OLD TESTAMENT SAMPLES
WHAT IF GOD WERE NOT LONGSUFFERING?
Another great trait ascribed to the God of Israel is that of being “longsuffering.” According to the Funk and Wagnall’s Dictionary, the word “longsuffering” means “Patiently enduring injuries.” The Scriptures insist that God is longsuffering with us humans, and that He is not an impulsive, vengeful God who punishes people severely as soon as they commit any infraction.
But what if God were not longsuffering? What if He were a being who was quick to punish and hasty at dispensing judgment?
An all-powerful Being who created all things, and who has given and sustains the life of all human beings has the right to expect total submission from men and to intervene as He sees fit, any time he sees fit. Paul asserts that we are the pots, He is the pot maker” (Romans 9:20). God creates, and He has the right to destroy what is faulty any time He wishes to (V. 21-22). If God, therefore, were not longsuffering we puny and exasperating humans would have been totally destroyed long time ago. No one would have escaped God’s wrath, as we all are deserving of immediate and total destruction. Yet He has rarely exercised that right and, when He has, He has done so on perfectly justified occasions, after awaiting repentance for prolonged periods of time.
From the beginning of creation, we see that God has always been long-suffering. Though both Adam and Eve sinned a great sin, God allowed them to live to an exceptionally old age, before they finally experienced the death penalty (Genesis 5). Cain, also, was not immediately sentenced to death, after killing his brother Abel, though he was punished for his sin.
In the book of Genesis, we read that thousands of years ago the world was totally destroyed because of its corruption. God’s action was no doubt drastic, but it was definitely not hasty. Before the decision was reached, we read that God waited until the whole earth “also was corrupt before God and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen 6:11). Verse twelve seems to indicate that, before God decided to wipe out life from the earth, He took a very close look to make sure degeneracy was truly all pervasive: “So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen. 6:12). It was only when evil reached its fullest that God rendered His final judgment: “The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13).
God’s longsuffering is also manifested in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some may find the total destruction of the two cities as being drastic, but do they realize how long God had waited before sentencing the two cities to total destruction? God could have intervened much sooner. After all, people do not become that degenerate overnight. Sodom and Gomorrah deteriorated over a long period of time. The longsuffering God waited patiently until the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah became “great,” and their sins became “very grievous” (Gen. 18:20).
Kind-hearted Abraham asked God if He would abandon His destructive plans if only ten righteous people were found in both cities (Genesis 18:32). Surprisingly, God agreed to spare both cities for the sake of only ten righteous inhabitants. As the story reveals, not even ten righteous inhabitants were found.
Clearly, much time went by for such a drastic level of deterioration to take place. In the mean time, God saw that violence, adultery, fornication, debauchery and incest abounded. Nevertheless, He waited until it was clearly time to cut out the malignant tumor. Before doing so, He most probably offered warnings through “righteous” Lot, who was a living witness of righteousness in the area for a long time. We also know that Melchizedek, “Priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14), was in the area, and it is not inconceivable that He might have warned them as well.
Another wonderful example of God’s longsuffering is found in God’s dealing with the Canaanites. Though it is true that God decreed their total destruction at the hands of the Israelites, it is also true that, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, God waited for a long time to intervene until there was no other solution to their debauchery. In Genesis 15: 16 God foretells to Abraham what would have happened to his descendents centuries later. He tells them that the Egyptians would have afflicted his progeny for “four hundred years,” and that, finally, they would have achieved deliverance (Genesis 15: 13). Why did Israel have to wait that long? Because, God explains, “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (V. 16). Clearly, God waited hundreds of years before the Amorites became degenerate enough to deserve total destruction.
With ancient Israel, God showed patience and compassion by waiting long for them to repent of their many sins and by warning His people consistently with His prophets, but always in vain: “Yet for many years You had patience with them, And testified against them by Your spirit in Your prophets” (Nehemiah 9:30).
God is longsuffering with us Christians as well. Christian converts often start with zeal and total commitment but, with time, the fervor wanes, and, often, their fight against sin becomes slack and defeat follows all too frequently. We Christians know better. We have tasted of the love of God and know what is right and what is wrong; yet we fail all too many times to maintain Godly standards. Does God wipe us out because “we know better”? Hardly. He waits and waits for sobriety to occur and even helps us along with discipline, if necessary, so as not to see us lose our salvation (Hebrews 12:6).
The Parable of the Fig Tree, in Luke 13, is also enlightening in this regard. A fig tree (The Christian) bears no fruit and the owner wants it chopped down, but the dresser of the vineyard convinces him to leave it for another year to “dig around it and fertilize it” (V. 8), hoping for fruit during the next season. If, after much work and effort, the tree continues to be fruitless, it will be cut down. In this parable we are again reassured of God’s mercy and longsuffering. He, the dresser of his spiritual vineyard, is willing to help the fruitless Christian with extra help. Only after having done all that there is to be done, and, only after it becomes clear that His efforts are hopeless, will He intervene and chop the tree down.
At the end of times, we also see God’s longsuffering in the fact that He even postpones the Great Tribulation so as to give His sinful people a chance to repent of their sins. Thus, in the context of Christ’s seeming distant return, the Apostle Peter emphasizes that “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
From the beginning of time, to the end of time, God shows Himself to be a longsuffering God. Though He is a great God of justice and power, He exercises justice with patience, always hoping that the unrighteous will finally repent. No doubt, God will ultimately intervene to eradicate evil, but only when there is no hope that any change is forthcoming.
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT CREATED LUCIFER?
The Holy Scriptures tell us that God created Lucifer, the archangel, as a glorious being who was “the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (Ezekiel 28:12). We are told that he was perfect until iniquity was found in him (V. 15). We are also told that he deteriorated dramatically and “became filled with violence” (V. 16). He, finally, convinced one third of the angels to rebel and follow him into a destructive path that led to his defeat and becoming the Devil (The adversary) (Rev. 12:7-9).
What if God had not created Lucifer? What if He had not risked creating such a magnificent being with the intrinsic potential of some day choosing rebellion?
If God had not created Lucifer, existence would have definitely taken a different path. There would have been no mutiny on his part; the angels would not have been deceived into rebelling; there would not have been a war in Heaven; Satan and his demons would not have been cast down to the earth; there would have been no Satan to tempt Adam and Eve and all the humans who have existed ever since. Human beings, most probably, would not have embraced sin and, consequently, death would not have been imposed on humanity as its consequence.
Yet, this appealing scenario assumes that God would have created man even if Satan had not rebelled. But what if the creation of humans was, in reality, a consequence of Satan’s rebellion? It is conceivable that if Satan and his angels had not rebelled humans might not have been created at all. Some in fact, have speculated that God created humans as mortal beings so as to be tested before being allowed eternal life and a place in God’s family so as to prevent another potential rebellion on the part of humans similar to the angelic rebellion.
On the other hand, if God had created humans even if Satan and his angels had not rebelled, no tempting spirits would have been around to tempt them. Given this scenario, how would humans have been tested before being given eternity? Evil spirits are the instruments that God allows to test humans during a whole lifetime so as to determine whether or not they deserve eternal life. Without Satan and demons there would have been no intensive testing and, thus, there would have been no preparation for eternal life.
Whatever might have happened, in spite of all of Satan’s attempts to undermine God’s intentions for humanity, we humans now have the opportunity to become all that Lucifer might have been and much more. Satan and his angels fell from grace and sunk into perdition. Humans, through Christ, can rise from perdition unto glory. Thus, the loss of the rebellious angels becomes our gain.
God’s great plan reveals His very special love for humanity. Humans hold a special place in God’s heart and He wants as many of them as possible with Him for eternity. It is no wonder therefore, that Satan and his demons have such intense hatred for humanity and long to destroy it. Human beings are the new children of God and, being God’s children, they will inherit all things: “The spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). Being fully aware of our glorious destiny, Satan and his fallen angels can now only watch with envy and anger.
Since Satan’s rebellion, it has been a long and arduous path for both God the Father and Christ. Undoubtedly, Lucifer’s rebellion caused much anguish for both of them. Yet God, in His great wisdom, was able to turn a disastrous situation into a great success story. He may have lost a glorious cherub and millions of angelic children, but He will gain billions of human children who will choose to honor Him faithfully forever.
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT DESTROYED SODOM AND GOMORRAH?
After His visit to Abraham and Sarah to assure them of a child, the Divine Messenger, and his angels “looked toward Sodom” (Genesis 18: 16). Abraham accompanied them to a certain point where God revealed to him His plan to annihilate both Sodom and Gomorrah. The reason for the coming destruction of the two cities was the fact that their sins and their evil deeds were “grievous” (V. 20).
Abraham attempted to convince God to spare the two cities, but their wickedness was so pervasive that not even ten righteous could be found in them. Thus, God “rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah” (Gen. 19: 24), and “He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground” (V. 25).
God’s intervention was, no doubt, radical. Because it was radical, some find it difficult to understand why a God of love would do something so seemingly cruel and destructive. After all, the entire population of the two cities was eradicated -- and that included the old, women and children. To skeptics, such an all-encompassing destruction appears unnecessary and capricious. But is that really the case?
What if God had simply punished the people of Sodom and Gomorrah in some other way, so as to get them to change? What if God had just destroyed one city and had allowed the other to behold the consequences of sin, and perhaps repent?
Let’s first understand the extent of the wickedness prevalent within the two cities. God describes the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah as being “very grievous” (Genesis 18: 20). One quickly understands how grievous their sins were, by reading the story very carefully. The Scriptures tell us that, when the angels went down to the city of Sodom, Lot invited them into his home. We read that, upon entering Lot’s house, “the men of the city…both old and young, all the people from every quarter surrounded the house” (19:4). They then demanded that Lot bring out his angelic guests so as to “know them carnally” (V. 5). Lot, instead, offered to them his two young virgin daughters, but the men of Sodom refused the offer and arrogantly tried to force the two angels out so as to abuse them sexually.
This picture reveals a level of depravity that is difficult to conceive. Let’s note that “all the people” of Sodom, “from every quarter,” that is, rich and poor, young and old, were lusting after the two foreigners and craved to rape them. Their lurid lust was also accompanied by both aggression and arrogance.
From this picture alone, we may safely infer that the Sodomites were a totally brutal bunch, without conscience and self-control. We can also safely infer that within those two cities violence abounded, as did other sinful acts such as lying, cheating, stealing, adultery and all kinds of sexual depravity.
Sodom and Gomorrah were the nest of a virulent, evil virus that was spreading quickly through the area and onto other cities. Evil has a way of spreading far and wide, when left unchecked. The two cities had to be dealt with, not only because their evil deeds could no longer be tolerated by the God of righteousness but to also prevent their debauchery from spreading far and wide.
The New Testament tells us that another reason why God overthrew the two cities was because He wanted their destruction to be “an example to those who afterwards would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2: 6). God’s intervention was meant to be so powerful, and so drastic, that all would hear and tremble. He wanted generations to come to know that His will is supreme, that He will not forebear evil forever and that, though He is longsuffering, the day will come when He will extirpate evil in very dramatic ways. Jude warns that “Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in similar manner, having given themselves over to sexual immorality, and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).
If God had not intervened, the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah would have continued, and it would have actually become much worse. As a result, the suffering that invariably accompanies evil would have multiplied; the influence of the two cities would have increased, and it would have affected a great many near and far; God would have been perceived as distant and uninvolved and, lastly, the great lesson of God’s ultimate punishment of evildoers would not have received the powerful emphasis that it received.
God’s intervention was, therefore, timely and appropriate. It shouts to all generations that God is a righteous God, that he will not endure depravity forever, and that He will finally punish evildoers by using, if necessary, very drastic means.