Why God seemed to 'over react' against those he said he loved in the Old Testament.
There once was a man who bread racing horses. Not the sort you see running short distances... no these were marathoners, who could race for weeks at a time. He owned two fields, a small one for the breeding of the horses and the young ones to graze on soft things, and another where the mature ones grazed on more satisfying fair. Now these fields were right next to each other and you could look from one to the other, there was even an open gate I think... but I am not sure. He loved his horses and would not have any horse that ran away when he called. Then something problematic happened... before he could even get his first breeding pair to bear foals they got sick... and such a sickness! This was the worst type for a marathoning horse, a sickness of the lungs and heart, injurious to the endurance. This was a great blow to the herd master because he loved nothing so much as to listen to a horse's strong breathing. You or I wouldn't notice anything but the sound grate on his nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard because he was so attuned to what it SHOULD sound like. Fortunately there was a medicine and helpful exercises that could ameliorate the effects of this sickness. The medicine was most peculiar, because it was made from the concentrated thoughts of the man. These exercises consisted mostly of running to exercise the lungs, despite the pain and the limited results. In order to contain this airborne sickness the man built a giant tent around the smaller field. This cut off the young horses from his hearing, but unfortunately it meant they couldn't see him or the larger field any more. Being not able to see what was out there they grew fearful of the prospect of leaving. Luckily only one treatment was necessary and it was instantly effective in improving the condition of the horse, there were two side effects however. The first was that it also interfered somewhat with a full recovery from the effects of the sickness. The disease was incurable (but not fatal) without the medicine, but improvement could be made through the exercises and the better health the horse managed to get themselves into the better their long-term abilities would be. Some even claim that the stress of the disease produced a more able horse in the long run than a horse that had never had it, but I am not sure about that. The second side effect was that the horse would become as tormented by the sound of bad breathing as the man himself was, because it was made from the distilled essence of appreciation for excellent marathoning ability that the man had. In any case no horse likes to get stuck with a needle. Initially the man decided that he would keep the horses that showed that they loved to run by doing so in keeping his directions. The others would be put in a stable the man was building for the purpose, where the man would never go and which had a wall of solid brick, and a metal roof. Some say the man didn't put any air conditioning in there and it gets awful hot... I am not so sure, but I know that having actually seen the largest field and the man when they are taken out to be moved, the horses who end up in the stable are unhappy, knowing what they are missing out on. The horses in the smaller field missed their companions and grew afraid because they couldn't see the other field. Also, some thought that the man was sending the horses he was taking from the field to the glue factory. But this was not the case. Some called him cruel because he would remove the sickest horses or the ones who didn't exercise, earlier than others, to show the importance of the exercise and of running in general. But all of them get moved out of the smaller field (the one with the tent over it) eventually. Later, the man would get some headsets that he could put on the horses who would accept them, and used that as the marker for who would get the shot when they left the smaller field and then go to the larger field (instead of not getting the shot and going to the barn). Yet sooner or later all the horses would get taken out of the barn. Some of horses claimed that this was unfair, but I don't see why they thought that since the man was going to remove all the horses from the smaller field sooner or later and the methods he used to do so were designed to re-enforce what he had told them to do.
Numbers 11:1-3 (also the rest of the chapter and chapter 10)
One point that pagans bring up when talking about Christianity is that they can't accept a God who claims to be loving and yet kills his followers for seemingly minor offenses. Usually talking about events between Leviticus and Joshua, which cover the time between Egypt and the establishment of Israel. Now this is just something I have heard second hand so I am not ENTIRELY sure of which specific things they are referring to, but I can take two guesses, either or both of which could be right. The first is his treatment of the Israelites, and the second his treatment of the other nations (including through things he told the Israelites to do). The story above is an allegory for God's treatment of the Israelites and to a lesser extent of the nations. Except for 3 people (including Jesus) all are doomed by the curse of death. Whether it comes sooner or later can be seen as merely a teaching example to others. Like many punishments, the idea is not necessarily to reform the person in question (a good proportion of murderers for example would in my limited knowledge be unlikely to kill again) but rather to improve the behavior of others. Now there is a certain book, part of a series, in the style of 'The Chronicles of Narnia' that I feel touches on this issue pretty well. (When I say in the style of I mean in that you have teens and children traveling to a fantasy realm where the conflicts between God and Satan are more physically visible.) I will tell you the name of the book later because it is somewhat misleading in this context. In any case, one of the teens from earth is given a holy sword near the beginning of the book, and it told when he sees a circle of yellow he must plunge the sword into it. The meaning of this does not become clear until the moment he must do it. Now this story actually centers in large part around the God appointed King of the land. The King is told at one point to kill this evil witch who has been opposing him and even managed to stab him with a dagger of ice that caused him constant pain and could not be removed until months or years later he got the chance to fully defy her by not giving in even after she kidnapped his wife and son. Now the witch is NOT a symbol of any human per se she is a symbol of evil. So the King makes it to her castle and he fights her, but when it comes to the final point, she falls to her knees and begs for mercy, or just looks pitiful (I can't remember exactly). The castle is falling to pieces around them because the witch's power is broken. Anyway, he hesitates for like... 2 seconds or less... long enough that a giant crack opens under the witch and she falls into it. A huge burst of flame erupts out of the crack and our heroes (including the King) think they MIGHT see something fly up out of it... Well the penalty for this failure was stated to be death a priori: 'Kill her or you will die', maybe even 'Kill her or she will kill you'. So years pass, and a dragon is terrorizing the land. And the King realizes that the dragon is the witchn transformed, and that she will kill him. The central point is that at one point one of the children from mundane earth asks him why he does not beg God's (Gaal's) forgiveness so that he may avoid his death in God's mercy. His reply is something along the lines of "He has already forgiven me, but that doesn't change the fact that I will die." So he goes out with his wife and our earthly heroes to hunt the dragon. He goes because it is his fate and also it is his job as leader to defend his people. The earth kids are just along to provide company since dragon fighting is a rather specialized branch of combat and they aren't even really fighters in even the ordinary sense. And he talks to his wife away from the others, and they see her weeping for the loss of her husband. Now the dragons in this world are not VERY agile, tend to fight on the ground (because their bellies are their most vulnerable part, and they are so stiff of neck that they fight equally much with crushing foot stomps and powerful tail lashes. So it works out that the dragon stomps the king, mortally wounding him. It turns out that the yellow circle is on the belly of the dragon, and is only exposed when the dragon rears back to stomp down with both its front feet on a fallen foe. So after a few last minutes with his wife the King dies... Now is the time I have to explain about the title of the book, it is "The Iron Scepter". This is not the scepter of God, and the fact that it is iron is supposed to symbolize the unbreakable bond between God and the King he appointed... well totally unbreakable on God's end and the King should strive to make it unbreakable on his end. It represents the King's duties and responsibilities, not the absoluteness of the Kings rule per se. In other words it isn't an instrument of Justice or punishment, but a symbol of steadfastness. It is physically impossible for anyone to TAKE it from him. In jest the King's friends have snatched the King's favorite dish out of his fingers on occasion, but when they wrestled (without any blasphemy) in play for the Scepter he ALWAYS won. Afterwards the teens from earth are told to get into the King's funeral barge. They 'cross over Jordan' into the afterlife, like the scene at the end of "The Silver Chair" (for those of you familiar with that). One of the children is told to throw the scepter as far as they can away... and it comes flying back... but GOLD, I think the king "wakes up" to his eternal life to catch it and then goes on to enter into his reward.
Death is something we are programmed to fear. It is not something actually all that fearsome. Besides, half the point of the law was that you COULDN'T keep it, and WOULD run afoul of it. It emphasized his righteousness so we would understand it, and love the free gift of Salvation (which it always was, before during and after the days when the Law was the main going thing). Punishment neither negates forgiveness nor eternal reward. As I alluded to earlier a look at almost any earthly legal system will tell you that altering the behavior of the criminal is NOT the only purpose, and in the case of the death penalty is patently ridiculous. That it should fall earlier for some is and for 'minor' things could be argued to be his way of demonstrating the point more clearly. So the punishments are not, in many cases, so harsh as they might seem... Also, I wonder (but do not know) how many of these offenses are considered 'minor' because they were offenses against the core of the relationship with God (not respecting the tabernacle etc) rather than against their fellow men... "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." is the FIRST commandment... "Love your neighbor as yourself" is 'only' second... The second is much more accepted across society than the first (almost everyone agrees about "The Golden Rule"), thus why there might be confusion about what is minor vs. major even in the sense that such a comparison of sins is even valid. So the infractions would be much more serious than they might seem to an outsider...
To believers: So remember that actions have consequences and take that into account when judging your path and also that God loves you whether or not he 'lets you off the hook' (which he HAS been known to do!).
To unbelievers: Be not afraid of God, he is not a vengeful or as rules oriented in this life as you may have heard... but final judgment is final judgment. Choose him now and LIVE.=