Lately some of my theological friends have been writing books about how to read the Old Testament in a way that reconciles Jesus, the peaceful Nazarene, with what they are calling ‘The Violent Warrior God of the Old Testament.’
They begin with this verse, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,” and then they go on to say, “To understand what Scripture says about God, you must read it through the lens of Jesus.”
With all due respect, this is where they go wrong, because any time God says or does something they can’t imagine Jesus of Nazareth doing, they go into their theological song and dance.
“Jesus would never do that, so that must have been Satan.” Or, “The Bible was written by men, and they must have gotten that part wrong.” Or, “The translators misinterpreted that verse, you have to read it in the original Greek and Hebrew.” Or, “God didn’t actually do that, He only allowed it.” Or, “That’s just a poem, a metaphor, or a parable, and it must be read subjectively, you can’t take that literally.”
One of my secondary assumptions is, ‘The Bible writers were inspired by God, so God has the responsibility to provide us with a certain degree of clarity. If it takes a degree in theology, or if you must read all of their books to begin to comprehend the Bible, that’s simply not fair to us common folks; personally I expect much more from The God of the Universe.’
No matter how many pages a theological book may have, what its pages are filled with depends mostly on the original premise their argument is based upon.
I begin with a slightly different basic premise. Yes, I do believe in the Trinity, but that’s a different subject; – – – my premise is, “God is One,” and, “God is Love.”
“No one has ever seen the Father,” so anything you read about God speaking, (except for the few times Father spoke audibly from the sky), or doing, or appearing in any form, anywhere in the Bible, it is referring to The Christ, the Son of God; sometimes called, Michael the Archangel, the pre-incarnate Christ, the Captain of the LORD’s Host, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Prince of Peace, etc.
I do begin with the same verse, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,” and yes, most certainly without any shadow of doubt whatsoever, Jesus on the Cross is the perfect window into the Heart of God.
However, I read this verse to mean, when you read anything about God anywhere in the Bible, Jesus is saying, ‘Assume it’s Me, Jesus; and whatever you see Me do and say, take it as if you have heard and seen the actions of My Father.’
I assume, “God is Love,” means, everything God has ever said or done, has always been the most loving thing He could possibly have done for everyone concerned, for all of eternity.
God has sworn that on Judgment day, when the Books have been opened, and all of history has been reviewed, when there is no longer any room for deception, “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is LORD.”
This is God promising we will all understand, and agree, that His plan was perfect, that He got it exactly right at every stage of the game. So anytime His actions do not seem to agree with the Heart of Jesus, we must keep studying, until we see His Love.
To really get to know a person, you need to observe them in many different situations and circumstances. If the person happens to be a Judge, you will see a different facet of his character while he’s playing with his children, than you will when he is in court, pronouncing a death sentence.
Even if you think you know God’s Heart, to more fully understand His Character, you will need to consider all of His actions in the Old, and the New Testament.
“There is nothing new under the Sun.” So everything I have to say has probably been said before, but I haven’t heard it, or read it, so here’s my take on reconciling the peace loving Jesus of Nazareth, with ‘The violent Warrior God of the Old Testament.’
I believe the key to the solution is refining the definition of the word ‘violence.’
Violence proceeds out of the sinful hearts of angry, selfish, greedy, impatient, unimaginative, power hungry beings.
The use of force may be either destructive, or restorative, depending on the qualifications and intentions of the person applying the force.
The actions of a qualified person with proper authority, done from the motive of love, may be called ‘tough love,’ but should not be called violence.
The vengeance of a God of Love, The Ultimate Authority, can not equal violence, and therefore we have a God throughout the Bible, who is non-violent.
Simple, yes; – – – but certainly not easily understood, so please bear with me while I explain.
Here are some examples:
Dentistry, heart surgery, amputations, radiation, chemotherapy, etc.
Parental discipline; for running into the street, or fighting with siblings. Peace Officers; arresting and incarcerating a person who is an apparent danger to themselves or others. A Judge and jury; imposing a life sentence.
Banning Adam and Eve from the Tree of Life, and thereby pronouncing a death sentence on the entire human race.
Most of us Bible students understand this to be a loving act that was necessary to prevent sin from becoming eternal.
IMO, all of God’s actions, throughout Scripture, may be seen to be just as loving and non-violent as this.
He is the JUDGE, we are not. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
I contend that anything done by God or commanded by God in the Old Testament, was done from a motive of Love, with full authority, as the Righteous Judge of the Universe.
Call it vengeance if you like, but no matter how severe His loving actions may appear to you, – – – you are simply not qualified to judge them as evil or violent.
Remember this; the human race gained our ‘talent’ to judge good and evil, by eating from the WRONG TREE.
Another key word we need to learn to see from Jesus’ point of view, is the word ‘death.’
Us humans are generally pretty freaked out about anything that has to do with death or dying, but Jesus sees death as a sleep. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m going there to wake him up.”
An Anesthesiologist has the authority to place a patient into a deep sleep and then wake them back up again, nonviolently.
Therefore I have no problem with God putting people into a ‘dirt-nap-timeout,’ so He can deal with them later.
However, for me to be Ok with God placing people in this kind of timeout, I find it necessary to believe His mercy endures forever, and that He is a God of second chances.
For details, about second chances, see my blog, MY ESCATOLOGY.
Another important factor is; God has designed our body and minds to refuse extreme amounts of pain, by going into shock.
I’ve been in aircraft and auto accidents, and on one occasion had my throat slit, and was shot in the head twice; so from my personal experiences, I can say, “dying quickly must not hurt very much,” because in all of these occasions, I felt very little pain until after I woke up in the hospital.
So I’m saying, God has already sentenced us all to die the first death, and if and when it becomes the most loving thing for Him to do, He has a perfect right to take as many people as He wants as early as necessary, and then continue His conversation with them later.
And yes, God does seem to like a dramatic story, so sometimes He cracks open the earth, and swallows people, sometimes He rains down fire and brimstone, or sends plagues, and causes floods, but for the people involved, it may be as painless as dying in your sleep, or experiencing an unsuspected catastrophe; – – – going into shock, and then fading to black.
At one point The Angel of the Lord killed one hundred and eighty five thousand Assyrians in their sleep, but then, the next moment, as far as the Assyrians would have known, they found themselves in heaven, surrounded by God’s Holy Angels.
Egypt’s firstborn died in their sleep also; and Ananias and Sapphira simply passed out.
I could go on and on, but I’ve decided to leave you with this.
I’m simply saying, I believe we need to trust our Loving God to do whatever He thinks is best, and Divine violence is an oxymoron.
JESUS, JESUS, JESUS, YES, YES, YES!
However, just lately I find myself falling in love with the Warrior God of the Old Testament, – – – be still my heart.
My plan is to simply play my part, and trust the Author for the happy ending.
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God’s Blessings on you and yours, Vance