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God's Mercy Seen in His Punishment

In Genesis Chapter 3 we read about man's fall.  Adam's sin caused mankind to be exiled from the paradise of joy.  Even during the punishment however we see God's mercy and His compassionate hand start to heal us.

We see that God punishes Adam by exiling him from the paradise of joy.  This punishment however is out of God's mercy and love for us "lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." (Gen 3:22)  God did not want man to live forever in sin, away from Him.

Even the punishment of death we see His mercy.  St. Gregory the Theologian says "Yet here too He provides a benefit--namely death, which cuts off sin, so that evil may not be everlasting. Thus His punishment is changed into mercy."

So too are our personal experiences with God.  Whenever God punishes us, He does it with mercy and utmost love.  He might bring temporary pain so that we may turn to Him for help.  And when He delivers us, the harsh experience becomes a solid foundation for faith which we can build a lasting relationship with Him.  In this case the pain is without a doubt for our benefit.  He prunes us that we may bear more fruit (John 15:2)  Job discovered this fact when he said "He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole." (Job 5:18)  In the RSV translation it reads "he smites, but his hands heal."

In Genesis, even when God was smiting Adam with punishment, He had already started the healing with his plan for our salvation.  Even in the punishment itself handed to Adam we see a promise for the healing through the promise of salvation and that Eve's Seed, Christ, will bruise the serpent's head.  Also when Adam's sin put a barrier between mankind and God, God was incarnated, became man, and gave us His body and blood in order to unite with Him again.  He smites, but His hands heal.

God's healing does not depend on man's goodness which could change from one person to another, or change from one moment to another.  It depends on God's unchanging faithfulness and love for mankind.  Even with Cain, who was the first murderer, we see God's mercy in His punishment.  God handed Cain his punishment "A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth" (Genesis 4:12).  However when he told Him "My punishment is greater than I can bear!...it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me" (Genesis 4:13,14) God immediatly protected him saying "whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold" (Gen 4:15).  "He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole."

Therefore, we have to trust God completely that He does everything in love, even His punishment.  Our love to God should not be shaken even if God's hand was heavy on us.  We should expect the healing to come very soon.  We should say with King David "...let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great" (I Chronicles 21:13)

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