FAQ: Why Does God Seem Mean in the Old Testament?

We believe that Jesus came to paint a new picture of the world in which we live.   And guess what? It turns out that this world is made and governed by a person who loves us so much that He sent His son to save us from total ruin! That’s good news. That’s what we call ‘the gospel”. Anytime you hear that term, Gospel, it means good news. Good news. We are loved greatly by God. Good news – our sins can be forgiven through faith in Jesus. Good News: A fresh start awaits anyone who trusts in Jesus.

We are in a series we are calling FAQ’s – where we are spending time answering questions from you all. And thanks for the questions, keep them coming. Write them out, and we’ll try our best to get to them. Any we don’t we will answer and put on our Facebook page or website at the end of the series. We will have two more weeks after today. Then we will have a special guest from Mali Africa, our friend Daniel Thera will speak with us in the morning of September 20, then we are going to launch into a more lengthy series from the book of Colossians, which I’m excited to study.

So let’s take a peek at out first quick hitter question this morning. And we will start with a fun one. Does the Bible say anything about Dinosaurs?

Yes it does. Believe it or not, the Antichrist, is a dinosaur. Little known fact. I found this picture of him as proof (picture of Barney). Don’t mean to alarm you but your child is singing I love you to the antichrist.

Well this is actually a pretty loaded question. Believe it or not – there are people in life who feel so strongly about this subject that they make it a litmus test whereby pastors are judged as being people who tell the truth or heretics.

Because the real question here is whether or not God created the world in a literal six day span, or whether or that is figurative – which would allow for the apparent many millennium old age of the church.

Many Christians have decided that since Genesis chapter one speaks about the earth being created in six days, that it must be a literal six days. Because, they say, if we look at those days as being figurative, then we open up door to taking everything in the bible figuratively, and then it’s the slippery slope – nothing means anything. “The reliability of the Bible falls apart if it isn’t a literal six day creation period,” they argue.

And I am going to say that is going way too far. The trustworthiness of scripture is NOT at stake. Here’s why. Genesis one is clearly poetry. And the rules of poetry are different than say, the rules of a scientific document. Genesis 1 is not a scientific document. This was written to be memorable in a pre-literate world. It was written to be beautiful and majestic and to drive home the point that God created all things out of nothing. Everything you see, God created, including your life and my life.

This is one of those things that Christians have a tendency to tear into each other about. We’re not going to do that here. What we can all agree on, and what we should all agree on, is that God created everything we see.   By the word of his mouth, everything came to be. Including you and me.

God created all things. The timeframe is a secondary issue, and something that either side will be able to back up with scripture. After all, 2 Peter 3:8 says a day is like a thousand years, a thousand years like a day, meaning God is not bound by time.

Now there is a strong argument for taking the six days to be a literal six 24 hour periods. It is laid out very sequentially. Morning and evening – day one. Morning and evening, day two. The other side of the argument would say that the sun and moon weren’t created until day 4. So arguments can be made on either side. And I’d say mostly fruitless arguments.

Those who do not subscribe to a literal six days of creation would say that there was a significant time gap between the animals being created, and Adam and Eve being created, including the age of the Dinosaur. So they would say dinosaurs came and went before Adam and Eve came around.

Either way dinosaur fossils do not conflict with the Bible. So I said all that to say, I dunno.

Why doesn’t God do more miracles that would get noticed – like for instance, why are amputees never “healed” in any way?  Ever?

This is a good question. If God exists, and he is able to do anything, why don’t we see more obvious miracles today? Why doesn’t God just flex his muscles a little bit and shut down all the doubters, right? I mean, if God existed why doesn’t he write it in the sky every night.

Well, this is an interesting question. I will give you a very short answer – miracles are over rated. They don’t work the way we think they would. People have an astonishing ability to dismiss what they see with their own eyes.

For example – in Matthew 15 we see Jesus doing miracles all over the chapter. 30 A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. 31 The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again!

And indeed many praised the Lord for his kindness to them. But turn the page to the very next chapter. 16 One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

Do it again Jesus. They are surrounded by people healed – but no – it’s not enough. Do it again. Miracles don’t work. They don’t do what they think they will.

Well, see, they praised the God of Israel. But then you turn the page and the leaders are saying, well, do another one. Do it again. Prove yourself Jesus.

Listen, I’m telling you, that miracles don’t do what you think they will. During Jesus ministry he performs hundreds of miracles. And what did it gain him? A crowd in Jerusalem chanting “Crucify him”.

The same crowd gathered around and said, Jesus you did all these other miracles, get yourself off the cross. Now that would be amazing.

Well, that crowd saw something even more amazing than that. Three days later Jesus rose from the dead. And even that wasn’t enough for many to believe in Jesus.

Listen, this is speculation – I admit. Even if you were to lose a limb in a farming accident today and tomorrow you grew another limb in it’s place… I dare say that scientists would gather around and say… well, that’s not really a big surprise, I mean, salamanders do that – why wouldn’t we evolve to the point where we can do it as well – we will take a blood sample and check this person’s DNA to see if we can unlock the secret to the limb replacement code in your DNA.

And then they’d pull your other arm off in the name of science to see if it can be replicated. Empirical evidence demands it!

Miracles don’t do what we think they should do. Listen, I’m going to be very blunt with you. There are people in the world, in our lives, maybe even in this room – if Jesus himself appeared in front of them and told them to repent and follow Him – they would wake up the next day and dismiss it, and say I must have had a bad burrito.  If you told your friends what happened to you they would say, you need a home security alarm.

And maybe there are people in here and you are thinking – well, I’d like that to happen. I think that’s exactly what it would take. I’ll pray for you – I’m praying as I speak that God would show himself to you in a way that is unique – exceptional. And it might even be something like a sunset, a baby, a gentle breeze, a whisper in your heart. I pray that God speaks to your spirit in a way that you would at least have to wrestle with the reality that it might have just happened. I’m praying that God would give you the ability to detect the clues of God’s existence – the subtle breadcrumb trail that leads to the reality of a God. And I pray you have the courage when that day comes to say – I’ve been bested by the great woo-er of my soul.

Now, on to our last question of the day…

Why was God so “mean” in the Old Testament?  It seems like He was wiping out a nation of a city all the time (or telling His people to do it).  Then Jesus came, and all that stopped.  Jesus could forgive people, why couldn’t God?

Again – love this brutally honest question.

Now the OT deals with all of God’s dealings with mankind before Jesus was born. And maybe you’ve heard some form of this argument against the Bible, that it appears to be talking about two different Gods, almost.

In the Old Testament we find stories like Noah’s ark. God wipes out the earth and starts over with Noah. We find the nation of Israel being ordered to wipe out the nations that were occupying the land God promised to Israel.

We find stories of people dying immediately for sin – seems a far cry from what we see in the New Testament.

So what gives? Has God changed? I will say that there is NO difference between old and new. God is and has always been full of love and mercy. And he is and has always been completely just.

That’s my answer. It’s a perception problem. Let me show you the proof from the Bible. We will start with the OT. Are there examples of God showing himself to be merciful and loving in the OT? Of course. It’s replete with examples.

For instance – there is the story of Jonah – and many of us are familiar with the story – Jonah gets swallowed by a whale and three days later – thrown up on the beach. Well, do you know why Jonah was running from God? Because God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and tell them to repent and straighten up. And Jonah ran away because he wanted Ninevah to face judgment.

After Jonah preaches the city does in fact ask for forgiveness from God and they repent… meaning they made a decision to turn away from their sinful ways… And Jonah loses it!

Jonah 4:2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

Now let’s look at times when God does judge a city. Let’s look at the famous Sodom and Gomorrah. God tells the prophet Ezekiel exactly why he judged Sodom…

Ezekiel 16:49 Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. 50 She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen

But if we go back to Genesis 18 we find a very interesting exchange between Abraham and the Lord. When Abraham learns that Sodom is to be judged, he intercedes for them and asks…

23 Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? 24 Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? 25 Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”

Abraham continues to barter with God until it gets to ten? What if there are only ten? I will leave the entire city unpunished for the sake of ten.

Now what God doesn’t say, but he could have said, is Abraham – what kind of God do you think I am? There is not even ten people in that city who have any inclination to do good. But he in essence lets Abraham find out for himself. He couldn’t find ten. What do we learn about God? When he judges, there are no innocent people in a city that is judged like that.

Interesting note there – only four people end up being saved from destruction. Lot and his wife and how two daughters. But not because they were righteous. They didn’t want to leave. The angels, out of mercy, grabbed them by the hands and dragged them out of the city.

Two more examples. Noah’s ark is a tragic judgment upon mankind. But even here we are allowed to read, in essence, the verdict of the judge, who says in Genesis 6,

Genesis 6:5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

Finally – let’s look at the judgment of God upon the Amorites – who were the people living in the land of Israel. Which happens in the book of Joshua, but we first read about more than 400 years before Joshua – all the way back to Genesis 15. God is telling Abraham what the future of his people will look like and he says this…

13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years

16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”

So here we see that God tells Abraham – the day will come when I will run out of patience with the Amorites – but as evil as they are, they having reached the tipping point. That, God says, will be about 400 years from now. But when the time comes to judge the land – your people, my people, will be the instruments of divine justice.

400 years of patient waiting. Why do we think God is this angry at the drop of a hat kind of guy? It’s the opposite. As a matter of fact, some of the greatest verses in the bible are about God’s mercy and they are OT passages.

Psalm 86:15

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

   and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

All over the OT, we see God being slow to anger, compassionate and merciful – but also a divine judge. And we see the same exact thing in the New Testament. The same exact thing.

Let me show you…

It’s true that Jesus was the most loving and compassionate person who ever lived. But on numerous occasions in all four gospels- and the gospels are the first four books of the New Testament and these are the only four books that tell the life story of Jesus and record his direct teachings – in all four of these books Jesus talks about judgment.

For instance… John 5:22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.

Jesus is the judge of the world. He is the judge. Oh, I like Jesus he was so loving and compassionate. And he never judged anyone. Well, actually, Jesus said the opposite. It’s part of his role in the trinity to act as judge.

And in John 9 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world…”

Now this is an interesting verse, because it seems to fly in the face of other verses in the book of John that say the opposite. For instance John 3:17 which says, 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Oh see – the bible contradicts itself. It can’t be trusted. Which is it?

Well it’s both. Jesus didn’t come to earth to judge to judge the world at that moment – he came to earth 2000 years ago to save it. But that doesn’t mean there will never be a judgment day. There most certainly will be…

When? Well, there will be a day when Jesus comes back to earth – and the next time he comes it will not be to save the world. It will be as judge.

Matthew 25:31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.

And that is as uncomfortable as anything we read in the OT.

So the final question we must consider then is, Is God allowed to judge? Is it fair of him to judge? What right does he have?

Well I’d say that all of us want God to be just. We are programmed to desire justice – even demand it. If we see something that appears unjust, we protest. Literally sometimes.

Don’t we pride ourselves in America on our court system? Of hearing evildoers be judged for their crime?

How much money do we invest in the police, and the FBI, and the court system. We demand justice!

Do we want a just God? Yes. We do. Anytime someone tail gates you and speeds past you – you want to see a cop on the side of the road. When we see some evil in the world, we want there to be a God on the other side of the grave waiting to mete out justice. We want justice.

But let’s get real. We are pretty hypocritical when it comes to justice. We want others to pay. We demand justice when we are the ones wronged. But we want mercy when we are the offenders. Oh, I’m sorry I just wasn’t paying attention can I get a warning. Okay.

Well, here’s the good news. Right now,

Psalm 85:9,10

Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory.

Unfailing love (Mercy) and truth (Justice) have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed!

Mercy and Justice, meet on the cross. Jesus, the perfectly just one, has come up with a solution so that he could also be 100 percent just. The solution is that He himself would pay the penalty. He would take our punishment. He bore our sin and shame. He took the punishment that was rightfully ours. And he let’s us share in a victory we have no business claiming.

This is the good news. This is the gospel. Jesus the perfect judge, took our place in perfect love, so that we might be able to live a new life. It’s like, as one NT writer put it, like being born again. A fresh start, unshackled by the weight of impending judgment.

Because all who call on the name of the Lord, we will not be judged for our sins. Our sins are gone and removed. There is no case against us.

Romans 8 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 3God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

In Christ the justice of God against sin is carried out and paid in full. And the mercy of God is available to all who will believe and receive it.

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