God's Mercy

Old Testament and New Testament

People often talk about how the God of the old and new testaments is different. The Old Testament is often associated with God's wrath while the New Testament is associated with Jesus and God's love. The most common examples of God's wrath people point out in the Old Testament are the flood, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the conquest of the promised land by the Israelites. Let's examine each of these.

The Flood

The flood wiped out nearly all of humanity and land animals. What we must realize is the period before the flood was worse than any evil we see now. Man's evil was great, and every thought of man was wicked(Gen. 6:5). The earth was also filled with violence(Gen. 6:13). God gave humanity 120 years to repent before the flood(Gen. 6:3). All of humanity refused to follow God except Noah and his family. One can only imagine the difficulty Noah and his family had before the flood.

Sodom and Gomorrah

God rained fire and burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, wiping out everyone and all vegetation(Gen. 19:24-25) except for Lot, Abraham's nephew, and his daughters. The sin of the cities is described as grievous(Gen. 18:20). God talks about going there Himself to see if the outcry of sin from the city is as great as it appeared(Gen. 18:21). Abraham asked God if the righteous in the cities would be wiped out along with the wicked. God said if He found 50 righteous people in Sodom he would spare the whole city. He later on said if as few as 10 righteous people were in the city, the entire city would be spared(Gen. 18:26-32).


After the exodus from Egypt God commanded the Israelites to kill everyone who didn't surrender in the promised land. The Israelites destroyed several towns and left no survivors(Deu. 2:34; 3:6), not even women and children. This would shock most everyone.

However, this was not arbitrary killing or killing just to be cruel. The original inhabitants in the promised land did wicked practices(Deu. 9:5). God warned the Israelites the inhabitants would teach them corrupt ways(Deu. 20:16-18). One example is the people there killed their children as sacrifices for their gods(Deu. 12:31). The people in the land engaged in practices any sane person would find appalling.

Perhaps the best way to explain the reasons for God's command is to consider the consequences when some of the Israelites refused to obey. The result is a long cycle. King Saul did not kill all the Amalkites and decades later there were enough of them to capture David's and his men's families from the town of Ziklag and burn the town down(1 Sam. 30:1-2). Later on a descendant of the Amalkites, Haman, tried to exterminate the Israelites(Est. 3:5-9). The Israelites also engaged in detestable practices(Judg. 2:1-3; 2 Kings 16:3-4), worshipped pagan gods(1 Kings 11:5) and started prostitution(1 Kings 14:24). God has insight we and the Israelites didn't and was able to foresee this.

Humanity's rebellion

Humans rebelled against God from the beginning. Adam and Eve could have had the eternal care-free life we all dream about. All they had to do was refrain from eating from the tree of knowledge(Gen. 2:17). They disobeyed(Gen. 3:1-6). Even though they disobeyed, God still promised redemption(Gen. 3:15).

One could get the impression the Israelites had a short memory because of their actions after all the miracles of getting out of slavery in Egypt. The Israelites still complained to Moses and Aaron about not having food and even thought dying in slavery in Egypt would have been preferable since they would have had food there(Exo. 16:2-3). Even though they were complaining to Aaron and Moses, they were also complaining against God(Exo. 16:8). Despite this, God gave them bread and quail(Exo. 16:13-14). They later on disrespected God and made a golden calf to worship and engaged in revelry after Moses was gone for a long time on Mount Sinai(Exo. 32). God even describes the Israelites as "stiff-necked"(Exo. 32:9).

These are only some of the countless instances of rebellion. These people were given freewill, but some refused to obey God. Evil has a negative effect on the righteous. Any person who created humanity as God did would have given up a long time ago on their creation.

God's mercy

God didn't change from being angry in the Old Testament to loving in the New Testament. The difference is the circumstances. God sent His only begotten son to take the punishment we deserve so we can have the opportunity for eternal life. Jesus paid the price for our sins and gave us the ultimate mercy. We live under God's grace in the new covenant.

We are told to be patient for God, but God has been far more patient with us. Those who say God is cruel for the flood, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the conquest would wonder how God could tolerate humanity's evil if they could view what happened in those times. God is slow to anger and steadfast in love(Exo. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Psa. 86:15; 103:8). God's anger is also momentary, but His favor lasts(Psa. 30:5).

Last updated 6/17/2011