All too often, an objection is raised on this topic. Many believe that God in the Old Testament and God in the New Testament simply cannot be the same God, portraying God in the Old Testament as a harsh, war-driven God and in the New Testament, purely a God of love. But is such a portrayal an accurate depiction of God, did God change his ways, how can we understand this? (Photo credit to: Blog The Church - taken from Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo (c. 1512), Anaiah Yacob)
I have heard that some Christians abandon the faith or do not advertise their relationship with Christ merely because of this objection. It is usually phrased something like this: "I refuse to follow a murderous and war-seeking God. Obviously, God is evil, he told the Israelites to kill all those nations, and had to follow harsh laws." Such objections show a clear lack of understanding of God, and of the reasons for these laws and battles.
Isaiah 5:20 comes to mind. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." More often than not, the reason the objection is raised is to attack God, who is loving throughout Scripture, to make Him look evil, or even the basis for rejecting the existence of God. This is not always the case of course, naturally, sometimes it arises from confusion over God's nature.
As I have stated before, saying "there is no God" is a universal negative, and simply does not work. No one on earth has full knowledge of the universe, and to state that God does not exist is a fallacy, and not absolute in any sense. To make this statement, you would need to know everything there is to know in the universe. As noted in Psalm 14:1, "Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, their deeds are vile, there is no one who does good."
Let us therefore examine this objection and its implications, and see if they hold any truth. Often God is scrutinized for "killing all of the innocent people, including children," during the Global Flood. Romans 3:23 conveys to us that no one is innocent - and Jesus himself says that "no one is good - except God alone." (Luke 18:19) We also know that all die eventually anyway, which is due to our own actions. (Romans 6:23, 1st Corinthians 15:22)
Genesis 6:5 reveals, "The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." The world had become so bad that all of man's thoughts were continually evil - and this was still 120 years before the Flood. (see Genesis 6:3) God, in His patience and grace, gave the world more time to turn from their ways and change, and even called Noah to preach righteousness, yet people continued in their ways. (1st Peter 3:20, 2nd Peter 2:5)
The Ark was humanity's salvation, and even though Noah tried to save people, they refused to listen, and only Noah and his family (eight people total) were saved via the Ark. (Genesis 6-9, 2nd Peter 2:5) But does this condone the alleged murder of all the "innocent" children? Bodie Hodge of Answers In Genesis put it this way:
"...the claim of children dying in the Flood has always been of interest to me. If people really were evil and their thoughts evil all the time, then abortion, child murder, and child sacrifice were likely commonplace. And disobedience to God would mean disobeying God’s command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). Resisting this command would result in drastically fewer children, so I wonder if many children were even around at the time of the Flood. Noah himself had no children until he was 500 years old (lending to my postulation that children were few and far between in those days—I wouldn’t be surprised if Noah took a long time to find a godly wife who wanted children as well)"."
|(c.1512, Michaelangelo's depiction of God)|
Regardless, there have been children that were shown to have very evil intentions and at such a young age, led very sinful lives. For example, rape among children, school shootings, violent fighting among children, the like. Now, another point people tend to bring up is Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 18:20-33, God reveals to Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah had greatly sinned, yet we do not fully know what these sins were.
Ezekiel 16:49 reveals, "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." Abraham inquired to God that if there were 50 righteous people, if He would spare the city, and God readily said yes.
Abraham asked for 40, then for 30, then for 20, and finally, 10. "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." (Genesis 18:32) This clearly shows how wicked these people were. There were at least 50 people in the city, and likely several hundred, and not even 10 were found righteous. When God sent two angels to investigate and they decided to destroy the city, there were not even eight, even with the angels. (Lot and his wife, his two daughters, his two son-in-laws, and the two angels included - only 8, same as the Global Flood.)
We do not know if there were children in Sodom and Gomorrah, but if there were, then even the children were exceedingly sinful. Would God have spared the Earth from the Flood if there were at least ten righteous people? Perhaps, He likely did. Methuselah and Lamech, (Noah's grandfather and father, respectively) along with Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives: ten people. Methuselah and Lamech died right before the Flood occurred. If there were only eight righteous people out of likely millions or billions of people, what does that say for the state of the pre-Flood world?
God tells us in Ezekiel 33:11, "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!" God takes no joy in such things. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God judges sin, and we know for a fact that God was patient and merciful with the pre-Flood world and Sodom and Gomorrah. He gave them ample opportunity to give up their ways, turn from sin, and turn to him.
Noah urged the people to turn from their ways, but none did. Lot urged the people to turn from their ways, but none did. Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah, and not even 10 people were found righteous. God has provided for us a means of salvation, just as He did in the days of Noah with the ark: Jesus Christ. God provides justice against sin, he acts justly (2nd Thessalonians 1:5-10), but offers mercy to those who accept Him and love Him (see Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 7:9, Ephesians 2:4).
Often we hear the objection, "God had the Israelites kill surrounding nations, even though the sixth commandment is 'do not kill!" That statement is a fallacy. God does not steal life, all life belongs to him. In the same way, He does not steal a man's property - all property belongs to God. God cannot steal because He created all, and all belongs to him, so He would not be stealing anything at all. Job 1:21 conveys, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, may the name of the Lord be praised."
God is not human, and reserves the right to give and take away. As I pointed out in a previous entry, "6) Do not murder - This is another commandment where many people get confused, and where many unbelievers like to point the finger. Let me be blunt. The Bible never said, "Do not kill." The reason it said that in the KJV was due to a mistranslation from the original Hebrew text. So allow me to shed some light: It says Do not murder, which refers to an illegal killing. If you kill in self defense, that is not breaking the commandment. Only the Lord knows the intentions of the heart. So to those who accuse God of being a dictator who aimlessly kills, who are we? Do we know the hearts and minds of the so-called "innocents.?" No, we do not. Do I personally condone killing? No, so do not accuse me of that, I am merely shedding light on a topic where many get confused. Now, even if you've never killed, this part tends to get us: Jesus says in Matthew 5:21-22, "You have heard that it said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder,' and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that whoever is angry with [another person] will be subject to judgment." What is Jesus saying? He's saying, even if you've never murdered, if you have ever been angry, and sinned in your anger, you've broken this commandment"
Now, let us examine the claims that God is a "harsh" God because of the battles in the Old Testament. God gave the Israelites the Ceremonial Law, which involves food laws, territory laws, cleansing laws, atonement laws, the like. What was the reason for these laws? We need to understand that these Laws were only for Israel, and were not eternal. They would expire, and God revealed this through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 says, "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
These laws were put into place to protect the bloodline of Christ. If the Israelites were wiped out by surrounding nations, Jesus would not have been born into the bloodline of King David, Jerusalem would never have been occupied by the Israelites and in turn the Romans, and Bethlehem would also never have been Jewish. In other words, if Israel was wiped out by the surrounding nations, Jesus would never have been able to be born into the correct conditions to enable him to die for the sins of all humanity. We would have no hope, and Christ never would have initiated the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant laws enabled Israel to flourish and survive as a nation in the culture of the time, which is why slavery, food laws, and war occurred. Slaves in those days (in terms of Israel) were not like the slaves of the past few centuries. A slave in those days usually become a slave to pay back a debt or for work. As a slave, you would be provided with food and shelter, so many took up the "business." It was never to discriminate against a particular gender, race, or nation. (See entry: "Do Old Testament Food Laws Still Apply?")
All of this allowed God to provide the Messiah. This was also the reason for stoning. Anyone who participated in, for example, illicit sex was stoned, because people who went around from partner to partner would spread certain diseases, therefore endangering the bloodline of Christ. People were stoned to discourage disobedience to the law and encourage obedience, and, as stated, to ultimately protect the conditions which Christ had to be born into.
The Old Covenant laws no longer apply, because Jesus fulfilled this Covenant and initiated a New Covenant, at the same time fulfilling Jeremiah 31:31-34. As illustrated in the account of Jesus and the adulterous woman, we must forgive, because Christ has now been born. The purpose of the Old Covenant was to point to, or rather, lead the Israelites to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. If the nation was wiped out, if the nation was disobedient, if disease was spread, the specific conditions that Jesus had to be born into to save humanity never would have been possible. That is the reason for the Old Testament Laws. (See entry: "Covenants: The Old and the New")
Of note, however, the Ten Commandments given to Moses from God on Mt. Sinai are all still in place. Jesus himself, and Paul on many occasions, made a point of showing us that all Ten Commandments are still in place. However, we have all broken God's Law. (See entry: "The Ten Commandments - Have We Followed Them All?") James 2:10 tells us, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."
We are all in need of a Savior. The actions of our ancestors, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden led to God's Creation, the entire Universe, being corrupted by sin. Some have asked why we appear to be punished for our ancestors sins, but this is not so. We have all sinned, and by examining God's Commandments, it is clear that we have broken His Law. While there are those that accuse God of being a cruel God for creating Hell, the creation of Hell does not show God's cruelty - for there is none - it shows His justice. (See entry: "Why Was Hell Created?")
Jesus himself tells us that hell was "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels," (Matthew 25:41) but because of our sin, we too are sentenced to Hell for transgressing the law. This necessitates a Savior, who is Jesus Christ. How then can we saved? Romans 10:9-10 tells us that "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." 1st John 1:9 conveys, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth." Feel free to comment below (yet please remain civil), email me personally at email@example.com or our ministry team at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the facebook page, or visit the Ministry page. Take care, dear reader, thanks again for reading, and may God bless you. Troy Hillman
Sources: Hodge, Bodie. "The "harsh" God of the Old Testament." Answers In Gensis. Answers In Genesis, 12 Feb 2007. Web. 20 Feb 2011.