Question:

Hi Andrew,

Once again, a superb sermon chock full of practical application. Thank you for bringing us the Word so faithfully each and every week.

… [I]n light of today’s sermon (and amazingly the opening Psalm we read about the Israelites in the wilderness), I have a question. It pertains to God’s dealings with the Israelites. He provided for them performing miracle after miracle and yet they grumbled, murmured, and longed to go back to Egypt. They even started worshipping a Golden Calf after all God had done. I was particularly astounded by how they begged for meat and God sent the flock of quail. He sent it and simultaneously sent a plague so that some would die as a punishment for their grumbling. He also sent the snakes to bite and kill and then he let them be healed when they looked at it on the pole. These were his chosen people yet his punishment for their sin was often death. How do we reconcile this with how God deals with us today? We know God is the same today and forever. HE has not changed. How does one explain this …?

No rush to respond. Thank you so much!

Answer:

What a great question….

There’s no discrepancy between the goodness of God (what I preached about today) and severity of God (read Rom. 11:22) or between his dealings with His visible community in the OT and the NT. It’s true that God’s judgments were often more graphic in the OT (just as were the miracles!), but God was using the Jews as an eternal example for His church (1 Cor. 10:6), so it stands to reason that He was creating “object lessons” that could powerfully impress themselves on Christians in the NT era.

Also, the fact that the Jews were God’s “chosen people” doesn’t mean that all of them were truly saved or had hearts for God (Num. 11:14). God leveled His judgment on the pretenders (unbelievers) among His people, and at times they were the majority (Heb. 3:8-4:2). His promises of eternal grace are given only to those who trust Him and obey Him, not those who disbelieve and disobey Him. This is much like the church today, and Hebrews makes clear that God’s judgment today on those in the church who turn their backs on Jesus will be worse than in the OT (Heb. 10:29)!

This is to say that God’s goodness is reserved for those who trust in Jesus and obey Him. He’s even long-suffering toward those who do not trust in Jesus and obey Him (2 Pet. 3:9). But His judgment is reserved — both for those inside the church and outside it — who turn their backs on Jesus and hate His Gospel and goodness and grace and law.

This shows that God is a good God, and He is both loving and just. He loves His people, and He loves righteousness. But many people who say they are His people (both in the OT and today) are enrolled among His community but are not true believers. God will judge them if they do not repent and turn to Jesus — even though they are among His people in the church…..