Series = God’s love in the midst of disaster
“In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” Genesis 15:16
Shortly after I became a disciple of the Lord Jesus one of my sisters followed suit, and not long after that one of her two sons also became a Christian. My late brother-in-law was a civil engineer, so when his wife and son shared their faith with him he decided to investigate by reading the Bible, the technical manual, from the beginning. He hadn’t got further than the middle of Genesis when he phoned me in confusion. “But this book is full of death and sacrifices, earthquakes and floods! What’s going on? I though you guys said that God is love?!”
It is true, and there is no way getting around it; God did use natural calamities to judge humanity and He did order the extermination of whole nations. How do we account for this? Is the God of the Old Testament a different deity to the God of the New Testament? No He isn’t. Jesus used the ancient divine ascription “I am” when referring to himself (John 6:48 et al). When Phillip asked to be shown the Father (reference to the God of the Hebrews) Jesus said “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? “(John 14:9-10). No, The Father is God and Jesus Christ the Son is God and there is no difference between the God of the Old and the God of the New. Jesus demonstrated the love of God and John defined God as ‘love’ (1 John 4;8), and wrote the famous words ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)
So then, what is the divinely ordered genocide of the Amorites all about? Well this is what is recorded in Deuteronomy 20:16-18; “in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.” So why would God, who is love, order a mass extinction?
To answer this question I need to take you back 450 years to the time of Abraham when God said this to him; “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:13-16) The key phrase here is, “for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure”. God did not order the destruction of the Amorites for 450 years because He was holding back judgment. Now these Amorites were pretty bad people who according to Deuteronomy 12:31 ‘even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.’
During these four and a half centuries God must have repeatedly sent prophets to warn these depraved people and to call them to repentance. This is a reasonable assumption because we have the record of how He used the prophet Balaam in that part of the world and Jonah in the case of the great city of Nineveh. My understanding is that God only ordered the destruction of these people when redemption was no longer possible and He had to act because of His love for the Israelites and the other nations of that time.
The most obvious example of how and why the God of love judges and destroys is the great flood of Noah’s time. I will write about that in my next post. But for now, just think on how God’s ways apply to us. He warns over and over again and He judges only when redemption is no longer possible. I am so grateful for this for I am convinced that I would not be alive today if God were not as lovingly patient as He is. What about you?