God is not cuddly

Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? (Job 40:8)

There seems to be a thing these days in condemning the Book of Joshua as sub-biblical. The violence of the book repels many people. It strikes them as out of character with the portrait of Jesus they carry around in their heads. The idea that God would sanction and command the slaughter of an entire people horrifies people.

I share the horror.

But I don’t understand why we are so quick to clear the name of God by explaining away the Book of Joshua. I don’t understand it because it is not like Joshua is the only book in the Bible that is violent.

Take Exodus, for example. Consider for just a moment what happened at Passover.

So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt — worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.'” (Exodus 11:4-6)

How cuddly is this God?

Why is it that we cannot tolerate an image of God that terrifies us? Why do we try to shove him into a Care Bear’s costume when the Bible clearly does not. You can rip out Joshua, but you can’t escape the revelation of God as a “consuming fire.”

Why is this so hard for us?


7 thoughts on “God is not cuddly

  1. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. As a whole, we do not fear God, and therefore we are unwise. In our ignorance we even redefine fear to mean something like “wonder” or “awe”, which is part, but not nearly all, of what it means to fear God.

    We do not say with Job, “Though you slay me, I will worship you.” Instead we say things like, “I would never worship a God who….”

  2. I’ve had some fun watching “fear” take hold as high school students grapple with Exodus 19 in relation to Hebrews 12. As the first inklings of fear are revealed, I press on to 2 Peter 3. Remember Major Remer’s incredulity in Valkyrie? “What’s really going on?”

  3. It is so hard for us because in our sinful natures we want to be god, or at least control God. So rather than accept and worship God for Who He Is, we create “god” in our own image. What incredible narcissistic arrogance that we dare to declare what God can and can’t be like. Who God is, what He is like, what He does, is revealed in His word, not our feeble minds and deceitful hearts. Some people want a God they don’t need to fear, but they need to fear Him, and I fear for them if they don’t. We need to be very careful how we characterize and how we treat God. He will not be molded into our images, He will not be boxed in, and He will not be domesticated. And I am honored to worship and yes to fear a God like that.

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