SIN, PUNISHMENT, and MERCY
- The Lord struck down many with a plague – because they had been grumbling and ‘craving’ for meat. (Numbers 11:33)
- Miriam was struck with leprosy – because she and Aaron had spoken in criticism against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married, and had also expressed pride, saying, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?’ (Numbers 12)
- The spies sent into Canaan (apart from Joshua and Caleb) were struck down by a plague – this was for bringing back a bad report about the land of Canaan, bringing fear to the Israelites. (Numbers 14:37)
- The Israelites defeated by the Amalakites and the Cananites – because of disobedience to Moses by going into battle when God was not with them. (Numbers 14)
- Korah and 250 followers were swallowed up by the earth, together with their households and possessions – for rebellion and despising the Lord. (Numbers 16)
- 14,700 people killed by plague – for grumbling and complaining. (Numbers 16).
And that’s only from five chapters! What struck me was God’s absolute abhorrence of sin, any kind of sin. We may at times excuse ourselves from grumbling, negativity, a complaint here and there – especially if we are undergoing difficult circumstances. We may even go so far as to think of God as being rather too punitive towards the Israelites, who, after all, were undergoing considerable hardship by our standards.
When reading the New Testament, and in looking at our own Christian experience, there at first seems to be a bit of a contrast. God is full of love, forgiveness, and graciousness. We don’t think of God as striking down people dead at every turn. But what we do know is that God still hates sin just as much as He ever did. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
In the context of all of this, the impact of Jesus dying on the cross and taking the punishment for each of His children is staggering. If this glimpse of God’s wrath on the Israelites is abhorrent to us, how much more appalling must the suffering have been for Jesus who bore sufficient punishment for the sins of everyone who has ever lived.
Two facts about God have impacted me and challenged me through this little ‘study.’ I think these facts are well worth meditating on . . .
1. God hates sin more than anyone.
2. God is more merciful than anyone.