Sunday, February 1, 2015

Consistently Patient God

In one of Peter’s letters, he mentions that God does not desire to destroy anyone, but desires all to live, if they loyally follow him (or, as Peter put it, they must “attain to repentance”).

However, some have charged that the God of the Hebrew scriptures was a warring God, committing mass genocides, whereas the one spoken of in the Greek scriptures is a kind-hearted, patient one. For the most part, the conclusion that Jehovah is a war God is caused by a superficial reading of the “Promised Land” conquests.

The perception of Jehovah ever being a war monger is wrong and shallow, but how can I prove that? The first case that comes to mind are the Gibeonites. Although they lied about who they were, their intent was to preserve their people without violence. God allowed this deception because he sensed the humbleness of the people. Really, scripture does not mention that Joshua ever thought to consult with Jehovah but spoke only to the amalgamated nation of Israel when deciding what to do. Had he sought Jehovah’s direction, he may never have been deceived. In spite of the original deception, the Gibeonites turned out to be faithful servants to the nation. In turn, as recorded in chapter 10 of Joshua, the nation protected those foreigners when an attack came from other sources. So this case demonstrates that even the Hebrew writings, Jehovah was a merciful God and made exceptions for repentant ones, that includes whole nations.

Another example of a whole nation being spared is recorded in the account of Jonah. Although many people know the story of Jonah and the whale, they don’t know what the surrounding circumstances were. Here they are:

Jonah was told to travel to Nineveh and tell them that God would destroy them. Jonah didn’t like that idea, so he jumped on a ship and went in the opposite direction. After getting swallowed and barfed out back on land, he is once again told to deliver the message to Nineveh. This time he goes there, delivers the message, and waits for their destruction. However, the ruler and all the people repent and demonstrate true sorrow over their deeds, so God spares them. Jonah is now outraged and feels he is justifiably angry because of God not fulfilling his decree. (Whether Jonah felt prideful embarrassment over the unfulfilled prophecy is not stated.) While Jonah is outside the city, God causes shade for Jonah by having a plant grow. However, subsequent to its growth, it immediately withers up and dies. Jonah is upset that this plant died so quickly. It is at this instant that we learn something about the way God feels toward human life. He reasons with Jonah asking why Jonah would feel sorrow over a mere plant but be angry because God spared repentant human life.

Yes, the standard of sparing repentant life is carried throughout scripture, both Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek. There are other examples, but these two struck me as the greatest examples. Really, the clause “attain to repentance” in Peter’s letter ought to be enough for others to realize that God has not changed. His requirements are still (always) the same—obey and live, reject God and he rejects you.

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