Posts Tagged ‘Is God intolerant?’

Psalm 9 in context © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:15-17 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 6

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. In this series I have placed words in David’s mouth but sought to remain true to what Psalm 9 and the Bible actually says about God. I hope this last episode will add to your understanding of a loving and just God.

DAVID: “The needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.”    

SKEPTIC: OK. I get that, but what I am talking about is that you pray that God will destroy your enemies. What has that got to do with the poor and needy?

DAVID: What I am saying is that God never forgets those who suffer because of evil, cruel, intolerant, violent and unjust people, people with the very characteristics that you ascribe to God. The poor and needy are destitute directly because of wicked people. They are emotionally defeated because they have been beaten down by evildoers. Justice, however, will eventually be served. 

Galatians 6:7 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

DAVID: “Arise, O Lord! Do not let mere mortals defy you! Judge the nations! Make them tremble in fear, O Lord. Let the nations know they are merely human. Interlude” (Psalm 9:18 NLT)   

SKEPTIC: Do you really think it is right to ask God to judge nations? 

DAVID: Yes. One day God will judge the world, but I pray that He will intervene into the present with His justice now. Innocent people are dying at the hands of my enemies.

I pray that people will fear God while there is still opportunity. God is a universally just judge. He is also a merciful Father, with whom we can have a loving relationship with joy and praise if we but realise that we are merely human and need Him in our lives. 

The nations have fallen into the pit they dug for others. Their own feet have been caught in the trap they set. The Lord is known for his justice. The wicked are trapped by their own deeds. Quiet Interlude   (Psalm 9:15, 16 NLT)  

SKEPTIC: Now you say that it’s not God’s fault that the nations are destroyed, but their own? Isn’t this shifting the blame? After all, God destroyed them, according to your Psalm.

DAVID: The Bible speaks about reaping what we sow. Those who sow violence against God and His people reap judgement. They experience the natural consequences of their choices sooner or later. 

In Aussie (Australian) terms, it’s the “boomerang” principle. It is true that God executes judgment, and also true that people are responsible for the consequences of the choices they make. Both principles are woven together to form the truth. It’s worth pondering.

Some people will never know God’s love and will never know Him as the God of salvation; they will only know Him as the God of judgment because of their choices.

Other people will come to know God personally because of a consideration of His judgment. They run to His offer of salvation (see POSB commentary) and come to know His love personally.

“The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.” (Psalm 9:17, NLT)

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. Not only the wicked but anyone who doesn’t believe, dies.

DAVID: Yes, sooner or later. Death in the Bible always speaks of separation or being cut off. Physical death is separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death is separation of a person from fulfilling the purposes of God and from a relationship with God, because of our sin. 

You can be alive physically but dead spiritually (separated from God). Many have died physically but are alive spiritually (in relationship with God in heaven). Many have died physically and are dead spiritually (and remain separated from God) because of their own choices. Which is why God is patient. 

PASTOR ROSS: 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

This is still true. God’s righteous character does not ignore sin as if it didn’t exist. His justice requires a price for sin. In order that His justice could be satisfied and we could be forgiven, God gave His Son as the sacrifice for our sin.

The POSB commentary expresses this well, “God’s redemption is available to all, but it is effective only for those who repent and receive Christ as Savior and Lord.”

Pastor Ross 

Is God just…? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:11 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 5

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: Psalm 9:11 (NLT) says, “Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about His unforgettable deeds.”  

SKEPTIC: Unforgettable alright. You pray and He annihilates your enemies.

DAVID: I pray to God who will not forget the cry of those who my enemies have annihilated. God alone knows the details of the crimes of my enemies and He is just. 

In the meantime I will encourage the oppressed to sing songs of praises to God who has not forgotten them.

SKEPTIC: So you declare the destruction of people you call your enemies as a good thing? You even sing songs about it.

DAVID: I declare the salvation of the Lord for those who believe in Him. I declare that God does not forget those who are oppressed. 

My enemies are not merely objects of God’s annihilation, but I call all people to share in the blessing of knowing God personally, and I celebrate both God’s love and His justice. My Psalm says in verses 12-13 “For He who avenges murder cares for the helpless. He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer. Lord, have mercy on me. See how my enemies torment me. Snatch me back from the jaws of death.”   

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. You say God is your Avenger.

DAVID: Are you really criticising me for asking God to deliver me from persecution and death? 

SKEPTIC: No, but I am saying God is like an assassin that you have personally hired to do your work.

DAVID: How God avenges the murder of my people by ruthless and evil people, is best left to Him. I am asking for God’s mercy on me. He alone is just and fair. 

I do not deserve God’s mercy, but by grace, He has given it to me as a gift. Should I remain alive, it will only give me more incentive to declare God’s grace and mercy and salvation to those who trust in Him. That’s why I prayed in verse 14 “Save me so I can praise You publicly at Jerusalem’s gates, so I can rejoice that you have rescued me.” 

PASTOR ROSS: This is still the basis of the gospel cry, “Save me, Lord, not because I deserve it but because of Your grace.” 

The Bible says all have sinned and deserve to pay the price of spiritual separation from God, but Jesus died a cruel death on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sin. He is the only One who came to save us. He offers us the free gift of Eternal Life to those who will accept it. 

God says in Isaiah 43:11-12 (NLT), “I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord.”

To be continued… Read Part 6

Pastor Ross

Is God unjust? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 3

Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) says, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; You have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: So, according to you, your enemies are annihilated forever by God. You just pray and they die.

DAVID: No, not at all. There is more to it than that. My words in Psalm 9:4 (NLT) say “For You have judged in my favor; from Your throne You have judged with fairness.”   

I am humbled when the Lord judges in my favour. He does not always do that. When He does, it indicates that my thoughts are lining up with His thoughts. This is not always so. I find myself praying, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

I ask Him to give me His perspective, from His Word, not my often twisted version of the way things should be based upon flawed social and cultural norms.

I hope He will also give me the grace to disagree with others firmly when I need to, without being a jerk or desiring their destruction. My Psalm is not simply talking about those who have a disagreement with me, but those who are trying to kill me and my people.

SKEPTIC: Aren’t you concerned that this Psalm will give a wrong impression of you? 

DAVID: Let me be less concerned with what others misunderstand about me, or whether others treat me fairly or not, or even whether they exclude me or not, and more concerned about what God thinks is fair. I want to portray God for who He is – not only loving, but just. Let me be more concerned about what He says than what others say. 

I am like Paul in your New Testament Bible. In Galatians 1:10 (NLT), Paul says, Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Save me from self-pity, and wanting to get back at people who seek to mistreat me for what I believe and who I believe in. I leave that in God’s hands. He knows how to fight His own battles without my sin getting in the way, so I pray that He will give me the right words when I need them and the respect for others who disagree. I pray that He will help me know when to stand up and be counted without being self-righteous. 

Only He knows what is right and just. It’s not so much that He is on my side, but I give thanks for the privilege of allowing me to be on His.

SKEPTIC: But your words in Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) are so severe when you speak about God. You say, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.” 

PASTOR ROSS: I can only agree with the Skeptic. David’s words are severe when speaking about the justice and the severe judgment of God. His words are shocking. Too few people find them shocking enough to take them seriously.

Psalm 9 makes me concerned for the direction our own country is going. We seem to be making some wicked decisions and placing them in law, laws that contradict God’s Word. My heart cries out to God to prompt us to turn our country towards Him rather than this continual movement away from God. 

I pray that He will rebuke and erase the wickedness from our country and that we would respond in repentance. I pray that He will protect the generation of my grandchildren from the consequences of any wicked lawmakers or social engineers who choose to continually erode the principles of the Bible. 

I pray that He would help me not to be involved in destroying our society with such wicked intent, but actively involved in His loving, fair and just purposes. I don’t want to be deceived by clever words and deception that ultimately applauds what is evil and deplores what is right and just and valuable.  

My prayer is that God will bring His salvation to our lost generation. May we not be erased in the pages of history because of our defiance of God; so insignificant that we don’t deserve more than a passing reference to our demise.

Even before David’s time as King, so many of the nations, once real people who made real choices and a wicked name for themselves, were destroyed so utterly that in the aftermath of such destruction, we cannot even dig up the remnants of one city. Yes, their cities were destroyed, but more tragically, those who chose to stand against God were utterly wiped out to the point of being entirely forgotten by history itself. 

I take the words of this Psalm to heart. Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says, “But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne…”   Long after this generation perishes, He will reign. Long after this Government is out of office, He will still exercise His authority.  “He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”   

Paul expresses this idea when He speaks to the Athenians about who God is in Acts 17:24-31

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, … He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need… He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist… ‘We are His offspring.’ … “God … commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Him. For He has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man He has appointed (ie Christ), and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”

To be continued… 

IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? You decide as we look at some other parts of this Psalm. Read Part 4