AN INTRODUCTION AND SOME CUSTOMARY PROVOKING STATEMENTS
Because New York passed an abortion law or some such thing, people all of a sudden have started to talk about and exegete the news.
It has been raised as an argument against those who might be pro-life that G-d cannot be pro-life, since, in the Bible, and specifically, in the Torah, he killed babies.
I rarely discuss current events at the same time they are happening. But today I will make an exception.
Check that. Two exceptions.
It is uncomfortable to talk about how unrighteous our government’s actions are in the area of abortion and talking about how righteous a pro-life stance is, while turning the blind eye to the warhawking anti-life nature of conducting police state actions overseas, that are the purview of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Back to what I was talking about, seriously. Sometimes we want to excuse our government’s stupidity by an appeal to one issue, when there are a breadth of issues at play. And such exegesis gets sloppy.
Some days, our exegesis, which can turn to support one group or party over another, is only painted with broad strokes that Scripture does not use.
And when it comes to Scripture, sometimes our exegesis boils down to making sure that the G-d in the right hand side of the Bible apologizes for the actions of the G-d in the left hand side of the Bible.
But here is how I would processionally explain the actions of the G-d on the left hand side of the book, in seven elements.
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
PREFACING THE SEVEN ELEMENTS: IS HE REALLY AS MEAN AS SOME SAY?
Consider also the fact that the “kinder, gentler” guy on the right hand side of the book, at the end of the right hand side, plagued the whole earth and wiped out a million here and there, in case we think the guy on the right hand side has more reformed ways.
Translation: parsing the Old Testament G-d and the New Testament G-d out from each other as distinct causes the whole book to fall apart greatly. Truly, they are one and the same. Revelation teaches us that. And His Judgment is His mercy.
BACKGROUND TEXTS FOR RECONCILING THE TWO PARTS
G-d, on the other hand, as Scripture RELENTLESSLY teaches throughout both the Tanakh and the New Testament, gives space for people to repent and reform before He executes against them.
Cue cluster of texts that show G-d’s mercy and granting people space and breathing room to repent before He judges.
- Jonah 3-4, where G-d relents/repents after the capital of the flaying Assyrians repents.
- Revelation 2:21, where G-d gave Jezebel space to repent
- Genesis 15:16, where G-d gave the Amorites space to repent, that He didn’t have to, and would have caused something to work out between Israel and the Amorites had they repented.
- Genesis 18:17-19, where G-d debated what he would share with Abraham, knowing Abraham’s righteousness, knowing Abraham’s heart to cry out for mercy, and knowing that Abraham was able to affect G-d’s heart because Abraham was the friend of G-d in only the way Givers can be.
- Deuteronomy 2:9 and Judges 11:17, where G-d gave Moab their land, and commanded Israel not to harrass them, even before Moab fought against Israel (Joshua 24:9). This could have led to Moab’s national repentance and a reconciliation and commerce between Moab and Israel. And even when the national reconciliation did not take place, G-d STILL played out the drama that should have been between Moab and Israel in the story of Ruth and Boaz.
- Genesis 46:4, where G-d SENT Israel down to Egypt, and G-d DWELT WITH Israel IN Egypt, and during which season, Israel had centuries to get to know her G-d, and the Amorites had space to repent and prepare the land for the ISRAELITES, which could have happened instead of their destruction.
- Genesis 47:6, where Pharaoh gave favor to Israel in the land of Egypt and with the pagan ruler of Egypt.
- Isaiah 19:24-25, where the L-rd will ultimately bring about redemption of the Egyptian nation, and the Egyptian nation will occupy the first place. SECONDLY, <GASP>, pagan, flaying, barbaric Assyria. And third, Israel.
- Exodus 4:22-23, where G-d first reveals to a pagan nation His name of “Father”. He then commands, before the first drop of water turns to blood and before the first frog touches the land and dies, Egypt to LET HIS SON GO. And then the judgments start and increase.
- And yes, one can argue G-d kept Pharaoh from repenting, because of Exodus 4:21 and 7:3, but to merely argue that is to see only part of the whole narrative. Psalm 115:16, “the highest heavens belong to the L-rd, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.” G-d has given people free will to choose what they will or will not do. He does not always get what He wants.
- From the point above, through the entire sequence of issues, the L-rd showed the Egyptians what they had done in infant genocide towards the men of Israel (Exodus 1:22, note the waters turning to blood in 7:17-21 revealed the death that was in the water and the blood that was on the Egyptian hands). The Tenth Plague was the progressive outflow of the response of the Egyptian injustice of Israelite genocide. Again, there are causes and effects. And when you sow the cause, you will reap the effects.
- Let me point out also the counsel of G-d in Exodus 9:19; He told the Egyptian people to gather their flocks and herds to keep them from the hail. Some listened, and some did not. There were Egyptians who had livestock that kept them in from the hail and their livestock was spared. This opened the door for some of them to turn. G-d uses every circumstance to bring people to Him, including His judgments.
- Recall also Exodus 12:49, which could plausibly imply that, during the plagues, there were some Egyptians in the nation that chose to follow the G-d of Israel, and chose to align themselves with Israel, and celebrated the Passover. Even if there were none that did actually align with Israel, He still made provision for that.
- The book of Joshua is completely devoted to the destruction of whole nations while the Israelites possessed the Promised Land.
Element 1: G-d’s decisions, even those decisions that result in human death, are ALWAYS executed in the context of His mercy and His justice, which are the twin facets of His love. What will drive His children to seek Him?
Element 2: G-d’s purposes are aimed at a long-game strategy. He weighs all decisions with an eye toward redemption and how they will impact eternity and His house.
Element 3: G-d aims to eradicate sin, rebellion, iniquity, and abomination from the earth.
Element 4: G-d’s yearning desire is to walk among us, be our G-d, and for us to be His people. Whatever keeps that community from happening He may remove from us.
Element 5: G-d looks for the fruit on the tree. He looks for fresh water or salt, hot water or cold, humility or assertion, upness or downness, filiality or bridality. He looks for consistency that He can utilize. He looks for and brings organized sequence.
Element 6: Sin twists and perverts the good, and that twisting is revealed in the fruit of the tree that is planted. G-d despises things that twist and mar.
Element 7: Everything G-d is, does, or permits to happen is ALWAYS with an eye toward straightening out the twistedness.
Look, it is not like G-d on a bipolar whim massacred millions of innocent babies in an unprovoked rage.
He gave all of these nations, including Mizraim, CENTURIES to repent. And when a culture of death and murder is embraced, somewhere down the line, death is going to be result, and the empire that embraces death is going to self-devour.
He exposed the Egyptian culture for the death-bringing culture it had become. Blood was already in the waters before the first plague. He just forced the nation to see the blood that was in the water. He untwisted the reality of the waters. And in so doing, He allowed all of those baby boys’ blood to testify (Hebrews 12:24).
The Golden Calf is an example of a culture self-devouring. The Levites massacred 3,000 of their own families and so were ordained through G-d’s warring against the defiled spirit of idolatry.
National sin has national consequences. Longstanding sin has consequences. G-d even showed longsuffering toward the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities on the plain, and Lot interceded for Zoar, and as a result, G-d spared that city.
And one of the names of G-d (Exodus 34:5-6) is The L-rd Who Is Longsuffering.
G-d is not Hitler, G-d is not Pol Pot, G-d is not Stalin, and G-d is not Mao.
And it is not really the church’s job to justify the behavior of G-d to others. G-d can work in, around, and through our objections and the obstacles. But we have to recognize that the principles of Scripture do work. Sexual sin has sexual consequences, murderous sin has murderous consequences. Abortive sin has abortive consequences. Actions do have reactions. Sum of the Forces, Newtonian approximations, and all that jazz.
And Jezebel’s genocide resulted in her blood being shed.
And Naboth’s Vineyard landed on Ahab’s head.
The Principles work, without prejudice, and without caring what you think about how nice G-d or anyone else is.
And ultimately, G-d can work every situation to His glory.
But for us, now is the time to wake up, acknowledge reality in the stead of hiding from it, and bless New York, as we should have, instead of cursing it.
G-d was there first, and this decision on New York’s part is not helped by cursing New York. Rather, gang, let’s not carry on with eighty-five reams of conversation, and instead work with what we know about the Giver and Exhorter design of the state and Manhattan, respectively.
Bless the Giver and the Exhorter dynamic of that state.
Just some thoughts here, gang.