It’s excruciating to watch your children make serious mistakes, despite your counsel and warnings. You can see what they cannot—the destruction and excruciating pain that will surely follow.
I think tough situations like these give us some insight into God’s experience with us. He sees us doing ungodly things that He knows are going to bring us pain. They invite suffering. And so He does everything short of violating our will to dissuade us from our foolish choices. He wants us to change. But we get stubborn and headstrong and so we go ahead and do what we want anyhow.
Then He just waits.
When we arrive at the crushing part of the story, the painful part, He comes to us once more, full of compassion. He is so gracious and He helps us to put together the broken pieces. Had we only obeyed and listened to Him, He would have helped us to avoid the whole ugly scene. Even though we do foolish things in our own headstrong will that bring us pain and hurt, God remains gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger and full of great mercy. In other words, when we go ahead and do something stupid despite His Word, He doesn’t just cut us off and say, “All right, that’s enough. I’ve had it with you! Forget you; I disown you. Never call on Me again!”
You don’t do that with your children, do you? You feel their pain and hurt; and then, at the right time, you help them pick up the pieces and put everything back together. God is just like that. Even when He disciplines us, even when He has to chastise members of His church, He does so with compassion, grace and love. Even in God’s justice, He displays great love. But why suffer terrible pain and deep sorrow when you don’t have to?
In the Old Testament we encounter a God of grace and mercy, a longsuffering God who offers to forgive all the truly repentant. At the same time we observe a holy God who can never merely wink at sin. In the New Testament we find a righteous God of judgment and wrath, but one who urges us in love to escape the wrath to come through faith in Jesus Christ.
They are one and the same God. There isn’t one God of the Old Testament and a different God of the New Testament. People may read into the Bible what they want, but in reality both Testaments reveal God as gracious, loving, kind, merciful, and forgiving. And in both Testaments we see Him as a God of judgment and wrath, who by no means will clear the guilty—that is, without genuine repentance. God never says to anyone, “Well, you seem like a nice enough person. I know you’re trying! You’re forgiven.” Jesus emphasized repeatedly, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).
God is a God of love—yes! He is a God of mercy—yes! He is a compassionate God, a merciful and gracious God—yes! A good God—yes! He is also a God of justice—correct! A God of judgment—correct again!
Our loving Lord is all that the Bible declares Him to be. And Scripture says that He longs for you to enjoy a vital, growing relationship with Him, and discover for yourself all that He is.
- excerpted from Love The More Excellent Way by Chuck Smith