Is God Cruel?

photo credit: Albion Europe ApS via photopin cc
photo credit: Albion Europe ApS via photopin cc

Anyone who has ever read through the Bible will have come upon some deeply disturbing passages. Some of them are historical in nature—simply recording the horrible atrocities committed by one group of people against another. But there are several other passages, such as 1 Samuel 15:3, that can leave a person wondering about the true nature of the God.

Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” 1 Samuel 15:1-3 (NASB)

This commandment to kill women, children, and even infants seems to fly in the face of what we know about God as recorded in the New Testament.

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NASB)

Our natural tendency, then, is to draw one of two conclusions:

photo credit: ideacreamanuelaPps via Flickr cc

1. Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, was horribly cruel, while Jesus, the God of the New Testament, is as sweet and kind as the day is long.

2. The entire Bible is not really the inspired word of God so it’s entirely up to us to decide what we think is acceptable and what isn’t.

Personally, I see a third option that is rarely addressed: The problem lies not in the character of God or the integrity of the Bible, but in our misunderstanding of God’s relationship with the human race.

One of the great mistakes we all make is our tendency to draw judgments based on our natural abilities to understand God and the world around us. If it doesn’t make sense to me, then it doesn’t make sense. But if a supreme and eternal God does exist—something of which I am convinced—then it stands to reason that He would be far more intelligent than even the most astute scholar. This is, of course, what the Bible teaches.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9 (NASB)

Wow! God’s ways aren’t just different than ours—they are on a totally different plane. The ways of heaven will never make sense to the natural human mind. But does that mean that we can never understand God’s way of thinking? No, not at all. The key lies in humbling our hearts, admitting our blindness, and asking Him to open the eyes of our hearts to understand His ways. This is something I have spent much of my adult life doing and the results have been rich beyond my imagination.

Human Judgments
Photo by Sam Hakes

I have discovered that there is something noble about choosing to humbly search out God’s ways as opposed to making rash judgments based on one’s own intelligence. Deliberately taking such an approach can open up to us an amazing, unseen world far greater than what our natural eyes can see. My life has certainly been transformed!

Passages like 1 Samuel 15:3 continue to disturb me but I have discovered that God actually wants me to be bothered by these things. I’ll expound on this concept more over the next several posts, while showing that even though God commanded the killing of the Amalekite women and children, He did so contrary to His desire.

Understanding the nature of God’s interaction with the human race is nothing short of fascinating. You’re going to want to stay tuned!

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2 thoughts on “Is God Cruel?

  1. Always a challenge reading your topics Bob! I, also, enjoy tackling the apparently inconsistent passages. Perhaps not being able to understand the nature/ways of God as you suggest, explains why I can’t grasp how God can be completely merciful, compassionate, and gracious all the time while still being able to punish and judge the depth of sinfulness AND never be diminished in any of His other moral attributes! Maybe that’s why the cross of Christ is so mocked by the world. It makes no sense to the carnal mind nor can it without the grace to receive it.
    Blessings!

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