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June 18, 2015

Text: “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” Luke 1:50

Back in the mid-twentieth century God was maligned as being “the vengeful God of the Old Testament” and simultaneously “the loving God of the New Testament”.  How could God be dichotomized into good and evil: especially in light of  Deuteronomy 6:4? Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  What is the answer to this enigma?

Mankind is  prone to accuse God of inconsistency and capriciousness. When the events of our existence seem harsh and inexplicable  and we are unable to comprehend what God is doing, we fall back on the excuses we have heard about God acting mean and punishing unjustly. That is when we remember some wag who is indignant about a seemingly inexplicable incident in the Old Testament. There are several old saws  about incidents which we cannot resolve that seemingly impugn God. There is that occasion when Elisha was approaching the city of Bethel and some boys  made the prophet an object of ridicule by taunting him. They  chanted, “Go up, you baldhead. Go up, you baldhead.” II Kings 2:23 Elisha chastened them with a curse in the name of the Lord. Two she bears then came out of the woods and “tore forty-two of the boys”. II Kings 2:24  Sounds somewhat severe, huh? Or how about the time  King David  ordered the priests to return the ark of the covenant to the city of Jerusalem after it had been captured by the Philistines? The ark was being transported on an oxcart but when the oxen stumbled Uzzah reached out his hand to steady it and was struck dead by the Lord. II Samuel 6:6-7 Shocking!

Humans have tunnel vision, but God sees the entire panorama. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways  higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 The Lord has an over-arching plan. That grand design is unfolded in the Bible. We must accept that God knows what he is doing and that everything fits his divine will. God intended to make the Israelites his holy people.  THERE MUST BE ORDER IN THEIR SOCIETY.  THUS ALL EVIL INFLUENCES, ACTIONS,  EVEN THOUGHTS MUST BE PURGED.

So why did God order the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites as they strove to conquer the land? “…then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and demolish  all their high places…But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.”  Numbers 33:52, 55  Inevitably, the stragglers of the Canaanites infested the religion of Jahweh and corrupted Israel’s society and religion. Listen to what Hosea wrote about the results of Israel’s infection, defection, and corruption.  “There is no faithfulness or steadfast love and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” Hosea 4: 1b-2  This is all the result of the breakdown of ORDER.

Think of the Mosaic Law. It had in mind the orderliness of the community, family, and society. Disrespect, disobedience, law-breaking, divorce, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. dissolve the fabric of the entire society. When disorder takes over God’s will is disrespected and disobeyed. Everything is affected: the home, the family, religion, and justice crumble and disappear. But there are consequences due to the disruption.

Let me illustrate from the Bible. After King David’s indiscretion with Bathsheba God sent the prophet Nathan to the king to detail the consequences of his adultery and murder plot against Uriah. After David realized his guilt,  Nathan said, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?” II Samuel 12:9  Like blows upon an anvil these punishments fell upon the king. There will be violence and war in David’s personal life and his nation all his life. His own family (namely Absalom) would rebel against him. His wives and concubines would be ravished in front of the nation. The child that he had conceived with Bathsheba would die. When David embraced sin, he loosed severe consequences into his family and kingdom. Certainly God was displeased when his chosen people sowed to the wind and reaped the whirlwind. Hosea 8:7a

When you might think about God being a “vengeful god” remember the panorama of God’s eternal plan. At times he has  had to take drastic measures to preserve or prevent his agenda from being corrupted.  Consider that, in fact, God must punish and cleanse the disobedience of some so that the righteous could be preserved. I do not presume to be able to understand all  of what God does, but I feel blessed that God has initiated and preserved his plan for our salvation. I thank God for his grace and I submit to his will.

Remember these words that begin a hymn written by William Cowper: “God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform…”

Also consider this passage of scripture.  “…and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…”  Ephesians 3:9-11

God be praised in all that he has done.










One Comment
  1. Larry permalink

    Yes. Masterful. Faith underlies it all. Good work.–Larry

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