Sometimes people get on to me when I say that some of my favorite parts of the Bible are verses like 1 Samuel 15:33: "And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal." I like the parts where God orders His people to slaughter children. I like it when Elisha makes the bear eat the kids in 2 Kings 2:24. I like it when God tells Satan to wipe out Job. I like it when Paul says that he wishes the heretics would just cut their genitals off (Galatians 5:12). My wife has asked me before, "What's wrong with you? Those are horrible things! Those shouldn't be your favorite parts!" Well, I suppose that I should say that really they're not my favorite parts. Texts like Romans 7 and Ephesians 2 come most often to mind when I really need some hope. I just really like to keep bringing up some of the more offensive passages at various times because they illustrate perfectly to me how off-kilter most of the popular ideas about God are today.
There are a lot of people in a lot of churches that don't want to think about "their god" ordering the slaughter of children or telling a prophet to run around naked for two years (see my previous post on that one). "My god would never do such a thing!" is what you hear sometimes when you delve into the harder parts of the Bible. So that's why I like those gross stories so much! They're like a litmus test that can gauge whether or not a person really loves the God of the Bible or a figment of their own politically correct imagination. If "your god would never do such a thing" then you are an idolater, worshiping a god made in your own image, because the God of the Scriptures has revealed Himself as doing these very things!
Well, I found another one of these passages this morning. Isaiah 43:3 says, "For I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you."
What's amazing about this passage is that if you read the chapter in context, you find that Israel has been very naughty. When we get to Isaiah 43:3, we are not dealing with a God who is destroying the wicked but honoring the good. No, what we have here is a God that is destroying several evil nations as a "ransom" to save another evil nation for no better reason than that He wanted to do it. When God killed all of the firstborn of Egypt and then drowned their whole army to save Israel (Exodus 12 & 14), it wasn't because Israel was a worthy people (have you read Exodus?!). On the couple of occaisions when God sovereignly redirected the Assyrians to attack Cush and Seba (2 Kings 19, Isaiah 20) instead of Israel, it wasn't because the Jews were righteous. Rather, God saves His people because of a covenant. He decided for reasons of His own that He wanted to save a certain people and then He promised that He would.
Abraham was a pagan idolater just like everyone else when God first came to him and announced His plan to bless him and his descendants. He didn't deserve the attention from God. So why did God pick him? We know this: it wasn't because of anything he had done. And we also know that it wasn't because of anything that he would do, since God is the One that changes hearts (Ezekiel 36:25-27), give gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7), and leads people along the path that He wants them to follow (Ephesians 2:10). That power was never in man. We can see this same logic displayed in Romans 9:10-13. God's decision to save someone has nothing to do with man's choosing (whether in the past or in the future), but is rooted totally in God's own will and pleasure (Romans 9:15-16).
And this idea is another one of those that works like a litmus test to see if a person is really in love with the God of the Bible or one of their own making. Do you want a God that loves you because you're so worthy to be loved, or do you love the God who chose you and saved you in spite of your own worthlessness so that you might live for Him? It should be no great mystery which one of these views is very friendly with the world and the flesh and deeply man-centered.