(This week’s devotions are based on Sunday’s message: Grace for All…Grace Pursues – LISTEN HERE)
Last week in a small group discussion on the book of Joshua, we spent some time asking this question, “Is God vindictive?”
The reason for the question is a common question that creates stumbling blocks for people as they read the Old Testament and see God approve of the complete slaughter of peoples’ living in Canaan as the people of Israel take claim on the land as God had promised to “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
To be sure the killing of men, women and children is hard to swallow – whether directed by evil men or by the Almighty God.
On the surface our mind concludes that killing is evil and if killing is done by evil individuals, God must also be evil if he authorizes or allows the killing to take place.
Perhaps too much for a morning devotion, but it is an important topic because it’s ramifications are far reaching.
God is just and God is holy.
We live in an era that certainly people aren’t holy, but individuals claim the morality of justice for themselves. If one THINKS it is just, then others must think that too. We live in an era that degrades those that would uphold justice such as police, judges, etc. We want the “book thrown” at those we oppose, but in no way would we agree that we deserve the book thrown at us. If it’s our idea of justice, than those who violate that justice should be punished. If one would challenge our standard of justice, we are dismissed at best, labeled haters at worst.
Unfortunately in our society justice is seen as subjective, situational, and able to change. Culture dismisses objective truth because it challenges the source of that truth whether it is the Bible, the Constitution or the local laws.
All of this is perpetuated under the pseudo umbrella of “love.” Love should have no boundaries. So this is how it plays out in the spiritual dialogue:
If God is loving, he will support whatever I do. For God to put down boundaries, let alone enforce those boundaries is not what loving people or gods do.
This is a key lie that Satan has made believable in many people’s minds.
So of course it doesn’t make sense and is repulsive to see in the Bible people’s wiped out by “God’s people.”
But we look a bit further to see the proper perspective and the heart of God.
First, God describes his character:
Exodus 20:5-6 I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Second God shows his heart to the wicked:
Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
When the people didn’t turn to the Lord, the Lord carried out justice:
Deuteronomy 9:4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
There is more to be said, but quickly back to Jonah. God could have wiped out Nineveh because of their wickedness. He had every right to. However, he sent Jonah to preach to them and bring them to repentance so he might show his mercy instead of his justice.
This is true for you and me too. God warns us of wickedness and calls us to repentance so that we might live forever and not die eternally.
Apply: Why is it hard to understand and allow God’s justice to sit in parallel with his love?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for being perfectly just and perfectly loving. I am confident you show both, always in a perfect way. AMEN.