This week, Pastor J.D. answers the question “Why does God seem cruel in some parts of the Bible?”
- I always joke that if there are five questions I’m going to be asked on a college campus, this is one of them.
- I don’t want to give one general answer here. We’ve done episodes like that before where you have to press into the individual passage itself, and find within it the clues that shows you that the same God that we find in Jesus—the merciful God, the one who’s willing to die on the cross is the same God of the Old Testament. Sometimes people think Old Testament God is like God in His middle school years—He’s crank and then he basically gets saved and comes back as Jesus who is loving and gentle. But what Jesus said was far different.
- Jesus said that they really are the same.
- Let’s just take one example. David commits the sin in 2 Samuel 24 where he counts the people and God told him not to do that. David does it anyways, and because of that, God sends a plague where 70,000 people die.
- When you look at that, you might think, “What kind of god is this?” in response to something that wasn’t really even that bad. David just counted the people that God strikes down 70,000 innocent people.
- What we’re not going to dive into is why that sin was actually really bad, but let’s talk on the question of 70,000 people dying something that not even really their sin.
- The passage makes it clear: God was angry with the sin of Israel. And David was just his instrument for letting punishment come to Israel. What that means is that these weren’t all innocent people. And in a bigger sense, that’s the truth of the entire human race. All of us were not guilty of every sin, but all of us are guilty of enough sin that we stand under God’s condemnation.
- One time in the New Testament, there was this tower that fell on Jewish people and the disciples asked Jesus if they were the most wicked people in Israel? Jesus said, no. He said, “Truly, truly, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” So the question is, “Why are any of us still living today?”
- Whatever God is doing in the human race is in one sense justified.
- The second part of my answer is this: Others are not held guilty for our sins, but the Bible teaches that our sins do have an effect on others. I mean, we all know that right? If you have a father who is an alcoholic, then the kids suffer. The kids didn’t do anything wrong, but they suffer for it. If one marriage partner sins, then both the other spouse and the kids suffer from their sinful choices.
- There’s constant things throughout the Bible that just remind you that our sin affects people and when it’s the sin of a leader like David, then yes, people suffer.
- Innocent people suffer from my mistakes as a father and as a pastor. It raises the level of leadership.
- One more thing: You might say, “Well, that’s what I’m talking about, the 70,000 people didn’t just experience some negative effects of David’s leadership. They died, and that is just so ultimate.”
- It was really liberating for me when I when I finally got my head around it. In the Bible’s perspective, physical death is not ultimate in terms of judgment. Every single person in the story of David and the counting of the people are dead right now including David and Samuel—the most righteous people—all of them have passed away. The 70,000 just died early. To use Tim Keller’s phrase, “He collected a few people early for the sake of many people’s eternities.” That is hardly immoral.
- From an eternal perspective, physical death is not the ultimate judgment, eternal life or eternal death. That’s the ultimate judgment
- So you have to have an eternal perspective about this stuff. You have to realize that death looks big to us. But in light of eternity, it’s not that big and ultimate justice comes in either heavenly reward or it comes in an eternal punishment.
- God’s justice is like the ocean. You can never get to the bottom of it. And the one thing no one will ever say, when we get into eternity, is that is that God was wrong, or we were more just than he was.
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