How do we know whether or not God is the punisher or the forgiver?
A superficial understanding of the account of Abraham, his nephew Lot, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah gives the impression that God is the destroyer and that He looks for the opportunity to exact punishment. Another example that looks very similar is the one set around the account of Noah and the Flood beginning in Genesis 5:29. There is a tone similar to the account of Sodom and Gomorrah within the narrative account of the flood.
Like Abraham, Noah found favor and grace in the eyes of God, and God sought out a way to preserve him. However, something else sounds similar and interesting when this experience is compared to the Sodom and Gomorrah account. God points out in Genesis 6:13 that “the end of all flesh is come before me.” This phrasing is the same as the description of the sin in the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
God says in both situations that the cry of the sin had come before him. In Noah’s time, the people were full of corruption and violence that was so severe that they were nearly begging for their own destruction. The idea of something “coming before Him” gives the impression that someone or something was bringing it to His attention. It was likely that God was trying to overlook and be patient with the people engaged in the sin that was occurring, allowing them time for repentance. The adversary, Satan, undoubtedly brought about the accusations of wrongdoing just like those that were revealed in the case of Job.
The accounts of the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah chronicle faith and obedience contrasted with unrepentant sin and destruction. Both conclude that God was the one who both initiated and carried out the destruction. How then do we know whether or not God is the punisher or the forgiver? Is it simply a matter of how God feels in the morning when He gets up? At what point have you “gone too far” and when is He going to get fed up and destroy you. God is Sovereign, and He can do whatever He wants, but isn’t there some way to know what He will do?
There are keys to unlocking this dilemma of understanding and we have studied some of them through the lives of Job and Abraham in the previous chapters. Through the study of Job, we discovered that Satan was the source of his grief even though Job likely opened up the door to the oppression through his words and his actions. Abraham negotiated with God to prevent an impending destruction, but the cities and their inhabitants were still laid waste. In both situations, something was brought before God for Him to make a judgment.
We are all presented with judgments or determinations to make on a daily basis. The challenge that we all face with them is intertwined with the belief system that we use to make those determinations. Belief is a very personal endeavor. As we have seen in our previous discussions, it is based on a variety of factors that may or may not be grounded in truth. If our belief is based on a lie, we are deluded and suffering from some sort of deception.
Learn more about this subject in Chapter 15 of Ideolatry,
Truth or Consequences
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