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Question –

Mr. Mulvihill,
I have some questions about God. and i know you probably don’t have the answers, but i just need some guidance and I believe that you are extremely knowledgable in this stuff.

In the bible it talks about how God had found favor in David, but how can God have a “favorite” if he says he loves us all the same? then how can God command the Israelites to mass murder people he made and loved? Why would he want to kill his own creation that he claims to love, just because they did not follow the ways of the Jewish culture? Later in the bible it talks about how God had hardened the hearts of the Jewish people? But why would he want to do that, if they were his “favored” people? I am so sorry that this is poorly written and is so late, I just keep finding myself asking these questions, and I do believe in Jesus… it is just some things I don’t understand and no one answers me and maybe you don’t/won’t either, I was just wondering if you had any insight into this.

Thank you so much, sorry i sent this so late…

Emma

joshua3

Answer –

Emma,

Let’s start with your first question concerning the “favor of God” which is not near as troubling as it has been presented to you. God loves all people as image-bearers/creations of Him and wishes all to come to Him, but the entire Bible is themed toward God “favoring” those that obey and love Him back/keep the covenant. The love God has is not a superficial love that our society pushes out that is just happy feelings all the time, it is a real love that is concerned with the betterment of the beloved even if that means pain. This is not so hard to imagine, parents do this all the time. Parents love all of their children because of their investment and connection with them but they clearly favor by rewarding those that obey and love them in return, the ones that refuse this does not occasion parental love turning to hate but rather remorse and a doubling of the effort to bring a return. So clearly one can favor someone and still have a love or even strong emotional concern for ones outside of parameters set, think about teachers who reward and “favor” students who listen and take them seriously versus those that do not, the grade shows “favor” but that doesn’t mean they hate the others or do not wish the others well (with the teacher analogy we are getting further removed from God but you get the point I hope).Think about what made Abram (later Abraham) and the Jewish nation he spawned (& David too) “favored.” It was a faith response to the one true God, a true attempt to engage beyond general revelation to love and follow the true God (akin to a child or student in the analogies).Never forget, true love also includes justice or fairness, again, a parent who never disciplines a child makes people wonder if they merit the “title” parent at all! Or a teacher that never grades and cares little to instances of cheating and injustice.

rio jesus11

Would we respect a God that had no consequences for sin? A God that elbowed the Holy Spirit when Attila slaughtered thousands of innocent men, women and children and said “boys will be boys…I love him too much to punish him!” This was the scenario with the Canaanites, they were a remarkably wicked people….true love must include mercy and justice, it is incomplete without the two (this is why the cross of Christ is so unique, it combines mercy and justice in one act, truly incredible, even Gandhi saw this). Only a superficial and shallow view of love is one that disincludes punishment and response to wickedness…what would we say of a man who failed to lift a finger to another attacking his wife or girlfriend? Would we call him “loving” even if he happened to love or even think positively (in another context) of the attacker? Specific people of the surrounding cultures during Israel’s wanderings to the holy land were astoundingly wicked and many of them threats to the Israelites…is war God’s highest and best, clearly no, but there must be a response to deep and consistent wickedness or we wind up with a God that is neither fair nor just. Apologist Dr. Clay Jones comments further on this here, here and here.

It does no good to paper over God’s justice with a sentimental and inadequate view of the concept of “love” a concept that you don’t see operative in families or in societies (“Your honor, your sentence of 40 years in prison for the murder I committed seems to be at odds with the oath you took to be a judge and “love/care for mankind to the best of your ability!”)So I do not believe that the Israelites “mass murdered” anyone as the concept of murder is “to take a life without justification” more like “mass capital punishment” the justified taking of life (like WW2 but even more justified).

Further, to frame the debate as “murdered them just for not being Jewish/adhering to Jewish codes of conduct) is to show massive ignorance of the ancient scene. Israelite wars in the OT were never over their opponents basic “lack of adherence to all the laws of Judaism” but for much bigger reasons according to the Bible (punishment, justice, protection) – that is, their opponents (Canaanites, Amalekites, Philistines) were violating even the “law written on the heart” – morality from general revelation, that is, doing what they would never want done to them.

As an aside, imagine it was true and that these people groups were judged just for “them not adhering to Judaism” this is still a big deal though it is verbally positioned/stated to look trivial. One of the ways God cooperated with the Jews was to show the world that they had the correct account of him (monotheism, worship, reverence, customs – moving from general revelation to special) through PUBLICLY KNOWN correct/accurate prophecy and miracle power (in fact, the very existence of Jews today with no land to call their own and the fact that they have not been assimilated like every other group of the past led Samuel Clemens to believe that they were a miraculous people).

moses

A principle in the Bible that is often overlooked is that you are responsible for the amount of revelation that you have been given. Thankfully for many of us, God speaks in a still small voice of our conscience or indirectly through a friend – but if He puts miracles in front of us and we still rebel what is a just God to do? Morality/ethics can be summed up by “giving respect to whom it is due,” what happens when the God Who gives us life and made all good things clearly communicates and we still thumb our nose/resist/rebel at such power? I contend He is obliged, by His very nature, to punish commensurate to the amount of revelation given. That means that these ancient peoples who were flagrantly disobeying even their own conscience with prostitution, bestiality, child sacrifice, murder, homosexuality, incest, etc. ALSO heard of these Israelites and their ONE GOD and knew about Egypt, the Red Sea and how they had, time and time again, beaten incredible odds miraculously in conflict with other groups and STILL they would not repent, relent or leave the promised land. God held them RIGHTLY to a higher standard (as parents do when there is a difference in punishment for outright rebellion to their face as opposed to disobedience for an implied desire) in the punishment because more evidence was given.

Lastly, God also punished his own covenant people He loved when they followed the example of the people they had formerly conquered, God is fair and just, so His love EVEN FOR HIS FAVORED did not disinclude punishment for violation of His commands (this also includes David, read the Bathsheba story for verification).

Last comment about this profound question as I have gone for far too long…God gave life to humans to begin with and sustains life for us, so the category of murder/genocide does not apply to the Being who gave life and sustains it, if He gave it He can withdraw support. God’s universe, God’s rules. Something to keep in mind, even if God is an immoral, genocidal Being (which I don’t for a second believe), given His power, the human response to even a God like this should not be, logically, disdain and rebellion but rather logical submission.

As far as your final question concerning the “hardening of hearts” by God, this is something that troubled my wife for years when she was maturing in the faith. This has been written about at length and the shortest answer I can give is as follows; for Calvinists (people who believe God predetermines every outcome of your life, esp. salvation) this is confirmation of their view that God makes people accept Him (which I reject, love without choice fails to be love). My view is as follows (derived from other scholars of course); that every place it mentions God “hardening” someone’s heart the Scriptures, interestingly, it also states that the person in question “hardened their own heart” either concomitantly or previously (check out all the references in Exodus to Pharaoh doing it and then “God” doing the hardening for proof). So it seems as if God takes the individual’s willed rejection of him and uses it for His purposes, we read in Romans one about God “handing over” those that reject Him to their own chosen wickedness, which could be interpreted as accelerating the rejection in the hopes of someone turning back or serving as a warning to others. Psalms talks about God allowing a “crushing” to come in increments to unbelievers in the hopes that they might turn back to the Source of their very lives for restitution/repentance. Again, this is something parents allow from time to time with wayward children (the pain and hardship of rehab following – check Psalms 66 for the crushing to be allowed sometimes to believers).

Obviously much more could be said, but I hope that this helps…

Grace and Peace,

Mr. Mulvihill

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