Today in my Bible reading I was struck by the severity of God’s judgement. When God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit Canaan, He told Abraham that he would have to wait because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16).
In the book of Joshua, Joshua leads Israel in its conquest of Canaan. Joshua was given strict instructions to obliterate the nations from the land, lest Israel turn and follow the gods of the nations. But as that process was unfolding, and Joshua defeated 31 kings in all (Joshua 12), I read this astonishing sentence:
For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:20, emphasis mine)
Without mercy? It seems astonishing that the God of the universe would act without mercy. Isn’t he the God of grace, compassion and mercy?
My next reading was from Psalm 11, which brought up the theme of God’s judgement again:
The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur, a scorching wind will be their lot. (Psalm 11:5-6)
God’s punishment on sin is severe – it needs to be. But fortunately, there is a final verse in Psalm 11, which says this:
For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. (Psalm 11:7)
Clearly, not everybody will be subject to this severe judgement of God. He must punish sin so that justice is preserved, but the righteous will see his face. They will be spared. My problem, of course, is that I deserve judgement. Due to my wickedness and sin, I don’t deserve mercy, grace or compassion. The fiery coals and burning sulfur should be poured out on me.
Thankfully, there was a third reading this morning – Mark 10. In this I saw the compassion, grace and mercy of God. For Jesus stepped into the dock and took the punishment I deserve:
For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
God’s justice was satisfied – my sin has been punished. God’s righteousness is held true – I will see God’s face. Why? Because in his grace, compassion and mercy, Jesus gave up his life so that I might go free.
So much for being a God without mercy! I can’t wait to get to know him better as we study him as Trinity over the next 6 weeks.