I just read or answer to the correspondent who wanted to understand how to reconcile the teachings of the Old Testament to the New Testament.I am currently reading again the books of the Bible. The violence against innocent women and children, the creation story as recorded and the savage acts done by God's people as instructed by Gos (as the scriptures declare) cause me to seriously doubt the validity of the Old Testament as the inerrant word of God. How can the God I walk with and want to be with command such horror for revenge or pride. In Jobe man is simply a pawn to be played with in a competition with Satan. Help me here, please.
Gayle, I am glad that you are reading through the Bible once again. There is nothing quite like this discipline to capture the whole sweep of biblical revelation. (My Dad read the complete Bible through every year for 40 years!) I can understand your perplexity as you encounter the incidents that you mention.
First of all, a bit of a background:
" Long ago I recognized that when I approached Scripture I could do so in two ways:
o Evaluate and judge its teaching on the basis of my suppositions – learned through my culture.
o Recognize that it is the Word of God and therefore authoritative. This means that I am to take a humble stance and ask the Lord what He wanted me to learn from passages that perplexed me or didn’t seem consistent with my concept of God. How can I evaluate each passage in the light of the whole Bible?
" Theologians talk about “progressive revelation.” In other words, as we move along in the biblical record, we discover that God reveals more and more about Himself. This does not mean that the early revelation is in error; it just means that He is setting stages, developing patterns, and giving illustrations that will help us understand the fuller revelation which comes later.
" We also need to see the biblical revelation against the backdrop of its cultural context.
" I have discovered that there are two subjects that it has taken me a long time to fully appreciate:
o The meaning of God’s justice (as well as His love)
o The terribleness of sin.
" Finally, what it means for God to be God: the Creator of all things, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding and works everything out according to His own purposes.
With these thoughts in mind, I turn to your questions:
" The creation story: what bothers you about it? It contains amazingly profound truths, but I won’t get involved with sharing what I find helpful until you tell me what bothers you. I will mention, however, the cardinal truth we find in this “story” which is that men and women are made in the image of God, which makes us unique from everything else in all creation. In order to understand what it means to really be a “man” or a “woman” we need to study what God is like. Also, this world is God’s creation; He made it and therefore He is the supreme authority here.
" Violence against innocent women and children: I always shudder when I read of God’s command to kill all the people in the conquest of Canaan (“the promised land”). I could not see myself killing anyone, but especially defenseless women and children…
o The invasion of Canaan can only be understood in the light of the fact that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” He owns the land and can give it to whomever He wishes. He doesn’t do this very often, but this was a special case.
o In Deut 18:9ff, Moses describes to the people the “detestable practices” of the inhabitants, which includes sacrificing living children by burning, divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spiritism, etc. Moses concludes: “because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.” And adds, pointedly, “You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” (They weren’t, as it turned out, and so we have the prophets warning the people and finally the invasion of other nations and the destruction of Jerusalem.)
o In other words, God who will judge all sinners in the last day (note the book of Revelation) judged these people for their diabolical activities. All men and women (and children) are sinners, but these Canaanites seemed to be worse than most.
o The Lord wanted to protect His people from the corroding influence of these people. As it turned out, they did not complete the task and it was surprisingly soon that, sure enough, Israel began to copy the religions of these Canaanites. (Later, one of the kings of Israel even burned his son as a sacrifice to Moloch.)
o So, you see, Gayle, God did not consider these people “innocent.” What I learn from the conquest of Canaan is that God hates sin far more than we do, and will judge all sinners. I notice, for example, that Jesus (called the “meek and mild” by some poets) referred more to hell than any other N.T. spokesman. In the Book of Revelation, we see God’s terrible judgment which will come one day on the earth as well as eternity.
o God’s motives are not “revenge or pride.” It is judgment. We can only understand God’s true nature when we see how His righteous judgment and His loving mercy meet one another on the Cross where His own Son takes the sin of the whole world upon Himself.
Job: This book seeks to deal with several of the thorniest questions we face on earth:
" Why do the righteous suffer? (Is it because God is not all powerful, or is it because God is not all good?)
" Why should an individual seek to be righteous? (To curry God’s favor? Is anyone really righteous?)
" Does Satan exist? (If so, what is his relationship to God? What are his purposes? Do we have a dualism here?)
(If you have access to a theological dictionary or the NIV Study Bible, look up “Job” and you’ll find quite a discussion on these issues.}
However, your question is, “Is Job simply a pawn to be played with…?” Or another way to say this, “Does he not have rights which need to be respected, as a human being?”
" Gayle, I’ve discovered as I have thought my way through these questions, that from the earliest days God shows His liberty in dealing with individuals as He wishes – for their own good, and for the good of us all. The first big illustration is Abraham. He calls him from his place of security, invades his life, pushes him to experience all kinds of things, keeps him hanging on the promise of a son for 25 years, and teaches him about prayer. How about when He asked him to sacrifice his son, and only stopped him at the last minute? God reserves the right to do this, because He is God. And if someone had asked Abraham when he was 120 years old, “Abe, was it worth it? Do you wish God had left you alone to ‘enjoy life’ in Ur with the rest of your family instead of starting you on the trek to Canaan, etc.?” What do you think he would say? His name is mentioned 70+ times in the Bible. He is called the Father of the Faithful, both Jews and Gentiles. His life is full of principles of how God deals with people; aspects of His character which help us understand how He deals with us.
" An interesting illustration of this principle is found in John 9. Jesus and His disciples encounter a man born blind. They ask Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life,” and then He heals him. Was it fair to have a man go through childhood, his youth, and early manhood just to be an illustration? Evidently, God thought so.
" The application of this principle is awesome. God calls us to Himself as Savior and Lord. As Lord, He has the right to do with us as He wishes. We would not always choose His plans, but if we do, we discover that they are ultimately for our good and will always result in being a blessing to others.
As I warned you, Gayle, you have opened up profound questions. I trust that my attempts at answers will be of some help to you.
Keep thinking! Keep asking!