For the week of January 8, 2000 / 1 Shevat 5760
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
and Rosh Hodesh, Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25 - 29:21
Replaced by: Rosh Hodesh, Isaiah 66:1-24

God Can Be Really
Harsh Sometimes

And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it (Shemot / Exodus 7:5).

One of the things that seems to keep some people from believing in God is the hardships of life. If God is so powerful and loving, they say, then how can he allow people to suffer? This is not just a difficulty for unbelievers, mind you. Many people who would say they have faith in God, also have a hard time with this issue.

Some resolve this by separating the negative experiences of life from God. This view is expressed by either saying that God cannot do anything about these hardships or saying that God has chosen not to do anything about them. Either way limits his power - a kind of he-would-if-he-could,-but-he-can't-so-he-won't" sort of thing.

This limited God-view may pacify our desire for a nice God, but I don't think that it faces the truth of the matter.

This week's portion features the first seven of the ten plagues against the land of Egypt. It is clear that these dramatic and traumatic events were caused by God. When the King of Egypt refused to obey God's word given by Moses, he violently and lethally struck the people of Egypt. Men, women, children, livestock, and vegetation suffered greatly at the hand of God. Whatever led to this, the God of Israel, the God of the Bible caused this destruction.

And this is not the only biblical example of God being harsh with people. There are all sorts of circumstances where people have suffered horribly at God's hands. So however we may try to come to grips with this issue, if we are ever going to understand what is going on, we must start by looking at the truth rather than tailoring it according to our preferences.

Part of our problem is that we refuse to accept how serious our alienation from God really is. By rights, because of our rebellion against our Creator, we should all be destroyed. To live on this earth is a gracious gift given us by God, and we have ungratefully used it for our own devises. God has actually been incredibly patient with us throughout these centuries.

We prefer a God, who lets us do whatever we want. If the all-powerful God does judge his creatures, then he may one day judge us. That is a thought we can’t easily tolerate. Therefore if we can reason that God doesn't actually judge people, then we convince ourselves that we won't be judged.

Judgement, harsh judgment is a reality, So instead of reasoning it away, we would do better to learn how to avoid it.

We will continue this discussion next time.

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