“Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off.”
Romans 11:22 NLT
Paul wrote that “God is both kind and severe”. This is not something we hear very often. We talk much about the grace and love of God. About His loving kindness. About His forgiveness for repentant sinners. But severe? A severe God perhaps stirs up feelings within us of a parent, or someone else in authority over us, like a teacher, who was unloving or overly strict. Memories of a detention at school, perhaps unfairly applied, surface again. And those of us old enough to remember the days of corporal punishment in schools experience, once again, the pain and tears.
But we have to face into the reality that God is a righteous God. And if we reflect on this, we see that He could not be anything else. If He wasn’t fair and righteous in all He does, then the universe would have descended into chaos long ago. However, whether we like it or not, we live in a God-created moral universe. Throughout the creation story in Genesis 1 we read that after each day, God said that it was good. And then we read Genesis 1:31, “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day”. For the Creator of the world, our righteous God, to say that something is good, means that His character is in-built to make it so. We tend to think that the world around us is physical but there is a spiritual creation in it as well. And because of that there has to be a balance to right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. The Psalmist, as recorded in Psalm 73, was faced with a dilemma. He almost lost his trust in God when he looked around and saw how wicked people lived lives of luxury, when he apparently struggled to survive. We read in Psalm 73:1-3, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness”. He mused about the injustice of the situation, until he finally discovered the truth. Psalm 73:16-17, “So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked”. We humans want to see justice dispensed in our lifetimes. We want to see those who commit crimes, and apparently get away with it, come before a judge before the victims pass on. We want to see greedy company owners and corrupt politicians held to account. But we must be assured that one day there will be a day of justice, when God will square the circle and deliver the justice His creation, His universe, His righteousness, demands. We trust our wonderful Heavenly Father, and we don’t have to fret like the Psalmist, thinking that evil people who commit wrongs will get away with it.
Paul said that God is severe and well as kind. We like to think of the kind God, but we must never forget that God is severe with those who disobey Him. Just because He is patient, and apparently overlooks sin, doesn’t mean He has forgotten it. One day there will be a time when God’s severity will be revealed for all to see. The Apostle John had a vision about the final time of reckoning. He wrote, “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12-13). There are people, even Christians, who dispute these events, saying that when we die we will experience nothing, as if we just went to sleep without ever waking up. They are call annihilationists and believe that consciousness as we know it will cease when we die. But that isn’t what the Bible says. And God’s moral universe would have been violated if that was the case.
We pilgrims know of course that God is a balanced Person. His character has many facets that all blend into a Whole, and severity is in there somewhere, along with love and kindness. But we must never forget what Jesus said to His disciples, as recorded in Matthew 10:28, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell“. Now that is something we pilgrims should note!
Father God. We know that You are a God of righteousness and love. We praise and worship You today, with thanks for being a Parent who only wants what is best for us. Please help us not to stray from Your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.