Sermon – August 6, 2017
The OT is known for having passages that can make us squirm. Passages filled with blood and violence, wrath and judgment. Often, these passages leave us uncomfortable with the actions of our forbearers, and, in the worst case, they leave us questioning the character of our God; a God who not only condones but also sanctions and commissions such actions. The taking of the promised land is especially difficult: God has called for the blood of all the inhabitants of the land, whether old or young, women or men. What shall we say to these things? Is God wrong to act this way? What does this tell us about God, and how should we react to these things?
1. Is this genocide?
It could be, as some have argued, that the all-encompassing language of Deuteronomy and other passages (“devote them to complete destruction,” Deut 7:2) might very well be simply exaggeration. While possible, it is unlikely. Passages such as Deuteronomy 20:10-18 and Joshua 6:21 argue against it.
2. God is Creator
We must, before we speak on the matter directly at hand, get a few things straight. First, we need to understand the implications of God being the sovereign Creator. The fact that he is the Creator gives him all the rights over us, and the fact that he is all-powerful gives him the ability to do what he wants. Our complaining is a futile exercise.
3. We are sinful
Complaining and defiance might be futile, but perhaps necessary in the face of evil. Yet, it is not God who is evil, but us. Scripture is firm and unrelenting on this point: we deserve death, and punishment; anything short of this is nothing but unmerited and unprompted mercy from God. To complain that God has no right to destroy evil people is a fundamental misunderstanding of his holiness and our corruption. Far from implying that God isn’t good, it means we aren’t.
4. God chooses his instruments
The fact that God spares some, then, does not mean that they have any merit in themselves. The Israelites are not better than the Canaanites. God greatness is often seen in just this: he uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines, and uses sinful men to bring about unmitigated good.
5. God provides something better for us
In the end, then, instead of questioning the goodness of God, we should be praising his kindness to us that the gospel is here, and that we can seize on his mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. Instead of allowing events like this to arm our unbelief, let it fuel our steadfast confession that Jesus Christ saves sinners.
God alone is good. And he has offered us a grace that is beyond what we could ever hope to gain: Jesus Christ himself. Believe, and live.