Is the God of the Old Testament a God Who Loves War – 3
God's hatred for sin is only equal to His love for humanity. Rather than changing His law, He gave His only begotten Son to die for their sins. This He did in order that the demand of justice that the sinner dies and the demand of love that the sinner lives will be satisfied at the same time.
Our God is a very patient God because He is not willing that any should die but that each one will repent and thus be saved. However, that patience has its limits and for the benefit of the rest of the people who live in this world, justice must be served.
Limits of Divine forbearance demonstrated in the OT
We find God's patience and its limits demonstrated both in the Old Testament and in the New.
When God Called Abraham out of the land of the Chaldees, He brought him to the land of Canaan, and there promised it to him to be the possession of his posterity. At the time Abraham reached the land promised by God, the Amalekites were already in almost full rebellion against God. However, God gave the Amalekites that much chance (Genesis 15:16) before God’s judgments fell upon them. Then finally, after more than 400 years, God had to execute justice through Israel when they came to the land of Canaan 40 years after their exodus from Egypt.
In those wars, God’s instruction was that the Canaanites would be utterly destroyed, men, women, young and old, and children and infants. The reason given was that if they do allow them to live, their debasing practices would entice them and they themselves would suffer the same fate as the Canaanites. Exodus 23:23 – 33.
This particular truth is demonstrated in the case of some of the kings of Israel. Manasseh, king of Israel just before the Babylonian captivity of Israel, not only built courts of pagan gods in the temple of God, but practiced enchantment, divination and most of all, sacrificed his sons to the pagan god Molech, by letting his sons pass through the fire. 1Kings 21. Those practices were taken from the Canaanites whom the Israelites failed to totally exterminate.
And just to have an appreciation(?) of how revolting the Canaanite practices are, the following gathered from literatures taken from archaeological findings.
In sacrificing to Molech, the child is placed on the outstretched arms extending toward the ground of the bronze statue of the god Molech that had the form of a human figure. The child sacrificed, whose throat was cut, when placed on the arms of the statue, would naturally roll down into a pit filled with fire. The mothers, standing by, were forbidden to weep; flutes and drums drowned the sounds of lament.
Not only that. The Canaanites regularly sacrificed their first-born to whatever god or demon they adored, and the little skeletons, crushed into large two-handed jars, were buried under the shadow of the sacred stones.
When laying the foundation of a new house, the builder or owner of the house would offer one of his dependents, choosing one who is crippled with disease and comparatively useless; like for instance a poor old woman, bent double with spinal curvature, who was dragged along, bound, and thrown into a hole in the ground, with a jar of food and a bowl of water beside her to nourish her spirit in the shades; and the stones of the new house are piled above the poor tortured body.
In another digging made by archeologists, “two skeletons were lying side by side, and above them lies the upper half of the body of a youth about 18 years of age, who has been sawn asunder at the waist. Around the bones lie vessels for food and drink; and the grimmest horror of all is that the skeleton fingers of the left hand of one of the figures are dipping into one of the bowls. You picture the poor wretch groping in the stifling darkness of his living grave for a last morsel of food; and when you have seen the “weird charnel-house,” as the excavator justly calls the ghastly cistern where fourteen men and a young girl of sixteen, this last sawn asunder at the waist also, had been cast, and wondered what horrible tragedy could account for their presence in such a place, you have probably had about enough of “the iniquity of the Amorite,” and wonder, not at the command of extermination which went forth against the race, but rather that it was allowed to curse the earth for so long.” [Source: James Baikie, The Life of the Ancient East, pp. 434–439. Copyright 1923 by The Macmillan Company, New york. Used by permission; qtd in Neufeld, Don F., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Student’s Source Book, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1962.]
The Canaanite religion was polytheistic. It was barbarous, thoroughly licentious and extremely debased. Their deities had no moral character as could be seen in their devotees who practiced sacred prostitution, child sacrifice (as described above), and snake worship. Their religion was characterized by brutality, lust and abandon.
Leviticus 18:25 said that the land “vomits out” its inhabitants, so that
the Israelites were warned by Yahweh to keep the statutes that He had given
them in the land they would possess so they would not suffer the same fate that
was about to fall on the Canaanites, who were utterly immoral and extremely
degenerate. If you were in the place of God, would you want those Canaanites to live any longer?
In dealing with the antedeluvians during the time of Noah, God used the forces of nature to bring the judgment that was due them through a flood after 120 years of bearing with their iniquities. In the case of the Canaanites, after more than 450 years of divine forbearance, God employed the Israelites to execute justice on them. This fact the Israelites knew. It was a question of keeping separated or being contaminated with those licentious and debasing practices and consequently being destroyed themselves. It was a choice of destroying or being destroyed.
In contemplation, the records testify that Israel failed to obey completely God’s injunction. They mingled with the Canaanites and were themselves practicing their sins. The punishment though long delayed was that the whole nation went into the Babylonian captivity.
After the captivity, they went back to their sins which culminated in their execution of the Son of God. Consequently God rejected them at last as His chosen people and left them in the hands of the Romans.
Did God love war? No. It hurts Him to see people dying even if they deserve it. He said in Ezekiel 33:11,
“As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
But His forbearance, His patience also has its limits, and for the good of the rest of the inhabitants of the world, justice must be served.
No, the God that I know, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same God who loves us so much that in the process, He did not withhold His Son Jesus to come here to earth. He took humanity upon Him, lived this life without sin and showed us an example of how we can also live a life of victory over sin, if only we will depend on Him, just so we will be saved.
He is not a God who loves war but a God of justice and love, a God who is so patient with us and is willing to do everything consistent with His nature so that each one of His creature would come to repentance and so be saved. But time would come when His patience would reach its limits and for the good of His children who love Him and obey Him, once more He would do that strange act when He would destroy sin, and those who refuse to separate themselves from it will be destroyed together with it.