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Why is the God of the OT so Angry and the God of the NT so Loving?

August 11, 2013

Richard Dawkins said in his book, the God Delusion “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” He said this because of the Old Testament commands to completely wipe out certain people groups, particularly the Canaanites.

The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. This is a Hebrew way of indicating the supreme magnitude of something. In this case it is used to describe God as being supremely holy. The Bible never says God is love, love love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or justice, justice, justice. It only says God is holy, holy, holy. Because He is supremely holy, He cannot tolerate evil. Is it wrong then for God to choose to end a person’s life or the lives of all people in a nation if that person or that nation is decidedly evil? If God ends someone’s life is it murder? Since God is the author and giver of life, can’t he also choose when to end the life of a person or the lives of all people in a nation? According to the Bible, there is a new creation that all people will be a part of (either in God’s presence – heaven, or outside of God’s presence – hell). Can’t God choose to transport people from one realm to another whenever he chooses?

With that as background, let’s consider the Canaanites and God’s command to the nation of Israel to wipe them out and take over their land. First we need to remember that God had punished the Israelites for 400 years by sending them into captivity in Egypt. During these 400 years, the Canaanites engaged in idol worship that included all sorts of evil acts, the worst of which was the sacrifice of their children to the “god” Molech. Molech was a brass idol with outstretched hands. The Canaanites would build a fire at the base of the brass idol and lay their children in the hot outstretched arms of Molech. To keep the parents from hearing the cries of their children, the “priests” would beat their drums very loudly. God warned the Canaanites to stop this practice and others like it in the 400 years leading up to the ultimate defeat of Canaan, but they refused to repent of their evil acts so God commanded their destruction.

Why God chose to destroy the Canaanites is a difficult question for Christians to answer. Based on the nature of the God I have come to know, I believe that if the Canaanites had repented of their evil ways and turned toward following God, He would have relented of his decision to destroy them. The Canaanites did no such thing. They refused to repent and added evil upon evil to what they were already doing. God can only tolerate wickedness for so long. The fact that he patiently waited for them to repent for 400 years is remarkable considering He is holy, holy, holy.

We see this pattern over and over again where God warns people to repent and if they don’t, judgment is delivered to them. The Israelites went into Egyptian captivity, Assyrian captivity and ultimately Babylonian captivity for the same reason – they had turned against God. Before God judged the Assyrians and the Babylonians, he warned them too. This is a repeating pattern in the Bible.

In the New Testament God still judges nations and causes nations to rise and fall. Consider Hitler’s Germany. The destruction of millions of Jews led ultimately to Germany’s destruction. In America we are murdering millions of unborn babies. Is this why our nation is in decline?

There is one significant difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That difference is in Jesus’ death on a very cruel cross. Our sins have been paid through Jesus’ vicarious, substitutionary death. That is a game changer. Though we are sinners deserving death and eternal punishment, at the cross of Jesus our sins were imputed to Him and his righteousness was imputed to us. People are still judged. Nations still rise and nations still fall. God is actively involved in the rise and fall of nations, but we don’t perceive it because he acts in subtle ways. God is loving, but he is also righteous and holy, holy, holy and will only tolerate evil for so long.

The questions that remain are these. Are you following God or not? Will God bring judgment to you or graciously forgive your sins? Are you willing to ask his forgiveness or are you going to stubbornly do whatever you choose to do, no matter how much it displeases God?

The decision is yours.

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