Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The "Wrath" of God: Getting Over a Pons Asinorum

Talking about gruesome stories, in 1 Samuel we are brought face to face with some of those difficult verses we seldom hear preached on Sunday.  I have picked out the verses I believe might cause people to question the Bible.
2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

7 Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.

10 The word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11‘I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.’

32 Then Samuel said, ‘Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.’ And Agag came to him haltingly. Agag said, ‘Surely this is the bitterness of death.' 33 But Samuel said,
‘As your sword has made women childless,
so your mother shall be childless among women.’
And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

Modern people might question, "Did the Lord order the viscous attack on Agag and the Amalekites, or is this just the Hebrew's way of writing a justification for their war?"

And to add to the confusion for the modern mind, the victorious King Saul is disobedient to God's command because the destruction was not total and spares Agag and the animals, and as a result falls out of favor. You might hear the question, "What kind of God is this?" or the statement, "I would never worshio a God like that."

Was Agag so bad that God ordered him to be punished in such a manner?

Please read the following from C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain Chapter 4 Human Wickedness:
"When we merely say, that we are bad, the 'wrath' of God seems a barbarous doctrine; as soon as we perceive our badness, it appears inevitable, a mere corollary from God's goodness. To keep ever before us the insight derived from such a moment as I have been describing, to learn to detect the same real inexcusable corruption under more and more of its complex disguises, is therefore indispensable to a real understanding of the Christian faith. This is not, of course, a new doctrine. I am attempting nothing very splendid in this chapter. I am merely trying to get my reader (and, still more, myself) over a pons asinorum--to take the first step out of fool's paradise and utter illusion. But the illusion has grown, in modern times, so strong, that I add a few considerations tending to make the reality less incredible."

Would a modern person go so far as to say that God is incapable of wrath, or that He would not act in a punitive way to creatures that have sunk even lower than bad? Have we gone that far over the precipice that we can, from our fool's paradise, dictate to Him?

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