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God of Wrath or God of Love?

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God of Wrath or Love?

Justice and Mercy at Moriah

by John J. Parsons

Some people tend to regard the LORD of the Tanakh (the "Old Testament") as a God of wrath, but the LORD of the Brit Chadashah ("New Testament") as a God of love. Despite the almost cartoonish simplicity of such an understanding (there are clear examples of love in the Tanakh and wrath in the Brit Chadashah), such a perspective reveals a deficient understanding of the overarching unity of Scriptures - and of the very plan of God to redeem the world.

After the "fall" of Adam and Eve and their eviction from Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), the LORD prophesied that a cosmic struggle for the fate of humanity would ensue. Through his machinations, Satan (represented by the serpent) had arrogated a legal or forensic "right" to humanity, who were now under divine kelalah (curse).  However, the LORD promised to rescind the curse by means of the Seed - the Mashiach - who would "crush the head" of the serpent and restore mankind to blessed paradise:

Gen 3:15 (BHS)
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The entire redemptive story of the Scriptures is about this cosmic conflict to deliver humanity from the kelalah by means of the "Seed of the woman" who would come.

In the Torah, God began working with a particular lineage of people (the descendants of Seth) in order to bring the Seed into the world. HaSatan, the "ruler of the darkness of this age" opposed this plan and has used everything in his means to foil and frustrate the attempt to remove the curse from the world.

Simplifying somewhat, the lineage of the promised Seed went from Seth to Abraham, then to Isaac, and then to Jacob, who was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Exodus of the tribes of Israel from Egypt through Moses was further meant to preserve the Seed until the appointed time of ultimate redemption. The LORD gave the moral and social law at Sinai as well as instructions about the centrality of sacrificial worship by means of the mishkan (the tabernacle) in order to both ensure the integrity of the physical lineage and to reveal the centrality of Sacrifice to the Jewish people. National Israel was intended to be set apart from the other nations as a revelation of the holiness and power of God and to function as a "birth canal" for the arrival of the Mashiach. 

Meanwhile, before the advent of the Seed, national Israel was to function as the "rod of HaShem's judgment" upon the seven Canaanite nations during the conquest of the land promised to the heirs of Abraham (the sanctity of Jerusalem as the place of sacrifice was the focal point, as we will see).

Upon divinely sanctioned incursion into the Promised Land itself, the Israelites were expected to abide under the terms of a theocracy, with its national charter (i.e., Torah of Moses) and the maintenance of the sacrificial system. Since God chose Israel to be a nation set apart to declare the truth of His righteous standards for fallen humanity, the Law thereby represented the Lawgiver, and infractions had to be dealt with severely. For example, God's Presence "in the camp" meant that certain purity rites must be strictly observed, and those who violated them would be subject to cherem ban or even death.

Eventually the Israelites turned to a form of temporal monarchy like the other nations, but the Kingdom promise given to David was really given to Mashiach ben David - the true Heir of the Kingdom, since God forever is King and Ruler of Israel and the world.

Of course Israel disobeyed the covenant terms of Moses (i.e., the Law) time and again, and was eventually judged and sent into exile (first Israel [722 BC] and then later Judah  [586 BC]). This was foretold by Moses and confirmed by the prophets. Nonetheless, despite the LORD's judgment, a remnant of Israel was later allowed to resettle in the land, and by the time the promised Seed came into the world (i.e., Yeshua the Mashiach), Jerusalem was under the heels of the Romans. True to form, Satan used the both the Romans and their political puppets (i.e., Herod) to try to kill Yeshua in His infancy, but HaShem delivered Him.

All this - the entire history of Israel - was accomplished in order to "get Yeshua to Moriah" - the place of ultimate sacrifice - where He would offer up His life for the sins of the world.... and thereby break the "spell" of the curse.

Moriah is the place where Adam and Eve were created, where Abraham offered Isaac, where Abraham later met Malki-Tzedek (i.e., Yeshua our Kohen Gadol), where Jacob dreamed of the ladder to heaven, where the Temples were built, and became the altar of HaShem in the world... It is also the place of the crucifixion of Yeshua as well as His resurrection and ascension.

Yeshua at Moriah is the Central Point of all history. It is the Altar. All the outpouring of the wrath of God against sin was accomplished here, since it involved the torture and death of the only true Tzaddik who ever lived. Yet it was by means of Yeshua's righteous suffering that all the families of the earth may now be blessed and escape the kelalah of HaShem.

Yeshua's life, sacrifice, and resurrection was like a "magic spell" that "spoke backwards" the sin of the "First Adam" - and by means of His deliverance the power of the curse was forever broken. Satan's power was forever defeated.

We get offended at the wrath of God, I think, because we are desensitized to the severity of sin - and do not rightly fathom the nature of God's holiness. It took the sacrifice of God Himself to appease the outrage to His holy nature - and thereby to enable His love and grace to be freely given. Mercy and Judgment "kiss" and God's "problem" of accepting fallen humanity while maintain His holiness is resolved by means of the sacrifice of Jesus...our Kohen Gadol of the Better Covenant.

Many people want to stop here and hope that the world will now run "happily ever after" (such is the false hope of the amillenialists, the replacement theologians, and their ilk).  However, there is more to come, including further outpouring of the wrath of God.

Though the Second Temple at Moriah was destroyed after the sacrifice of Yeshua was offered, the prophetic Scriptures indicate that a Third Temple will be rebuilt before Yeshua returns to Israel at the acharit hayamim (end of days). This is also called the "tribulation Temple," since it is here that the Anti-Christ will betray the Jewish people and persecute Israel like never before in their history as a people. This time was foretold by Yeshua as Chevlei Mashiach (the birthpangs of the Messiah) and the "time of Jacob's Trouble." Upon His triumphant return, Yeshua will overthrow the Anti-Christ and Israel will finally receive their King. All Israel will be saved and the start of the millennial kingdom will begin. All of God's promises to His original covenant people Israel will literally be fulfilled.

Today is a time of grace - the "Church" age - and we can take shelter from the wrath to come by putting our trust in Yeshua.

Have you put your trust in Him?

Midrash about Moriah

According to Jewish legend, God chose the site for His Holy Temple in order to honor brotherly love.

In the days before the Bet Hamikdash (Temple) was built, two brothers, Shimon and Levi, inherited a large field from their parents.  This field was on Mount Moriah, in the heart of the Promised Land. Instead of dividing the land into separate fields, however, the two brothers decided to work the field together. Every morning they got up early and worked the days together. At harvest time, they would cut the wheat, bind it into sheaves, and divide it equally into piles. Then each brother would carry his pile into his own storehouse.

One year, after harvesting all day in the sun, the brothers decided to sleep beside their piles of sheaves instead of carrying them to their storehouses.

But late that night Shimon could not sleep. He kept thinking of his brother Levi.  "It isn't fair that the harvest is divided equally between us. Levi has a family to support, but I am alone....  Why should I take so much? It is better that he receive a bigger portion."  So Shimon got up, gathered up as many sheaves he could from his pile, and surreptitiously placed them on his brother's stack.  He then went back to his own pile of sheaves and slept sweetly.

Awhile later, Levi awoke from a dream. In his dream he saw his brother Shimon as an old and sick man. He thought, "It isn't fair that the harvest is divided equally.  Shimon is all alone. He has no wife or children to care for him when he gets old. He will need more grain to help him prepare for his future. It is better that he receive a bigger portion." So Levi got up, gathered up as many sheaves he could from his pile, and surreptitiously placed them on his brother's stack.  He then went back to his pile of sheaves and slept sweetly.

When daylight came, the two brothers went to load their wagons but were amazed to see the same number of sheaves in their piles as before. Perplexed, they quietly finished their work and went home.

But neither brother could sleep that night. Each kept thinking of the needs of the other. Finally, each went to his storehouse, took as many sheaves as he could carry, and began walking quietly to his brother's house.  Suddenly, halfway between their homes, the two brothers saw each other in the moonlight.  In an instant, they both understood the other's heart. Embracing, they gave each other a kiss of brotherly love.

And it was on that spot, atop Mount Moriah, that God chose the site for His Holy Temple.

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