“We Don’t Love God By Killing People”

So what do you think? How would you answer this question: “If God is Love, how could He have all of those people in the Old Testament killed?” 

We associate “Love God, Kill Your Neighbor” with religious wars, fundamentalist thinking, and fanaticism. These are people who build bombs in their basement, shoot people in public, carry “God Hates You” signs…or maybe they just call you names, shut you out, bully you. This is difficult for me to understand. Most of us would agree we don’t love God by killing our neighbor, but what about God’s commandment here?

You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 20:17-18 (NRSV)

Honestly this perplexes me at times, but I have been trying to view things differently. It’s sort of what artists (or want-to-be artists) do. I’m unable to just simply say, “We can’t understand God’s thoughts and ways.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) I have to have some idea to consider, something to try to sketch out, whether I find it valid or not in the end.

So what if we try to view everything in the Old Testament as being about God’s plan to become flesh and dwelling among us? What if all of God’s actions, covenants, and laws are viewed through the lens of “I must send My Son into the world to be born as Son of God and Son of Man”?

For the Incarnation to happen, God needed a holy nation and a holy family to bring a holy child into the world. This was likely the most important thing to God. In fact it was so important that when the Israelites had disappointed God so much, He told Moses that He would wipe them all off of the earth and start His plan again with just Moses to build a holy nation. (Deuteronomy 9:13-14) Without the Incarnation, all would be lost. God could not give up His plan.

God was very concerned, I believe, about what kind of people would be surrounding His Holy Child, His Son. This is why He needed a holy nation. He couldn’t tolerate any pagan beliefs because of what could possibly happen. Some pagan worship involved child sacrifice, burning children alive, so God commanded against this. (Leviticus 18:21) Even with all of God’s warnings, this still happened. (Honestly, if people are going to do that to little children, what else might they do?)

They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons,and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Psalm 106:34-38 (NRSV)

So what if this was part of the reason, maybe not all of the reason, for what seems to be a contradiction? God had to protect His Son who was to be born a baby into a frightening and violent Roman-occupied country in a very violent world.

Yet I do wonder, “Well, God could just protect Jesus as a child. He could send an angel if someone was going to do any harm to Jesus.” But even though He could have, I have a hard time imagining that He would have. This, I believe, has something to do with how Jesus never took any miraculous actions to save Himself, even when people wanted to stone Him. (John 8:59 and 10:31)

So then I wonder, “Well, surely God could have outsmarted people and prevented any harm from occurring.” But really, haven’t we seen the evil that people can do? Even Jesus as an adult did not trust people. (John 2:24-25) And could we really worship God from our hearts if His plan of redemption rested on being able to outsmart us?

What if God wanted Jesus to be just like you and me? What if God wanted Jesus to walk by faith? That meant with no “safety net” of angels or superior outsmarting, just faith in His Father built upon knowing the holy scriptures, prayer, and meditation. These are the same tools that you and I have.

The people of the Old Testament didn’t understand everything perfectly because they were right in the middle of God working out His plan for the Incarnation. Maybe we as people of the New Testament don’t understand everything because we are right in the middle,of God working out His plan for the the Parousia, Christ’s Second Coming.

And so finally…

What if we can’t understand everything now because God’s love is bigger than our minds can comprehend? What if the “New And Improved For Everybody” must come to pass first?

Is there anything profound here? Doubtful. Does this explain everything? No. It may not explain anything at all or only scratch the surface, but it does help me to imagine and ask questions.

I’m learning, very slowly, that knowing the answers is not the same as knowing God. Perhaps that is the best response to the question that started all of this.

11 thoughts on ““We Don’t Love God By Killing People”

  1. God is not an abstraction, He wades right into history and in the OT it was kill or be killed; if you lost the battle you lost everything… though its also a metaphor for our own lives and our battles with sin. If we let it live, if we indulge it, if we “intermarry” with sin we are in trouble. Jesus needed to show up among a people who fiercely believed in the one true God so that when God was found walking and talking in their midst they might just recognize Him. I love how you showed we are in the same position of waiting, just like the Jews. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Chuck! You know I was a somewhat concerned about getting the message across. I think sometimes we imagine the Old Testament world sort of like our own world, only with different clothes. It really was kill or be killed, just as you say…with brutality and atrocities and torture for entertainment. I really think that there were places back then where it might have been better off never to have been born…and I wonder if there aren’t some places like that still left in the world. Anyway, thanks for the feedback! One down and one to go with this little series!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for posting on this topic!

    God’s people in the old testament had to have faith without the holy spirit inside them. They didn’t have the fire to do the right thing and the internal battle which makes us feel bad when we sin. Temptation without that would be a very difficult thing to resist, which is why it was so important for them to completely avoid any of the pagan rituals, items, beliefs, and even people at times.

    Don’t get me wrong, they definitely had feelings and emotion, but feelings without having that internal mechanism guiding you had to be tough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just wanted to thank you again for this insightful comment. It was on my heart this morning as I was preparing today’s written post, and it gave me a really fresher perspective than my draft from last night. That’s one of the really great things about WordPress…exchanging ideas and insights help all of us to grow spiritual. Anyway, I included a “thank you” at the end of today’s post along with a link to your site. Hopefully that will give others a chance to check out some of your great posts! Thanks again! John

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The more studying and discussing all of us can do, the better it makes us. I’m glad we both can help each other reach greater understanding of the truth. It’s a blessing to be able to speak to others who are also willing to grow and self correct or self educate. There are many unwilling to change their views. I look forward to others challenging me to be better and of course discussing your future thoughts with you and others.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the thought that everything in the Old Testament was about God’s plan to send Jesus and he needed a holy nation to do that. Yes, that makes sense.

    I believe God put those evil nations to death because they were like Sodom. They were doing horrible things and had to be stopped. They were hurting too many people. Their religion was despicable full of sex and murdering children.

    I disagree about the Holy Spirit not being in people or making people feel guilty. The Psalms is full of references to the Holy Spirit, coviction of sin and repentance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Belle. I may need to clarify that part about the Holy Spirit because you’re right, the Holy Spirit did work in and speak through people in the Old Testament days. I think the difference then was that it was on occasion (when prophesying for example) rather than an abiding presence. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I do believe he was an abiding presence back then. Still, the Holy Spirit did come with mighty power to the early church and enabled the disciples to work many miracles. I think God did that to throw attention to this new religion. So that many thousands would believe.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Looks like you have a good post and some good comments.

    The OT is about the Law. It isn’t about grace and mercy. When people depend upon their own works for salvation, they can’t make the grade — perfection — so they get punished. Whether that means Hell or not is an issue we can’t actually settle.

    When God eliminates a people, we also have realize God is full of grace and mercy even when we refuse His grace and mercy. The Canaanites were not happy people, and they were growing more sinful. From God’s perspective, I suspect He was being merciful.

    Note that Hebrews 11 speaks of Old Testament souls saved through their faith. Even then that was the path to salvation, but most of us find such a way to salvation difficult to accept. Therefore, the Bible makes the choice clear to us.

    Pentecost is about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Until then very few people were filled with the Holy Spirit in the sense we see today. Nevertheless, I expect we will see people in heaven from the days before Abraham. Consider what the Apostle Paul said when he preached to the Athenians.

    Acts 17:30-31 Good News Translation (GNT)

    30 God has overlooked the times when people did not know him, but now he commands all of them everywhere to turn away from their evil ways. 31 For he has fixed a day in which he will judge the whole world with justice by means of a man he has chosen. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising that man from death!”

    Liked by 1 person

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