Friday, July 5, 2013

Capital Punishment and the God of the Old Testament

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, July 5, 2013:  I Chronicles 1:1-2:17

The sons of Judah were Er, Onan, and Shelah.  These three were born to him by the daughter of Shua, the Canaanitess.  Er, the firstborn of Judah, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; so He killed him. I Chronicles 2:3 (NKJV)

Right in the midst of a family chronology we find an individual that was so evil that God intervened and outright killed him.  Genesis 38:7 tells the exact same story about Er, Judah's first born son.  There are no details.  We do not know what this young man did.  We do not know how he died.  All we know is that God was so offended that He killed him.

There are two issues that arise from this short passage.  First, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.  It is obvious that God Himself endorses capital punishment.  We must, however, look further to see His entire wisdom in about this topic which is so highly controversial in our day.

Second, the NATURE OF GOD Himself.  The idea of a God who kills people is disturbing to many people.  In fact, some have suggested that the Old Testament God is totally different from the New Testament God.

It is impossible to exhaustively address both of these topics in this short blog.  However, I will seek to give short answers to the questions raised.

1.  Does the Bible endorse CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?

Answer:  Yes.  The basis of God's law is "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" (Ex. 21:24).  Justice requires that the punishment match the crime.  Jesus Himself said, "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword." (Matt. 26:52).  

Having said that, we must remember that by the law of Christ "mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).  The death penalty is the last resort when all other means of redemption have failed.  The death penalty in much of Scripture is reserved for God alone to enact.  In the hands of men, we must be careful to seek the reconstruction and rebuilding of lost lives before they pass into a Christ-less eternity.

2.  Is the God of the Old Testament cruel and wrathful -- and, in fact, totally different from the New Testament God of love?

Answer:  No.  The God of the Old Testament is the same God we meet in the New Testament.  The wrath of God and the mercy of God are evident in both places.  It is important for us to understand the flow of God's redemptive plan.  When we do, this contrast clears up.

Atheists and non-Christians love to point out the flaws of the Old Testament God.  From their view, He is a God who flooded the world with water killing millions. They see Him as the God who ordered genocide of entire groups of people.  He is the God who requires blood sacrifice in order to satisfy His righteousness.

This one-sided view of God is certainly found in the pages of the Old Testament.  But, there is another side.  There is a CONTEXT to this picture that places it in another light.  That CONTEXT is the holiness of God.  W

The truth is that when sin entered human history, holy God had every right to destroy us at that moment.  It is only by His grace that we continue to breathe and live and have a future.  The amazing thing is not that He brings severe judgment from time to time.  The amazing this is that He hasn't already whipped us out.

This causes me to thank God for His mercy.  I do not see Him as cruel or wrathful. Rather He is a God who seeks to save!

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