I’m always amazed at the timing of certain things. Based on some comments from one of my recent posts, I thought it curious that I was going to be writing about this today anyway. But now, it’s probably going to really stick in someone’s craw.
While listening to some of the common types of feedback from skeptics, I often hear them deride the idea of a good and just God based on readings from the Old Testament. As our insipid, er, intrepid commenter recently alluded to, God seems to have seen fit to wipe out entire nations during Old Testament times.
At first blush, this seems to completely contradict the idea of a good, loving, compassionate God. But, when you look deeper, that is not necessarily the case. Actually, when you read the entire Bible and read it to discern what it actually is teaching rather than spending time trying to distort what it teaches, you come across things like:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
The fact is, when one understands the concept of holiness and understands that God is Holy and cannot even be in the presence of sin, things begin to clear up here a bit. You see, while sin cannot exist in the presence of God, He realizes that we have all sinned (Rom 3:23). Because He desires a relationship with us, this becomes a bit of an issue.
Fortunately for us, God has a solution to this problem. The cross!
But, what about those peoples and nations that were completely against God? You see, God is omniscient. There is more to omniscience than just knowing what is, what was and what will be. There is also something that some philosophers refer to as “middle knowledge.” Personally, I like the other term some of them use, “hypothetical knowledge.” I think the latter is a bit more descriptive.
In other words, God knows all the “what if’s?” that there are. He knows who will accept Him and who will not. He also knows who would have accepted Him under certain circumstances and who simply would never accept Him no matter what.
Knowing this, God arranges things so that certain people are born at times and in places as to work things out for His ultimate plan. This includes those nations that He had destroyed in the Old Testament.
I find it humorous, almost, that so many skeptics point to this as though it were some major moral failure on God’s part, but they never bother to actually look into the history of the nations being destroyed. They skip right over the human sacrifices, burning children and babies alive in honor of Baal or Asherah or Molech or any of the other gods they worshipped.
These are the same people who would agree that Adolph Hitler and his lackies needed and deserved to be utterly destroyed. Now, before you start with the comparisons of “Well, that was only the leaders, not every man, woman and child…” let me finish the thought.
Yes, there was that difference. No analogy is perfect, after all. But when you read the scripture without reading it just to prove it wrong and think you’re clever, you’ll notice that God waited patiently until “their iniquity was full.” In other words, He waited until everyone who would accept Him from that nation had done so. He waited and gave them many, many chances to repent (read about Ninevah in the book of Jonah) before He destroyed them.
After enough time and after enough chances, He finally declared that they were beyond redemption and needed to be destroyed. But, that is the only part the skeptics look at. The end result. The final destruction. They conveniently ignore everything that those nations did to bring themselves to that fate.
They often describe God as “capricious” or “unjust” and even “evil.” Little do they know that it is actually due to the fact that God is just that this was ever necessary. What they don’t seem to connect with is the fact that, because our sin separates us from a perfect, sinless, Holy God…we all deserve the same fate! And it is out of love and compassion that He sent His son to redeem us (John 3:16).
I’d love to get into the whole concept of what death is according to biblical teaching, but that will be a topic for another post.
Until then, enjoy the grace of God and His salvation through Christ and be very glad that He is not the capricious, evil, vindictive, violent (a topic for yet another post), unjust, arbitrary, inconsistent God that the skeptics would like to paint Him as.
Grace, love and peace.