O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoing. (Psalm 99:8)
What is the difference between a paradox and a contradiction? A true contradiction is when two things can’t be reconciled. They say opposite things and cannot both be true at the same time. Unless the traffic light was broken, it cannot be both green and red at the same time. No matter how the two drivers involved in the accident argue, one of them is right and the other is wrong. They can’t both be right. A paradox on the other hand, is when two things appear to be contradictory but actually there is some underlying solution that resolves the contradiction. Often we can’t see the solution but we know there must be one. Once a paradox is investigated it no longer seems absurd and what once seemed contradictory turns out to be reasonable and true. This verse contains a paradox. It says that God was a forgiving God. God forgave Israel their sins. At the same time, this verse says that God avenged their wrongdoing! Which one is it? They can’t both be true at the same time – can they? What’s the solution? This isn’t just a fun puzzle, it deeply affects us. When you die you will face a God who either forgives all your sin, or is an Avenger of your wrongdoing. It is no solution to choose to believe He is only one of those things. If He was only a forgiving God He wouldn’t be able to judge the world. Sin and evil would go unpunished. There would be no such thing as justice ever! If He is only an Avenger of wrongdoing, we are all in trouble. So which is it? The New Testament is all about the solution. It is Jesus Christ. The truth is, God does Avenge sin. He hates evil. God is a God of justice and will by no means clear the guilty. Every sin that has ever been committed will be punished. God will ensure there is no wickedness left anywhere. But this means we are in big trouble. At the same time, the unimaginable joy is that He is also a forgiving God. He passes over sin. He completely absolves guilty people like you and me. How can He do both? On the cross. When Jesus Christ died, God avenged all the wrongdoing of all His people. His anger and justice fell on Jesus. At the same time God now forgives all those who trust in Jesus as their sin-bearing Substitute. Jesus Christ is the solution to all the paradoxes in the Old Testament. PRAY and ask God that as you look at the cross you would see the perfection of God. Righteous and just in avenging wrongdoing and magnificent in mercy and forgiveness. Because He is an Avenger, ask Him to help you to fear and because He forgives, ask Him to help you rejoice!