From our perspective God does some things that appear to be awful. When we read the Bible we see what looks like genocide and murder. Either God orders the killing, or He does it Himself. Here are some examples.
- The Great Flood.
- The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- The Ten Plagues of Egypt.
- Ordering the Hebrews to annihilate the Canaanites.
- Delivering up the sons of Saul to be hung by the Gibeonites.
The Book of Revelation tells of more awful things to come. Then, of course, there is that great, mysterious evil we call Hell. How is it that God does or even allows such things?
The last example from above, the Gibeonite Revenge, is told cryptically. In greater scheme of things, the story seems to be a small thing. Yet it is the the Bible, and it is so puzzling.
In the midst of famine King David grew desperate and sought the cause from God. God told him the following:
It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death. (from here)
So David contacted the remaining Gibeonites and found out what they wanted. The Gibeonites demanded seven of Saul’s sons. So King David delivered up seven of Saul’s sons, and the Gibeonites hung them.
Were the sons of Saul, the ones the Gibeonites hung, in any way responsible for what Saul had done to the Gibeonites? We don’t know, and the Bible does not say. What we know is told in Joshua 9. Joshua 9 explains how the Gibeonites tricked the people of Israel into making a treaty. Afraid for their lives the Gibeonites deceived the people of Israel into making a friendship treaty. Therefore, even though the Gibeonites were Canaanites, people God had charged Israel to drive from the Promised Land, in God’s name the People of Israel had sworn to let Gibeonites live, and Saul had violated that oath.
Because the Bible is the story of our redemption by Jesus, the Bible is about Jesus, but it is also about us. The Bible demonstrates our need for redemption by providing us a record of some of our sins: our lies and deceits, our thievery, our murders and genocides, our greed, our lusts, our gluttony, …… What is God to do with us? If we were God would we know what to do? Would we be as merciful and compassionate?
Still, when we sin, don’t we know that two wrongs do not make a right? Are we not told that the end does not justify the means? What about God? Don’t the same rules apply to God? The answer seems to be “no”. Unlike us, God knows perfectly well what means He requires to achieve His ends. Unlike God, we are not omniscient. So we have to follow God’s rules, not the other way around.
What does following God’s rules mean for us? It means obeying God because we love Him. It means seeking His mercy and compassion.
Because we don’t know enough, we cannot judge God. Because God is God, and we are not, He does not need us to make excuses for Him. So if some passage in the Bible does not make sense to us, we should be wondering what God knows that we don’t know, not judging Him or making excuses for Him.
Consider. The Book of Genesis includes the story of Jacob and Esau, twins. God loved one. He hated the other.
Malachi 1:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 The burden[a] of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’
Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?”
Says the Lord.
“Yet Jacob I have loved;
3 But Esau I have hated,
And laid waste his mountains and his heritage
For the jackals of the wilderness.”
What made Jacob any better than Esau? The Apostle Paul provided an explanation in Romans.
Romans 9:10-18 New King James Version (NKJV)
10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”[a] 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”[b]
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”[c] 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”[d] 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
God is God. I am not God. You are not God. Even all of us together cannot be God. The glory of the heavens reveal His power and just how small we are. Hence there is nothing we can do except pray and hope He has mercy and compassion upon those we love.
We are part of a story written by our Creator. We have the honor of being made in His image. If we love Him, we will obey His commands. More He does not ask, but His compassion and mercy He offers abundantly.
Romans 8:28-30 New King James Version (NKJV)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.