Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Recently, I preached a message on the consistency between wrath and love in the character of God. In the message, I touched upon the rather uncomfortable portions of the Bible in which God orders Israel to wipe out entire people groups. What could possibly justify such violence? The following is one way I have wrestled with this question. I want to be honest with you about something that you’ve probably felt before. There are some troublesome passages in the Bible that are difficult to understand. Someone referred to these as "the embarrassing uncle of the Christian faith." All of us have an Uncle Fester who burps a lot and tells everyone he believes in Bigfoot. It's understandable that we might want to avoid him with guests. And there are passages in the Bible we typically don't want quoted at the family reunion. Those passages are the ones when God orders Israel to kill entire people groups. For example, in Deuteronomy, God tells Israel to completely wipe out the Canaanites. And He commands them to kill everyone in the city, no survivors. He doesn’t tell them to just kill soldiers, He tells them to kill everybody. How do we deal with that? Here’s how I deal with it. God knows everything and he sees every heart and every potential. And, apparently, there have been a few times in history when an entire people group became so wicked that it was beyond repair. In other words, every part of their society was completely consumed by evil. And history bears this out. Historians have noted that among the atrocities of the Canaanites were child sacrifice, bestiality, torture for amusement, incest, and other extremely evil practices that I simply cannot describe in a public forum. Put it this way, when you study the Canaanites, it’s like stepping into a horror movie and everyone is the killer. And God sees it, so He deals with it. We get a glimpse of all God sees in Gen. 6:5 before He unleashes the flood judgment. Look at what Moses tells us: "The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." Genesis 6:5 Notice, evil had deeply infected humanity. God saw that every single inclination of the hearts of these people was only, always evil. There have been times in history when a people group has been so evil that God was forced to remove them. He, in essence, saved the human race by removing a plague of wickedness. He checked evil. Such an action is never given to us as normative and is rare in the Bible itself. But God has apparently stopped the spread of evil in the human race in this way in the past. Now, I was thinking about how this could be illustrated and I thought of Zombies. I know, what in the world? Hang with me. Right now, Zombies are very, very popular. One of the top cable shows of all time is "The Walking Dead." Right now, books about Zombies are top sellers and there are a ton of video games about Zombies. Brad Pitt just made a very successful movie called "World War Z" as in World War Zombie. And the most popular music video of all time is "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, which has a bunch of Zombies dancing with Michael in it while Vincent Price actually uses the word "y'all's" in a rap (how bizarre is that!). Even my own neighborhood park is having a Zombie Run soon and you can run a race dressed as a Zombie. Zombies are huge now! Interestingly, the typical Zombie story has a basic pattern: people become infected by evil and they are so infected by it that they become the walking dead. Anything good about them is completely gone. And all they want to do is kill. Therefore, the theme of all Zombie books and movies is this: The only way to save us is to annihilate them because if you don’t destroy them, they will destroy us all. Evil will consume the entire human race without radical intervention. Here’s a question. Is it possible that a society could become so evil and so satanic that the entire society becomes like Zombies? I wonder if that’s why we have this fascination with Zombies. Maybe we know that we are capable of becoming like them. Maybe, deep down inside, we know that even an entire society can become that depraved. And, apparently that level of evil is possible because the Bible describes it in places like Sodom and Gomorrah. So, what did God do with places like that? He dealt with them because, apparently if He had not, the human race was at stake. Now, that doesn’t answer all the questions about those passages, but if God is God, then I trust Him to do what’s right all the time, even when I don’t understand it. I should also mention that nowhere does God ever tell us this is normative. Nowhere in the Bible does God say that we as Christians are to engage in genocide or an unjust war. So, any group that takes isolated biblical incidents of divine judgment and normalizes them into a mandate for murder is profoundly unbiblical. Jesus is very clear that as Christians we are to love our enemies and reach the lost with the good news of Christ. The rest is up to God and the comforting thing I find in Scripture is that God knows what He’s doing even when I don’t know what He’s doing. It's also comforting to know that should Zombies start to take over, we have a God who will deal with them.