This is not the picture we typically want to imagine when we think about God. Instead, our thoughts steer more toward love, patience, grace, and mercy. We want a kind and forgiving god, and our desire renders a god much less than Yahweh. However, if we are to truly accept God, we must embrace all of Him.

Israel had reduced God to a mere agent of blessing and protection. They built a lavished lifestyle around this idol they had created and neglected their responsibilities to God and their fellow Israelites. The Israelites were lazy, selfish, and had become self-indulgent. Even their worship was for nothing more than pretense and show. Therefore, for Israel’s rebellion and hypocrisy, God pronounced judgment on them (Amos 5:21-23).

We want to believe that because God is love, everyone will be forgiven in the end. We minimize the seriousness of sin and, by doing so, we reduce the necessity (and the effect) of the cross. We are also guilty of measuring one sin against other sins and calculating their degrees of wickedness. However, as Jerry Bridges describes in The Discipline of Grace, sin is rebellion against God, despising God’s word, and living in defiance of his authority (NavPress 2006, 26-27). God’s position of sin remains the same regardless of which sin was committed because the measuring stick is not the effects of the sin. Murdering someone versus lying to them is not any worse just because the former resulted in one’s death. Bridges writes, “the seriousness of sin is not simply measured by its consequences but by the authority of the one who gives the command” (Ibid.). Instead, murder and lying are equally wicked because the One who gave a command regarding the former is the same One who gave a command regarding the latter, and He is holy. It is God’s holiness that contrasts with sin and determines its wickedness.

This verse puts many of us in a conundrum. We do not wish to believe that God has a limit to His goodness. We cannot imagine God being determined to bring disaster upon anyone. However, His goodness extends to the cross and no further. Beyond the cross lies God’s judgment and wrath. To seek His goodness, we must turn to the cross of Jesus; in seeking the cross, one is rewarded with God’s grace.