Biblegateway Verse of the Day

Why God Punishes

By Benjamin H. Liles

           I have thought about this heavily all throughout the weekend, especially into this new year of 2017. Things in this world aren't getting any better. Frankly, ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, things have progressively gotten worse over the years. We think of God and His wrath as being only justified in the light of whether we have received His commandments or not. There is no exception. No tribe on this planet is without excuse before Him. It's why Paul wrote in a paraphrase of Old Testament passages, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one" (Romans 3:10-12).

          That paraphrase comes from Psalm 14:1, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God. (He, if He isn't a She, just simply cannot be known.)' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good," and David wrote these words. How prophetic sounding is that in these latter days? How many people out there are actually dying and hurting believing; no, actually thinking God can't be known or even begin to understand? Is it because they haven't tried? Is it because they once did and trampled their own salvation under foot? Don't get me wrong I used to subscribe to the notion of "Once saved, always saved." But does scripture even support that idea?

          I know that's a lot of questions. They are good and honest questions. The topic is, however, on this idea of a Punishing God. We'll answer these questions no matter how long this article gets. But first things first we need to understand one huge, glaring aspect of God. His holiness. God is so holy not one person under God's Heaven can withstand looking upon Him, at least not directly. Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me, for I am a man unclean, from unclean people, with unclean lips!" (see Isaiah 6:5, my paraphrase). 

           Even Daniel said, "Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make a request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments" (Daniel 9:3-5).

          Both of these men and countless other Biblical men who encountered the glorious God came away feeling they were somehow less than God. Let's look at the word "holy:" it means "dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred;" with synonyms such as "sacred, revered, divine," and even "hallowed." Hallow itself means "to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate." He, God, tells Moses, "'I AM WHO I AM.' And He said, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you"'" (Exodus 3:14, New King James). In other words, since Israelites consider God being that holy and revered render His name YHWH. We, in the English-speaking world, render that name as "God" or even "LORD." His name is Yahweh, and it means exactly what God told Moses. We get the word Jehovah from a combination of YHWH and Adonai: YaHoWaH by using the consonants YHWH and inserting the vowels a-o-a in between the consonants, as you can tell. Why does God's holiness matter?

          Almost toward the beginning of earthly time, sometime during the Eden years or even shortly thereafter (no one knows for sure, not even myself) a rebellion took place in Heaven, God's holy court. We read, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer (Day Star), son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High (God Most High).’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15).

          There are numerous people who sit and claim God created evil and sin. If that's the case why is it God pronounces His own judgment against this created being who not only rebelled but also was found with pride? God may create, but nothing He has ever created was ever corrupt from inception. Look again at the Creation story: "Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day" (Genesis 1:3-5, bold mine). I'll get back to answering the questions I posed, but if God looks on something He creates and He is satisfied so much with what He made He sees it as "good," does that mean it is corrupt? No. Not in the least bit. People want to charge God with the Creation of sin because those who say it don't really want to see that it comes from within them. It is a willing choice.

          Think on this a moment, and I'll go back to answering my questions I posed earlier: God creates everything; the light, the land, the grass, animals, all of it. He then makes the first in a line to descend from him, man and woman. He charges man, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of [that fruit] you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam has been created and set in the garden. God charges him with that command. He notices that there is no other like Adam. So what does God do? He makes a helper to co-exist, so to speak, with this man. He creates woman, or as her name is Eve.

          What makes me think that this angel called Lucifer rebelled before the garden scene, is what his nature is. Peter wrote, "Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8, Berean Study). Furthermore, when we look at this: "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?" (Genesis 3:1, italics and bold mine), says so much of this adversary's nature. 

          If the "Day Star," Lucifer, came down in pride to Eden in the form of a serpent, and we know he's cunning (other similar words are crafty, devious, sly, scheming, and calculating) then who's to say he hasn't pulled the proverbial "wool over everyone's eyes?" I mean, this is a being who had been with God. He walked with God. 

          We read of Nebuchadnezzar, "At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:29-30). God isn't proud. He didn't create pride. If pride didn't come from man, initially, and we have found verses suggesting "another" who was found with pride, then why would we attribute the idea of God creating sin as His fault? We are fallible. We are the ones in wrong. When we become like the Prodigal Son, seeing how far apart from our Father we really are, we run back as fast as we can proclaiming, "Oh, how I have wronged you! Make me your servant and not you child! At least I will have food!" Our Father, who is loving and merciful restores us. But before He can do that we have a sense of fear and punishment, rather His wrath upon us.

          Look at this verse: I remember using it not too long ago, as well, "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14, King James 2000 Bible, bold and italics mine). Remember Daniel and Isaiah both did this. They put themselves at the mercy of God on High. they received their respective commissions (see Isaiah 6:8 and Daniel 9:20-27) as they saw prevalent sin in their lives as well as their people, Israel.

          With all of that said and done at this moment, let's go back to those questions I asked. "How prophetic sounding is that in these latter days? How many people out there are actually dying and hurting believing; no, actually thinking God can't be known or even begin to understand? Is it because they haven't tried? Is it because they once did and trampled their own salvation under foot? Don't get me wrong I used to subscribe to the notion of "Once saved, always saved." But does scripture even support that idea?" 

          Even in our modern educated days, we have tremendous access to all sorts of information. We need to "clear the cobwebs" so to speak in sifting through all of it. Some of the information we have is good and reliable and others are trash. So, why do we believe, actually, where do we get the idea or notion that there is "no God?" I believe it's two things. The first is we don't see the one of the primary attributes of God and keep that in the forefront of our minds: His patiently merciful endurance to deal with us righteously. We have been all through His holiness, His right justice, and how loving He is. How much more so is that even now when we cry out so much, "We want justice!" If He came back, here and now, in our demands of it we would all be judged in His fairness, not according to our standards. If He rendered judgment as we do then none of us can stand.

          Thank God I am not Him! He has the task ahead of Him in declaring who is righteous, who has faith, who has done His commands, who has lived and run for the eternal prize waiting for them. All of that judgment is His and His alone! Do you truly think and believe God would smile at you in that circumstance, or would you be prostrate before Him, pleading for your life? I find it hard to pray for two minutes, let alone even one minute. I can't comprehend myself how forgiving He will be of me.

          Back to attempting to answer how God will respond to us isn't easy in the least bit. I know it would be hard to see or believe that in my early life I had even acted like an atheist. Even though I recall looking at the night sky, at the age of five or six, and hearing deep within my own heart that "God is here," I lived a huge amount of my life as though He didn't exist. What changed in me? Was it the fact I fear him? I have to admit that yes, I do. However, and this is a strong however, I also understand His character. We see verses such as "Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth" (Exodus 34:6, New American Standard) sprinkled throughout His word and we shrug it off. James wrote, "See how blessed we consider those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy" (James 5:11, Berean Study).

          Where do we get the idea that God will bring compassion on us? Is it because it's simply His nature? That He will exonerate each and every one of us? Looking on 2 Chronicles 7:14 indicates otherwise: "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." How has God done this? Through Jesus. He came restoring sight to the blind (see John 9:1-11), healing people from lameness (see Matthew 15:30), and forgiving people their sin (see Mark 2:10). This is the same Jesus who bore our punishment at the cross. Because of His death and resurrection from the grave we have access to the Father.

          In my heart of hearts, I believe the reason so many fall away from the Church these days is that there are popular and misuided ministers who proclaim they are God's but in fact emulate exactly what Jesus said would happen. "Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15, Berean Study). It is folks like these who lead people astray, and in time their people fall away. I won't sit here and point my finger at any specific so-called minister who has done this thing. But I can call attention to it. Jesus said that there would be those who present themselves "in sheep's clothing..." I would rather teach right, having a fear and reverence for Him who saved and forgave me. After all, we're told, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1, Berean Study). It is also on those who teach wrongly who will be held more accountable for their falseness before their congregants. But that's why a lot of people fall out of Church, claiming "there is no God." They don't see a God who is ready, willing, and able to forgive. It is because of that lie.

          I have a problem with the idea of Once Saved, Always Saved doctrine. Why? The short answer is that as Christians we are called to uphold the character and likeness of Jesus the Messiah. He says, "No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house" (Matthew 5:15, Holman Christian Standard). If we belong to Him who saved and forgave us, we remain on the stand giving off the light He gave to us. It is a willing, and participating act. Likewise, Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28, Berean Study). But those verses also show we are His eternally.

           While we, as obedient and faithful Christians, are given eternal security, which is our guarantee, look at one thing Jesus said in John 10:28: "No one can snatch them out of my hand." It doesn't mean that a Christian can't give up. For a Christian to lose faith and to become disobedient I call into question whether they were Jesus' to begin with. Authentic, God-fearing, humble Christians will fight tooth and nail for their inheritance. They will be obedient to death. Scores of first Century Christians gave their lives for the sake of the gospel: people like Paul, John, Matthew, Peter, James, Luke, and many others didn't love their lives to keep on living. No. They gave up their lives. Notice what Jesus said about that: "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, My servant will be as well. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him" (John 12:25-26, Berean Study).

          Considering the length of this article and everything I have covered and went over, I hope it answered tons of questions. If there are other questions that come to you, let me know. I wanted to explain why God judges as He does, why we are able to have the forgiveness of the Messiah Jesus, why we can obtain healing (in today's age it means being able to see Him, speak His name, and spread His word - whether by foot or otherwise), and about our eternal securedness. One thing I didn't say was that those who belong to Him are doomed.

          On that we do have security. As long as we work out our faith daily, doing those things the Lord commands - in love and obedience - our reward is secure 100%. In that sense, a Christian is eternally secure. It is only by flagrant disobedience and lack of faith that a "Christian" loses his prize. As Christians, people of Jesus' majesty, grace, and mercy, we have a sincere obligation to love our lives so much so that we give it up for others. It means being a willing sacrifice as He was who went to the cross on our behalf. That is why Paul wrote, with confidence, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand" (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6, Berean Study).

          Father, You alone are holy and pure. I know in and of myself I am not. Because of living a life so long in an attitude and character of sinfulness I know I don't deserve the love or mercy You so willingly gave at the cross of Calvary. I feel very much like the tax collector who beat his breast imploring You, "Forgive me, a sinner!" Yet, because of Your merciful loving kindness I have beheld the richness of your glory. It is why I am able to do what You commanded of me. I enjoy teaching what You show me. I want others who so desperately need You see my love for You that they love You as I do. I want their faith in You to be bolstered. I want their faith to be manifest in a deep, remaining love for and with You. It is in all this I pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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