Yesterday’s post covered why we are supposed to love our enemies and let God invoke punishment. In fact, the post talked about how we can initiate the process of our enemies getting punished by God. This raises numerous questions. There are a lot of ways to go from this point and a lot of ground to cover. We will get to all the implications. For today, let’s focus on this one: How does God initiate punishment?
How can God punish (move against someone) without it being unjust? How does God make sure He is completely Righteous ALL the time?
God punishes justly by giving a good or neutral value and getting a bad value in return. This allows God to settle the accounts through justice by “punishing” the unjust. There are numerous examples. Let’s look at one: Moses and Pharaoh.
The process began when God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people worship Him in the wilderness (Exodus 5:1). Notice, there is NOTHING wrong with this request. God has NOT taken a value away from Pharaoh.
Today, there are fundamentalists who believe it is a sin to CONSIDER another perspective of God and/or the Bible. This is a defensive (almost cultish) mentality. The real problem is these people are focused on how things look. They are concerned with appearances…and so were the Pharisees. These people are not being asked to believe something that is wrong or act on something that is wrong. There is nothing wrong with considering another possible interpretation of the Bible and then making a decision not to believe it or act on it.
Likewise, there is nothing wrong with Pharaoh being asked to consider a request and then deciding to not believe it or act on it. Pharaoh denied Moses’ request. So far there have been no violations of justice on either side of the issue. However, Exodus 5:4-9 says Pharaoh then made work harder for the Israelites. Pharaoh is obsessed with how things look. Justice is now against Pharaoh and for God.
Moses is told to go to Pharaoh again (Exodus 6:11). When Moses disagrees, God lets Aaron speak to Pharaoh. Then God tells Moses His plan (Exodus 7:1-5).
God says He will harden Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh will not listen. This does not mean God “sovereignly” makes Pharaoh do it against his will. This means God knows Pharaoh. He can predict what Pharaoh will do because He knows Pharaoh thinks he is on the right side of justice. This is a key point.
God knows Pharaoh thinks that he has equaled out justice. Pharaoh considered the request as an offense. Pharaoh first thought he was on the right side of justice (is owed) then believes justice has no bearing because everything is equal. However, God knows justice is against Pharaoh.
Since justice is against Pharaoh, God can now JUSTLY take a value away from Pharaoh in order to equal out justice. Once God does this, everything will be equal. However, God believes this act will cause Pharaoh to think he is owed even more according to justice and allow him to take even more…which then allows God to invoke a greater punishment…which causes Pharaoh to think he is owed even more. Understanding justice leads to knowing the WHY behind Pharaoh’s actions and God’s plan.
The rest of the story is simply a ramping up of justice against Pharaoh. In fact, Pharaoh makes it worse by agreeing several times to let the Israelites go and then backing out each time. Every time Pharaoh backed out of a deal it allowed God to justly repay with even more damaging plagues (frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness) leading eventually to the first-born being killed during Passover.