It is difficult for many, scholar and laymen alike, to reconcile the idea that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same. The OT records over 30 offenses for which God commanded the death penalty. Not only first degree murder, homosexuality and adultery, but even if a child was unruly to his parents in public, God ordained death. So the Marcian response is overwhelmingly, “O, how blood thirsty, that can’t possibly be the same God", especially in light of the New Testament theme of mercy and love.
I think Hans Kung (catholic theologian) gives the Marcians a good answer when he writes: “The real ‘mystery of iniquity’ is not why a holy and righteous God would punish sin, but rather why generation after generation God tolerates rebellious creatures who commit cosmic acts of treason against His authority day-in and day-out.” He did not tolerate it from Lucifer and his angels and would not tolerate it from the planets and stars. Yet, He tolerates it from us. What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?
So our response to Old Testament capital crimes should be “Hallelujah! Only 30-something? Thank you for Your mercy and love because this is not cruel and unusual. This represents a massive reduction in what our true just punishment should have been. In the slightest of sins: I defy the Authority of God, I insult the Majesty of God, and I challenge the Justice of God. How I have become so recalcitrant and accustomed to doing it and so quick to justify it; yet I am alive? What a mystery!
I had a college professor (and I’m closing) who gave me several extensions throughout the semester. I got so comfortable that I assumed that these extensions applied to my final paper as well. I was furious when she posted our final grades without letting me do my usual thing. 20 years later I finally understand. Adam was to die the day he ate of the forbidden tree. Did he? No! He lived 930 years. Instead of justice God poured out His grace. Therefore, the Old Testament, like the New, is nothing more than episode after episode of God’s love, longsuffering and forbearance. And maybe… just maybe… these sudden, swift exercises in judgment like Aaron's sons, Uzzah, Ananias, Sapphira, Tsunami, Katrina, Haiti, Japan are God’s way of reminding us not only is He love but HE IS JUST.
Father, forgive me for presuming Your love and kindness. Forgive us for demanding it and getting angry if we don’t receive it. Your grace and mercy is designed to give me time to repent. I do that right now. Help me to be amazed by your grace. Amen.
Gen3; Gen.5:1-5; Ex.21-22; Lev.18:6-18; Mt.5:21-42; Rom.8:3-11