindness, so the bad things in our lives are either natural repercussions or demonic or human in source. That is not the theology of the older Testament and I would say with confidence that such is not the theology of Yeshua either. Rather it is a doctrine of men who wish only to recognize God’s attributes as the most pleasant ones to us.
How often have I heard the statement from the mouths of pastors that “the Lord giveth and He taketh away”; but they apparently don’t mean it or believe it because if something bad happens as a result of one’s sin, the standard statement is that God does not punish those who are His.
The Old Testament in particular exposes what I would call “a theology of complaint”. As a person under God’s covenants there was no such thing as luck or happenstance; everything was under God’s purview and providence. Many times a biblical character would have terrible things happen to them and thus they fully assigned it to Yehoveh; and often they complained to one another or directly to God about it. And in general the Lord doesn’t seem to see such direct complaint as wrong. That said, it’s one thing to complain about your situation and the deep pain you are in, and that you do not understand it, and especially that you don’t like it one bit. But it’s quite another to confront God and tell Him He’s wrong, or that He has erred, or has no right to do what He has done.
Just as we cannot accept God without accepting His people, neither can we accept the kind part of God without acknowledging the severe part as well. We find this same concept spoken to believers through St. Paul when, using the Olive Tree metaphor to explain gentile believers’ relationship to Israel and to Israel’s Messiah, he issues this warning:
So take a good look at God’s kindness and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you- provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off! CJB Romans 11:22
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