“I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders.”
” I myself am against you, and I will inflict punishment on you … Therefore in your midst fathers will eat their children, and children will eat their fathers … Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. … When I shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you. I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. ”
These words send shivers down my spine. I can only imagine crass cruelty and intense anger. Definitely not an attitude I would encourage in my kids. Yet, the unsettling fact is that it is God who’s described here. Yes, you heard it right; the first person singular pronouns in the above text are alleged to portray God (Deut 32:41-42; Ezekiel 5:8-13, 16-17). This evokes all kinds of mixed thoughts. How can the God I believe in and aspire to seem to act in ways beneath acceptable human behavior? (See the previous post) Does God have an ego that can be aroused? Does He really feel threatened, so much so that He needs to lash out in defending Himself, His image, honor, glory etc.? Does He need to establish Himself and His ways by sheer force, by punishment, by intimidation?
- A vengeful god is nothing but a mythical Greek-type god to be feared, not a God to inspire faith in, a God who can fulfill our best aspirations and hopes.
In all honesty I have to say, if God is vengeful like this, than I don’t believe in God! He can’t win my allegiance. But
- I do believe in God
and I do it strongly. It is the God Jesus revealed. I am after all a follower of Jesus and through Him of God. It is in Jesus that I come to get a peak into who God is and this God is anything but vindictive. Actually at the core of who God is, as portrayed in Jesus, is LOVE manifested in forgiveness, grace, everlasting mercy etc. It is God incarnate in Jesus who though unfairly sentenced to death did not feel the need to retaliate, to defend Himself, but accepted to be dead to those who didn’t want Him. Yes, He accepted to die in order to honor their freedom to say no to Him, all the while forgiving them, knowing they couldn’t possibly do this if they knew what they were doing. It is the God who loved us so much that when He crafted us He did not forced it upon us to love Him, He did not make us into robots, but allowed us the freedom to reject Him.
- Hell is: the “space” God created out of love, where we can say no to God. Every time we say no to God we enter hell. Let’s be clear: if we feel distant from God is not because of God pushing away from us, but because and always because we push away from Him. We do this, I believe, because of our misconceptions of Him, because of the lies we believe.
Yet, the question still lingers, what about these texts? What are we to make of them? Should we purge, in a Marcion manner, the Scriptures from texts that don’t seem to fit them or better yet, – as many Christians do nowadays – overlook them and act like they are not there? Is there a way to save them and appreciate them in their own respect? Should we, as some Christians do, take them at face value and try to interpret the rest of the Scriptures in light of them? Or maybe we should re-evaluate our hermeneutic and reconsider the possibility of another way to read this. Does the Bible really present us with a vindictive, vengeful God or maybe there is a deeper meaning to all this?
In the next post we will try to deal with these issue and others as we continue to explore, “Is God vengeful?”