Friday, March 7, 2014

God's Judgment in the Old Testament

I'm currently preaching through Amos, which is interesting, to say the least.  When you begin to talk about the Old Testament, there is one thing which is often brought up; God's judgement on other nations.  You get questions like, "Why did God command the destruction of so many innocent people?"  This is an important and difficult question that I'm sure I can't answer fully.  However, there is one thing which I've been thinking about lately that might help some.

As we read through Amos 4, my chapter for this coming Sunday, we read of the way God has sent warning after warning to the people of Israel.  He has sent "cleanness of teeth", and then "drought".  Following this there is blight and mildew on the plants, the death of young men, and the destruction of cities.

This is the natural pattern we find in Scripture.  God never comes to the people of Israel and wipes them out without first issuing warnings, sending prophets, and then plagues.  These plagues ramp up in intensity as they go along.  Only after they have effectively ignored God for hundreds of years does God finally bring judgment on them.

If you were to ask if this is right, most Christians would say yes.  Certainly, after so many warnings, and the mercy of God being extended that far, God had the right to bring judgment on the people of Israel.

This idea is very consistent with what we read and know of God from all over the Bible.  He is merciful and just, desires holiness and relationship, and is willing to do just about anything to get those.

So here is the important questions when it comes to the other nations.  Why do we assume that God treated them any differently?  Certainly there was something unique about Israel.  They were, after all, chosen among all the nations of the world to have a special relationship with God which would culminate in the Savior of the world coming from among them.

But throughout the Old Testament we find people like Melchizedek, who wasn't a descendant of Abraham, but was a "priest of God Most High".  He is the man to whom Abraham, the father of the Jews, tithed.  That's not insignificant.  We read about Jonah, the prophet sent to Nineveh, and other prophets, including Amos, who prophesied to other nations from out of Israel.

In fact, it's important to note that the reason Abraham wasn't allowed to take the Promised Land, but was made to wander, was because the "iniquity of the Amorites [was] not yet complete".  In other words, God was going to extend his mercy to that nation for another 400 years.

This is more in line with what we know about God.  He sends his messengers, gives warnings, and extends His mercy far more than we deserve.  He did it for the Jews, which we read of time and again.  He has done it for me, and for you as well.  Doesn't it make sense that God would also do this for the other nations?