07 Aug God is just and merciful: A look through 4 stories in Genesis
When I read the Bible in the past, it was tempting to think that the New Testament (NT) showed God a bit differently from the Old Testament (OT). I felt the OT portrayed God as more of a strict Judge. Whereas, in the NT, we see the loving and merciful Father more clearly. However, my understanding improved as I grew as a Christian. I realised as James 1:17 says, that God does not change.
Thankfully also, Jesus confirmed the truth about the Father in the NT. Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the exact expression of God’s nature. Therefore, they cannot be different. So, now we can know God based on what Jesus showed us and He has cleared any doubt we might have about the nature of God.
Interestingly, when you know this truth and go back to the OT, you see that God has always been a loving and merciful Father from the beginning. Yet, He has also always been a Just God. Then you might wonder, “how can God be just and merciful?” “Is it possible for Him to express both characters?” Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that is who He is. And as my pastor taught me from God’s Word, God is just and merciful, neither attribute contradicts the other.
I won’t call this a coincidence but after learning this, I started to see it for myself in my Bible. About the time, I began a Genesis reading plan and within the first few chapters, I saw this truth expressed in 4 stories! So, I decided to share this post to emphasise that God is just and merciful even in the Old Testament.
Story 1: The temptation and the fall of Adam and Eve
In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, the devil tempted them and they disobeyed Him. Sadly, sin corrupted the perfect design of God and they became fallen humans destined to die. Seeing the consequences of their sin, they made fig leaves to cover their nakedness and hid from God when they heard His voice. But God called out to them, of course, sad that they had sinned, yet He did something remarkable.
While He told them the punishment for their sins as a just God, He also announced His plan to save them as a merciful God. (Genesis 3:15) Not just that, He made them better clothing to cover their nakedness. The better clothing could be figurative of something else but it still shows a merciful God. How beautiful!
For more, read Genesis 3:1-24
Story 2: Cain and Abel
These were the first siblings in the Bible. Though as fallen men, now they had a nature of sin. At a time, Cain and Abel presented offerings to God. As Genesis 4:4-5 says, ‘the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent.’ A few moments later, God cautioned Cain not to sin because of his attitude. However, Cain gave the devil a foothold and eventually killed his brother.
When God asked Cain about Abel, he answered: “Am I my brother’s guardian?” Argh! Anyway, being just, God told him his punishment for the murder of his brother. Yet, after Cain said that the punishment was “too great to bear” and that he may be killed by someone else, God showed him mercy. He placed a mark on Cain so that anyone who found him wandering would not kill him. Isn’t that merciful?
For more, read Genesis 4:1-26
Story 3: The flood and Noah’s ark
In Genesis 6:5-7, God saw that humans were wicked and their minds thought of only evil all the time. So, He decided to wipe out mankind and all that He created with a flood. But He warned and chose Noah to build an ark to preserve him and his family as well as a pair of all animals.
I used to think that God only wanted to save Noah and His family from the flood but reading 1 Peter 3:18-20 surprised me. I realised that God waited patiently to save people while Noah built the ark. That was remarkable for me. He didn’t only pronounce judgement but He also extended mercy to everyone who would accept it.
For more, read Genesis 6:1-22, Genesis 7:1-24 and 1 Peter 3:18-22
Story 4: Sodom and Gomorrah & Lot’s family
Genesis 18:20 recorded that the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was immense and their sin was extremely serious. So, God decided to assess and judge them accordingly. Before He went on to destroy the place, He shared His plan with Abraham. Then, Abraham pleaded with God to spare the place on behalf of the righteous people there, even if they were only ten. As a just and merciful God, He was willing to do that but the whole population was evil-minded.
In His mercy again, God chose to save Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and anyone Lot had with him including his future sons-in-law. However, his future sons-in-law thought it was a joke and ignored him so they were destroyed along with the people of the city.
For more, read Genesis 18:16-33, Genesis 19:1-29
The greatest story
These stories show how merciful and just God is. But beyond them, I see the greatest example in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:23 says we all sinned and as justice demanded, we deserved to die. (Romans 6:23) Yet, God showed how much He loves us, He gave his one and only Son, Jesus, to bear the punishment for our sins so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) The only thing we need to do to be saved is to believe that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised back to life to put us right with God. (Romans 4:25) Now by grace through faith in Christ alone, we receive His gift of righteousness and become God’s children. How splendid! He met the demands of justice on our behalf and showed us mercy.
For more, read 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 5:12–21
I’ll like to read from you as well.
– What stories in the Bible remind you that God is just and merciful?
If you also have a question, please, leave a comment or send me an email to [email protected]