Israel’s Choice, Pt. 3 – Illustration of “goodness and severity”

In the previous blog article I discussed the goodness and severity of God. I believe these attributes of God’s character are important for us to understand, because it essentially defines His dealings with mankind. It is especially important to understand this as you study the history of Ancient Israel, since God deals both in goodness and in severity with His people of Israel. Ultimately this is important to understand because God’s dealings with Israel are an illustration of how God deals with all of His people, especially us here at the end of time.

There is an interesting illustration that God has given us, and it reminds me very strongly of the “goodness and severity” of God, as mentioned in Romans 11:22. Read the following paragraph and see if you recognize any connection or similarities with goodness and severity.

THE RAINBOW A SYMBOL

“As the bow in the cloud is formed by the union of the sunlight and the shower, so the rainbow encircling the throne represents the combined power of mercy and justice. It is not justice alone that is to be maintained; for this would eclipse the glory of the rainbow of promise above the throne; men could see only the penalty of the law. Were there no justice, no penalty, there would be no stability to the government of God. It is the mingling of judgment and mercy that makes salvation complete. It is the blending of the two that leads us, as we view the world’s Redeemer, and the law of Jehovah, to exclaim, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” We know that the gospel is a perfect and complete system, revealing the immutability of the law of God. It inspires the heart with hope, and with love to God. Mercy invites us to enter through the gates into the city of God, and justice is satisfied to accord to every obedient soul full privileges as a member of the royal family, a child of the heavenly King. If we were defective in character, we could not pass the gates that mercy has opened to the obedient; for justice stands at the entrance, and demands holiness in all who would see God. Were justice extinct, and were it possible for divine mercy to open the gates to the whole race, irrespective of character, there would be a worse condition of disaffection and rebellion in heaven than before Satan was expelled. The peace, happiness, and harmony of heaven would be broken. The change from earth to heaven will not change men’s character; the happiness of the redeemed in heaven results from the character formed in this life after the image of Christ. The saints in heaven will first have been saints on earth.”

– The Review and Herald {RH, December 13, 1892 par. 7}

GOODNESS AND MERCY

The rainbow represents God’s mercy. The goodness of God is certainly because of His great mercy.

Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

When Moses was on Mount Sinai, God demonstrated His goodness. Notice that His mercy is part of His goodness.

Exodus 33:19 “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”

Exo 34:6-7 “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”

SEVERITY AND JUSTICE

The rainbow also represents the law and justice. The law is what requires justice and judgment, which is the “severity” aspect. God’s severity is the necessary reaction against sin… to cut off the wicked. In other words, severity is the aspect of judgment upon the wicked. If you look at Romans 11:22 again, notice that the Greek is G663. If you follow it to it’s roots, it comes from the idea of “to cut off” which is actually how this verse defines it. Let’s see how this is true.

Romans 11:22 “Behold therefore the goodness and severity (G663) of God: on them which fell, severity (G663); but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

(Note: the word severity (G663) is used only twice in the Bible, in Romans 11:22.)

G663

From the base of G664; (figuratively) decisiveness, that is, rigor: – severity.

Notice that “severity” is from G664, which is derived from the compound of two words… G575 which means “off” combined with temno “to cut.”

G664

Adverb from a derivative of a compound of G575 and temno (to cut); abruptly, that is, peremptorily: – sharply (-ness).

G575

A primary particle; “off”, that is, away (from something near), in various senses (of place, time, or relation; literally or figuratively): – (X here-) after, ago, at, because of, before, by (the space of), for (-th), from, in, (out) of, off, (up-) on (-ce), since, with. In composition (as a prefix) it usually denotes separation, departure, cessation, completion, reversal, etc.

In the Bible, do we see judgment associated with “cut off”?

Psalm 37:28 “For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.”

SUMMARY

The rainbow is a beautiful symbol. It surrounds the throne of God as a representation of His character and of the covenant which He makes with His people.

Revelation 4:3 “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.”

“The Lord has said, “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. . . . And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you, and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.” In the rainbow above the throne is an everlasting testimony that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Whenever the law is presented before the people, let the teacher of the truth point to the throne arched with the rainbow of promise, the righteousness of Christ. The glory of the law is Christ; he came to magnify the law, and to make it honorable. Make it appear distinct that mercy and peace have met together in Christ, and righteousness and truth have embraced each other. When you look to his throne, offering up your penitence, praise, and thanksgiving that you may perfect Christian character, and represent Christ to the world, you abide in Christ, and Christ abides in you; you have the peace that passes all understanding. We need continually to meditate upon Christ’s attractive loveliness. We must direct minds to Jesus, fasten them upon him. In every discourse dwell upon the divine attributes.”

– The Review and Herald {RH, December 13, 1892 par. 6}

God has given us His law of character, and has explained clearly to us how His goodness and severity work together in the plan of salvation. As with Israel, it is our choice to obey or to disobey. We need to understand the consequences of our choice and how God will respond.

I pray that all of us will make a covenant with God to obey and receive of His goodness and mercy. As we continue to study the history of Israel, we will see what they chose and what the consequences were.

 

References

Bible, King James Version

Strong’s Concordance

Quotes taken from the Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008 CD

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