The Story: The Loving God of War, Part 3

So why was it moral and right for God to command the deaths of the Canaanites? To kill so many in the Flood?

I know this is going to sound a bit harsh, but here’s the reality of it all. These people were all destined for destruction anyway.

I mean, they were disobedient, God-less, and destined for the destroying fires of gehenna.

And if God could justly and morally give them the punishment they deserve at Judgment Day, why not during this life by flood or the hands of Israelites.

In fact, given that God did not send them to perpetual conscious torment for their sins, he was merciful in merely shortening their lives on earth, rather than sending them to hell.

Really? Well, Paul said,

(Act 14:16-17 NAS)  16 “And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

(Act 17:30-31 ESV) 30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

If the Gentiles didn’t go to hell pre-Jesus, does this mean those outside of Israel before Christ went to heaven when they died? No.

(Eph 2:11-12 NAS) 11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision ” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands — 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Before Christ, the Gentiles had no hope, separated from God.

Well, if they didn’t go to heaven and they weren’t punished in eternity, what was their fate?

The best I can figure, when they died, they died. They ceased to exist. What other possibility is there?

You see, the notion that our souls are inherently immortal is Greek, not Jewish or Christian. Rather, the Bible teaches that immortality is a gift given by God to the saved —

(Rom 2:5-7 ESV)  5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  6 He will render to each one according to his works:  7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

(1Co 15:53-54 ESV)  53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

(1Ti 6:16 ESV) 16 [God] alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

We are not born immortal. We are mortal by nature. Eternal life comes from God, and if he chooses not to give us eternal life, when we die, we cease to exist — unless God has other plans for us.

You see, God’s treatment of the Gentiles in pre-Christian times was unimaginably merciful. Whatever punishment they received for their sins, they received in this life — in this “mortal plane.” This was grace for all.

If God chose to exact just punishment during this mortal existence through the Israelite swords, or by Flood, well, I’d rather die by the sword and then cease to exist, than die a natural death only to meet the wrath of God in gehenna. It’s still mercy.

But what about the children?

The obvious counter-argument is the fact that warfare and floods kill not only adults but children, including children so young that they surely don’t deserve death.

It’s a fair question, but it assumes a lot. For example, it assumes that anyone deserves life, and from God’s perspective, that’s  just not true.

(Rom 9:20-24 ESV)  20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”  21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory —  24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Paul’s point in v. 22 isn’t that God sent the Gentiles pre-Christ to an eternal hell, but that God, in his mercy, did not — even though that would have been just. God showed divine patience.

But that was a matter of grace, not entitlement. What we all deserve is destruction and death — those of us who are in any sense accountable for our own sins.

But children? Well, God clearly killed children in the Flood. He clearly ordered the deaths of all alive in certain Canaanite cities.

If God knows that an Amelekite child will grow up to be a sinner, disobedient to God, and a participant in a culture that destroys souls, why does God have to wait until the child is 30 to do the just thing? If God knows the child will only become a worse and worse sinner, deserving of more and more punishment, why is it good for God to wait for the child to do more wrong and so deserve to be punished even more? How would that be loving?

It’s tough for humans to put themselves in God’s shoes — impossible, really — because we are so limited in our knowledge and understanding. We cannot carry the moral weight of God’s decision making because we just don’t know enough to even come close to right.

But God is not like us, and therefore can’t be judged by the standards that apply to us. That’s his point to Job. That’s Paul’s point. And it’s obviously true.

We struggle greatly with this thought, in part because we imagine God to be more human than he really is. And in part because we can’t fully grasp what it would be like to know the future perfectly. And perfect foreknowledge dramatically changes what is and isn’t right.

But this much we know for sure. God so loved  the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will be saved. In a very real sense, God himself died on the cross for our sins. Someone far greater than a mere man died for us — and we are thankful. We correctly see it as the greatest act of love in history — and yet it means that God intended the crucifixion of Jesus for thousands of years before it happened.

Jesus died, and yet his death was an act of love. It doesn’t really make sense. Why would the death of a good person be an act of love? But it certainly is — to a believer.

I don’t expect unbelievers to understand, because they’ve not walked with God and felt the love that comes through faith in Jesus. And, yes, it’s an unprovable, subjective argument — that’s true. That’s not a  surprise. It’s the nature of much of Christianity —

(1Co 2:12-15 ESV)  12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.  14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

It’s a difficult lesson — and frustrating if you’re in the middle of an argument with an atheist, I’m sure. But for those who’ve experienced the heart of God through faith in Jesus, it’s absurd to argue that God has acted immorally in his treatment of anyone. It is his nature to sometimes be just — but he is so often gracious, better than just, that we sometimes think of justice as unfair, even wrong. It’s not.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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28 Responses to The Story: The Loving God of War, Part 3

  1. Alan says:

    Everyone is going to die sometime. God gets to decide when. There is nothing unjust about it. God created life, he owns it, and he can destroy it at will.

    For man, the rules are different. The sixth commandment says we must not murder. Yet there are conditions described in the law when killing a person is justified. One of those circumstances is in Ex 22:2-3, the case of a thief killed while breaking in at night. (Note, this is a case of defending property from a thief, not of protecting life and limb.) There are also many situations where the law commands that a life be taken. God saw that as justice. And God’s sense of justice has not changed.

  2. laymond says:

    Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
    Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

    Was it just and right that the perfect and upright man from Uz be punished the way he was to prove a point to Satan, God’s enemy. why bother.
    I believe we should take these fables, and wive’s tales with a grain of salt as Paul suggested.
    I do believe the Jewish people of that time have much to pay for, and here we are hanging on to their coattails with both hands.

  3. Price says:

    Job wasn’t punished for his obedience but corrected because of his arrogance and assumed self-sufficiency. As you recall he repented of challenging God and of declaring himself righteous.

  4. Larry Cheek says:

    After he passed his test, all was restored plus more. I don’t think as I considered myself a believer and disciple of his, I would feel comfortable approaching the throne at judgment if I had called portions of his message penned by inspired writers, wive’s tales and fables. Looks pretty close to blasphemy to me.

  5. laymond says:

    I don’t recall where his family was brought back to life, I suppose it was OK surely he could replace them. Is that what you are saying Larry ? or are you talking about laying up earthly treasures, which Jesus warned about. Would you trade your children for camels Larry ? If you would I doubt you have to worry about “blasphemy”.

  6. Royce says:

    He does what pleases Him and can do what pleases him because He is God. Who is in a position to question His judgement?

  7. laymond says:

    Absolutely right Royce, so evidently it pleased him to destroy this man described here. ” There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” In order to prove a point. I in all good conscience cannot believe the Almighty God who we all know and love, would feel he had to succumb to such evil, and lower himself to Satan’s level. It just didn’t happen the way it was told.

  8. alreadybeen2 says:

    The book of Job is a literary masterpiece. It allows us a glimpse of the
    Court of Heaven, how God does business. We see the Adversary who
    knows how to pull strings. He in effect makes a bet with God that he can
    turn Job from perfection into an enemy of God. Of course God knows Job
    will never leave him so he takes the bet and triumphs over Satan.

  9. Laymond, do you have some real camels on offer or was that just rhetorical? Because my son and I do have days when…

  10. Johnny says:

    Laymond, how do you determine which scripture is true and which are not? You seem to discount the epistles and now the old testament. It reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s famous Bible where he cut out scriptures he did not find to be believable. If you have a tool that allows you to determine which is true and which is not please let me know where you found it.

  11. Monty says:

    Laymond

    The story of Job is an interesting one that raises many questions for us and gives us glimpses into these great mysteries. Mysteries like: Why does God even tolerate Satan? What is man that God is mindful of him in the first place? Why would God in essence make a bet with the Accuser? Who or what is behind tragedy, pain, suffering? Is it just the curse or is Satan involved somehow? Are tragedies just a result of chance and circumstance or something much deeper?

    One thing is clear, God, for HIs purposes allowed this testing by Satan of Job. Job prevailed over the test(as God knew he would). And Satan suffered some type of defeat and was humiliated. Imagine that, a being as prideful as he is, suffering defeat in the courts of heaven.

    One of the great questions IMO that this book raises and answers in the affirmative is can God be worshipped and adored by man based on HIs own goodness and holiness or does God have to grovel at our feet begging for worship and buy us out with good health and good fortune? Satan seemed to believe that God could not be respected and adored unless he bought us off. Job once and for all proved Satan’s fallacy.

    I think it happened exactly as told. Whether we have the ability to discern it’s treasures is another thing altogether.

  12. R.J. says:

    Paul and the book of Job deals with insincere questioning of God. Yet we do have a case of a man respectfully questioning God’s decisions in the book of Habakkuk. Notice God in no way rebukes him but merely invites the prophet to come and see his plans for what they are(and to be patient).

  13. I do not find anything in Romans or in Job to brand their questions of God as somehow “insincere” or “disrespectful”. This is an invention from whole cloth. If accepted, however, such an interpretation does allow us to wash our hands of both segments of scripture, because, as everyone knows, OUR questions of God are sincere and respectful. So, those passages would apply to others, not to us. Oy.

    Job’s questions come from legitimate pain and from his assumptions about how God is to respond to man. Paul offers up his hypothetical questions pre-emptively, as a logical consequence of his teaching about the sovereignty of God. Both these circumstances are common bases for modern man’s serious questions about who God really is.

  14. R.J. says:

    In all due respect,

    The word in Romans 9 is “antapokrinomai” which signifies answering back in a hostile way. Although Job was not completely without integrity. He did eventually start challenging God and even rashly claimed he could prove his innocence.

  15. Larry Cheek says:

    Laymond,

    Your returned message. “I don’t recall where his family was brought back to life, I suppose it was OK surely he could replace them. Is that what you are saying Larry ? or are you talking about laying up earthly treasures, which Jesus warned about. Would you trade your children for camels Larry ? If you would I doubt you have to worry about “blasphemy””

    I assure you that when I spoke about blasphemy I was not using applying that term to any of my statements. You were the one that was relating that you thought God’s story about Job was fictitious.

    So you will have a better understanding of what was restored to Job I suggest that you read; (Job 42:10 KJV) And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
    Then continue through verse 17 then explain how your communication to me fits within the blessings that he received.. Trading children for camels!!!!! Really!!!!

  16. laymond says:

    Larry, in my opinion the book of “Job” is not about one man named “Job” .
    Don’t you know that Jesus tells us, we Christians are all “Jobs” of this world
    And Jesus was the first.

    ‘Iyowb = Job = “hated”

    Mat 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
    Jhn 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you.

    The story of “Job” (in my opinion) tells us as believers in God Almighty no matter what this world throws at us we will come out ahead if we see it through till the end. No one man could endure what “Job” had to endure but with Jesus as our example we as Christians (believers) can endure what is thrown our way, and come out the other side stronger.

  17. laymond says:

    “Job” represented the good in mankind, not a single man. And yes Satan of this world hates anything to do with God, and he travels about the earth to-and-fro doing anything he can to turn man from God.

  18. Larry Cheek says:

    Laymond,
    I say again, if a man attempts to re-write God’s message because it appears to him to be unbelievable, you may have to replace almost all of God’s Word. As you study the communications and actions between God and mankind displayed in scripture if you don’t find a lot more places that are unbelievable, either you have not read much or have not understood the magnitude of the story. It really takes a lot of faith to believe the stories of the flood, the plagues, the crossing of the red sea by that many people, imagining the movement of the million plus Israelite’s traveling to Canaan, their clothes not deteriorating during the complete 40 years, and on and on. How can you believe any of these events and then balk at believing the story of Job? Is the story of Job such a greater event than any of these? As you contend that the story is like wife’s tales and fables, what man on earth at that time had the intelligence about the universe to discuss it in perfection as described in the text? With all the knowledge and abilities that mankind has today he has never proved one concept discussed there as fictitious. I would believe that you are not more capable to identify any of the text false than all mankind since it was written. I believe we all should pray for the strengthening of your faith.

  19. laymond says:

    “I would believe that you are not more capable to identify any of the text false than all mankind since it was written. I believe we all should pray for the strengthening of your faith.”
    (I don’t believe I said the story was false, just a parable)
    Larry do you not believe God spoke in parables, if God spoke through Jesus and Jesus spoke in parables, who was speaking if not God.

    Larry what are you going to pray I have more faith in mankind, or a book written by man.

    Sorry Larry I don’t have extra faith. My faith (all of it) belongs to God and his son Jesus , and the message God sent by his son. Yes I know I am placing faith that the apostles who were with Jesus are telling a true story, If they are not truthful then it is as Paul said “we worship an unknown god”

  20. RJ, it is useful to remember that the language in Romans is Paul’s own rhetorical language, not that of any actual questioner. So it is pointless to try to attribute intent here.

    As to Job, if he were standing on God’s characterization of Job, he COULD prove his innocence. At least, that would be a rational assessment, the sort we tend to use all the time. From the toddler to the reformed theologian, “I didn’t do nothin’!” is, when truthfully stated, considered an airtight defense. We do it all the time. This is the presumption to which God refuses to respond. God, in both cases, does not deny either Job or the Roman believers standing to question Him on the basis of their own insincerity or bad motivation. He denies their standing to question Him on the basis of their not being God…

  21. Larry Cheek says:

    Laymond,
    Why would you contend that the message about Job was a parable then accept the other equally unimaginable stories in history as not parables? Enlighten us as to your sources of authority, maybe we will be able to agree with you.

  22. Larry Cheek says:

    Laymond,
    You did help me to place a test upon the message of Job.
    (Job 1:1 KJV) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
    You contend that it is a parable. Yet, the message not only identifies the man’s name but, also the land where he lived. If this had been a parable the identification of the man could and should have been in the third party. You know, there once was a man, remember the Lord’s parable.
    (Mat 25:14 KJV) For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
    The man was not named, and his residence was not identified.
    I just cannot see any evidence that your conclusion is correct.

  23. laymond says:

    Larry asked the question ” Why would you contend that the message about Job was a parable then accept the other equally unimaginable stories in history as not parables? ” I thought I had summed up the story of “Job, which means hated” by referring to the following vs.
    Mat 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

    Jesus told the story of “Job/ the hated” in one sentence. (Job was hated by others because he loved God, and God loved him, but he endured the hate and was rewarded at the end.)

    There are other stories that are parables, and there are others that are only exaggerated, as story tellers were apt to do in those days. Do you really believe Samson killed exactly a thousand men, with that bone? (how long would that take, anyway?) How about the tally accredited to the fighting talents of David? ( started on the streets, by women after David returned from battle) exaggerations, and exaggerations are not the “truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
    What about the “Beggar, and the rich man” parable. ?

  24. Larry Cheek says:

    Laymond,
    So you do not believe many of God’s messages that are uncomprehensible by men, you have the ability to testify to what portions of God’s word is truth or just exaggerations. I understood that Jesus testified of truth and he never explained to us that God exaggerated the writings in the scriptures. It is you that have authored, “Jesus told the story of “Job/ the hated” in one sentence. (Job was hated by others because he loved God, and God loved him, but he endured the hate and was rewarded at the end.)” Jesus never commented about the story of Job. Check it out, I did and you can also.

  25. laymond says:

    Larry, if you are right, and this story as told came straight from the mouth of God, poor old Job was the most tortured soul ever, It makes Jesus on the cross look like a picnic in the park.

    But if my interpretation is correct, the story is a message to the believers in God, no matter what life throws your way, remain faithful, and you will over come. I believe that is the same message Jesus brought later on.
    You say ” Jesus never commented about the story of Job.” Larry Jesus never commented on Job as a tortured man, because the story is not about a single man . until you accept the fact that “Job” translates into “hated” and Jesus mentioned that you would be “hated” because of your love and trust of God just as Jesus was hated for the same reason. It will be hard to understand the story of “Job” .

  26. Larry Cheek says:

    Laymond,
    If the story of Job was just a parable as you suggest, why would God or the man that actually penned the writing attach names (identities) to not only Job but to his daughters who were his children after his demonstration of his devotion to God?
    (Job 42:13 KJV) He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. 15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.
    In the course of the story as you have portrayed its purpose, what purpose would the following comments serve?
    1. That the daughters were fair (beautiful) above all others.
    2. That not only the brothers received an inheritance but the daughters were also given an inheritance (which was not normal in the customs of the Israelite Nation)

    The scriptures testify of his life after the completion of the testing.
    (Job 42:16 KJV) After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. 17 So Job died, being old and full of days.

    (Ezek 14:14 KJV) Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD. 15 If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts: 16 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate. 17 Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it: 18 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. 19 Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: 20 Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.

    So according to Laymond, the Lord must have lied in these scriptures as he stated that “Job” was a man just like two others, Noah and Daniel, giving all three equal status.

    James also refers to a parable, which endured?
    (James 5:11 KJV) Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

    Laymond, I would hope that you would reconsider your beliefs about God’s messages here because of the warning in 2 Timothy 2:9-12. It appears to me that if God confirmed that these three were men and you attempt to believe or teach that it is not true you would be calling God a lair.

    I don’t believe I would have ever attempted to compare Jesus’s sacrifice for mankind as being a picnic compared to the testing of Job, and I don’t believe that God would see it that way either.

  27. laymond says:

    What the book of Job sounds like more than anything else is a Roman play manuscript, if you read it as a play where the main characters are speaking there are even directions given. And it sounds more like it was written referring to Greek Gods rather than the Jewish God it would be in character for Greek gods playing with human lives, but not the God of the Jews. as for names all plays include names of the main characters. the characters in the book just does not fit the character of God. I believe the bible says that “God does not tempt man with evil ” if poor old Job was not at least tempted he was not a man.

  28. laymond says:

    “It appears to me that if God confirmed that these three were men and you attempt to believe or teach that it is not true you would be calling God a lair.”
    Larry it might also appear that if God called Jesus a man, in Hebrews and you call Jesus god, you might be calling God a liar.
    But actually both books referred to here were written by men. There are very few places in the bible that refer to God speaking through men.

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