Many times in talks with non-Christians, I’ve been posed the following question,
“If God’s a God of love, then…..”
The query ends with questions like
1. Why do kids die of cancer?
2. Why is there child abuse?
3. Why did my parents divorce?
And just recently,
Why did God order a whole generation including CHILDREN to be slaughtered in the Old Testament and why does He seem to change from a God of vengeance and judgment in the Old to a God of mercy and grace in the New Testament?
And that’s the question I intend to address in this post.
According to the first five books of the Bible, after God called the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and to migrate to the Promised Land, He ordered His people to annihilate all of the Canaanite peoples occupying the land which God had set aside for His people. Deuteronomy 7:2 says,
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.[a] Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.”
Note the terms God utilizes to express His plain orders:
defeat, destroy totally, no treaties, no mercy.
So, where’s the God of the New Testament represented in this command. Where’s the God who stooped to write in the ground to save an adulteress’ life? Where’s the God of the New Testament who rubs shoulders with the down cast and the down and outs? Where’s the God of the New Testament who promised a dying criminal,
‘Today you will be with me in Paradise?’
How could this God of Deuteronomy be the God of the Gospels who attracted children in droves? It does seem harsh for God to order what appears to be genocide of entire people groups, including children and babies. But can it be explained?
First, can we find proof of God’s love for all peoples in the Old Testament? Absolutely? Ezekiel 33:11 says,
“As I live says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”
Do you see that? This verse spoken by the Prophet Ezekiel sounds very much like what the Apostle Peter wrote in II Peter 3:9,
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
God doesn’t rejoice when an atheist tumbles into the fires of hell. He desires a personal relationship with every one of His highest creation, but there is eternal punishment for those who reject His perfect gift of Jesus Christ.
In Genesis Chapter 18 we see another example of God’s grace, mercy and longsuffering. God warned Abraham of His pending judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham stands in the gap and lobbies for the people of these wicked cities. Beginning in Genesis 18:23 we find,
23Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not sparee the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
29Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
30Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
32Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
Maybe Abraham believed his nephew Lot and family would be four of the ten, leaving only six more godly people to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah. Surely there’d be six….
In this encounter with God and Abraham, we see God dispensing mercy, not taking pleasure in the death of the wicked. I believe the same happens today. I believe God’s heart grieves when people refuse Christ. In Revelation Chapter 3, we see Jesus standing at a door knocking. He promises to come in and fellowship with all who open the door. If you haven’t yet decided to trust Christ, He’s once again offering another opportunity.
Why? Because He’s a God of grace and mercy.
Stay tuned for Part II “What About the Genocide?”