We presume upon God's goodness. We all do. Believers and non-believers alike. We enjoy the blessings of family, air to breath, water to drink, food to eat almost like it's our right to have them. And often with little thought or credit to God who has blessed us with them. (Except maybe on Thanksgiving - wow, what an appropriately timed post, right?!)
But the moment things go wrong, we blame God. How could He allow this to happen? How could God possibly claim to be good and then allow _____ to happen to me? If God is good and powerful, then why didn't He stop it?
Not only that - how come the God we see in the OT is so wrathful? God destroys all but Noah, his sons, and their wives in a flood. God strikes down Uzzah "just because" he touches the Ark in an attempt to prevent it from crashing to the ground. God turns Lot's wife into a pillar of salt "just because" she looked back as her hometown was destroyed. 40 boys are killed by a bear "just because" they made fun of one of God's prophets. And on it goes.
When I read Pastor John MacArthur's answer to that question, I was blown away. Here it is (emphasis mine)....
Now listen, if you look, watch this, at the Old Testament with the New Testament in view, you're going to get confused because we live in an aura of the goodness and mercy and grace of God. And if you go back from that perspective, you're going to get all confused in the Old Testament. The problem is we feel that God is unjust because we are comparing His justice with His mercy, not His mercy with His law. Let me show you what I mean. We have to go back to creation. You cannot look at the Old Testament from the New Testament, you have to look at the Old Testament from the creation.
Now, God said this, "In the day you eat of the fruit of the tree you shall surely...what?...die." When God created He said, you sin--you die. The New Testament reiterates the wages of sin is...what?...death. The soul that sinneth, said Ezekiel, it shall die. You eat, you die. In creation, all sin was a capital offense. Any sin, God had a right to kill. Now think of it this way. God made man freely. Created man of His own choice freely. He made man to glorify Him. He made man to radiate His image. He made man to manifest His person. But man rebelled. R.C. Sproul says he committed cosmic treason.
Now if God freely made man and God freely gave man his life and God freely gave man the conditions to continue that life, and man chose to violate that, then God had every right in the world to take that life back, right? After all, He gave it freely. Whenever we sin we are striking a blow at God's sovereign character. We are misrepresenting His image and His intention for us. We are insulting God and does not He who freely gave life have the right to freely take it back if He gave the conditions and we violated them? Is that unfair? No...no, He gave the conditions, that would be just. He has every right to take back the life He gave when that life violates His conditions.
Okay, Adam and Eve ate. Let me ask you a question, did they die? No...no, they didn't die. Did they get justice? No, what did they get? Mercy. And at the moment that Adam and Eve sinned, God's mercy was activated and you know what else was activated? The plan of the cross because as soon as God was merciful to sinners, somebody had to take His justice, right? And the cross became a fixed reality. So originally every sin...now stay with me...every sin required death. Is it unjust by God's law to take the life of the rebel to whom God has been so good? No. But God didn't exercise His justice, He was merciful to Adam and Eve.
Now listen to me. By the time you come to the Mosaic law, you only have 30 to 35 capital offenses. That is not cruel and unusual punishment, that is an amazing reduction in the severity of God's judgment, isn't it? Because originally it was any sin and now it's just 30 to 35 of them. And who knows how many thousands there are. God is so merciful but by the time He gets to the Mosaic era He's reduced it to 30 to 35. And you know something else? Even in the case of those 30 to 35, there were times when God did not enact His justice. There were times when the people of Israel did all of those things and God spared their lives. He was merciful. Wherever there was adultery in a marriage, there was supposed to be death. But because they were so adulterous all the time, God permitted them to divorce as a gracious merciful alternative. And they were to die for idolatry but how many times did God forgive that idolatry? And how many times was He merciful? They were to die when they were committing fornication but how many times did God show His patience? They were to die when they murdered, but how many times did God seem to overlook it? He was so patient, so patient.
Now you see, beloved, that is the point. If you compare the Old Testament with the original created standard, the Old Testament is full of mercy...now listen to me...but we are so used to mercy, we are so used to grace, we are so accustomed to getting away with our sin, we are so used to not being punished, we are so accustomed to grace that we abuse it. And whenever God does do what is just, we think He's unjust. That's how confused we are. And that's how we despise the goodness of God. When God knocks down in death Ananias and Sapphira, we say, "Well, how can God be so cruel?" when the fact is, how can anybody else in that congregation stay alive, they were all sinners. You see, we so trade on God's mercy and we're so used to abusing God's grace that we are offended if God isn't merciful. And that's the truth. He chooses times not to be merciful.
You say, "Well, I still don't understand why He does it." Listen, I'll tell you why. Because it's so bad now and we trade so much on His mercy and abuse His grace so badly now that if He didn't give us those frequent examples of His justice, imagine how much more we would trade on His mercy without any fear of repercussion. The reason that God from time to time takes a life and comes down in severe judgment is because periodically throughout the flow of redemptive history He has to illustrate what should happen to bring us back to our senses because we are so accustomed to His mercy. If we didn't have examples of the consequence of sin, we would go on blissfully trading without a thought on His mercy....
So why are there throughout the Old Testament and even into the New, why are there those illustrations of God's instantaneous wrath? They're examples and God does those to show us what should happen to all of us and to build in our hearts attitudes of thanksgiving. Every day I live I should say, "Thank You, God, thank You for being so merciful and overlooking the sin today that should have caused my death and eternal judgment."
I'll tell you, we would never tolerate the insubordination that God tolerates. We tread on His mercy even with these examples, can you imagine if there weren't these examples what would happen?..
we are so used to mercy, so used to grace, that we think justice is unjust.