Recently I was invited to chime in on a post on the question of miracles and the Bible. My main response included a fairly long list of the examples of humanly inexplicable miracles found in both the Old and New Testaments. The author responded with what I thought was a very thought-provoking comment, which after thinking about it I decided probably deserved further exploration. He says:
1.) Plagues to kill thousands of people
2.) Parting the Red Sea to drown thousands of people
3.) disintegrate a city’s massive stone walls using only trumpets to kill every living thing in it
4.) make the sun stand still in the sky and prolong the day so they can kill more people
5.) make earthquakes happen, so that they rip the earth into a chasm which swallows up our enemies
6.) trigger massive meteor showers that will utterly destroy entire cities
These wouldn’t be miracles from a God that I could ever consider worshiping.
You are entitled to your opinion but you might want to drop the 6 examples above when you are out witnessing for Jesus.
This is an interesting question… Would it really be better to drop examples like those above when telling people about Jesus? Should we just focus on Jesus’ teachings on “loving our neighbor” etc., and try to whitewash the Bible as best we can? I certainly grew up being familiar with enough church circles who more or less attempted to do this very thing, in one way or another. Downplay the “scary” God of the Old Testament, all the wars, death, “weird stuff”, and just try to boil it all down to as simplistic an idea as possible in order to coax someone into saying the “sinner’s prayer”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disparaging people from making simple prayers of repentance in faith. What I’m saying is simply that all of that stuff IS in there, and like it or not, you have to face it. Atheists are quite fond of bringing up what they believe are incredibly damning examples of this “genocidal God” who they regard as being oh so terribly cruel and unfair in causing the deaths of so many people, in so many ways…
The thing is, the Bible is essentially an epic war story. From beginning to end, it outlines the story of Creation, the Fall, and Redemption, in the context of a great spiritual battle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness.
The many examples of people being killed by war or plague in the Old Testament simply cannot be rightly understood outside of this broader spiritual context. People such as the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Greeks, the Romans, etc., etc., all of these peoples/nations were living under the worship and “covering” of their various pantheons of pagan gods, and under the influence of their demonic spiritual “princes” were constantly in opposition to the nation which God had set aside for Himself. The spiritual and physical battle lines can be understood to be very much intertwined when looked at from this perspective, and so it must be emphasized that nowhere in the Bible do we ever see God simply deciding to go wipe out some populace somewhere who were minding their own business, simply because God was like some bored sadistic child wanting to entertain himself by burning ants with a magnifying glass.
According to the Bible, the conflict did not originate in the Garden of Eden, but in the realm of heaven, involving an angelic individual named Lucifer who became proud and sought to take the Throne of the Almighty for himself. Whether we like it or not, all of humanity has been thrust into the epicenter of this cosmic battle, and ultimately every single one of us must choose which kingdom’s agenda we will serve. There is no “opting out”. No neutral parties in this war.
Like I said, many objections to the God of the Bible involve these questions of how a loving God could possibly kill humans who people who have rebelled against Him or the people He chose to implement his purposes. This has honestly never been much of a philosophical thorn in my side. It just hasn’t. Such arguments really couldn’t even be made in the first place if an omnipotent, omniscient God was actually as petulant and tyrannical as is being suggested, because you be fried by a lightning bolt the second you were about to open your mouth to criticize him.
Instead, I admit I have struggled FAR more with the simple question of why God would allow a majestic, angelic being such as Lucifer to Fall from Heaven and then wreak havoc upon the human race in the first place. My own human faculties would seem to think that it would’ve saved us all so much pain and heartache if he had just tossed Lucy into the pit or the lake of fire right from the start and just gotten it over with! Wouldn’t that have been so much more logical God, and saved us all so much hassle…?? Jesus wouldn’t have had to die, no need for a Flood, or a “Passover Lamb”, or Armageddon, or any of it. We’d all still be blissful nudists drinking fruit smoothies in the Garden, right?
But of course, that’s not what God elected to do, and instead He allowed the serpent to wind his way in there, and kick off this whole war, which someday will finally end when the “Seed of the Woman” destroys the “Seed of the Serpent”. The God of the Bible allows lots of seemingly unnecessary evil to persist longer than we would think makes sense, not only with Satan in the Garden, but with the Watchers who came down on Mt. Hermon, who are then later not destroyed, but instead imprisoned in a place called the Pit, or the “Abyss”, held in chains until a time in the future when they will once again be let out.
Again, to me this is one of those things that I must simply confess I don’t understand the full reasoning behind God’s decisions, but I simply have to trust it. God has allowed the Kingdom of Darkness to have dominion over this world, up until a point in the (near) future when the entire epic of world history will culminate in a very intensely climactic conclusion. In that time, there will once again be some seriously “Old-Testament-style” plagues and distributions of mass-death, yet just as it was in the days of Old Testament, it will not be something that anyone is left without a means of escaping…
In the modern political climate of the “war on terror”, we constantly hear about this idea of “winning hearts and minds”, and this is exactly what the Bible declares this epic War of the Kingdoms is ultimately all about. The Winner of this War was decided 2,000 years ago, when He laid down His own life and took it up again. We all have now have this pathway open to us, if we are but willing to lay down our own lives, in order to take them back up again. This is a battle that is ultimately fought, and won, by letting go. Letting go of your own little crown, your own little self-determined right to rule over your own life, your own definition of “morality”, your own ability to shape and harden your own conscience as it suits you. That is essentially the manifesto of the Fallen Cherub himself, the one who entices humanity into questioning God’s goodness, God’s wisdom, God’s love. Satan is the true god of Death, not Yeshua.
Those who were killed in the body by the God of Israel in the Old Testament had seared their consciences in just such a way, and chose to follow the flesh-gratifying enticements of their false gods, instead of bowing their knee to the true God who demonstrated His own superior might and majesty. We all ultimately face this same judgment ourselves, before the Throne, whether we die a violent death or of old age safely in our beds. The War is already won, but you must pick a side, and you will ultimately choose between the God of Perfect Love or the god of Death…