There’s a good question. How can God save just some people? How could he command the Hebrews to exterminate the Canaanites when they entered the Promised Land? How could he allow the Hebrews to be exiled in Babylon? Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? Those were some of the questions at a live discussion I led last week.
Noah is a good starting point. In Genesis 6 we learn that man’s wickedness was great at that time – his thoughts were continually evil. In the face of this God decided to “blot out man from the face of the land”. But “Noah was righteous man, blameless.” He “walked with God”. So Noah and his family are saved by God. Moral monster? Or God of justice?
In Deuteronomy 9 we begin to discover why the Hebrews were to defeat the Canaanites and to “devote them to destruction”. It is “not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart but because of the wickedness of these nations”. We must acknowledge that history is not entirely clear what their wickedness was, but the culture and worship practices of the Canaanites were extremely depraved, appealing to man’s baser nature – fertility and war – and appear to have included child sacrifice. In 2 Kings 16 we are told that King David’s son, Ahaz, when he became King “even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel”. Moral monster? Or God of justice?
There is a helpful summary of the reasons for the exile at 2 Chronicles 36, beginning at verse 15. ” The Lord sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people.” They had rejected God persistently, worshipped the Canaanite Gods and been unjust to each other. But then the Lord stirs up Cyrus, King of Persia, who is by then ruling Babylon, to allow them to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple – see verses 22 onwards. Moral monster? God of justice? Or, as I asked in our discussion, “softie?”
Fast forward 500 years to Jesus and the plot to kill him. The High Priest Caiaphas galvanises the discussions of the Sanhedrin, which is terrified of what the Romans will do. He tells them, in a speech whose irony he cannot begin to appreciate “It is better for you that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should perish”. (John’s gospel, chapter 11, verse 50.) Christians believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus, dies in our place to pay the price for our sin. God himself not only provides but is the sacrifice. He is the accuser, judge, priest and sacrifice.
“There was no other good enough
to pay the price of sin,
he only could unlock the gate
of heaven and let us in”
There is nothing we can do to deserve this. We simply need to accept the Lord Jesus Christ.
Moral monster? Or overwhelmingly generous, loving God of justice?