God is Kind and Severe
When you think of God right now, what comes to your mind? This is an important question as we have discussed. And we have tried through these devotions to make sure we have a right picture of God as He has revealed Himself to be through the Word, rather than simply what we want to think about God or like to think of Him as.
We will continue this today. Read Ex. 34:6-7. If we are honest, most of us and our image of God stops after the first sentence. We as most tend to emphasize God's love and patience and faithfulness. And to be sure, those are true characteristics of God. Truly part of His perfection. What we might term as God's GOODNESS.
Yet look at the second sentence here. What does it teach us? It teaches us that God punishes the guilty. His faithfulness and love and patience do not mean that He does not punish the guilty. In fact, His goodness and faithfulness demand that He do this. And this SEVERITY of God, this dealing strongly with sin and sinners, is that part of God that we don't tend to dwell on much, and to our own hurt.
To be sure, God is abounding in mercy and goodness and faithfulness and love and grace. His GOODNESS overflows. Our lives are testimonies of this. His mercies and grace are new every morning John 1 says. Our own salvation and redemption by grace through faith pictures this.
And yet there is another aspect of God's goodness that demands He deal with sin and those who do not repent. See Romans 11:22. If someone refuses His grace, refuses to turn to Christ, then they will be cut off, even those of the nation of Israel. That is the context here of Romans 11:22. God's mercy in choosing Israel, as seen Deut. 7, His grace, didn't give them license to live however they wanted and expect God to overlook their sin, not deal with their sin. God is also SEVERE.
The reality this teaches us, along with Ex. 34:6-7, is that God is merciful and good and loving, and yet to the one who refuses this, to the one who spurns this, God withdraws these blessings. He does not leave the guilty unpunished.
God alone is perfectly GOOD and SEVERE at the same time. God was abundantly merciful to Israel, and yet in their rejection He cut them off. WHY? They did not believe in Christ for their righteousness.
Israel presumed upon the goodness of God, took it for granted, took it as a license for self, disregarded Christ, and thus were cut off. And even here, God was faithful, ie GOOD, even in His SEVERITY. He did what He said he would do in Ex. 34:6-7. The guilty did not go unpunished.
And even here in our text of Romans 11:22, Paul warns Gentiles, even you and me today, that the same will happen to any of us if we too reject Christ. Our salvation and gift righteousness is not a license to live for self.
Here is what we must grasp - behind every display of divine goodness, ie salvation being offered by grace thru faith, stands a threat of divine severity, ie judgment, if that goodness is scorned or rejected. If we do not respond to God's goodness with gratitude and love, then we have only ourselves to blame when we experience God's severity. And rightly deserved.
See Romans 2:1-5. God's goodness is meant to lead us to repentance, not self indulgence. God's goodness and patience must not be treated with contempt. Even here the Scriptures tell us over and over how patient God is with us, not desiring for anyone to perish, see 2 Peter 3:9.
Consider as one proof those in Noah's day, where God was patient for 120 years, announcing a coming flood and judgment before it indeed came. God desires to be and is abundantly good, but if that is spurned, you will experience His severity. His faithfulness, ie goodness, demands this be true. And eventually the doors of the ark were shut and the floods came and many perished. God was KIND and SEVERE.
Even for us today, when we ask "why hasn't Christ returned yet?" The answer is that God is patient, not desiring that anyone perish but that they come to Christ through faith and be forgiven. God is patiently giving people a chance to repent before judgment falls as He has said it will.
God is KIND and SEVERE.
So, how do we respond? What are our take-aways?
Appreciate the goodness of God.
Calvary is the ultimate measure of this goodness, not your present circumstances. God is good no matter what we face or are facing. Don't measure this through circumstances, but through the cross and what the Bible reveals to us about God.
Appreciate the patience of God.
Marvel at how patient God is with us. Be patient with others in response. Even now. Our opinions about COVID19 are different, our convictions are different, what we are comfortable with is different. Be patient with each other as God has been patient with us. Be careful what we say and don't let these other things divide and destroy what Christ died to purchase. And make sure we do not take advantage of God's patience.
Appreciate the discipline of God.
Read Hebrews 12:5-11. God disciplines those whom He loves. Appreciate even this. Even God's discipline is grace in that we would turn away from sin sooner than later. See Ps. 119:71 which says "it was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
May we be a people who have a right, full knowledge and love for God as He has revealed Himself to be, not as we simply want to think Him to be. And may we behold both the kindness and severity of God. May we continue in His ways that we experience His kindness. Looking to Christ and trusting God no matter what.