“Stop, stop!” I ran to stop the man clearing our land. I’d asked him to remove a section of trees so we could plant some evergreens behind our new house. I thought he had gotten a little carried away with his yellow bull dozer. The gum-ball trees on the edge of what would be our lawn surely wouldn’t be a problem. Wrong! Twelve years later I regret stopping him.
At the time, we had removed so many trees I wanted to keep what I could. Now those gum-balls remind me of my misplaced affection. I was caught up by the immediate appeal of the plants, while a pro saw what those plants would become.
Poison ivy is very colorful in the fall, but causes painful blisters and misery to those who are allergic to it. Birds eat the berries off the vines in the woods and spread it throughout our property. In many ways, we look at people and behaviors like new gardeners judge plants. We romanticize their beauty or decide a behavoir isn’t worth the effort to remove it. We misjudge the nature of sin. God knows its destructive power.
The Old Testament presents some laws and examples that sound harsh to modern ears. In a recent discussion one man remarked, “Stoning for adultery? That seems rather severe.” (Not to the women I’ve met who have been betrayed!)
While I can’t begin to unravel the wisdom and ways of God, I have some thoughts. Romans 6:23 tells us “the wages of sin is death.” James 1:15-16 says, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.”
I believe the Old Testament illustrates spiritual realities we cannot perceive with our physical senses. God made the penalty for these transgressions severe and visible so we can visualize the damage those actions wreck on a soul and the lives he or she touches.
Our culture glorifies sin. The entertainment industry extols illicit sex, drugs, or other deviant behavior as inspiration for finding enlightenment and personal meaning in life. The Bible says that is not true. Sin may provide a passing pleasure, but it ends in death: death of character, integrity, relationships, spiritual life, and sometimes even physical life. (How many children have been conceived and slaughtered after such a passing pleasure?)
The Old Testament reveals the holiness of God. He can’t tolerate sin. But it also reveals the love of God. Jonah, an Old Testament prophet, was sent to Nineveh to preach against this nation’s sin and the judgment ready to fall on them. He hated Nineveh for the wickedness they had poured out on Israel. When Nineveh repented Jonah whined, “O Lord, …That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity (4:2).” Jonah, an old testament prophet knew the forgiving nature of the holy God.Jonah, an old testament prophet knew the #forgiving nature of the holy God. Click To Tweet
If you knew something would destroy your loved ones, wouldn’t your love motivate you to do all in your power to protect them from harm? We can remember our past, see the present, and still not be able to picture the future. God is not restrained by time. The future is as clear to Him as the past is to us.
In fact many of the prophecies Daniel revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar that were future to them are past to us. When God tells King Saul to wipe out a nation, that sounds incredibly harsh to us. We picture sweet families, but God sees evil individuals who will destroy and corrupt many. Which is exactly what happened in the book of Esther when evil Haman, a descendant from the nation King Saul was told to wipe out, sought to destroy every Jew exiled in Persia.
Just as I couldn’t imagine those shade trees causing so much aggravation, I can’t begin to understand God’s wisdom and ways. They are higher and better than my finite mind can grasp. When God warns about certain behaviors and associations, I need to listen. He is not protecting us from mere aggravation; He is warning about issues of life and death. The Judge of the earth is righteous in His judgments, and He makes no mistakes. He separates the wheat from the weeds. If we could see sin as God sees it, we would not be so cavalier about it. We would be all the more amazed that Jesus would become sin for us so that we can be made fit to live in God’s presence.
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