Saturday, 21 November 2015
Most of the references to punishment in the Old Testament refer to negative experiences of the tribe of Israel.
The prophets of ancient Israel rationalized their experience by saying that God was punishing them for not obeying the Law.
This referred mainly to religious practices involving foreign gods and idols.
This was cited as the reason that Israel's enemies rose up against them.
This is a version of Prosperity Theology which states that our experiences on earth reflect the favor or disapproval of God.
But the Book of Job clearly refutes Prosperity Theology.
Although it lays responsibility at the feet of a fictitious devil, the Book of Job has Job justified despite his suffering and misfortune.
It is Job's opponents who claim that he must have sinned to deserve his fate.
But God says what Job said was more true.
So where does that leave us?
It is clear that most of the statements about God in the Old Testament are followed by threats of punishment.
But is this a true picture?
They say that God is merciful and compassionate, steadfast in love, and ready to relent from punishment.
But they say that He will punish any disobedience.
What are we to believe?
The New Testament God of Jesus is a loving Father.
And, although there are still some threats of punishment, the overwhelming impression of God is of forgiveness, compassion, and love.
Perhaps the time has come to purge our image of God of all violence and punishment.
My experience of God is wholly benevolent, helpful, compassionate, forgiving, understanding, and loving.
I have never experienced any punishment from God.
Fear can make us imagine that God is punishing us.
But this is not true.
He is merely waiting for us to see.
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