This will be my final journey into the Old Testament looking at the supposed atrocities of God. I shall list a few of them, but I think by now I have covered enough ground to lump them all together and demonstrate why they are not atrocities at all, but examples of God's grace and mercy.
Here are some examples quoted by the website Common Sense Atheism.
In Exodus 12:29, God the baby-killer slaughters all Egyptian firstborn children and cattle because their king was stubborn.
In Numbers 16:41-49, the Israelites complain that God is killing too many of them. So, God sends a plague that kills 14,000 more of them.
In 1 Samuel 6:19, God kills 50,000 men for peeking into the ark of the covenant.
In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they are allowed to rape as spoils of war.
In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some kids tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to dismember them.
We could add others: the treatment of the Canaanites, the slaughter of the population of Jericho and the destruction of the Philistines, for example.
All such accusations stem from a misapprehension of God's nature. If you ask the average modern day man what he expects from a god, he would probably answer, a comfortable life, freedom from pain and suffering, prosperity, forgiveness for my misdemeanours, the odd miracle when Nature goes against me (like a cure for cancer and wonderful rescues from earthquakes and Chilean mining disasters) and a long life free from dementia. If you are looking for such a god you won't find one in Christianity.
God is not concerned with our luxury or even our comfort, but with our righteousness. As we have seen from the story of Sodom, God is concerned with justice, and you know, in our heart of hearts, so are we.
For all our best wishes to the copper miners in Chile, what would our feelings be about the mine owners, were it to be proved that they were negligent in ignoring warnings which might have prevented the disaster. Would we not demand justice?
Tony Blair has just published a book, which many people have regarded as self-justifying. They will never forgive him for invading Iraq. Many want him tried as a war criminal. They want their version of justice.
I will never forgive Diego Maradonna for that 'hand of God' goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. I bristle at the injustice of it.
How do we define justice? When it comes down to it we are always too self-interested to be truly just. Were the Americans right to declare independence from Britain in 1776? One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. Today the Director General of the BBC admitted that the BBC was biased against Mrs Thatcher. He claims that the BBC no longer has a left-leaning agenda. The website Biased BBC disagrees. Yet Abraham declares, "Shall not the judge of all teh earth do right?" Somewhere, somehow, there has to be an absolute standard by which we judge everything else.
If you read through the Old Testament, especially in the first five books you will see that standard spelled out. We all know about the Ten Commandments, but read through Leviticus - I know many people have tried but few have succeeded. Law is piled upon law. The whole purpose of the Law of Moses is to demonstrate that by keeping the Law you cannot please God. I don't know whether you have ever tried - I have. It is just impossible. You keep falling short.
In the first Century AD a group of Jews gave it everything they had to try and keep the Law of Moses. They even tithed the herbs that grew wild in their gardens. They were called Pharisees. But just as they though they were making it, along came Jesus with a new interpretation of the Law which knocked them back. They were happy about not committing murder, but Jesus told them that even if they were angry with their brother they had already murdered him in their hearts, and although they might abstain from the physical act of adultery, if they looked at a woman lustfully they had already committed adultery with her in their hearts (remember how Playboy caught out Jimmy Carter with that one?) Then there was the question of camels and the eye of a needle so that all around him people were saying, "But that's impossible!"
And that is precisely what the Law is about. It is impossible to keep.
If you see this world as the main purpose of life - you are born, you live, you die, you rot - then there is no point in trying to justify God. God does not inhabit the atheist's universe.
I agree. Life is nasty, messy, unfair and short. But God sees things differently. The purpose of this life is to learn to be dependent on Him. From the time that Adam disobeyed God, the whole world has been laboring under a curse. No wonder everything seems unfair. That is the consequence of Adam's sin. Everyone deserves to die. A fair God cannot just wink at sin as if it never happened. That would be grossly unfair. It would mean that everything was founded on a lie. Instead, the world is founded on a great act of generosity and justice, on sacrifice and love. God himself took the punishment that was due to us so that He could look on us and not see our filthy rags, but the spotless garments of Jesus.
So what about those atrocities in the Old Testament? These people were atrociously wicked. "It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5)
For those multiculturists who think that every culture has its value and we should treat them all equally take a look at this passage from Deuteronomy:
"You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31)
The wickedness of these people is confirmed in other verses of the Bible (for example: "and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech the gods of Sepharvaim. (2 Kings 17:31)".
So we see that these people are not quite as innocent as the atheists would like you to believe. God was not swift to judge. The book of Jonah describes how a nation can stave off their judgement by repentance. But for the Canaanites no such reprieve was forthcoming In Genesis 15:16 God tells Abraham in Canaan that his descendents will return to Canaan because ‘the sin of the Amorites (a name used for Canaanites) has not yet reached its full measure.’ When they did return under Joshua it was in part to wreak God’s wrath upon the Amorites.
God's judgment of people groups found in the Old Testament actually pales in comparison to the judgment He will render at the end of time. According to the New Testament Book of Revelation, God will judge and kill billions of people who reject Him when Jesus returns. But God is still patient. He has given time for today’s generation to repent.
If you do not acknowledge a God who judges according to His own standards then you either believe with Macbeth that life ‘is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’, or you are a moral relativist who believes that right and wrong vary according to the situation. The Bible describes such a situation in the book of the Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’. Such a belief leads inevitably to chaos and conflict.
Dear reader, I urge you now to acknowledge Jesus as your Savior. There is still time. Surely, if you have seen what God can do, you must acknowledge that His wrath is real.