Does God condone violence and war?
And if so, how can we say God is loving and good?
Today’s tough question is often based on Old Testament stories of the young nation of Israel as they conquered the Canaanites and made the land their own.
This conquering of the land was ordered by God in Numbers 33:50-56.
Therefore, people conclude that if God would order the removal of the Canaanites, He surely isn’t loving.
This post addresses the supposed contradiction of God’s order to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan and His love.
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How Can a Loving God Condone Violence and War?
First, let’s absolutely establish the fact that God is indeed loving.
I know that from our modern-day perspective and democratized and independent society that people have trouble with this juxtaposition of God’s love and justice.
That wasn’t always the case.
Those who lived under a monarchy understood it much better than we do today.
God is the Supreme Authority. As Creator of the universe, it all belongs to Him. He has the right to call the shots.
That includes telling us give Him first place in our lives, avoid worshiping little-g “gods,” and love Him with all that we are (Exodus 20:1-4; Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30). And if we truly love Him in the way He prescribes, we will be obedient to what He commands (John 14:15; John 14:23).
Though this may be hard for some to stomach, even these commands are for our good. When we give Him His rightful place, worship Him only, love Him, and obey His commands, we are blessed.
The Result of Disobedience
The opposite is also true.
Those who choose to disobey His commands can expect His judgment. Again, this is for our own good. The Bible says that He doesn’t desire for any of us to perish, but wants all to turn to Him (2 Peter 3:9).
The people of Canaan were steeped in pagan idolatry, which included such detestable practices as child sacrifice, temple prostitution, self-mutilation, and other inhumane actions. They had plenty of time (over 400 years) to rid themselves of idolatry and follow the one true God.
God is also all-knowing. He knew the hearts of the Amorites, Ammonites, and Canaanites and that they were beyond repentance. If not removed, they would become a snare for the Israelites and a temptation to idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). This is exactly what happened, and Israel paid the consequence for their disobedience (Psalm 106).
It’s also important to remember that God is holy. His patience doesn’t last forever. If people refuse to turn back to Him, He will act in accordance with His justice and holiness.
The Real Power Behind Removing the Pagan Nations
The Bible is full of instances where God fought battles for his people. Throughout several passages we see reference to Him fighting the battle, giving Israel victory, and handing their enemies over to them.
This is no way contradicts God’s loving nature.
In fact, it proves it.
He loves us enough to give us boundaries on the right and wrong way to live, including our relationship with Him.
As our loving Father, He won’t allow His children to disobey Him without consequences. Those consequences are designed to reveal who He is and bring us to right relationship with Him.
A Promise Fulfilled
We should also keep in mind the promise God made to Abraham and his descendants to give them the land of Canaan.
In fact, He told Abraham his descendants would be slaves to Egypt for 400 years, but would return to the land after the iniquity of the Amorites reached completion (Genesis 15:12-16).
None of this means that God approves of every war that has taken place since then. But in Israel’s case and for His purposes, He initiated the battle against false gods and evil on behalf of His chosen people.
The Message For Today
What lessons can we glean from this today?
- As the people of God (AKA the body of Christ), we are part of a corporate solidarity that demands obedience to the One with whom we share a covenant relationship. We rise and fall together (Numbers 16:1-35; Joshua 7:22-26). What hurts one of us, hurts all of us. If we choose to live in rebellion against God, we hurt not only ourselves, but those around us and even our nation and world.
- At the same time, we are individuals in a one-on-One relationship with our Lord and thereby responsible to Him for how we live (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:2-4).
- Obedience reveals our trust in God. Disobedience proves the opposite, or even worse, rebellion against God. He has promised blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience, all for the purpose of turning our hearts completely to Him.
- God is the one and only Supreme Authority of all men. Because of this, it behooves all of us to seek Him and submit to His will and way. If you would like more information, this post will tell you what God’s Word says about how to live at peace with God.
- What does it mean that God is love? (article)
- Why did God condone such terrible violence in the Old Testament? (article)
- How is Islamic jihad different from the violence of the Bible? (article)
- Is there such a thing as necessary evil? (article)
- Did God create evil? (article)
- What does Psalm 137:9 mean? (article)
- Does God killing people make Him a murderer? (article)
- Didn’t the Old Testament punish blasphemy with death? How is that different from radical Islam? (article)
OTHER POSTS IN THE TOUGH QUESTIONS BLOG POST SERIES:
- How Do You Know the Bible is Actually True? (Part 1)
- How Do You Know the Bible is Actually True? (Part 2)
- Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?
- Which Great Flood Story is Actually True?
- Why Did God Put That Tree in the Garden?