This side of the cross

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Amos 3:6 says that God brings calamity, evil, destruction (depending on the translation) & Amos 3:2 says God punishes people for their iniquities, sin, transgression, (depending on the translation). Does God still punish this side of the cross? Does God cause calamity still?

A friend asked me this last week and I thought I would share it here on my blog. What I have learned after reading this question, and then exploring an answer I will share below, but it is important to remember, ‘never read a Bible verse’. I have heard Greg Koukl say that more times than I can count. Always read what is above, and what is below the verse. Consider the context, and who the passage is written to.

Amos and Hosea are two prophets in the Old Testament who focus on the Northern Kingdom. Both begin their days during the reign of Jeroboam II, 750’s B.C. Amos and his prophesies are very short lived, while Hosea lasted until just before the fall of the Northern Kingdom.

Amos was from the south, but his message was for the Northern Kingdom. He was a shepherd by trade with no credentials to speak of. He had a burning message to give to the North about their comfortable position of power and prosperity. Despite their wealth, they were ignoring the needs of the poor, the widows, the disadvantaged. Multiple commentaries speak to the parallels between that time under the reign of Jeroboam II, our own prosperity and position as a world leader in technology, wealth, and health. He was confident in his message and he knew it was his mission (Amos 7:14-15) to prophesy about a warning to the kingdom of Israel. 1

During this time, Israel was guilty of what our current New Age world view stream of thought does, specifically syncretism. It means combining two or more religions. Jeroboam II ruled for 41 years as the 14th king of ancient Israel. His reign brought a very prosperous time for Israel, not since Solomon had Israel enjoyed such comforts, wealth, and power.

Unfortunately, the people in the North ignore the warnings of these two prophets and within a generation, (40 years), the Northern Kingdom is absorbed by the Assyrian empire.

Quest Bible Study notes explain that He permitted Israel to suffer the consequence of its own evil actions. The Northern Kingdom was absorbed into a pagan world and never returned as Judah in the south did 150 years later. The greed, corruption, self-centered behavior, and syncretism secured their place. Their identity as a nation was gone forever. 2 During this time there was a great earthquake (Amos 1:1) that researchers estimate up to a 7.8, equivalent to what Nepal just experienced the other day.

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown Commentary says, “I will walk with you only to punish you; as a lion walks with his prey.” 3 They also explained when you have a corrupt nation, there God’s instruments of punishment are sure also to be. For example, when you have a crack in a foundation of a house, depending on the severity, you may have to build a new foundation. That means tearing out the old with your shovel, crowbar, sledgehammer, or jackhammer if you have one. Unfortunately for the North, it was not in God’s plan to replace, only remove.

The Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary reads put it this way, “The distinguishing favors of God to us, if they do not restrain from sin, shall not exempt from punishment.” 4 I thought of it this way. Can your favorite student get away with cheating on a test if caught? Of course not. Neither can a favored nation continue with immorality, idolatry, and shedding the blood of innocents without punishment. Yes, I am talking about America.

Does God still bring calamity after the cross? We live in a fallen world and the consequences of that initial fall surround us every day. Does someone wants to look at it as God does not punish after the cross, but we are just suffering the outcomes of the original sin? What loving father does not correct? Does not punish for poor behavior?

Another source I read commented on understanding the difference between the punishment and consequence of sin. If a student cheats on a test and is caught, their punishment may be that they receive an F on the test. The obvious consequence is their good character, (assuming they had one) is now in question. Their teacher, peers, and maybe their parents will question their truthfulness in the future. We still have to deal with the consequence of our own sins.

So many Christians are uncomfortable when we go beyond the ‘love’ characteristic of God. How can a loving God allow so much pain and suffering in this world? So instead of answering the tough questions about God’s character, they may claim He does not punish any more, but we are just still just experiencing the shock waves from the fall. Christians are quick to speak of and point out his mercy, goodness, grace, but justice, as an attribute of God often takes the back seat in conversations. Of course we are still experiencing the fall, but think of it this way. If a man murdered someone prior to the cross, would he experience punishment and consequence, but after the cross only consequence? Maybe the answer depends on his repentance, his heart.

Unrepentant sin leads to punishment. I think Scripture is pretty clear on that. New Testament, Old Testament, before the cross, after the cross. We are not God’s pets. It is not His obligation to make us happy. Our purpose in life is not happiness, but knowledge of God, and that is what will bring true and everlasting fulfillment. We may experience horrible and painful losses in life that make absolutely no sense with the purpose of producing happiness in life, yet they may not be pointless in terms of communing with God. We are not in a position to know how those catastrophic events in our lives move us toward God, but we can rest assured that a Godly response will bring us closer to Him. 5

God is not so interested in how we fail, but rather how we respond to that failure. We have all experienced consequence’s for our failures, and if you think back and ponder some of them for a few minutes, you will begin to see that some of your greatest lessons in life that you learned were due to your failures. William Lane Craig put it this way, “…God’s will for our lives can include failure. It other words, God’s will may be that you fail, and He may lead you into failure! For there are things that God has to teach you through failure that He could never teach you through success.” 6

Sources:

1. Zondervan. Quest Bible Study Notes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print.
2. Ibid.
3. Jamieson, Robert., Fausset A.R., Brown, David. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible., J.B. Lippincott & Company; Eerdmans, 2011. Print.
4. Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003. Print.
5. Craig, William L. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
6. Ibid.

 

 

Creative Commons License
This side of the cross by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

Murder of innocents

Reading Time: 8 minutes

1. Is there ever a time that it is ok to kill an innocent child?

2. What are your thoughts on a leader, (say Trump), who sets out an assortment of laws and then exempts himself from them? Is that person moral? What of their personal character?

3. Assuming you have read through my weakly veiled attempt at misdirection, by what line of reasoning is God himself exempt from following the rules he laid out; specifically the ones on not murdering people?

A young man by the name of Andrew posted those above questions on Facebook a few months ago. I believe he once attended our church,  but I am not sure. Like so many questions I come across, I copy and paste and save them for later, and believe me, if you just visit a few atheist web sites, you will will have plenty of material to choose from. Even if you are not looking for tough questions, you may soon come across some. American Atheists launched the first atheist T.V. channel just last week. It will have interviews, speeches, educational programs, comedians, talk shows, etc.

I enjoy looking for difficult questions and then researching the answers. It builds and sharpens my faith, and it may be a small help to those who also don’t have answers to some of the tough questions thrown at our Christian world view. I know for some Christians it makes them uncomfortable, but we are not here to be comfortable, and it is better our youth tackle tough questions within the body of Christ, than out in the world where they have no support. So back to Andrew’s questions. Let’s look at a few Bible passages and see what they imply about God’s character.

1 Samuel 15:2-3
Joshua 6:21
Joshua 8:25-26
Deuteronomy 7:1-2

Ouch! Attack the Amalekites and destroy everything, including the men, women, children and infants. Then dedicate a city to the Lord by killing men, women, young and old. Slaughter all the people of Ai, said to be twelve thousand men and women. Put to death the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, etc. Make no treaty and show no mercy.

Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists today, wrote a New York Times bestseller, The God Delusion. Dawkins said, “The God of the Old Testament is arguable the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.1

The easy answer is, if God is truly the Creator of all, He has every right to give and take life as He sees fit. The problem is when you have someone ask questions like those above, they may not believe in a Supreme Being. Or if they do believe, they then don’t want anything to do with a God who will make laws for us, but not apply them to Himself.

There is no doubt that God called the Israelites to kill men, women, and children, but before I go any further I want to look at the people of Canaan, and human nature.

One person used the word, “licentious” to describe the inhabitants of Canaan. Licentious means, “sexually immoral: pursuing desires aggressively and selfishly, unchecked by morality, especially in sexual matters.”

The Bible said the Canaanites practiced abominable customs and did detestable things. (Leviticus 18:30, Deuteronomy 18:9-11) That included casting spells, practicing sorcery and witchcraft, consulting with the dead, and sacrificing their own sons and daughters in fire. In Deuteronomy 12:31, Moses points out that they burn their own sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

You could call the Canaanites many things, but innocent is not a word you could use. They were so decadent, the Bible said even the land was defiled and vomited out its inhabitants. Leviticus 18:25

James Williams, former president of Probe Ministries, listed out Leviticus chapter 18 and the behavior of the Canaanites like this, “First on the list of forbidden practices is incest, sexual intercourse with blood relatives (v. 6) and in-laws: your father and mother (v.7,8), your sister (v. 9), your daughter (v. 10), your niece (v. 11), your aunt (v.12, 13), your uncle (v.15), your sister-in-law (v.16), any woman or her children (17), polygamy (two sisters-v.18), adultery (your neighbor’s wife-v. 20), ritual child sacrifice (v.21), homosexuality, sodomy (v.22), bestiality (animals-v. 23). 2

Two of the Canaanites’ ancient temples have been excavated in northern Syria along with their libraries, producing thousands of clay tablets, so the sources of the Canaanites culture and their behavior is not just Bible based. We have plenty of sources outside of the Old and New Testament that describe in detail the kind of civilization we would encounter within the Canaanite society. 3

EGDid they deserve punishment? Do we deserve punishment? Do we have laws for a reason, and if they are not obeyed should there be a consequence? If you knew there was no consequence for speeding, would you speed? If we knew there was not a consequence for driving through a red light when no one was around, would you still wait? If we knew there would be no consequence taking your grocery cart packed with groceries out of the store and driving home without paying, would you?

Just last night at the adult Bible study, Brenda shared a conversation she had with someone which was about politics. The women during the discussion said to Brenda, “We can’t legislate morality.” Not the first time I have heard that, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it is a ridiculous statement. We legislate morality all the time. You can’t murder, rape, abuse children, or cheat on your taxes without a legislated consequence. Our society is attempting to change the behavior of individuals. After you point out that we do legislate morality/behavior, the question to ask is ‘whose’ morality are we legislating? To make my point clear, let me share this story with you.

Steven Pinker wrote in his book The Blank Slate, “As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 A.M. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order.4

It is evident that we need laws, and without them our society, and any society would fall into chaos. Anyone who thinks ‘man’ would rise to the occasion and live in peace is a fool. We would, in a matter of years, become like the Canaanites. Deprived of any moral compass, our behavior would be completely self-centered and self-serving. Man would do what is right in his own eyes and serve his own purpose.

If we did evolve from primates, then our species is nothing special. We have simply evolved from a blind process and have no inherent value or morality because animals are not moral agents. So if there is no God, the Israelites just legislated their right to slaughter. No harm, no foul. Just about every civilization throughout history swept away those who were in the way of their expansion. Without God to ground moral behavior, then what is right is determined by the culture.

But that is not what the real issue is. The real issue is the atheists’ view of our God, and how we as Christians can view Him as loving when He has directed the slaughter of innocents. Sure, maybe the Canaanites were depraved, but what of the children?

First, an argument could be made that the children who were killed may not have come to salvation at the end of their adult life. One author put it this way, “God may have provided for the salvation for those infants who would not have otherwise attained salvation if they had lived into adulthood. We must remember that the Canaanites were a barbarous and evil culture. If those infants and children had lived into adulthood, it is very likely they would have turned into something similar to their parents and been condemned to hell after they died.Of course, running away with that logic, we should just kill all our own children prior to the age of accountability. Nevertheless, many believe that infants and young children are ushered into the kingdom of heaven.

 Second, if there is a God and He is sovereign over all creation, including life, then He can take it whenever He sees fit. As I said before, this answer standing alone does little to appease the atheist or the skeptic. Nor is it an easy pill to swallow for many Christians. A simple illustration may aid in our understanding.

There are some things that are moral for parents to do, but immoral for children. Children are expected to obey their parents, but parents are not expected to obey their children. Parents have the prerogative to take something from the child, but the child cannot take something from the parent. God is the giver of life and should He choose to take life away, it is His prerogative to do so. He can take life if He chooses because, as Greg Koukl put it, “…there is nothing patently immoral about the Creator of life taking away life. It’s immoral for us because when we take life, usually we are exercising a prerogative reserved for God alone.6

Finally, God knows the future. He sees the big picture and knows the outcome of the actions we take. It could very well be that what we view as a cruel and a heartless action, (or inaction), on the part of God, may really be for the better good, or as so many put it, a blessing in disguise. God has an eternal perspective we are incapable of understanding. I know, I know. Tell that to an unbeliever. Well, it is a tough question.

I certainly don’t fully understand why my daughter has scoliosis, but by His grace, I have already grown from it in ways I never would have otherwise. I don’t see why my father had a stroke when I was still a boy, and then I grew up helping my mother take care of him. I don’t see why my best friend had to die of cancer. I don’t see why God would put a passion for apologetics within me so late in my time here on earth. Life is full of things we don’t see and understand, but I do know that God is loving. He is the perfect judge and will always do what is right, even when I don’t understand. Isaiah 55:9

Sources:
1. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, Print
2. Williams, James. “How Can a Just God Order the Slaughter of Men, Women and Children?” Probe Ministries. Probe.org, 2012. Web. 6 August 2014.
3. Ibid.
4. Friedman, Patri. “What happens when the police go on strike?” The Distributed Republic. Distributedrepublic.net, 6 July 2005. Web. 7 August 2014.
5. “Why did God condone such terrible violence in the Old Testament?” Got Questions Ministries, n.d. Web. 5 August 2014
6. Koukl, Greg. “Can God Kill The Innocent?” Stand To Reason. Str.org, 10 March 2013. Web. 5 August 2014.

Creative Commons License
Murder of innocents by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/.

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