In order to understand someone’s behavior, you have to consider the context.
Normally, we would consider using a knife to cut someone an act of violence. We seem to be more accepting when a doctor does it. In both cases, someone is getting injured; in one case, it is for their good.
If you and I were to witness a hip-replacement surgery, we would understand the context: a patient requiring surgery in order to restore healthy function. This surgery is gory and violent, starting with the physician slicing open parts of the patient.
We know the injuries being sustained by the patient are necessary for healing or repair.
Otolaryngologist Bruce Campbell once recalled something a mentor had told him:
Sometimes, what we do is as close to assault and battery as you can get without being arrested.https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2017/05/surgeons-violent-act.html
You and I understand what is going on there on the operating table.
However, if we brought someone from a more primitive part of the world that has no concept of modern medical procedures, they would see the operation as barbaric torture. They would not understand that cutting someone open and manipulating their innards was a process of healing, not torture.
In the same way, we have to understand the circumstances within which the God of the Bible was behaving in the Old Testament.
If you do not understand the context of the Old Testament, you will not understand God’s behavior in it.
Humankind was in deep trouble. Despite being born with perfect bodies in a perfect paradise, the human couple was still immature in character. Character cannot be created. Character has to be developed by the informed choices of free-will beings.
Adam and Eve were deceived into taking a poison that would infect them with a fatal disease. Without intervention, the human species would be lost forever.
It was this circumstance in which God found Himself to be. He desperately wanted to save humanity, and the only way to do so was to send a Savior.
Right after they fell sick, God told Adam and Eve that a Savior would come, born into humanity to save the species. The Enemy knew this, and immediately began working to prevent the arrival of that human Savior.
The Enemy uses lies, selfishness, and coercion to get his way. With weakened moral capabilities, humanity was easy pickings. Eventually, there was only one righteous man left on planet earth.
If Noah died, humanity died with him.
God is love, and love precludes coercion. If the Savior was to be born, it would have to be to a willing woman. God could not coerce a woman to bear the child, nor could the child be born to someone not in a loving relationship with God.
The Savior’s mother had to be a loving friend of God, willing to bear and raise the child. Since Noah was the last righteous man on planet earth, his death would mean the death of the human species.
In this circumstance, as an emergency, therapeutic intervention, God put all human beings not in the ark to sleep with a great flood. (Remember, however, that God gave them 120 years advance notice! Any of them could have chosen to be saved.)
The flood also destroyed paradise, which was another therapeutic blessing in disguise. You have heard the phrase, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Earth prior to the flood was still a paradise. It was still relatively easy living. The earth was not as badly degraded, and so it did not require hard work to survive. It was a life of relative ease, which allowed humanity to indulge in unhealthy behavior.
Now, with paradise wiped, humankind would have to spend most of its time working hard to survive. There would be very little idle time for pleasure-seeking. Food had to be obtained. Shelter had to be built. Lives had to be protected.
Focus On The Conflict
The flood was not a punishment. The punishment for sin is eternal death. Those who died in the flood will be raised again to finish their lives and make their final choice. They are currently in a state the Bible calls “sleep.” This is in contrast to the second death, from which there will be no resurrection.
With this understanding, the flood can be seen for what it really was: an emergency, therapeutic intervention to insure that the Savior could still come to earth and save the species human.
Once the flood was over and had done its work, God focused in on one man through whom the Savior would come: Abraham.
Now, the Enemy did not need to turn all human beings against God–only those of the line of Abraham.
The promise was then passed on to Abraham’s son, Isaac, then onto Isaac’s son, Jacob. The Enemy only had to focus on this one familial line. By destroying this family, the human species could be lost forever.
It became even more focused when only two of the twelve tribes of Israel remained intact: Judah and Levi.
This is why we only hear about these Middle-Eastern families in the Bible. These were the families through whom God would send the Savior, so it was these families the Enemy would attack. This was where the great controversy was playing out on planet earth.
The Missions Of Mercy
When we hear stories from the Old Testament, when God seems to be acting out of character, we have to understand the people He was dealing with, and what He was trying to accomplish: the saving of humankind.
God always acted in love with concern for His human children, even when He might be misperceived as severe and punishing.
He had to keep open the avenue for Messiah, or humankind would be lost.
God accomplished that mission.
Jesus, the Savior, was born to Mary and Joseph.
The Enemy had failed to stop the arrival of the Savior, so now he turned his efforts to causing the fall of the Savior.
As the Enemy had done to Adam and Eve, he would now attempt to do with the Savior. If he could get Jesus to behave in any way other than in love, he could prove that humankind could not be saved.
But Jesus lived a sinless life, developed a perfect, loving character, and died at the hands of sinful men. In so doing, He made it possible for humankind to be at one with God again (the “at-one-ment”) and provided the remedy for our broken characters.
The Enemy had failed to stop the birth of the Savior. He had failed to stop the mission of the Savior. Now he would focus on stopping the mission of the church.
With Jesus’ successful ascension into heaven, a new message would now go out to humankind: God loves you, and the Savior has provided the Remedy for your fatal condition. All you have to do is get to know God, and you will be saved.
The Enemy now seeks to stop the church’s mission to show the world who God is. He does this in two ways:
- He tries to convince you that God does not exist.
- He tries to convince you that the God of the Bible is a violent, cruel dictator who cannot be trusted, and is not worthy of worship.
We have already proven that there is a Creator.
We have proven that the Creator is the God of the Bible.
Jesus proves that God loves us and is trustworthy.
It is now up to you.
You can choose to get to know God and be healed, or you can choose to reject this offer and die of your fatal condition.
I invite you to get to know God!