Ask the Authors-Question #5

Posted: November 25, 2012 in Question and Answer

The following is a concise answer to a question asked of the authors of this blog, intended to give a simplified answer to the question asked.  If you also have a question you would like to ask surrounding the Christian faith, you may pose your question by visiting the “Ask the Authors” page.  The warranted belief email address will be provided where you can ask your question.

Elena from the UK asked:

In Psalm 136, it speaks wonderfully about God’s love, but then it talks about Him killing kings, so does God love all people or only His people?

Matt’s answer:

Strangely enough, we were recently reading this passage together in a group and I was wondering if anybody was thinking that it was odd to praise God for His love when it speaks of Him killing mighty kings, Sihon and Og (Psalm 136:17-20), but I do not think it is odd.  In fact, I think if we consider a few key points, it becomes easier to understand.

Understanding God’s love

I think God’s love is inseparable from His justice.  I have quoted this before, but I will do so again because it sums up the point so well: “What sort of God would He be if He were not angry with everything that tries to wreck His good creation?” (Christopher Wright, The God I Don’t Understand, p.131).  If we truly believe that God is good and is a God of love, then I think we have to believe that He is a just God who punishes evil.  If a loved one is stolen from or defrauded, it would be unloving for someone who had the means to bring justice to do nothing.  In mentioning God’s love, the Old Testament also mentions His justice, because in His love, He does not want injustice to take place, so the concepts are integrally connected (Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 7:7-10).  If God were not allowed to be a God of love and punish the disobedient at the same time, then any earthly parent who disciplines their child could not also be said to love that child.  Now, I do understand that the issue is not a simple slap on the wrist, but in fact, taking the life of these mighty kings.  However, I do not think it is not a question of whether God can love and judge at the same time, but whether His judgement is just in dealing with His own people over against dealing with other nations, which leads into the next point.

Understanding God’s love for the nations

A misunderstanding of the Old Testament would be to think that God favours Israel in everything and hates the other nations.  In Leviticus 19, after telling the Israelites to love their neighbour as themselves (19:18), God commands them to love the stranger as themselves (19:34).  In Deuteronomy 10:17, it says that God is not partial and then it says that God loves the sojourner (10:18), and commands the Israelites to love the sojourner too (10:19).  So if God loves the foreigners, why would He kill them?  Well, because of their rebellion against God.  Sihon and Og were kings of the Amorites and God pronounced that they would be judged, at least 500 years before He actually did it!  This is shown in Genesis 15:16 where it says that the sin of the Amorites was not yet complete in the time of Abraham, meaning that around the time when the Israelites would be brought out of Egypt, the time for the judgement of the Amorites would have come.  So the Amorites had time to change their ways and live justly, and it could even be said that they had the same witness concerning God that convinced Rahab that He was God in heaven, the parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 2:10-11), for Sihon and Og were contemporary with Rahab.  However, they obviously did not change their ways, so God was just in judging them, since He knew their hearts (1 Chronicles 28:9; John 2:24-25).

Understanding God’s love for Israel

The references from Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 7 are a couple examples of God’s love for Israel, but it is also significant to consider how God dealt with Israel, His chosen people, when they were not obeying Him either.  In fact, when we call Israel God’s chosen people, we also have to understand that He chose them so that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in them (Genesis 12:1-3).  So even God’s love for Israel reflects His love for the nations, but let us look at Israel specifically.  Deuteronomy 1:31-45 describes how God carried Israel in the wilderness as a man carries his son, but they rebelled against the Lord in unbelief, so He condemned an entire generation to die before reaching the Promised Land.  Not only that, though, because Israel, after having rebelled and heard the judgement, they tried to take the land in disobedience to the Lord.  Then, guess who God allowed to defeat them soundly in battle?  The Amorites!  So, yes, God had given commandments to Israel that made them more aware of what would constitute obedience to Him or not, but if anything, that put a higher responsibility on Israel.  Whereas the Amorites had hundreds of years to repent, the Israelites were judged very soon after their rebellion.  If Israel was not obeying the Lord, God would favour the evil Amorites even over His chosen people to show them that they needed to obey His voice.  Israel might have had greater privilege, but they also had greater responsibility, and God judged the people according to their knowledge of Him.

That is a basic answer, but I take up this question in more detail, first in the introductory article to the relevance of the Old Testament and then in the article on war in the Old Testament.  Those may also be of interest if further explanation is desired.

  1. zebity2013 says:

    God works by using Paradoxically information when he communicates with many people if not all people, thus that which he tells one person can be right for them, and tells another the same information which will be wrong for them and this can and even does cause problems for many people simply because they do not know that this is the way he works.

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