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A Violent God


One Muslim man told me that he couldn't believe in the God of the Bible because of the acts of violence God commits in the Old Testament.  This man did fail to mention  how many people Mohamed had killed.  Charles Templeton was a famous Christian evangelist in the 1940's, and Billy Graham's best friend. He became disillusioned with God for similar reasons  and became a well known atheist.     


In Numbers 15:32 to 36 God had a man killed just for gathering some wood on the Sabbath.  In Numbers 16 God killed 14,700 Israelis because of their rebellious complaining.  In Numbers 25 God killed 24,000 Israeli's with a plague. 


In Numbers 25 a priest named Phinehas shared God's feelings about Israeli men committing adultery with pagan women and worshipping their gods.  Phinehas was so upset that he drove his spear through one of these men and his pagan adulterous.  God was so pleased with Phinehas' zeal that He blessed him for this violence by making a lasting covenant with him that has prophetic significance. 


Romans 15:14 tells us that what was written in the Old Testament was written so we could learn.  What can we possibly learn from such violence?  Some of us don't learn anything because we don't try to understand the Old Testament.  If we ignore the Old Testament, we will fail to understand the New Testament. 


Some Christians get around their struggles over this violence by saying God has changed in New Testament times, but that's not true.  There is no Biblical evidence suggesting that God thinks any differently today than He did in Moses' day.   When it comes to violence, anger, wrath, and war, the New Testament book of Revelation proves God has not changed. 


So what's going on with all this violence?  Right in the very beginning God warned Adam about such things.  God told Adam that death would enter humanity if he disobeyed Him.  You know the story.  All aspects of death entered our existence, including death by killing, and guess who was the first to kill?  God was the first one to kill when he killed an animal to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness.  


God hates sin more than we can ever imagine.  He also doesn't think, feel, or do anything, in half-way measures.  When He expresses love, it's to the fullest.  When He expresses anger, it's to the fullest.  That's why He killed the man gathering wood on the Sabbath.  So I say, "the degree to which we can begin to understand how God hates sin, will be the degree to which we can begin to appreciate His love".  I also say, "the degree to which we can understand the Old Testament will be the degree to which we can understand the New Testament.       


God does love us, but He hates our sin.  On one hand, He feels the need to kill us, and on the other hand He feels the need to rescue us.  To solve this apparent dilemma, God the eternal Son, was conceived in Mary.  The reason for Jesus' earthly existence was to go to the cross, where He would not only be punished for our sin, but become sin.  That's why He killed Jesus and the man gathering a bit of wood in Numbers 15. 


God feels the same way about sin today as He did in the past.  That's the story of the Bible.  Man is sinful and is  unable to dig himself out of the pit of sin, so God does that for him.  If we reject God's provision to rescue us from His wrath, we have no other hope.  The Lake of Fire waits for us at the end of this age.  


Our confusion over the matter of God and violence stems from the fact that we don't know the Bible sufficiently enough to know who God is.  The Bible makes it clear that God is both a God of love and God of war.  For example, many times when you see "the Angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament, who most believe is pre-incarnate Jesus, He has a sword in His hand. (Numbers 22:23)  In Revelation 1, Jesus is portrayed as a powerful man of war.  We just have to accept the fact that this is who God is.  He is the all-powerful God of love who will use His almighty power to destroy the sinfulness of satan and man. 


This does not however, mean that Christians are to be people of violence.  Romans 12:19 says, "do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord".  Our job is to proclaim the fact that we can find peace with God and escape His wrath through our Lord Jesus Christ.  It's God's job to avenge, judge, condemn, and bring to a violent end those who continue to refuse His supreme act of love as seen in the cross of Christ.      


So when you read God being so violent in the Old Testament, just thank Jesus for rescuing you from His wrath.  All the violence we see in the Old Testament teaches us how God feels about sin, which should cause us to fall to our knees in repentance and thank Him for His love.  This is an aspect of the gospel that is seldom heard these days, and given the present atmosphere of religious extremism, the world could easily misconstrue these words.     

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