Does God Ever Seem Harsh?

by | Feb 15, 2010 | Trusting God | 4 comments

“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.



Sign up now!
If you would like to receive these weekly blogs by email, sign up at You can unsubscribe at any time.

More From This Category

Sickness, Sovereignty, and the 2004 Tsunami

Sickness, Sovereignty, and the 2004 Tsunami

Last week marked the nineteenth anniversary of one of the deadliest disasters in modern history. On December 26, 2004, an enormous tsunami generated by the largest recorded earthquake sent waves, some 100 feet high, racing across the Indian Ocean at 500 mph—the speed...

read more
God’s Amazing Rescue Out of War-Torn Israel

God’s Amazing Rescue Out of War-Torn Israel

My friend Deb DeArmond and her husband Ron were in Israel when the war started on Oct. 7, 2023. Here’s the incredible story of God’s presence and provision for them in that harrowing time. God—an Ever-Present Help in Trouble Wailing sirens startled Deb and her group....

read more



  1. ella thompson

    Debbie, Always enjoy the newsletter. Last week in Bible study we talked about the verse “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and we were somewhat split on the interpretation. I have read many commentaries and they are divided as well. If you have time, let me know what you think. The split was really over whether the Father forsook him or did the weight of sin make him feel that he had been forsaken? I personally think that He was in the Father and the Father was in Him and that He could not leave his son. Others think that the separation wa part of the punishment for sin. I don’t think we have to really have an answer, but it is interesting. I think what bothers me sometimes is the thought that if God could not look on Jesus because of sin, then how could He possibly look at me and not forsake me. i know that He could not forsake me after i have entered a covenant relationship with Him through Jesus, but what about before?

    • debwilson

      Ella, this is certainly holy and deep ground. The way I look at it is; Jesus was abandoned so I will never have to be. He took my sin, separation, shame and the full penalty of my sin, which is separation from God, so I can have His heaven and never, never know what it is like to be forsaken by God (Hebrew 13:5). The separation Jesus experienced I believe is only known by those who experience hell, which is exactly what He experienced for us. The agony of the cross was minor compared with the agony of becoming sin and enduring hell for me. What a Savior!

      Don, What a great illustration of how our enemy seeks to rob us of real joy! Thanks for sharing and for your encouragement.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ella, I thought of the verse that says God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. I like your thoughts. It is a mystery.

  2. Don Woeltjen

    Your story couldn’t be more clear about sin. Some things start out seemingly non-threatening and appearing innocent. Once we get hooked by Satan he just laughs and laughs at us.

    I was at an NBA playoff game in Portland, OR years ago. I headed up a large sales organization and one of our suppliers invited our whole team to this even when tickets were impossible to obtain by the public. It was a really fine night that had been planned for us.

    I got up to use the restroom during half time. Because of the crowd I was a little late getting back to my seat. Our host was seated next to me and when I returned said, “Don, I think you won a car.” I was confused. He said, “they had a drawing while you were gone and they called a number that was close to the numbers in our group but none of us had the exact number. Show me your program.” I pulled out my program and he took it and turned to the center of it and said, “Don, you won a car – that is the number they called.” I couldn’t think about anything else the rest of the game, a game that any sports fan would die for to get tickets. Once he convinced me, all I could think about was the car. When the game was over I didn’t know who won the game; my mind had become so distracted.

    My “friend” told me to go down on the floor and approach the TV sports announcer who called the ticket number. The only way to get down there from my seat was to climb over the retaining wall. As I did that the policeman stopped me. I told him, with an excitement in my voice that I had won a car and finally convinced him to let me finishing climbing over the wall. I rushed over to the TV announcer who was wrapping up the game. When he finished, I rushed up to him and began speaking with a very enthusiastic voice, “I won the car, I won the car.” He looked at me like I was a stupid jackass and said, “What Car?” I said, “You called out the number of the car winner during intermission and I won the car.” He said, “I ain’t called no number for no car, now get out of this area, its restricted.” I was confused. What happened to my little world of joy. I looked up in the stands, only to see my host bent over laughing along with the rest of my former friends.

    I took my eye off the joy of being at a game which was a sportman’s dream. I lost the moment of bliss by thinking something else was more pleasurable.

    Debbie, you do such a wonderful job communicating God’s Word each week. Please know that your words touch my heart.


Refreshing Faith Blog

Pin It on Pinterest