31 January 2014
Lamentations and Ezekiel depict a lot of the Lord’s anger and punishment on His people Israel for their sins. In fact, a lot of the Old Testament is about God’s hatred and punishment of sin. Many people ask me how this God in the Old Testament could possibly also be the same God that Jesus portrays in the New Testament. But actually, i don’t find much difference. Jesus taught also about the wrath of God and warned about the punishment that would come, but it is easy to overlook such warnings when a lot of emphasis is on the love of God and the forgiveness of sins. It isn’t wrong, but there is a tendency for people to misplace the loving kindness of God against the wrath of God – thinking that the two cannot possibly co-exist – or that it would be unfair for God not to show mercy.
The loving kindness and mercies of God were understood well by King David. When asked if David would choose to receive punishment in the form of plagues or the sword of the enemy, David chose plagues, because David recognized that the Lord is merciful. He did not say to God – how cruel are you to make me choose between such terrible things to receive as punishment! Can’t you just forgive me? I said i’m sorry already!
David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 2 Samuel 24:14
The author of Lamentations, despite bitterly recounting the punishment and scorn of the Lord on the house of Israel, was writing in reverence of the Lord. Never once did the author accuse the Lord of being unfair or overly brutal in His judgement. He could only ask for the Lord’s mercy and ends in this prayer:
“You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.”
I am always grateful for the accounts in the Old Testament as they remind me of showing reverence to the Lord in how i live my life. Although i am covered by the enduring blood of the Lamb, it is good for my soul to appreciate how deep and merciful the Lord is to me. There is a thin line between asking and receiving mercy from God and of simply expecting mercy from God. The latter cries out – it is not fair that i should suffer so much! But i am quieted when the Spirit reminds me that it was utterly and completely unfair for Jesus to die for my sins, and the incomprehensibility of how the Lord would do this to Himself for my sake helps me see how incomprehensible it should be for God to show me mercy. But He did.
And i can only gasp, How great thou art, how merciful and great thou art in loving me the way you do.