Imposed Penalty or Natural Consequence? – Part 5

In Penalty-Consequence by cwfeldmann

This is the 5th article that asks the question, “Does God punish sin or does sin do its own punishing?” In other words, are all of the consequences of sin inherent or does God, for reasons of justice, need to inflict additional punishment?

I’m sure that some are thinking at this point, “But the Bible plainly says in some places that God punishes!” Here is a sampling:

“But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you. If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit. If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.” (Leviticus 26:14-22)

Those are hard and direct words. Should we take them just as they read? Should we take the position that Moses or someone else falsified these words of God into the record? Is there any other way of understanding difficult passages like this?
What about this verse?

“Just as the LORD has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the LORD will find pleasure in destroying you. You will be torn from the land you are about to enter and occupy.” (Deuteronomy 28:63)

Once again, do we take these words “just as they read”? Does God really take delight in destroying his rebellious children?

Words of punishment from God are even in the 10 commandments:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6)

In fact the words, “I will punish” are directly attributed to God 29 times in the Old Testament (NIV version).

With so much evidence, how could someone write these words?

We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death.” Letter 96, 1896

Next time, I will suggest some possible ways of understanding these verses.