This post stems from a comment I made on another blog in response to someone’s questions and spiritual frustrations. I think that her points of contention are common enough and important enough to warrant posting an edited version of my response here.
Is God mean?
I have been reading the Old Testament and have been puzzled by the complete wiping out of people groups before the Israelites. How could a loving God be this mean?
I keep coming back to the fact that first and foremost, God is completely sovereign and can do whatever He wants with His creation. I recall the potter and clay analogy, Isaiah 45.
Another fact that we have to understand is that God is utterly and completely holy and desired His chosen people to be holy in order to preserve them for His ultimate purpose of salvation for the entire world through the Messiah. He had to set them apart and keep them from the evil idol worshipers all about them. If not for God’s intervention, the Israelites wouldn’t have survived for 42 generations until the time for Messiah to be born!
Besides, we must never forget that somewhere along the way, people had stopped teaching their children about the God who created them, a sad fact evidenced in all of those evil nations that God, for and through the Israelites, annihilated. Those nations all had, in past generations, known the true God. Through their choosing sin and rebellion, they brought judgment upon themselves. When people sin, even innocent children suffer, a fact we see all too often today.
Another thing God keeps reminding me of is that the Old Testament events are a foreshadowing of the New Covenant wherein we gain salvation from the Most High God through the Messiah. In a sense, we can think of the sometimes troubling events of the Old Testament as evidence of God’s desire to completely wipe out unholiness. We can look back at the Old Testament and be reminded how our completely holy God does not tolerate sin. We have to be made holy to be in His presence. Under the New Covenant, the only One who can make us righteous enough to be in God’s presence is the sinless One, Jesus Christ.
Everything in the Old Testament points to Christ somehow. And pointing us to Christ who saves us is the most loving thing God does for us.
Is God’s sovereignty arbitrary?
That is a contradiction in terms. He is either sovereign or He is not. If He is not sovereign, then He is not God. If the potter doesn’t have complete control over the clay he is shaping, then is he truly the potter or just a bystander?
Is God’s providence arbitrary?
First, we should define providence. It means protective or spiritual care. Does God care for us all the time or is his providence willy-nilly?
Let’s face it. There are times when people get hit by cars and die, when children are murdered, when senseless accidents happen. But there are countless times when these tragedies don’t happen, when we just keep on living. The Word teaches that our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15) and that the number of our days is ordained by God (Psalm 139:16). I heard a preacher say that we are here until God is done with us. That may sound harsh, but in reality, the truth of it brings peace and security. The Most High God, who is love (1 John 4:8), holds my life in His hand. There is no better place I could be.
Does God answer prayer?
He hears and answers every single one. But perhaps we don’t recognize the answers because we have either asked amiss (James 4:3) or because the Holy Spirit has transformed our request into what we really should have asked for (Romans 8:26-27).
Since the church is so messed up, is the Bible even true?
Regarding the church, the true church of believers will be perfected when Jesus returns for His bride. Meanwhile, we are being sanctified and becoming more like Him. Yes, there are problems with false religion and heresy, as there always have been. The root is the father of lies, satan, who desires to destroy the works of God. But think of it like this: Just because there are criminals in society who cause us to have to lock our homes and closely guard our children doesn’t mean we give up and withdraw from society, or don’t have children because something bad might happen to them. The saying “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” doesn’t have to be true. False religion doesn’t have to spoil true faith in the one and only God. It’s up to each individual to search out the truth and to surrender to Jesus in order to truly know Him.
Will we have all the answers here? No. Can we intimately know the One who does have all the answers? Absolutely!
Isn’t the Bible full of inconsistencies?
We must approach the Word of God with the premise that it is perfect and infallible. Otherwise, we will doubt and misinterpret at every turn. If we perceive inconsistencies, we have to fall back on the premise that the Word is infallible but that we are fallible. The seeming inconsistencies lie with our inability to understand, not with the Word itself. That realization should drive us to keep searching, while surrendering our own hearts and minds to His truth. We must be willing to see what He wants us to see, not just what we wish was there. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). That’s one reason why He is God and we are most definitely not.
Is it bad to question God?
God is not intimidated or angered by our questions. I should think He prefers questions over indifference. And the right questions can lead us to the truth–if we are willing to hear it. But regardless of whether we accept truth or whether we reject it, it is still true. Our rejection has no effect on the truth itself, but it does have an effect on us, not only here, but forever.
Also, there is a difference between questioning and doubting. One is “Why is this happening to me? Help me understand!” while the other is “God, do you even know what you’re doing? I don’t think you do!” We have to pray that our questions lead us to the truth, not to loss of faith.
Does this writer know what she’s talking about?
Sometimes. But that’s for you to search out.
Blessings to you as you seek the Lord and listen to His voice.
Janice Powell 2014