How Holy Is God?

I guess the quick answer is VERY! As I said in my last post I am reading through the Chronological Bible, and have just come out of the very bloody wars post Exodus Israel, and am now into the choosing of Israel’s King, Saul. It doesn’t surprise me that men like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, both vehement atheists could be so appalled by the bloodshed not only caused by Israel, but commanded by God. A couple years ago, I was doing a debate with a local college professor of biology and evolution, and before the debate we met to get to know one another and set the parameters of the debate. What I found interesting is something the professor said about his atheism. He said, “I am not an atheist because of evolution, because I do not believe that evolution disproves God in any way. I am an atheist because it seems impossible to hold to any notion of a good god, and acknowledge the evil and suffering that exists in the world today at the same time.” We had a great discussion regarding that, and it was brought up in our debate a week later. This same issue has led to Richard Dawkins writing the following about God…

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Is God really this ‘capriciously, malevolent bully?” How are we supposed to understand verses such as Deuteronomy 20:15-18? Well, I’m pretty sure that I can’t answer all of this in such a short devotion. This isn’t a cop-out, just the facts. But it does give us pause, and hopefully spurs you on to discover the God of the Bible and not the God of our culture, or our own sensibilities. What these verses teach us about God is that He is very Holy, and He is not like us in any way. He doesn’t act on petty jealousies and anger, but in a ‘righteous anger’ that is connected to who He is, as a very Holy God, and for that we can be thankful as well as for His mercy, grace and love!  In my debate with the local professor, this subject came up, and I asked him if he had done any kind of study in regard to who these people were that God had commanded to destroy? He had not. It is interesting to me that we can be so quick to judge God for His perfect justice, while not seeing how unjust and evil we can be as people. We are living in a time that evil is rearing its evil head in ways not seen for years, and we continue to point to God and ask why, without looking into the mirror to see what God sees, a ‘heart desperately wicked‘ (Jeremiah 17:9). We want “Justice,” we just don’t want it for our sins!

I admit, I do not always understand why God does and/or allows a lot of what He does and allows, but then I realize I am not God, and that’s when I realize, as I get to know this God found in the revealed pages of the Bible, that I worship a perfectly Holy God, who is also Just, Loving, Gracious and Merciful! And I trust Him, in spite of my limited understanding of why He does what He does. Isaiah 55:7-9 rings in my ear when I come across verses that offend my sensibilities; not in a cognitive dissonance kind of way, but in a way that trusts in the God who sent His son to experience an evil unparalleled in human history, the very evil we celebrate this week on Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday! Theologian John Stott was right in that if it weren’t for the cross of Christ, God would be just another metaphysical ogre demanding praise from His subjects. But the God of the bible is one who not only saved us from destruction but took on the destruction in His own body (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It is God’s Holiness that informs His justice, and it is His Holiness that put His Son on the cross so we would not have to endure His judgment. It’s the cross of Christ that changes how a Christian sees sin and sinners in this world versus religions such as Islam and Judaism, which are related religions without the grace and cross of Christ. It makes a world of difference in our understanding of God’s Kingdom plan. God’s holiness, doesn’t appease the Sam Harris’s and Richard Dawkins of the world, but It should drop us to our knees in humility and gratitude, and agree with John Stott in the following quote from his book, ‘The Cross of Christ’,  that it is His holiness and His love that demanded such a radical salvation. The radical salvation we celebrate this Sunday!

“All inadequate teachings of the cross are due to inadequate teachings about God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to His, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone a radical cross to secure it. When on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge that we are namely ‘hell-deserving sinners,’ then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.”

Getting to know God, might be terrifying for some, but it is the saving grace of those with ears to hear! Have a fantastic Resurrection Sunday!

If you are interested in studying further in regard to some of the harsher verses and commands of God, I’d suggest 2 books by Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster and Did God Really Command Genocide. I don’t concur with all of his thoughts and conclusions, but they are both very good books to help us think about who God is, and why these verses are in the bible.

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