Some people read the Old Testament and see a God of anger, judgment, and hate. They read God’s judgments and focus only on that instead of recognizing that his judgments come because his acts of benevolence are scorned.
“According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them” (Ezekiel 7:27).
Beyond acting in judgment against sin, there are some passages in the Old Testament that are hard to swallow; even for many Christians. Try this one on for size.
“‘Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the house” (Ezekiel 9:6).
“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” ( I Peter 4:17).
“Then he said to me, ‘The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great. The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice'” (Ezekiel 9:9).
How can God be just if he does not judge? We are horrified by the command to kill the elderly and children. But are we equally horrified at verse 9, that the land was filled with blood (sin)? Israel, at this time, was steeped in sexual sin, murder, idolatry, and child sacrifice. Why are we horrified at God’s command to execute, but not equally horrified at the sin which necessitates the command? We act as if God is unjustly punishing the innocent. But the reality is that God only judges the guilty. Sometimes God punishes directly, such as with Sodom. Sometimes his agent of punishment is other people or a nation (Jehu [II Kings 9:6-10, 19:16-17; II Chronicles 22:8], Babylon [Ezekiel 17:20; Jeremiah 25:12]).
Whatever God does, he does with good reason. “You shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done” (Ezekiel 14:23).
Consider why God judged Israel so harshly for violating the covenant. They didn’t simply sin, they sinned far beyond what other pagan nations had done before them (II Chronicles 33:9). Look at God’s account in II Kings 17:7-18:
“Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced. The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the Lord their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations did which the Lord had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking the Lord. They served idols, concerning which the Lord had said to them, ‘You shall not do this thing.’ Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.’ However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them. They forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him. So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.”
What about our society? How does America stack up to the behaviors of the nations God judged in the Old Testament? Consider the following:
Abortion may be our greatest evil today. Each year Americans abortion more than 1.21 million children. This is nothing less than and even greater than the child sacrifice Middle Eastern nations engage in during Old Testament times. It is the murder of the innocents far greater than what any society has previously done.
Today’s political embracing of homosexuality is akin to Minoan homosexuality practiced by Sodom. The Minoans abducted or arranged for boys to be apprenticed into homosexuality at age 12. It was taught to youth, encouraged, and became an important part of their society. This is akin to the gay rights movement we see today. We teach about the gay lifestyle in schools, even in elementary curriculum. We give superior status to gay rights over religious expression.
Idolatry? How about forbidding God and prayer in classrooms, in public venues, and even in some private places. Some communities have forbidden small church groups in homes and there is tolerance for every religion except Christianity in the public square.
The harsh reality is that the ancient societies never achieved the level of sin that the modern world has achieved, and ignores, and even calls it, “right.”
Barring a great spiritual awakening, when will it be that we experience our own II Kings 17?