Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Embarrassed by the Bible?

We have just finished 1 Samuel 15, where the Lord commands Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. The text says Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.  

God commanded the black flag, no quarter to warrior, wife, weened infant, or whippersnapper. The judgment seems overtly harsh to us. Many Christians are so on their heels about this passage when quoted in the Atheist's Handbook of the Bible, that a mere slight breath of wind, or a pinkie depressed on the forehead, will utterly send them over. They are without response, almost without God and without hope in the world. The atheist stands proud and such times.

But many of these same speechless saints are stalwart defenders of a universal flood. The flood seems to be a centerpiece of evangelicalism but God's Old Testament judgments seem to be lost to evangelicals, perhaps somewhere in the holes of the Jefferson Bible? What gives?

Is not the flood a much more problematic passage when dealing with the so-called maligned character of God? In Canaan, God commanded the destruction of a particularly wicked people. He did not command this destruction against all Canaanites.  Some were given the opportunity of repentance or making a treaty with Israel. The history of the Amalekites makes them stark rivals of Israel who had resisted them in the wilderness when they came from Egypt, falling on the weaker parts of Israel. In addition to this, there is no indication of any sort of repentance on their part. They maintained their antagonism against Israel for the next 400 years.

But in the flood, there is no decree against a particularly wicked subgroup. The decree is to destroy all flesh, save eight persons.  I am not trying to argue against the flood, at all, nor justify God. These judgments reveal a portion of His character that He desired to be revealed. He is just and merciful at the same time. He is a good and kind Father and shows Himself faithful to His people. But Christians ought not to have any difficulty owning up to any parts of the wrath of God if we own up to the flood. God can defend Himself against all accusations of unrighteousness and we do not need to be on our heels about what He has decreed and carried out. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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