Is This the God that You Love and Worship?

Guest post by Daniel Skillman, author of Following the Rabbi.”
You can also follow him on Facebook.

Is This the God that You Love and Worship?

As you read the verses that I’ve used to divide the sections of this paper, I want you to ask yourself, “Is this the God that I love and worship?” I think you will find the exercise instructive and insightful. Beware, however. You may not always like what you see.

  1. “The LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you” (Deuteronomy 28:63).

Is the God you love and worship delightfully vindictive? I mean, even earthly parents, when they feel they must punish their children, say, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” You don’t take any delight in putting your child in a corner, giving them a time out, taking away their favorite TV program, or God-forbid, giving them a spanking. Do you?

Then, there is the fact that, in another place, the Scriptures say, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God?…I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declared the Lord God” (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). And in another place, they say, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11).

Do you see the glaring contradiction? Don’t reach for your big book of Bible difficulties. I have it. I’ve read it. It is entirely unconvincing, and a prime example of ad hoc reasoning. The only reason someone would seek to smooth such a blatant contradiction is because they already have a prior commitment to a particular form of Biblical inerrancy. This comes across as special pleading.

It would be better, and more honest (honesty is a Christian ethic, afterall) to say, these passages are saying different and contradictory things. Then go the extra step. Make your choice between them. It isn’t difficult to decide. Is it? If it is, then maybe the Bible is doing a good work revealing where your heart is, and how much more work you need.

The choice is simple. God does not take delight in the destruction of the wicked. You should know this. This is common moral sense. You know this when you deal with your own children. You should know this even when you deal with adults.

If you need some textual reason to make the right choice, you could cite Ezekiel. I would offer you one better than that. You could cite Jesus who did not rejoice, but wept over Jerusalem when He say the destruction that was coming her way because of her wicked choices (Luke 19:41-44).

But, none of this should be necessary. You should simply know that it is wrong to gloat. Even the NFL gives excessive celebration in the end zone after your team scores a touchdown over the opposing team’s defense a penalty. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him” (Proverbs 24:17-18)

  1. “Because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die” (2 Samuel 12:14-15).

Is the God you love the kind of God who would kill a child because of the sin of his parent? I mean, even mobsters find this kind of vindictiveness cruel and unusual. It’s one thing to come after me for my crimes, it’s another thing to come after my children. We all know that hurting someone’s innocent family to get back at the person who harmed us is a bridge too far. Don’t you know that?

Then there is the fact that, in another place, the Scriptures say, “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel” (Ezekiel 18:2-3; see also Jeremiah 31:29-30). And a little further on, the Scriptures say, “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20).

Do you see the glaring contradiction? Again, please, set the big book of Bible difficulties down. Ad Hoc reasoning and special pleading will get you nowhere. Nothing can get the god envisioned in 2 Samuel off the hook for killing a child for the sins of his parent.

The contradiction in Scripture is obvious, and *deliberate. Ezekiel is clearly challenging the notion of punishing the children for the sins of the parents. The prophet is directly opposing the theology of Deuteronomy (at least as that theology is understood in 2 Samuel) which says, “I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation” (Deuteronomy 5:9). Actually witnessing children being born in captivity, punished, and enslaved for the sins of their fathers tends to soften one’s heart, no matter what a sacred book might say. So, Ezekiel speaks out.

Can’t you see, at the very least, that there are two opinions about God presented here? On the one hand, you have a vision of a God who kills a child because his father sinned. On the other hand, you have a vision of a God who would *never kill a child because of the sin of his father.

Is it that difficult to decide between the two visions? If it is, you might consider the image you see of yourself in the mirror of the Bible. Are you the kind of person who would kill a child because of the evil of his parents? You might just be.

The choice really should be easy. God does not kill children for the sins of their parents. You should know this. This isn’t a difficult ethical conundrum. It’s a fat pitch right over the plate. We all recoil in horror at the gangster who kills the innocent children of his rival.

If you need a Bible verse in front of you to make the right choice, you could use the one’s I’ve shown you from Ezekiel. Or you could cite Jesus, who, when confronted with the assumption that a man was born blind because of the sin of his parents, said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents” (John 9:3).

But, none of this should be necessary. You should simply know that it is wrong to kill a child because of the evil of his parents, no matter how wicked they are. Even Deuteronomy, in clearer moments, knows as much, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers” (Deuteronomy 24:16).

  1. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. (1 Samuel 15:3).

Is the God you love the kind of God who commands genocide? Is He the kind of God who commands the wholesale slaughter of not only soldiers and combatants, but of the men and women of the village, and even the children? The babies?

The entire civilized word is agreement that genocide is a horrible crime that we should never let happen again. On the 9th of December 1948, the United Nations in General Assembly passed a revolution that defined genocide as any acts committed, “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” and roundly condemned it.[1] Living in the fresh historical shadow of the Jewish genocide perpetrated by the Nazi’s had a way of galvanizing the world into making a universal declaration against genocide. It is to humanity’s shame that it took so long to come to this realization.

Yet, there are Christians who are not yet ready to join with the rest of the world in this declaration. There are some who continue to find the genocides of the Old Testament acceptable, and therefore the notion that there is nothing wrong with genocide in principle, but only in particular application. That is to say, there are some Christians who are not ready to say that genocide is *always wrong.

It is difficult to imagine a more widespread and insidious version of psychopathy than that instilled in people by a belief in a certain type of inerrancy of a particular set of books that condone genocide. The person who can say, without any pangs of conscience, that, at times, it is not only acceptable, but morally praiseworthy to kill whole cities of men, women, and children, is an ethical invalid. Whether standing at the gates of Auschwitz or the edge of Hiroshima, only the deranged could say, “This is good.” The same is true of Amalek, and Canaan, and any of the other cities and nations “devoted to destruction” supposedly at the command of God. Indeed, it is also true when looking into the waters over the rails of Noah’s ark.

Do you really need a Bible verse telling you not to kill innocent men, women, and children? How about, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). It’s one of the ten commandments. The big ones. Killing a tent maker is murder. Killing a woman washing her clothes is murder. Killing a an infant child is murder. Genocide is murder. There is no way around it.

Can you see the contradiction? Kill them all. Don’t murder. It’s obvious. Israel did not always live up to her higher ideals. She did not always live up even to her lower ones. You shall not murder is not exactly a high bar.

The only way to justify the command of genocide is to say that somehow, all of the people who were killed deserved it. That is, one can wiggle out of it by saying, “Well, it wasn’t ‘murder.’” Now, that’s convenient. More ad hoc reasoning. More special pleading. I’m sure Hitler thought the Jews deserved it. He said as much. He didn’t see himself as a murderer. But give me a break. Of course the authors of genocide are going to say that their victims deserved it. This doesn’t mean that they actually did deserve it. Look into the eyes of a child. Is there anything, anything, that child could do to deserve having its throat cut, its skull bashed in, or it body burnt in flames? The correct answer that should have already flown out of your mouth is, NO! Genocide is *always murder. Always.

But maybe you need to hear it from Jesus. In Matthew 15, the evangelist tells us that a Canaanite woman came to Jesus. Of course, by the time of Jesus, the Canaanites were long since extinct. So, Mark’s reference to the same woman as a Syrophoenician is more accurate. But Matthew’s reference is deliberate. How does Jesus respond to a “Canaanite”? “God’s” instructions are clear: Kill them all. But what does Jesus do? Does He kill the “Canaanite”? No. He grants her request and praises her faith. According to Jesus, that prior vision of God was wrong. God does not sanction the genocide of the Canaanites. He never did. God loves the Canaanites. He always has. That is what Jesus says.

But do you really need a word from Jesus to tell you that genocide is wrong? Do you really need a bunch of dusty old books to tell you that bludgeoning babies is wrong? My God, I hope not. But here you go anyway. “Do not kill the innocent” (Exodus 23:7). Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person” (Deuteronomy 27:25). “You shall not murder” (Jesus in Matthew 18:18).

  1. Is this the God that you love and worship?

I think I could go on all day. But I won’t. I’ve shown you enough. You can take it from here.

When reading the Bible, you need to ask yourself, “Is this the God that I love and worship?” Think about that question. Really think about it.

Don’t read the Bible passively, accepting everything on the page as “God’s own truth.” It clearly isn’t. I’ve just given you three examples. Those examples could be multiplied. Is God merciful (Exodus 34:6), or does God kill without mercy (1 Samuel15:2)? Can God change His mind (Jeremiah 18:7-10) or not (1 Samuel 15:29)? Did God incite David to take a census (2 Samuel 24:1) or was it Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)? Do I need to go on?

You *have to be a discerning reader of the Bible. You *have to make choices about which vision of God you will love and worship. You *can’t avoid it. The texts themselves *demand that you decide between competing options.

Because of papers like this one, I am sometimes accused of being a Bible denier. I would like to address that charge directly. I plead not guilty.

In fact, I would suggest that those who claim that the Scriptures present a unified picture of God are the ones who are speaking heresy and flirting with unbelief. Noting contradictions in the Bible is an exercise in honesty, and making informed, ethical, Jesus-based choices between the competing claims of the Bible is what honoring the Scriptures looks like. It is a very *low opinion of the Bible that requires people to twist their logic, impale their reason, and sear their consciences in order “to accept all of it,” and to make everything fit. You *shouldn’t accept all of it, because not all of it fits, and frankly, some of it is utter garbage.

Unbelief calls evil, good, and good, evil. Faith throws the trash on the heap and lets it burn. When reading the Bible, one would do well to heed the words of Paul: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). One would do better to hear the words of Jesus who said, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Or, in case, you haven’t caught on yet, consider the voice of the Father, who from the glorious cloud of heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genoc…

 


13 thoughts on “Is This the God that You Love and Worship?

  1. You are doing theology. You are supposed to go to God yourself to get the answers to those questions. You don’t get to pick and choose what you like, and you must not create God in your own image.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Peter, what happened? Space doesn’t permit a full answer, but in summary, by your 4 paragraphs:
    1) rebels against God are not his children. His holiness requires judgment & it is in that that He delights. The fact that judgment is right & necessary is a delight to God & to the righteous. The result of it – the sinner’s destruction – is not.
    2) The death of the child in 2 Sam 12 is not a judgment on the unborn child. In fact, it’s hard to characterize going straight from the womb to heaven as a judgment at all. Rather, as with the death of the son of David & Bathsheba’s adultery, it is a judgment on the living adult sinner; a consequence of his actions. Everyone dies because of inherited original sin, including babies. When & how we die is entirely God’s choice,
    3) The genocide associated w/ the Conquest of Canaan was limited to certain designated cities only, not to all Canaanite cities. It was a one-time command not applicable anywhere else & was meant to eradicate the pernicious sorcery & genetic-occult activity of these selected cities, as evidenced by their association w/ the Nephilim, Anakim, Emim, Zuzim, & Zamzummim. As God predicted to Abraham in Genesis 15, they had had 4 centuries to repent & had not. Again, God has sentenced every child of Adam to universal death. Griping about the specific circumstances is absurd.
    4) Wow, at least 25 interrogatories in this essay. Also, “afterall” is two words, not one. You fail to answer by what standard you would judge one verse true & another false; why Jesus could say that every comma & semicolon of the Torah was true; why Jesus affirmed that Moses was a true prophet & also the human author of the Torah; why the loving Jesus that “loves His children” is seen returning to earth, soaked in the blood of His enemies. And if you are repulsed by the temporal execution of human beings on earth by God’s command, are you not compelled to deny eternal hell & the lake of fire, the existence of which we only know about by the teachings of Jesus?
    To deny that the Tanakh (Old Testament) is true, when the Lord, His apostles & His prophets all said the opposite is, by definition, heresy. It is the silky, poisonous siren call of the serpent: “Hath God really said…? (Genesis 3)

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  3. honestly i get what you are saying, but the bottom line is you are divorcing Jesus from the rest of the Bible or at the very least making the God of the old testament look bad. not a good idea! when we start judging God, we in some ways are trying to become God. God is the Lord of Hosts, there is a court in heaven and we do not understand everything that is going on here. He is Adonai – the righteous master or judge. “My ways are not your ways.” i dont believe we can understand all of these passages that appear to be different than what he calls the God we know and Love. the most obvious thing about any of those passages is that you really cant nail anything down theologically. if you really believe in the war of the seed/dna described in Gen 3 and the resulting nephalim of Gen 6, then you have to understand that all of were commanded to be wiped out 100%. this is why people think the God of the old testament is unloving or a racist. i also didnt see any serious breakdowns in hebrew or quoting the septuagint with regards to reconciling these passages to what Jesus said? why? because we dont need to read that part of the Bible any more. yet, if we throw out the old test, then we also throw out the prophecies that tell us who the messaih will be. what about Jesus when He quoted the old testament. the bottom line here is people like this also have a problems with the Jesus of revelations who is the Lion of judah who returns and slays the wicked and puts them in hell. Jesus spoke more about hell than any other prophet. what this sounds really sounds like is the politically correct church view aka – Laodicean church of revelations.

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  4. Thanks for the comments, this issue does deserve a HUGE level of thoughtfulness. The problem has been with us since Jesus came to clearly reveal the true nature of God. I do agree that it comes down to a question of, “Hath God REALLY said?” I would say, yes, He has spoken perfectly through Jesus. Will you trust THAT voice, or allow other voices to water down what God has spoken to us face to face?

    Yes, this demands a new hermeneutic of inerrancy. Not simple biblical inerrancy in which all biblical voices are flattened out and equalized, but a Christocentric inerrancy in which Jesus becomes the lens through which we read and TEST all of Scripture.

    Why must we TEST Scripture? Because there are many voices speaking. It is not a simple monologue FROM God delivered via some sort of automatic writing, but rather a conversation about God written by inspired humans who nonetheless carried various points of view and levels of revelation and understanding. Jesus comes first because His point of view, depth of understanding, and quality of revelation tops them all BY FAR.

    I know this is NOT a simple problem. Here is a good blog by Richard Beck that highlights the depth of our problem – http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2013/11/its-same-god-on-marcionism-creeds.html

    And here is a GREAT resource that helps shine a light on the “many voices” while supporting the Christocentric solution- http://www.clarion-journal.com/files/one-story-1.pdf

    Indeed, “Hath God REALLY said?”

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  5. Sounds like YOU have a problem with scripture. Not to worry, the pope is putting together a world religion where you all can go to soon and tell each other how the god you worship is so much more loving than the God of the Bible. I bet you even fly a rainbow flag to prove it.

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  6. 2 Timothy 3:16-17King James Version (KJV)

    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Contradictions in the Bible are simply placed their by God to encourage His disciples to think and pray and meditate deeply and logically about those issues until you and God can come to the correct understanding. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2. I suggest Daniel Skillman and Peter Goodgame are not quite done with their search for the truth. All of the Word of God is true. I love your heart Peter and your passion for searching for the truth has been a blessing to me many times. God bless you and your curiosity.

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  8. Someone has perceived a problem where no problem exists. 1) Scripture explains itself, God said what he said and man judges God at his own peril. 2) God dealt with man fairly but differently in that time period under Mosaic law. 3) There had to be a contrast so the uniqueness of Jesus when he came (Kingdom of God) could be seen and embraced.

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  9. wow. terrific exercise in heretical reasoning. Hey, the bible is full of contradictions, so you must pick which side you prefer, and by the way, if you pick the verses i don’t like, then you might just be an ardent fan of genocide, murder, and unjust hatred. How juvenile. Does the bible contain verses that appear contradictory? Yep. I, however, rather than accepting the author’s (of this article) viewpoint, believe there is another course. While the author shrewdly warns you against reading any other interpretation of these passages (he’s read them, and is unconvinced), you might want to try it yourself. Was he afraid one might accept explanations of bible difficulties other than his own? Apparently.
    Note also that he’s thrown out the concept of inerrant scripture. He has asked you doubt what you read in the bible, at least what he doesn’t like, and to join him in arbitrary choices as to what is acceptable and what is not. There is apparently, to him, no other choice. Books like “is God a moral monster” by Paul Copan (who has another about genocide), if he has read them, hold no helpful information. He is correct in asserting one will have to do some research and intellectual work, but to assert that one can reach no other “honest” conclusion other than his is truly question begging.
    So now that the bible, at least parts of it, have now been conveniently eliminated from consideration, one must trust the other’s conclusions, if one is intelligent, honest, and not a genocidal murderer, if only in thought. I offer another option. Stop focusing solely on “love” verses and accept the biblically revealed truth that God is also holy, just, and capable of wrath. The bible says this and more. Perhaps an actual study on the nature of God Almighty as revealed in scripture, might be useful.
    And yes, I can love and worship this God. Why? Because i trust Him. And believe what He said and says. Whether i “get” it all or comprehend it fully. Perhaps the author might follow his own suggestions, and approach ALL of scripture without prejudice and presumption, both of which he clearly exercises in this article. The vacuous suggestion that one’s only option is to either accept his argument fully or to be, in so many words, less than really christian is a devil’s choice. How about simply trusting God and what He says, believing that no matter what that is, God can be no less than perfect, holy, and righteous. The author prefers the following rewriting of Isaiah 55 “My thoughts are entirely understandable by you, and my ways must meet your approval”. I prefer the original.
    May i encourage anyone reading this that disregarding scripture you don’t like, viewing the bible as historic christianity has never done, and exalting your own reasoning over scriptural revelation is never going to end well. If the author were just doing that for himself alone, then the consequences would be his alone to bear. To encourage others to do the same, even if under the heading of “love”, will bring judgement far greater.
    Now remember, according to the author, i am intellectually dishonest, stunted in my understanding, and worship a horrible God whom he can’t bring himself to love and worship. You may not want to listen to me, at least he wouldn’t want you to. So may i suggest you just read the bible. All of it. Get yourself a thorough understanding of the ENTIRE revelation of God, and at NO TIME consider yourself qualified to overrule it. Yes, you may struggle. You may find it hard to grasp fully. Worst of all, you may actually have to admit you don’t, and humble yourself before God and trust (it’s called faith) that He can do nor think any wrong. Or you can just exalt your own understanding, rewrite or edit the bible so it meets your approval, and then cast any wrongdoing under the heading of “more intelligent” or “morally superior” to ease any nagging doubts. Your choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. God often does not explain himself and in some places debates whether he will reveal to his servant what he is doing. If we walk in faith we trust he always does the wisest thing. We simply do not have all the facts or understanding. We are children trusting and obeying our perfect parent. Regarding Noah, a hint is given that Noah was pure in his generations. Somehow the gene pool was corrupted and must have factored into Gods decisions about the flood.

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  11. We must look at scripture through the eyes of the time period it was written. We should never begin to water down what is there right in front of us. It never was written to carry only a feel good message. If we can’t take The Bible as a whole then we might as well throw it in the trash. When we begin to pick and choose what we like and what we don’t like, we are building our god. This is the very spirit of antichrist.

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  12. very succinctly put. couldn’t agree more. I do believe there is that verse that states “ALL scripture is inspired…”. Your point about cherry picking is SO correct. Leads down many dangerous roads of ones own making. It’s nothing new or original, but one of the father of lies favorite temptations.

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  13. Peter, you are backslidden and falling away from the faith into all kinds of heresies and errors. You sound like a God-hating liberal already! You are aping the attacks against Jehovah from God-hating fools like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and the like. You are denying Genesis and accepting the lying, unscientific, and 100% refuted lies of Evolution. Your lack of ANY Biblical training, while perhaps appearing to be a plus years ago when you wrote Red Moon rising, and enabled you to think a tad outside the box, is now your undoing. Becoming a Universalist is another sign of apostasy. Peter, you need to repent, and get out of Hawaii. Let me take you to an abortion clinic we minister at, and you can see up close the hate, vile, evil wickedness of humanity and then tell me these unrepentant child-abusers and murderers are still going to heaven! You have become a fool!

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