January 10, 2008

Bad News, Good News

Deuteronomy 7:1-11

You must destroy them ... Do not intermarry with them.
Deuteronomy 7:2-3


Did God really want Israel to destroy the Canaanites? Not serving other gods makes sense, but destroying the other gods' worshipers without mercy? When it comes to Bible texts like this, we typically think about people first, no matter who they are. People are people. And doesn't God himself teach us to love our neighbors?

The Bible, however, looks at everything-including people-from God's point of view. God is first; everything else is second. From that point of view there is a true God and there are false gods, true and false worship. And, because false worship leads to death and true worship to life, the Bible sides with true worship.

But why destroy the worshipers of other gods? God does not want the wicked to die (Ezekiel 18:23, 32).

We have to admit that we don't have all the answers and probably can't fully understand God's ways. Schol­ars have suggested possible reasons for the annihilation of Israel's enemies, but perhaps the most biblical answer, even if it doesn't satisfy all our questions, is that we all deserve to die because we are all sinners (Romans 6:23). Sooner or later, no matter who we are, we will die because we have sinned against God. That's the bad news. The good news, though, is that if we worship the true God who has sent Jesus to pay for our sins, even though we die, we will enjoy new life in him forever.

Help me, O Lord, to worship you in spirit and in truth. By your Spirit frustrate all who worship falsely, that they may find you, the only true God. In Jesus' name, Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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