Is the God of the Old Testament a God Who Loves War -1?
I have heard many times that some people do not read the Old Testament of the Bible because they do not like the God who is portrayed there - a God of war who delights to have people killed. For the same reason, many shun that same image of a God so that they would rather learn and know of the God revealed in the New Testament, who according to them is a God of Love.
Perhaps, they have reasons for feeling that way because if one really reads the Old Testament he or she will find there the command by God to Israel to destroy the nations who were occupying the land of Canaan which the Lord told them to possess after coming out of Egypt. One good example is the command that God gave the Israelites which is recorded in Exodus 23:23, 27, 28
"For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. . . I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee."
This is also seen in the command of God to King Saul in regard to the Amalekites.
"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."
These two injunctions, as one may think, are hardly injunctions of a loving God portrayed in the New Testament. These are just two examples, and there are more that probably one can find in the Old Testament. Because of these, I really cannot blame those people for thinking that way.
This does not mean however that that kind of thinking is justified. No matter what, this does not resolve the issue as to whether the God of the Old Testament is a God of war.
Knowing the God of the Old Testament
Five Principles to Remember
In dealing with this particular issue, there are a few principles that we have to remember, namely:
First is that the Bible has only one Author: God himself;
Second, God does not change;
Third, God is a God of love who hates the sin but loves the sinner;
Fourth, because of that love, He is very patient with them to give them a chance to repent and amend their ways; but there is a limit to that patience;
Fifth, God is not only a God of love but also a God of justice. He has to put an end to sin; if in the process their sins are found attached to them, in destroying sin, they also are destroyed.
We will elaborate them one by one.
God is the Author of the Bible, both the OT and the NT
The fall of Adam and Eve into sin in the Garden of Eden, has caused them to hide themselves from God. Their sin has separated them from Him and instead of love they dreaded His presence. It was God that initiated the restoration of the communication with them which was severed because of their sin. That move was made when He called to Adam,
"Where are you?"
It was not a call of one who did not know but by One who knew what happened and who was leading the fallen pair with tender pity to His presence. And since then, God has revealed Himself through nature, through the works of His hand and later, through His written word, the Bible.
Scripture says of itself,
"All scripture is written by inspiration of God;" 2Timothy 3:16.
"For the prophecy never came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2Peter 1:21
In other words, it is not only the NT but the also the OT whose Author is God - written by puny men, who were moved by the Holy Ghost, as instruments of communicating His will to fallen men and women. He commissioned those men so that His message would be communicated in the language of those for whom the message was intended so it could be understood by them.
It then can only be expected that there will only be one theme of the messages which God is conveying to men in the entire bible. This means that if God states in the NT that He is a God of love, it should also be expected that He is the same God of love that is portrayed in the OT. This leads us to the next principle.
God does not change
In other words, the God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament (OT) is the same God who is revealed in the New Testament (NT). As He has said in Malachi 3:6,
"For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob."
In this world, there is only one that does not change, according to many people: "change." People assume that change, if it is for the better, will always be welcome. To them the idea of change is inherent to humans and the circumstances all around them and it is something good and itself inevitable.
How often do we clamor for change: change in the government and of government; change in the things we eat everyday; change in the individual who we feel is so obnoxious in character; change in society; change in whatever it is to whatever good it may be. The clamor for change presupposes something bad to be better, not the reverse.
In the case of God, He is the ultimate of goodness, love, righteousness, truth. In His words to the sons of Jacob, if He changes then it will be the doom of all.
In reality, change has also its bad connotation. Supposing government which decides that instead of driving at the right side of the road, all vehicles must drive at the left side. You who have been driving a long time and have been used to driving right, would you like it, with all the inconvenience of adjustment and the resulting accidents that would follow it? Or that the government, instead of condemning theft or robbery, now allows it? Would it not be bad for you and society, it being so inimical to you and your properties? Or that government instead of incarcerating criminals, it now decides to let them scot free and roam around, and continue molesting people everywhere.
Or have you known of someone, who changes his or her mind, like the weather, so that you could not know what to do next or what to expect? Imagine how difficult life would be if that were the case. How many times did we dislike people who were unpredictable?
But God is not like that. He does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. As such, each of us can rest assured that God's expectations, His character, the standards and requirements of His government will always be the same. And the fact that He does not change, lends stability to this whole universe.
We will continue in the second part of this article.