Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Is God Cruel?

"Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit …” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened" (Acts 5:3, 5).

When godly men encounter the holiness of God, they become aware of their sinfulness and cry out for salvation. The primary way we come to see God’s holiness is in His law. Today we want to consider the punishments for sin that are included in God’s law.

In the Mosaic law, which God gave to Israel, we find over 30 offenses for which God commanded the death penalty. Capital punishment could be measured out not only for murder, but also for homosexual acts, adultery, or consulting a fortune teller. Liberal theologians regard these laws as cruel and bloodthirsty, unworthy of the “merciful God” revealed (they say) in the New Testament. 

According to the Bible, though, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. It was the “God of the New Testament” who slew Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him. You see, the problem is not that a holy and righteous God punishes willfully disobedient sinners. The mystery is that such a God can tolerate such cosmic treason on the part of His creatures for generation after generation.

Even though there are some 30 capital punishments in the Old Testament, this is not a sign of God’s severity. Actually, it represents a massive reduction in the number of capital crimes. Remember the rules set forth at the beginning. All sin was viewed as a capital offense, even taking a single bite of the forbidden fruit!

And notice, it was not a threat of eventual death, but God said, “The very day you eat of it you shall die.” This does not mean just spiritual death. It means that you shall die physically the day you sin. It is only of the forbearance and mercy of God that He did not kill Adam and Eve immediately.

Far from being cruel, God is most merciful, acting with a measure of grace even unto those who scorn Him. In Romans 2:4, Paul asks. “Do you show contempt [for God], not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” God has not exacted from us what His justice would demand. In your prayer time today, thank God for His lovingkindness toward you.