I am currently studying Numbers and was wondering if you could take time to explain how the God of the old testament who could be so wrath filled and vengeful is the same loving Father of today. In reading Numbers it takes me back to my old "Catholicism" teaching of the "vengeful" God waiting for me to mess up so he could punish me. I am just having a hard time putting it all in perspective.
God has ALWAYS been love, but He is estimated according to the perspective of the those who view Him. He cannot tolerate sin simply because it is against Him and His goodness. His wrath is not bad, it is His reaction to evil.
For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15
Understand this. The perspective of those without God views the reality of Christ to be foolishness. Christ is the exact representation of all that God is in the visible world. Even the loving Father we know through Christ is STILL viewed as wrath filled and vengeful by the empty man. And even we ourselves who are in Christ carry a "fragrance" of death to those without God.
The God who is spoken of in the book of Numbers is the very same God that has always been, but He cannot be seen any other way by those UNDER LAW. Those under law are under the curse. But Christ came to redeem us from the curse. To US He is love, but to those without Him He is still this horrible monster. Remember, it is not that God is a monster, but that He is viewed as a monster by those filled with hate and envy.
Many religious-minded folks TALK as if God is love when what they mean is that they think He has become "lenient" because of Christ.
We preach the GOOD NEWS which declares that God does not hold sin against the world because of Christ ... but until a person has his/her eyes opened he/she will still maintain that God can only view us the way WE view us which is according to the good vs. bad viewpoint. But in Romans, Paul presented that as a dead-end street because NONE is righteous that way!
The wrath of God simply declares what it is that sin brings: DEATH. His vengeance is NOT like the vengeance of man which attempts to get even. His vengeance is simply that He can not and therefore, will not let sin go unpunished. His vengeance fell upon Himself in Christ. Those who still think they can somehow pay this debt will project their false perspective on God.