Message by Rev. Erny McDonough
Fisherman’s Chapel, Port O’Connor, Texas
I Cor. 13:5 & 6 “[Love] … is not easily angered. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth.”
Intro: Have you ever wanted to be a “fly on the wall” to get a glance from inside how a certain family functions? I surely have! I have seen some families that seem to have it so together, but I notice that there are times that an obvert dysfunction shines. I have seen other families that appeared to be totally out of control, but whose kids turned out to be God honoring and God serving.
To get an answer to such a picture, I would want to see the differing approaches to acts of love. I would want to see the parties and the hugs, but because every family member must learn how they fit in the family structure, I know that I would also have to see the disciplines and how it was administered and why. To outsiders, some acts of discipline seem to be just cruel acts of aggression by the strong against the weak, but in the context of the family, they were seen as extreme acts of love.
Today, we are going to look at some examples of what some, looking in on the scene from outside the family unit and from this distance, would say that God was vindictive, cruel, and some have dared to call God “mean spirited.”
I. Garden of Eden
God instructed all of His creations created in His imagine, Adam and Eve, that they were to enjoy everything in the Garden except one fruit. They were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know what happened – they ate and were thrown out of the Garden! But, why? What was the big deal?
God had forbid them from eating from this one fruit to keep their innocence – it was an extreme act of love. God did not want them to grow up so quickly; He wanted to protect them from themselves. The devil made them believe that God was withholding something that would open them up to new and exciting possibilities, but this act of rebellion against God truly brought about their death.
God wanted them to stay protected from the knowledge of good and evil – He wanted them to only know the good, but the devil wanted them to know the evil. Loving families will always attempt to protect their children from growing up too fast, but the enemy is always wanting kids to learn things before they know what to do with the information.
God, in His love knew that He had to banish His children from the Garden lest they eat also from the tree of life – which they had undoubtedly eaten from many times before, but God knew that once we understand the evil, we do not want to stay in that knowledge forever. One day, soon I hope, God will again place us in His special Garden where we will know evil no more, because of His act of love!
In Numbers 16, we have the story of Korah, one of Levi’s sons, who incited some of his cousins and other community leaders to rise up against Moses and Aaron. Korah and his associates had seen the advantages of the priesthood in Egypt. Egyptian priests had great wealth and political influence and Korah wanted those things for himself. Korah did not understand that Moses and Aaron were not trying to copy Egyptian examples, but follow their Father God’s directives. Moses and Aaron’s only ambition was to serve God, not to control the people for personal power or gain.
Korah had significance, worthwhile abilities, and a place uniquely his own. No one was trying to keep Korah from being all he could be. But, Korah’s ambition to remove another from his God appointed place, cause him and his followers to lose everything. Korah could not be allowed to win in his rebellion against God’s authority or the results would be open rebellion would become the norm in the Israelite community. God did not become so angry that He struck Korah without mercy, but God displayed His great mercy by giving Korah many opportunities to repent, warned him where his path was leading, and them followed through with His discipline for not only Korah’s good, but for the good of the entire Jewish nation.
God knows that rebellion is like witchcrafts – which is allowing the devil to control one’s life instead of being under the loving care of our Heavenly Father. In His great love for His family, God will strike at the heart of rebellion in ways that outsiders might believe to be cruelty, but is protective within the family community.
III. The Wilderness Purge
We all remember that God wanted to take His people out of Egypt’s bondage and take them to a land that was flowing with milk and honey. Miraculously, God delivered about 3 million slaves from the strongest nation known to mankind at the time, plundering the nations of its wealth and destroying its vast army. And, remember these slaves did all this without firing even one shot! Miraculously, God provided form them all the food (manna) and water (once even from a rock) they needed to make this journey. Miraculously, God provided shade for them from the desert sun and warmth for them from the desert nighttime cold with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. Miraculously, God allows them to grip and complain against Himself and His representatives. God takes them to the Promise Land in about two months and directs them to send representatives over to see where they wanted to begin settling.
But, you remember what happened. Ten of the twelve representatives (one from each tribe) returned with an evil report and the people voted to not follow God’s leadership any more. God had set up a theocracy form of government, but He allowed them to have a democracy, even through God knew it would lead them to their own deaths.
Because they wanted to go their own ways, god allowed them to and allowed only the two (Joshua and Caleb) who stood for God’s choice to enter the Promised Land. God did not remove the consequences of their bad choices! Every person who voted to go his own way instead of God’s way died in the wilderness. God does not want robots to serve Him, but He wants us to know that there will be natural consequences of our bad choices. If we refuse to go His way, we will suffer and die just as the Children of Israel did. God love us enough that He gives us examples of what the bad choices will bring us to.
IV. Moses’ Death
Many just do not understand why God would take His leader, after all that he had to go through in leading these rebellious people for almost 40 years, and not allow him to enter Canaan. Moses had been forgiven of murder, when he killed the Egyptian. Moses had been forgiven his failure to follow God’s directive in circumcising his sons because his wife thought the act to be barbaric. Moses had been forgiven his failure to accept his God given place of leadership and God sent Aaron to speak for him before Pharaoh. There were many opportunities to get rid of Moses had God wanted, but God is always longsuffering, not willing for any to perish.
But, Moses was under the pressure of the people to get them some water. Remember, these were rebellious people dying in the wilderness for their refusal to go God’s way. Moses prayed, asking for God’s direction in providing water for this vast nation. God told him to speak to the rock and water would flow. When the Children of Israel had first come out of Egypt, God had told Moses to strike the rock to bring water for the people. This time, God said to speak to the rock. Moses in his frustration and anger decided to do it his way, the way he had done it before, and hit the rock with his staff. God provided the water, but He was not pleased with His servant Moses. As a result, God told Moses he would die with the rest of the people in t he wilderness and not be allowed to go into the Promised Land.
What was the big deal? Speak or strike – water would come out either way! Remember, God was leading a much younger group of people into Canaan. The folks who had seen him strike the rock were almost all dead. This was a new day and God was about to do a new thing. He needed a leader who would be adaptable and not set in his own ways to enter this new land. Moses could change, but he showed that if angered or frustrated, he would resort to the old paths and fail to obey God’s directive. God needs people who will listen to Him, because we truly do not know all that God is trying to do in blessing His creation! We always fail when we believe we know what is best instead of following God’s Word. God will not allow you or me to do things our own way and still expect His best! Moses could not be trusted to do things God’s way, therefore, even Moses had to be replaced!
Conclusion: I could spend several more weeks looking at this subject, and talk of the Egyptians, Balaam, the fiery snakes, and the nations of Canaan. We cold look at Cain, Akin, and Ely and others who fell under God’s judgment. We would question why Uzzah died when he touched the Ark of the Covenant when he was simply trying to keep it from toppling to the ground. But, the important message for us today is that God will always deal harshly with sin, but will forgive us when we choose Him. Remember, no one can serve two masters. God does not just get mad and get even, but He is attempting to teach us with examples that life lived under His directives will always bring us to His place of love! Let us determine to go God’s way!
Next week we will be looking toward the New Testament to see why God got angry and why. As we understand God’s ways, I believe it will help us in our struggles with anger in our own lives!