The Kindness and Severity of God
“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” Romans 11:22
Achan and his family lived among the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, having left Egypt in the exodus. He had a heart of deception and at the same time no conscious awareness of an all-seeing, all-knowing God who is fully cognizant of everything. When instructed by God to take no personal spoils when Israel defeated its enemy, Ai, Achan thought God’s commands foolish, taking for himself significant treasure, and burying it in his tent. He falsely thought no one but his family saw him. When he was discovered, he and his family were stoned. This was God’s justice on evil. Should God’s kindness have prevailed in this deception and Achan and his family been forgiven?
If you want to know God as He really is, in all His glory, then you must acknowledge both His kindness AND His severity. God, as well as His Son, Jesus, are not simply all-kindness all-the-time alone, especially not kindness toward persistent, unrepentant evil. God is love and the fullness of love’s definition includes both justice and forgiveness, holiness as well as salvation, righteousness as well as redemption. Authentic love is not to be relegated to the sentiment of total acceptance and full tolerance of everything and anything! This, unfortunately, is the opinion of too many.
There are 150 Psalms in the Bible’s Hymn Book. Six of them are not the favorites of many readers; they are studiously avoided. Those six are called “Imprecatory Psalms,” and many other Psalms as well have imprecatory verses in them. These are Psalms or passages in which God refers to His enemies and to the manner in which He stands against their evil intentions and behavior; He will judge severely and distribute a just punishment. A Holy God will not abide unrepentant sin; He will not allow sin to continue unabated apart from judgment.
Harsh words and expressions of punishments do not enter ears and minds easily. They may grate upon your sensitivities. They may shock a false opinion and view of God. If they do, you have not fully known Him as He is. It is necessary to understand and know Him fully, else you cannot draw near to Him. You need to draw near to God both in times of gladness and in times of discipline, just as a child will crawl into the lap of a parent after being spanked.
God acts both kindly and severely toward his children, for His truth cannot be discounted and will not be put to shame. Truth is neither relative nor random; truth, just as God Himself, does not change or erode. The denigration of truth by good or by evil people will always result in corrective action – as discipline soaked in grace from a loving Father toward His children or as justice toward rebels and unbelievers; maybe not always corrective action immediately but in God’s timing. It is a certainty to come. Falsehoods will not stand, or else chaos prevails. God is not a God of chaos but of order.
Order is one of God’s beautiful attributes. It inspires trust in Him and what He establishes. It causes doubt to flee. Order is always a foundation on which to build. Disorder discourages and affords no certain means to move forward with confidence. No man can flourish in the midst of disorder. He must know that obedience to God produces order in his life and results in success. Rebelliousness on the other hand produces disorder and the severity of God.
Take into account the kindness and severity of God in all your dealings. It is always based on the truth of who He is. He will not compromise with evil; it is anathema to Him. He will always deal with those who are in Christ, kindly with grace and mercy. Be in Christ!
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”
(1st verse of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “When Peace Like a River,” 1876)
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