December 16, 2017

Difficult Scriptures: The God Who Smites

God loves us.  We learned that in Sunday School.  So how do we explain God smiting people?

I’m thinking of four incidents, three in the Old Testament and one in the New.  In each case people were struck down, usually with death, once with leprosy.  The Bible is very clear that judgment was from God or his representative and in response to their actions.

First Onan:  He inherited his brother’s wife and was responsible to sleep with her and create an heir for his dead brother.  He slept with her, but he took measures to prevent her from getting pregnant because he didn’t want to produce offspring for his brother.  “What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death.”  (Genesis 38:6-10)

Next Uzzah:  He was guiding the cart with the ark of God on it.  The oxen stumbled as the cart moved along, so Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark.  “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”  (2 Samuel 6:3-7)  First Chronicles 13:10 confirms specifically that he was struck down because he had put his hand on the ark.

There are other similar incidents in the Old Testament, but the one I’ll mention involves Gehazi, Elisha’s servant.  Elisha had told Namaan how to be healed of his leprosy, and Namaan returned in gratitude and tried to give Elisha gifts.  Elisha refused the gifts, and Namaan departed.  But Gehazi thought his master was too easy on Namaan.  He hurried after him and asked him for a talent of silver and two sets of clothing, ostensibly for a company of prophets.  Gehazi got the loot and hid it, then he lied to the prophet.  Bad move.  Elisha said, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you?  Is this the time to take money . . .?  Namaan’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendents forever.”  (2 Kings 5:22-26)

Finally there is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, from Acts 5:1-10.  Ananias and Sapphira sold property, as had Barnabas.  Like Barnabas, Ananias took the proceeds (but unlike Barnabas only part of the proceeds) and laid some money at the apostles’ feet, implying he had laid it all.  Peter told him, “You have not lied to men but to God.”  Ananias fell down and died.  Sapphira later told the same lie and also fell down dead.

Why were these people struck down?  What do these stories have in common?

Pretense seems to be part of it.  Onan pretended to be fulfilling his obligation to his brother; Gehazi pretended to be speaking on the man of God’s behalf, and Ananias and Sapphira pretended to be more generous than they really were.  In all three cases they dissembled in order to advance their own gain – for the sake of convenience, riches, or fame.  God obviously must despise hypocrisy.

Uzzah didn’t seem to be pretending anything, nor, so far as we can tell, was he seeking gain.  In his case it seems that he thought his own judgment of what the Lord required was better than the direct command of the Lord.

Perhaps there is a common thread here: a diminished view of God’s nature and commands.  Uzzah thought God needed human help to keep the ark on the cart, as if God were a powerless idol reliant on worshipers for its safety.  Onan, Gehazi, and the couple in Acts didn’t imagine that God could see their acts and intentions – perhaps they didn’t really believe that God existed.  They cherished their secret schemes, confident that they were in control and there was no force capable of thwarting them or enforcing justice.

If the problem in each of those cases was a diminished view of God, then a dramatic response from the Lord of the universe makes sense.  But there hasn’t been a day since the Fall when humankind hasn’t misunderstood, ignored, and belittled God.  What else is going on here?

Well, ultimately all of them offended not only against the power of God but against his grace.  Uzzah officiously offered God works he had not required rather than trusting his commandments and his covenant, which were God’s manifestation of unsought grace in the Old Testament.

Onan denied the grace of posterity to his brother and status to his sister-in-law/wife for his own selfish reasons, while still making a show of being the agent of God’s grace.

Gehazi couldn’t stand the grace Elisha extended in God’s name to Namaan— not only was Gehazi greedy for his own reward, but he resented the humility and generosity Elisha showed by doing God’s work for free.

And Ananias and Sapphira didn’t have to sell land and give money.  When Barnabas did, it was an act of grace to the Body of Christ, not the grudging fulfillment of a requirement.  His total, sacrificial giving was meant to be an earthly representation of God’s grace and to manifest entire faith in him – and this couple perverted that act of grace and all it meant.

But smiting them on the spot?  Is that not – pardon the pun – overkill?  There were many other wicked people in the Bible, not to mention average people who did wicked things – Ahab and Jezebel, Herod the Great, Judah, Joseph’s brothers, even David and Peter — and they weren’t immediately struck down.  Why were some people smitten and so many others allowed to leave a lifetime of devastation in their wake?  Why did Herod the Great live out his days and the Herod in Acts 12 die of worms for not giving God the glory?

Perhaps as a sign.  God performs many acts as one-time signs, not as consistent, predictable responses.  The striking down of faithless, graceless people would be a pretty blatant sign.  His healing miracles also were signs.  They were not an attempt to eradicate sickness; many were sick, only a few were healed.  Many were wicked, only a few were smitten.  He will have mercy on whom he has mercy.  He is not a tame lion.

Perhaps God chose to strike them for another reason, brought out by Elisha’s question, “Is this the time to take money?”  Some of the footnotes in the NIV Study Bible indicate that Uzzah and Ananias and Sapphira were part of a new ministry to people who hadn’t known God before, a new understanding of who God was.  That’s true of Gehazi, too, since Namaan was encountering the God of Israel for the first time.  The new ministry must not be perverted at its inception.  God establishes his covenant of righteousness and grace, and no human misinterpretation will be allowed to smirch it. The smiting was done as an unavoidable lesson that God is great and will not be mocked.

Yes, but . . . These are difficult scriptures.  They present me with two dilemmas.

First, how are we to understand God’s nature – what do these acts reveal about who he is?  Is he a jealous God or a God of mercy?  Are these contradictory?

The second dilemma is similar:  what should we pray for when confronted with hypocrisy, exploitation, officiousness, and greed?  Do we want God to do more smiting these days?  Should we cry with the Psalmist, “O Lord, how long will you look on?”  (Psalm 35:17)  Is praying for judgment the right way to honor God’s holiness?

Or should we abide in patience with Peter? He tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)  But God didn’t seem very patient with Ananias or Uzzah.

Difficult indeed.  Tell me what you think.

Comments

  1. Heck, I want God to strike down my x-wife & her boss whom she had an ongoing secret affair for 9 years. All the while pretending to be a good Christian family while living the lie…

    And yes, God could have run some interference 9 years ago.

    He also could have struck down Pol Pot, Idi Amin, drug lords, child molesters, serial murderers…

    Strange how He lives with the worst of what humankind can do. And things so heinous I could not even stand to know the depth of its horridness…

    Crazy thing evil. Crazy thing human choice & the degree of good or evil we are capable of doing to other human beings…

    There is no rhyme+reason to it from our limited perspective & no, that does not answer your grander consideration or let God off-the-hook…

    Of course I could have died of pneumonia when I was 6-months old & never had to weigh such things either. But medical science sufficient back in 1954 to see me through the disease…

    I am not going to add anything right now as I have pondered this much already. I think any honest saint has to face these things without sufficient answer & still choose to trust & believe in a God that is not calloused or fickle or indifferent or coy…

    Rather meaty stuff right after the Christmas season I must say…

  2. One statement stands out: “The new ministry must not be perverted at its inception.”

    That would also explain the story of Nadab and Abihu, who offered “strange fire” during the timeframe of the initial establishment of the priesthood. But the sons of Eli received no such punishment.

    I have long since come to the conclusion that the majority of these incidents occur because they take place in specific, significant times and places, such as the establishment (Nadab & Abihu, Ananias & Saphira) or renewal (Uzzah) of a covenant. This would also explain the difference between the deaths of Nadab & Abihu; struck down by the Lord, and Hophni & Phinehas, the sons of Eli; killed in battle when the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines after spending years shamelessly abusing their positions.

    How Onan fits into this I’m not sure – haven’t read his sordid little story in a while. But Namaan’s story seems to fit in fairly nicely.

    So my thinking is that these incidents were specific to their situations, and are not intended to set a precedent on how God generally deals with His people or how we should pray.

    • I agree completely, James. Thank you for your perceptive comment.

      Related to this, it also seems that the most miracles in the Bible also occured during the establishment of a covenant nation (Moses and Joshua) the renewal of the covenant (Elijah and Elisha) or the establishment of the Church, the new people of the covenant (Jesus and the apostles). Of course, not all miracles occured in these three generations, but the vast majority of them did.

      Both miracles and extreme displays of God’s wrath, then, would serve to authenticate the message, ensure its purity, and provide a foretaste of the power and judgment of the Kingdom.

  3. They are contradictory — but then, that’s the Bible, isn’t it? I think the main mistake is to try building a systematic theology from different passages written by different authors trying to express different ideas.

    Perhaps the most curious thing about these passages is that we know God doesn’t strike people down just because they deserve it in the real world. If lying to the church about money were a mortal sin, I can think of many televangelists who would have been struck dead years ago. So what was the author of Acts (for example) trying to say? I don’t really have any ideas at the moment.

  4. Beelzebub's Grandson says:

    Come on, they’re just stories. This is like asking how Santa can deliver presents to all the good childen of the world in one night.

  5. The important thing to realize is that the opposite of love is not hate. (God hates sin. )

    The opposite of love is indifference (sometimes sheltering under the term “tolerance”).

    • I understand and appreciate the concept of defining what something is by defining what it is not. It seems like it should work both ways.
      I can agree that the opposite of love would be indifference.
      The opposite of indifference could be passion, which could be interchanged with love.
      To interchange tolerance with indiffrence, I’m not sure.
      Let’s say the opposite of tolerance, was unacceptable.
      Then the opposite of unacceptable, is love? Maybe!
      You can be tolerant by being indifferent or being accepting.
      My wife is very tolerant of me; does that mean that she does not love me? 🙂
      I think she does! Her tolerance is her grace.

  6. The obvious is staring all in the face…whenever a difficult passage is encountered that cannot be explained by the view commonly held of God, that he/she is good and loving, does it not make more sense to attribute senseless, human emotion to God? Rather like the gods of Rome and Greece?

  7. Lots of authors address this question, but I just read the Holiness of God by Sproul over the Christmas break and I thought his treatment of these specific cases was very good. We don’t understand how “other” God is, how holy. The question isn’t why did He strike these people down, but why doesnt He strike all of us down. The real story is His grace in allowing any of us who don’t acknowledge His holiness to live.

    • “We don’t understand how “other” God is, how holy.”

      True, but Jesus shows us everything that we need to, and can possibly know about God. With that being said, everything has to go through the lens of Jesus. If we don’t see it in Jesus, then it is not God. Period.

      • That’s generally true. The important thing to remember is that Jesus will judge the world in the end and it will make His driving out of the money changers from the Temple seem like nothing. Jesus also said in Rev 2:23 that he would strike the children dead of the false prophetess. Jesus doesn’t show us anything different about God than is already revealed in the OT—he just puts it all in human flesh.

        • “Jesus doesn’t show us anything different about God than is already revealed in the OT…..”

          what do you do with this text then:

          John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

          To me, this seems to suggest otherwise.

  8. It is probably “wrong” to say this because I know it can be seen as a “slippery slope,” but I think the writers were interpreting that God killed these people because of what they did or gave them leprosy because of what they did. Maybe they had heart attacks due to the fear inside them of what they did. So, I guess you could say that in some way, God had a hand in that as God is responsible for any life that we have or do not have. But I just don’t see God as a Being that is waiting around for someone to screw up and then He strikes them dead. We would have no one walking the earth if that were the case. The stories are lessons for us to be truthful, faithful and always aware of the incredible power and glory of God.

  9. I am a bit surprised that no-one has pointed this out yet, but these accounts tell us nothing of the eternal destiny of these people whom God smote or struck down.

    While it often seems all-important to us, In the overall economy of God this temporal life we lead here on earth is rather insignificant; and being moved from it to whatever follows is not as huge an event as it seems to us.

  10. I’ve always wondered if Ananias and Sapphira were simply murdered and the striking down thing was a cover up. Peter did have a temper.

    You also left out the youths who made fun of Elijah and were eaten by a bear as a result. Tho that wasn’t a direct smiting.

    All Jesus cursed/killed was a fig tree.

    • “All Jesus cursed/killed was a fig tree.”

      I thought the same thing Russ!!

    • Actually I tend to co-relate the stories of the bear and the children and Ananias and Sephira. Elijah was new to the prophet thing. He had just inherited it from his mentor along with his cloak. In his immaturity, he over-reacted and the bear came out and mauled the children for mocking him. Same with Peter. He was new at being in place of his mentor. He had just been handed the keys. He over-reacted and the couple died. Those stories seem awful close in themes, if not details.

      • First of all, it is Elisha, not Elijah, who was jeered.

        Second, this was not personal petulance, but a national warning. The youth came from Bethel, which was a center of Baal worship. They mocked and ridiculed God’s chosen prophet. He “called down a curse on them”. That is, he invoked God’s judgment on them. By so doing he gave warning at the start of his ministry that the curses of the covenent would fall on Israel if they refused to turn back to Yahweh. It is fitting that the event right before this was also a symbol: Elisha healed the waters (for those who turned to the prophet for help).

        Thus, these two incidents, the very first of Elisha’s ministry, symbolized God message through Elisha: that they would find healing and blessing by coming back to God, or judment and a curse if they continued their rebellion and apostasy.

        See I Kings 2:19-25

        • Thanks for the correction Daniel. I knew it was one of those guys. I wasn’t aware of all of the covert symbolism though.

          Is that saying that these events served as examples to the event’s contemporaries?

          • Yes, I think so. In a secondary way, they also serve as examples to us. For example, they remind me that If I either ignore God’s words (like Israel with Elisha) or distort the gospel community for my own reputation (like Annanias and Sapphira), I also will forfeit the blessing that could be mine, and risk being exposed to God’s judment or chastisement (though the form and timing will undoubtedly look different).

    • >> You also left out the youths who made fun of Elijah and were eaten by a bear as a result. <<

      . . . . and the man of God who was killed by a lion in 1 Kings 13 after he believed a lying prophet.

      • And Herod being eaten by worms. This actually bears on the topic rather well:

        King Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. […] And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne and delivered an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, ‘It is the voice of a god, and not of a man!’ And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory; and he was eaten by worms and gave up the ghost. [Acts 12.19b-23]

        “Because he gave not God the glory” is about the clearest explanation in any of the passages. The angel is an interesting element, too . . . one wonders whether angels also acted as the “smiters” in any of the other cases?

  11. Damaris,

    Thanks for this intriguing topic… I’m not sure there is an easy explanation to making sense from these narratives, but my thought is similar to yours; I believe there is an element of fidelity to God involved. For example, in 1 Samuel 2, we read of Eli the priest and his sons, who were priests as well. Verse 12 lets us know their spiritual condition (Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD.) The narrative continues detailing the disregard the sons of Eli demonstrated to both God and those offering sacrifices at Shiloh. Later, in verse 25, we see Eli confronts his sons regarding their disregard to God in discharging their priestly duties, but also learn that “…they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.”

    Interspersed with this story of Eli and his sons, is the story of Samuel: we encounter Hannah, Elkanah, and Hannah’s desire to become a mother. In her joy at finally conceiving Samuel, she pledges Samuel to be ‘lent to the LORD’, and so the Samuel narrative becomes interspersed with that of Eli and his sons, and we learn that where Eli’s sons were not faithful, because they did not know the LORD; their total disregard for God is answered by God with their eventual death on the same day. Samuel, however is demonstrated as one who finds favor with the LORD and receives God’s vision pronouncing their punishment. Samuel is said to grow in the LORD’s favor, and in time, his words are known for their accuracy and faithfulness towards proclamation, and is known throughout Israel as a prophet (1 Samuel 3)

    While we may continue to struggle with coming to grips with a God who is both described as ‘love’, while also seen as a God who ‘smites’, I do believe the intent of the person is a chief factor in how his or her life is lived and dealt with in the Biblical narrative; with your examples and those of Eli’s sons, it appears their character, their inner motives, and their fidelity towards God, were the contributing factors towards receiving God’s judgment.

    Perhaps a message for us in our day is a proclamation from the Bible of God’s love for humanity, His plan of redemption; yet, if we hold God in contempt, if we harbor false motives all the while acting in God’s name, do we really ‘know’ the LORD, and while His grace may be sufficient, have we truly accepted it?

  12. “While it often seems all-important to us, In the overall economy of God this temporal life we lead here on earth is rather insignificant; and being moved from it to whatever follows is not as huge an event as it seems to us.”

    I completely disagree. Jesus shows us that this is not the case in John 11:35.

  13. Often, ancient scriptures would attribute things to God that they didn’t understand.

    For instance, in the Hebrew Bible, God sends “an evil spirit” to dwell within Abimelech in Judges 9, and does the same thing again to Saul later.

    Also, from time to time, I’m sure the scriptures insert little vignettes like these to remind us of how powerful YHWH is. It’s not like God was saying, “I hate you, Uzzah. BLAST!” Perhaps–as a history teacher of mine once suggested–Uzzah was killed of a massive static shock when he touched the ark, and they needed a reason for his unexplained death. I’m not saying this was the case, just that things like this happened a lot–when there’s no explanation, they get attributed to God.

  14. I’ve always felt sorry for Uzza; all he did was really a natural human reaction to seeing something falling – come on, how many of us have grabbed for a hot dish straight out of the oven when it seems to be toppling off the rack? If you say “None”, I can show you my burns 😉

    The only thing I can relate to it (or it to) is back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was being instructed in our First Holy Communion class; the nuns asked us “What would you do if the priest dropped the Host when giving it to you?” and of course we all said we’d pick it up.

    No! was the answer. Let it fall! Only the priest can touch the Host with his hands (of course, this was way back before communion in the hand and all the rest of it). So maybe something similar with Uzza – what is consecrated may not be touched, even with the best intentions.

    • I’m reminded of an story of Host reverence taken to extremes. A seminary teacher asked his students what to do if a host is dropped, as it falls a mouse grabs it and runs into the walls of the Church. I’m not sure what the right answer is (hope the mouse fully consumes it?) but my favorite answer is the student who suggested burn down the church and throw the ashes in the sacrarium.

      • You have to love classes in moral theology; they thrive on brain-busters like that one.

        Once again, my man Tommy A. has been there, done that, and got the amice, alb and maniple:

        “Reply to Objection 3: Even though a mouse or a dog were to eat the consecrated host, the substance of Christ’s body would not cease to be under the species, so long as those species remain, and that is, so long as the substance of bread would have remained; just as if it were to be cast into the mire. Nor does this turn to any indignity regarding Christ’s body, since He willed to be crucified by sinners without detracting from His dignity; especially since the mouse or dog does not touch Christ’s body in its proper species, but only as to its sacramental species. Some, however, have said that Christ’s body would cease to be there, directly it were touched by a mouse or a dog; but this again detracts from the truth of the sacrament, as stated above. None the less it must not be said that the irrational animal eats the body of Christ sacramentally; since it is incapable of using it as a sacrament. Hence it eats Christ’s body “accidentally,” and not sacramentally, just as if anyone not knowing a host to be consecrated were to consume it. And since no genus is divided by an accidental difference, therefore this manner of eating Christ’s body is not set down as a third way besides sacramental and spiritual eating.”

        • “Once again, my man Tommy A. has been there, done that, and got the amice, alb and maniple”

          What a great way of saying things! Not RC, but I too love “Tommy A.” as you put it.

          • What I like about him is that he’s both very intelligent (way, way above my feeble little brain) and yet curiously commonsensical at the same time, as in the above where he’s discussing the Real Presence and he goes very patiently all through “What about if a sinner receives the sacrament? an unbeliever? well, how about a mouse?”

            Theology can seem to be an abstruse discipline with no application to real life, and indeed the same can be (and has been) said about religious faith in general; that it’s all airy-fairy pie-in-the-sky. But it’s an example of how (as someone has said) that ‘real’ religion is ‘thick’; you can go from contemplating the Bread of Angels to what this means if the mice get into the wafers and there’s nothing too elevated or too trivial to contemplate, and it can all logically hang together (by which I mean, not that belief depends on being reasonably worked out into a scheme, but that it’s not magic thinking).

            To be serious, depredation by mice and rats of the reserved Sacrament would probably have been a genuine problem before modern tabernacles, so it would have been a genuine question as to what to do if you found that the mice had been nibbling at the hosts. Easy enough to rush from the hysteria of “Arrgghhh!! Burn down the church!” on the one hand to the lackadaisical “Ah, well, it’s only bread” on the other (which leads into the whole denial of the Body of Christ, but that’s another question).

            How seriously it was taken may be seen from the monastic rule of St. Columbanus, an Irish missionary who founded monasteries in France in the late 6th/early 7th centuries:

            “Rule 15

            Whoever has lost the sacrifice and does not know where it is, let him do penance for a year. He who has shown neglect to the sacrifice, so that it is dried up and eaten by worms, with the result that it is reduced to nothing, let him do penance for half a year. He who has been guilty of neglect to the sacrifice, so that a worm is found in it and yet it is entire, let him burn the worm with fire and hide its ashes in the earth near the altar, and himself do penance forty days. And he who neglects the sacrifice, and it has been changed and the bread has lost its savour, if it is coloured red, let him do penance twenty days, if deep purple, let him do penance fifteen days. But if it has not been changed in colour, but is congealed, let him do penance seven days. But he who has immersed the sacrifice, let him drink the water immediately which was in his chrismal; let him eat the sacrifice. If it has fallen from a boat or a bridge or a horse, and not by neglect but through some chance, let him do penance for one day; but if he has submerged it through disrespect, that is, has waded out of the water and not taken thought for the danger of the sacrifice, let him do penance forty days. But if he has vomited the Supper on a day of sacrifice, with the excuse of richer food than usual and not through the vice of gluttony but of indigestion, twenty days; if because of ill health, let him do penance ten days on bread and water.”

          • You are always a wealth of information!

            Incidentally, one of your *many* comments a while back about historic saints led me to Francis de Sales for the first time and I think his book on the devout life (now on my Kindle) is really great. Thanks.

          • Thanks, JeffB.

            Now, if I only took my own advice, I’d be great altogether 😉

  15. I will say that God is constant in his love, mercy, judgment. But I will also say that humans only partially can understand God or know how things came to be. Starting right in Genesis, we have two accounts of how the world was made. The first account has the animals being made and then humans. The second account has humans made and then all the animals. Obviously, both things could not have happened. Is this going to mean that we pay no attention to Genesis or the other books of the Bible? It doesn’t mean that for me. It just means I need to learn more about how to read the books of the Bible productively.

    Jesus came and showed us what God is like. If there is a story in the Bible showing God as being a way that Jesus did not say, then I go with what Jesus said and I decide that people wrote the stories as ways of teaching lessons. Jesus said that if we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father. Not that Jesus IS the Father, but that he is the Father’s representation to us humans. It works for me.

    • well said. i completely agree!

    • I disagree that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other on the order of creation. Chapter 2 says only that the Lord had formed the animals out of the ground. It does not relate this in time relative to the creation of Adam.

      • Daniel, at risk of getting this too off-topic, Genesis 2:18 starts out with: “THEN the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone…’ ” and it goes on to talk about God creating all the animals. So first was the man, then the animals, then the human female. But this isn’t a point that I live and die on, so if you think Genesis 1 and 2 do not contradict one another, that’s fine with me. (I would be a LOUSY debater!)

        • The usual explanation is that these were domesticated (man oriented) animals being created.

        • Joanie, I could be wrong, but the point of that part of Genesis 2 seems to be that God did not create the animals after Adam, but brought them to him. In doing this, God symbolized mankind’s role as the stewards of creation, for naming the animals was an act of authority over them (1:28). Secondarily, Adam also saw vividly that no other created being was like him and none could function as his counterpart (thus, Eve).

  16. I think the point of all these stories is that “Fear of the Lord ” should be part of our journey. Despite all the love and mercy of God shown us by Jesus, we need to be careful of what we say and do – our actions matter to God even if we were “saved by faith” last week.

    “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him.”

  17. Uzzah seems to be the only one who didn’t do anything actually wrong. Heck if I had the original Ark and I was rolling it on a cart, I wouldn’t want it to fall either! I saw Indiana Jones, that thing is unpredictable!

    Onan had a way out of the requirement (it would be embarrassing but he didn’t have to fake fulfill his requirement for his brother.) Taking money for a healing you didn’t even bring about and hiding it from the guy who did? Yes, tacky. Claiming you’re doing an incredible work of charity and not really doing it, sure again, tacky.

    Thing is,. none of those things are what I would consider capital crimes. Only the Almighty was offended and if he smited everyone that had ever offended him, well, the internet would not exist.

  18. There is a verse that says, who is man to judge his maker. We are all doomed except for the Grace Of God. There will be a judgement day for all. I will put my faith in the fact that Jesus is Lord and he died in our place.”I must go cultivate my garden.”

  19. I would be wary of imposing a strict set of reasons explaining why God smote these people, especially with regards to Uzzah. We have no evidence as to his rationale behind reaching out to steady the ark, what was going through his mind at the time. We can say it was becuase he had a small understanding of God but millions of other people have had a smaller understanding of God (myself included) and we are still here

    Maybe we should just accept that God’s ways are above ours

  20. For the literalist, perhaps these and other similar incidents reported in Scripture report those instances where God did smite someone to gain the attention of the community. To some, this may imply that God still does this.

    To those who see the Scripture as a written report of how the community interpreted God’s involvement in their world and what was happening in their world, these incidents report their interpretation of what happened. If someone did something that the community believed God did not approve of, and then something bad happened to that person, that proved that God smote the person because of what they had done, perhaps using them as an example to the community.

    A similar explanation could be used to understand why God was supposedly responsible for the mass slaughter of so many of Israel’s enemies. When Israel was successful in battle, they interpreted that to mean that God was responsible. When Israel was not successful, then Israel must have somehow offended God, and that was why they were not successful.

    The idea of God as “the God who smites” is still with us. If something bad happens in a Christian’s life, they may look back to see what sin they committed that occasioned their smiting by God. More than once I have heard someone comment “There was probably some sin they committed that we do not know about”, when discussing why some young Christian was killed in an accident. If we get sick, lose our job, or fall into financial or family difficulties, we may think back to try to figure out what sin we committed that would cause God to smite us.

    Perhaps this is the slippery slope. If everything we need to know about God can be found in Jesus, where do we find this theology in the stories of Jesus? Yes, there is the judgment, but where do we find in the story of Jesus a God who is like a zealous parent who smacks us every time we do something wrong? Is that really the way He leads and teaches us? Is that the way we rear our children? How is that working out? Tell that to the folks at the foster care agency when we apply to be a foster parent and see what they have to say. If this is not the way we treat our children, then why would we think it is the way God deals with us?

    • I’m reminded of Luke 13:4-5 “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

      God doesn’t allow bad things to happen to us because of sin. If we are in Him, we will have the strength to go through them, yes. To demonstrate our faith. To prove to ourselves that we have faith.

    • The way I think of it is this: if our view of God is that of a kindly old St. Nick in the sky telling us to be good but bringing us presents no matter what we do, then these difficult passages make no sense; if our view is of a being so searingly righteous that just being in His presence is dangerous and fearsome, then these passages are at least a bit more understandable. Angels are terrifying creatures (not cute, chubby babies) who made the shepherds in the Christmas story “sore afraid” (shepherds who like David were probably rugged men unafraid of fighting wild beasts)—-yet these angels don’t even dare to uncover their faces in God’s presence. Anyone in Scripture who actually encounters God—Isaiah, Job, etc—despises themselves, feels utterly unworthy and, even if their questions aren’t answered, they realize it’s not even their place to ask. God is God (not “god”) and that means we submit to Him fully as well as trust Him fully even when our sinful perceptions of right and wrong would seem to find fault with Him.

    • These are just a few examples. Who exactly asserted that he smacks us “every time we do something wrong”?

  21. Why exactly was Uzzah so close to the Ark in the first place? He knew very well that it would kill if touched, and that the very presence of God was inside. It seems he didn’t have much reverence for it…

    • Perhaps he was helping the cart over a rough patch (roads weren’t exactly paved then and the oxen are mentioned as stumbling); he and his brother according to the book of Samuel were guiding the cart.

      BTW Uzzah is also described as the son of Abinadab and another son, Eleazar, was consecrated to take care of the Ark which means that all three were probably of the priestly class, who better to convey the Ark?

      • That’s why he should have known better than to go against God’s requirements…he had an exceptionally high calling. There was a system of poles for moving the ark and he knew that.

  22. I love the Christian creeds and see value in them. But I also agree with the sentiment in this poem called “Credo” by John Oxenham (born in 1852). It reminds me of what is most important for us to focus on during our walk on this earth:

    Not what, but WHOM, I do believe,
    That, in my darkest hour of need,
    Hath comfort that no mortal creed
    To mortal man may give;–
    Not what, but WHOM!
    For Christ is more than all the creeds,
    And His full life of gentle deeds
    Shall all the creeds outlive.
    Not what I do believe, but WHOM!
    WHO walks beside me in the gloom?
    WHO shares the burden wearisome?
    WHO all the dim way doth illume,
    And bids me look beyond the tomb
    The larger life to live?–
    Not what I do believe,
    BUT WHOM!
    Not what,
    But WHOM!

    • Lovely and helpful poem. Thanks for sharing it. It is a sorely needed reminder.

      However, I would worry about taking the disjunction between Jesus and the creeds too far. After all, the creeds are simply ways to put into systemic form the things the WHOM has said about Himself. A relationship with God is built on the foundation of His self-revelation. The scriptures (and, in a derivative sense, the creeds) ensure we are worshipping and communing with the One who has made us in His image (and not the other way around).

      Please don’t take this as criticism. I love the poem.

      • Thanks, Daniel. Your caution is a good one. The Creeds are based on the scriptures and it is the scriptures that tell us about Jesus, so it is all “of a piece” so to speak, which is what you are speaking about, I believe. So Oxenham is referring to the fact that in the end, it is a Person, Jesus, who is with us through our lives and beyond. It is like the anaolgy of the finger pointing at the moon. The finger is NOT the moon, but it does point TOWARD the moon. All analogies break down at some point, but I like it anyway.

    • Leslie Jebaraj says:

      Nice piece. However, in saying he does not need no creed but Jesus, John Oxenham had come up with a creed, unwittingly perhaps. 🙂

  23. Several commentators have expressed something of a conflict between the picture of God in the Old Testament and the picture of Jesus in the New. While it is true that “the law came through Moses, grace and truth from Jesus Christ”, (John 1:17), I don’t think this should be taken as a wholesale rejection of the picture of God in the Old Testament, or even the law. After all, this same Jesus reminded us that, “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17).

    To me, while the picture of Jesus does indeed show us the heart of the Yahweh, the picture of Yahweh in the Old Testament also shows the heart of Jesus. Jesus, apart from the context of the Old Testament, could easily be seen as nothing more than a preacher who had a light view of personal morality. But if He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament law, and the One whom all the law and prophets point to (Luke 24:27), then we see His face more clearly: the face of one who radically hates our sin, but offers a pardon, by his blood, from the guilt and punishment of that sin (and, ultimately, freedom from the slavery of that sin).

    The case of Annanias and Sapphira should remind us that God takes holiness just as seriously in the Kingdom of Jesus as He did in the national kingdom of Israel.

    Still not convinced of this? Try viewing the picture of Jesus in the book of Revelation.

    • Exactly right.

      Another way to look at it is, why did Jesus die? As an example to us? Because the authorities didn’t like Him?

      -To pay the price for sin-

      A low view of sin (and the Law, and the penalty for sin) devalues the price Jesus paid.

    • Daniel writes of Jesus ultimately offering through his death “freedom from the slavery of that sin” with “that sin” referring to the sin that we all commit/suffer from. I agree. I have been reading George MacDonald’s writings recently and from hisUnspoken Sermons in a sermon called “The Way” he writes about the young man who didn’t want to sell his possessions and went away unhappy after Jesus told him to do that. MacDonald says, “As the thing was, he was a slave; for a man is in bondage to what ever he cannot part with that is less than himself.” You can read the full sermon if you wish at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/macdonald/unspoken2.ii.html Some of MacDonald’s writings are hard to read, but worth the effort. I have also found a lot of typos (missing words) in the book that I purchased through Amazon.

  24. You worship a deity who, according to some interpretations will send BILLIONS of people to eternal torture, and you think it is strange that he would give someone leprosy?

    • Astute observation D. I can only respond with Jesus as seen in the Gospels. Look at Jesus in order to see who God is, and in doing so the theology that permits billions of people created in the image of God to eternally endure torture quickly falls apart.

    • Crazy, no?

      That concept though an extrapolation of scriptural passages bent/twisted to fit that conclusion.

      However, it is difficult to understand how God could wipe out all of mankind/animals in a grand flood & only save 8 in a great Ark. Yeah. Now that is a real head scratcher…

      However, since I am now hosting an after-Christmas party, I will let this simmer a bit before continuing…

      • Joseph’s Incomplete Viewpoint of God in OT vs NT:

        I believe every encounter mankind had with God (theophany) was Jesus. That does present a problem with the differences with God’s character in OT vs. Jesus, but I believe it was deliberate.

        “What we believe about God is directly proportional to the amount of trust we have in Him.”

        Jesus as the 2nd Person of the Godhead always intended to be Immanuel, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

        If we look back at the manner which God related with people from the beginning, look at His response to Adam & Eve. Then how He responded to Cain’s banishment (Gen 4:15). Why does God ‘respond’ to people at all?

        Jump to the Great Flood (Gen 6-7). Noah had how many years to seek God & plead for the entire earth?

        I believe Jesus was looking for someone that reflected His character. And the Father of Faith did just that (Gen 18). Abraham pleads for Sodom & God responds…

        Then Moses in Deut 9: he tells the Children of Israel they will cross the Jordan to take possession of the land. Then he lists out for the Israelites all their failings for the past 40 years! That should have been sufficient for them to cry out again in sorrow & plead for the people on the other side.

        Moses already set that precedent with the leprosy event of Miriam (Num 12). And how many times did he plead with the Lord to spare the Israelites when God told him He was going to wipe them out & start all over thru Moses? All before entering Canaan.

        Look at the book of Jonah…

        Here is just the beginnings of a ‘trend’ I see in the character of God in the Old Testament that shows me He is not the determined God of wrath & quick judgment that could have been addressed with a human intercessor. Every one of those events points to Jesus in fulfillment. His fulfillment of the Law as the giver & interpreter of that Law. Jesus the ultimate One to plead for all humankind before the Father & choose to take our place for the failing of His righteous Law.

        Okay, now that I have attempted to explain how I try to view the character of God as He relates to mankind, I do believe He was looking for that very trait of pleading before the Maker of heaven & earth for the lives of the guilty no matter how heinous their crimes. All fulfilled on a coarse wood cross as the Grand Example of God’s character…

    • Or do we struggle with the question of why he doesn’t give everyone leprosy?

  25. Only recently have I come to a (imperfect but profound) realization that each and every minute of my life, I am guilty of sin and deserve to be wiped out. The key to studying this topic is to approach it with a God-centered view of theology rather than a human-centered view…something I have a hard time doing.

  26. “Some of the footnotes in the NIV Study Bible indicate that Uzzah and Ananias and Sapphira were part of a new ministry to people who hadn’t known God before, a new understanding of who God was.”

    Please tell me that I am mis-reading this. As I understand it, what is being said is that the ‘ “new ministry” ‘ that God was engaging in was one where He killed people in order to reach those ‘ “who hadn’t known God before” ‘, in order to effect ‘ “a new understanding of who God was?” ‘ Is this for real!?! Please some one shed some light on this!! I have never heard of this reasoning before.

    If one is employing a strict Jesus-shaped hermeneutic, I do not believe that the picture that Jesus shows us of who God is, is one where God would use people that were made in his image as so much capital/fodder, as this line of reasoning appears to suggest. Colossians 2:9 tells us that all of the fullness of God resides in Christ. Elsewhere, in the Gospels, we hear Jesus say in response to his disciples’ request to see The Father, that if they see Him, then they are seeing The Father. I do not recall anywhere in the Gospels where we see Jesus killing people in His proclamation to repent and believe in Him, and that The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

    Jesus tells humanity, teaches humanity, and shows humanity through action and example everything that concerns the reality of both who God is and who humanity is. If I do not see/hear Jesus doing it, then I chalk it up to a misconception/mis-interpretation of events; that is, just as so much of the Old Testament is a lesson in getting it wrong as regards how humanity understands and relates to God and themselves, so too as regards apparently “difficult scriptures”; they tell me more about humanity then they do God. To put it simply, if something does not harmonize with the new command that Jesus gave his followers to “love one another” as He had loved them, so that in this way the world would know that they were His disciples, then I chalk it up to a reflection of, and a lesson on human sin.

    In this way, the way of radical, indiscriminate, non-violent enemy love, the world will know that Jesus was who he said He was.

    • Jason, the NIV Study Bible says this in its note on Leviticus 10:2, concerning the death of the sons of Aaron (whom I put in the first draft but took out for ease of reading): “Their death was tragic and at first seems harsh, but no more so than that of Ananias and Sapphira (Ac 5:1-11). In both cases a new era was being inaugurated (cf. also the judgment on Achan, Jos. 7, and on Uzzah, 2Sa 6:1-7). The new community had to be made aware that it existed for God, not vice versa.” Make of it what you will . . .

  27. Maybe I’m quibbling, but the text doesn’t say that God struck down Ananias and Sapphira. It just says they fell dead when confronted with their crime (or in the case of Sapphira, with her crime plus the death of her husband). Both could have died without God actively killing them.

    Onan and Uzzah’s deaths may have just been misinterpeted by the authors of the text as God having struck them down. In other words, they died and their deaths were interpreted (perhaps incorrectly) as God having killed them.

  28. Eddie Scizzard says:

    “But smiting them on the spot? Is that not – pardon the pun – overkill?”

    it is absolutely overkill. These passages, along with the one where a bear mauls several youths for mocking Elisha’s baldness were some of the earliest puzzles that have ultimately led to the dismantling of my faith.

    • Eddie, if you don’t mind my asking, what were the grounds for your faith? That is, why did you come to faith in the first place?

      Thanks!

      • Eddie Scizzard says:

        grounds for my faith? That’s kind of beyond my ken. I don’t think anyone knows WHY they believe what they believe, ultimately. A lot of us say we do, but I think it’s partly after the fact justification.

        I grew up going to a Christian school. And I *believed* everything I was taught, in as much as I did not disbelieve it. No earthshaking personal crisis brought me to Christ. It just “seemed true”.

        Although I cannot tell you why I believed, scriptures like the above did help me to “stop” believing. I just began to wonder how to integrate a God who would do such things as being “worthy of worship”. After a lot of pain, I decided it was too much to ask of myself. I couldn’t make myself respect such a being. It felt like a betrayal.

        So I don’t know “why” I believed. I do have a handle on why I stopped, though.

    • We have to continue to remember when this was written or at least attained orally and look at things as they were during those times. When one looks at some of this through 21st century eyes it is barbaric. God revealed himself slowly through the ages in ways his people could understand. For example when Joshua brought the Iraelites into the promised land and slaughtered, that was what everyone was doing in that time period – it was not out of the ordinary. So in a sense the writers of Scripture saw things through those eyes.

  29. I see people dying in the church every day. Could it be due to partaking of the bread and cup unworthily? Do we not witness the hand of God every day?

  30. God struck down Egypt, and everyone cheered.
    God struck down Alexander Epiphanes, and everyone cheered.
    God struck down Herod Antipas, and everyone cheered.

    God struck down Saul, and David wept. I think we could learn a lot from David.

    I don’t know what to do with the concept of God’s wrath. The fear of God’s wrath causes us to punish those different than us, whom we think will cause God to take away our country’s prosperity. It causes us to look at Good Friday as God taking his ten pound of flesh out of Jesus rather than us – like an alcoholic father in a drunken rage, whom the older sibling steps in front of to protect the younger. It causes us to adopt a karma-like approach to life, that everything we do wrong must result in a negative consequence sometime in the future. I don’t buy it anymore. I think the answer is to weep with those who weep, no matter who they may be. Wrath is not justice; caring for the poor, needy, suffering, and sorrowful is.

    • I definitely agree with your call to weep with those who weep. I always loved John 11:35 – Jesus wept.

      Regarding God’s wrath: I always thought that Jesus took upon Himself and satisfied God’s full wrath. Am I wrong? If Jesus’s sacrifice was complete and satisfactory to God, if He was the perfect sacrifice, then I am led to conclude that God’s wrath has been satisfied, and if satisfied, then a non-issue. Please correct me if I am wrong here.

      • Jesus only pays the price for the elect:

        John 10:15b “I lay down my life for the sheep” (“the” referring to “my” in context)
        verse 26 “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.”

        • nedbrek writes, “Jesus only pays the price for the elect:”

          I don’t know about that, nedbrek What about:

          John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peopleto myself.” (NIV) and

          1 Timothy 4:10 “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” (NIV)

          Now, am I saying that I am a Universalist? No, I am a HOPEFUL Christian Universalist, hoping that everyone will come to God through Jesus, but I cannot be certain of that. The opposite of faith is not doubt…it is certainty.

          • “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” —1Tim2:3,4

          • Technically, “faith” means trust. The opposite of trust is (skeptical) doubt or mistrust.

          • I wouldn’t attempt to count or determine who is elect. It is simply a question of whether the atonement was effectual for some, or ineffectual for all (where some can effect their own salvation through their faith).

        • I agree with everything Joanie said, and I’ll add this: John 10.15 does say that Jesus (will) lay down his life only for his sheep. He then goes on to qualify that “his sheep” are all those who will believe, which could pretty much be…anybody at all. Everybody gets a shot at that, and that’s what the gospels teach over and over again. It’s tempting to restrict the meaning of “all” or “the world” in a way that encompasses only “the elect”, but neither the specific Greek used nor the contexts indicate that we should.

    • I agree, God’s wrath is a tricky concept outside of a systematic theology. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to let it turn God into something bestial and pagan, like an Aztec sun god, demanding that we placate his need for blood. And it puts God the Father and God the Son at complete odds with each other. The way you put it–an alcoholic father in a drunken rage–is an excellent description of what we can make it when we aren’t careful. God isn’t a program where we input “sin” and his outputs are “wrath.” God does not demand sacrifice, he is the sacrifice. And it’s not like God hated us, then Jesus did his thing, and then God decided we were okay. He wanted us in heaven before we were forgiven–otherwise, why bother with the Incarnation at all?

      • “God does not demand sacrifice, he is the sacrifice.”

        Yes, Michael, this is so true. I like your entire comment.

        I take great comfort in Jesus’ words said to God as the people were crucifying him. He asked that they be forgiven because they don’t know what they are doing. Do any of us REALLY know what we are doing? If we really knew the goodness, love and glory of God would we do the pointless, heartless, foolish things that we do? I think not. Therefore, we don’t know what we are doing. Therefore, please God, forgive us. And help us to know you better and to bring forth your love into the world. Love the world through us because on our own, we are useless to do this. Daily we fail and daily we try again.

  31. I once had the very strange experience of a direct encounter with Satan. This presence was so powerful and terrifying that it paralyzed me and I could barely pray for God’s protection, but I did. Soon enough I realized that the prescence of God was entering the room and dispelling the evil. You would think that would be comforting but in fact the prescence of God was 100 times more frightening and I thought I might die; literally I thought I would die just from being present with God in this unusual way. I knew that Satan was evil and God was good but that didn’t make God any less scary. God is seen dimly through a glass. He is more vast than we know. Here’s an odd one. Why did Jesus tell us to pray that he would not lead us into temptation? It never occured to me that HE WOULD LEAD me into temptation. Not just deliver me from evil but also please don’t drop me into it. This is the foundational prayer model for Christianity and I don’t think we know what the heck it means because it is a miniscule light cast on the deeply mysterious being with whom we are engaged.

  32. ChrisS, the New Living Translation of that part of the Lord’s Prayer translates the passage as meaning “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”

    http://bible.cc/matthew/6-13.htm
    Also, if you scroll down that page until you come to a commentary, there is one by Barnes (I don’t know who that person is) and I think he or she has some good things to say there including, “God tempts no man.”

    The experience you had sounds very scary! It is interesting, though, that even though both the presence of Satan and the presence of God was frightening to you, you recognized the difference. How do you explain that? It may not be explainable, though.

  33. As soon as people attempt to define what God is or is not, poof, he is no longer in the box they have constructed for him. There are many strange, difficult, scriptural conundrums in the Bible. Some of them are descriptions of God’s works, and others are descriptions of man’s work in the service of God.

    God interacts with man within mankind’s own circumstances and society, and within man’s level of understanding. When man didn’t understand the weather, every tornado or drought was a smite from God. Now man understands weather more, and God’s role has changed to creator of the elements of the weather system, rather than as the director of the winds themselves.

    In Exodus 20:5-6, God describes himself as a jealous God who punishes his children and their children for iniquity and rejection, but also a loving God to those who love him and keep his commandments. We don’t like to think about God as a harsh God, but he has said he is. But Jesus is the softie. He’s the one interceding for mankind, having paid the hardline price for sin. By repenting of our sins, and through Jesus’ atonement, we are made right with God again, which puts us in his good graces again. But this act (of repenting and accepting the atonement) puts God right with us also. We are partakers of Exodus 20:6 rather than recipients of Exodus 20:5.

    Why did God smite those people you mentioned? It might be impossible for us to know any more. Maybe part of the scripture is left out. Maybe the servants of God did the smiting. Maybe their own fear and guilt seized them and caused their problem. I have read stories of people in the early 1800s who fell down dead when the received shocking news, but I never hear of these stories today. Times change and people change. I think we can’t judge God or box him in using the scriptures we have because maybe not all of the scriptures are there and because we don’t understand the ancient circumstances fully.

  34. I think it is indeed our pigeon-holing that is at issue. Think about Job and the substantial consequences of God’s question to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?”. I’m sure if Job had any say at that point he might have said ‘wo wo hold on a minute…no considering called for here but thanks anyway.’ What is God’s agenda here that will lead to Satan’s murder of Job’s family and the ruin of his possessions? Oddly it reminds me of the fairy tale,The Wizard of Oz. Notice that Dorothy plays no part in establishing the epic battle between her and the Witch of the West. The Good Witch of the North magically removes the slippers and places them on Dorothy’s feet. Dorothy might have said right there’ hey hey hey; uh let the green lady have them if she wants them’. The battle was foisted upon her as it was upon Job. One thing that can be established with one hundred percent certainty is that we are not establishing the agenda and if we could it wouldn’t look the same. …..as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways……

  35. JoanieD to answer your question; I knew the prescence of God as it dispelled the evil because it felt different and I sensed my plea for help was being answered. It was as an awareness of what sort of power it would take to deal with that tremendous evil force ,so easily, that quickly came over me and had me realizing that I was in the prescence of a far different and much more powerful being. I thought if the evil went away a normal natural feeling would resume but instead the Holy Spirit entered the room in the same way that Satan had with a palpable, hovering prescence. It felt like love and goodness but so expansive and beyond me and my normal litte world. That was the scary part.

    • As in this excerpt from Chapter One of C.S. Lewis’s “Perelandra”, where Ransom’s friend encounters the Eldila:

      “On the other hand, all those doubts which I had felt before I entered the cottage as to whether these creatures were friend of foe, and whether Ransom were a pioneer or a dupe, had for the moment vanished. My fear was now of another kind. I felt sure that he creature was what we called ‘good’, but I wasn’t sure whether I liked ‘goodness’ so much as I had supposed. This is a very terrible experience. As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it also is dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can’t eat, and home the very place you can’t live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played.”

  36. All too often there is this notion on evangelicalism that says if a person is suffering its because of sin. Or God is rebuking and correcting them. When I was in Campus Crusade I knew of a worker who described HIV as God’s way of punishing immorality That’s how I used to look at it amongest the gay and prmiscuos population. Then my Dad told me a story (Dad’s a physician) and said that one of his nurses who he loved and was a great worker accidently infected herself with HIV. Needle prick in surgery preperation. (years ago in the 80’s) I began to see how screwed up my thinking was. Immediatly I started to wonder…”What was her sin that she got HIV?” Evangelicalism really screwed up my thinking. Life is hard and crap happens.

    When my faith fell aprt I wondered what gossip went around at chruch with me. I’m sure some people thougt my lost faith was due to sin. That’s the trouble with black and white thinking.

    Okay I’ll give it a rest…

    • Eagle it doesn’t sound like your faith fell apart but rather that it took a hit. It sounds like it was your bad thinking that fell apart.

      • Chris-

        I posted elsewhere…but there was a lot of other stuff that happened as well. Pharisee encounter which affected a career (one I thought I was doing for God), accountability partner who lived a double life of sin with porn and sexual immorality- meanwhile I was hammered for confessing my sin. Followed guidance and made a poor job decision which I an trying to undo. Mega chruch expereinces which were far than good. Expressing doubt in church and small groups and people backing away, seeing similarities between evangeliclaism and Mormonism, dealing with the “Catholic’s are not Christian” crap while burying my Irish Catholic grandmother, having a friend tell me they are gay and seeing things from their perspective, etc..

        There was a lot that got me to this point. I think I am going to be in a long, long period of detox.

        • I’m just guessing you wouldn’t be on this site if there were no vestiges of faith. You would be occupying your time elsewhere. It’s like the discussion we’ve been having here. I think God is love but love doesn’t fit into a tidy package. The trials you are describing sound like the faith journey, not the loss of faith. It is the dissolution of props you counted on and being left in the desert. If you hang on to whatever slivers are there, what’s real to you, your restoration will take place. I had a very similar ‘falling away’ and it took me 20 years. The current metamorphisis is ‘complete’ but I anticipate many more in greater or lesser forms (hopefully lesser) . It is the nature of this journey that our preconceptions (props/magic tricks) must occasionally be shattered so that new living things can emerge.

    • Eagle, I appreciate your statement very much. Though modern Christianity is a well-intentioned and is mostly good for many people, there are doctrines based in the man-made philosophies that have crept in under the guise of scripture or godly inspiration, resulting in black and white polarization of everything, including doctrines of religion, understanding of people, matters of faith, adherence to political views, and so on, when in fact, God said no such things as what is being taught.

      Modern Christianity as interpreted by the modernized, industrialized, wealthy societies (which is also foisted upon the “lesser” peoples of the earth by the “greater”) seems to have little actual connection to the Christianity practiced anciently by the original disciples. My point is, would Jesus himself, if he came today, embrace the practice of modern Christianity? He may not even recognize it.

    • Eagle said, “Life is hard and crap happens.” I agree with that, Eagle. It makes more sense than trying to associate every pain, illness, hardship to some sin. The only thing I would add onto the end is that Jesus came to show us that all is not in vain. Sometimes it surely FEELS all is in vain though. Sometimes we hurt so much we just want it to be over.

  37. You can always count on C.S Lewis. God is really big and that in itself makes him scary. Heck, look at what happens to people who encounter angels – some fall down as though dead and those are only angels. I don’t know why God smote those people but it is wise to keep in mind who we are dealing with lest we go where angels fear to tread. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. At the same time we are encouraged to enter boldly into the throne of grace with the man Christ Jesus as our mediator so is it fear or boldness that is called for? It is both. Take nothing for granted in a living relationship.

  38. Mercy doesn’t exist without Justice, nor Justice without Mercy. It’s not contradictory; it just is. What do you call a king who always lets the bad guy go? What do you call a king who never offers mercy? He’s both, or he’s neither. Maybe not equally, but a good king, for the most part, knows when to offer the scepter and when to offer the sword.

    Onan and Uzzah both broke Mosaic Law. In Uzzah’s case, the entire country was doing it wrong, and I suppose actually touching the ark was the last straw. Who knows, maybe worse would have happened had Uzzah’s death not stopped David. Ananias and Sapphira’s actions were completely out of line on multiple levels: They lied – out of pure arrogance, evidently. Gehazi put words in the mouth of a prophet of God and lied so he could take advantage of a generous and grateful rich guy.

    There’s something about the Hebrew kings that settles this one for me: You’ve got a bad king of Davidic line who is spared strictly because of the oath with David. You’ve got a king so bad that he’s responsible for Judah’s fall, but because he repents, God decides to hold of a generation (or was it four?) before destroying Judah.

    Yes, but . . . These are difficult scriptures. They present me with two dilemmas.

    First, how are we to understand God’s nature – what do these acts reveal about who he is? Is he a jealous God or a God of mercy? Are these contradictory?

    Like I said, I don’t believe they are. “…For I the Lord am a jealous God, visiting the sins of the father up to the third and fourth generations, but showing compassion to a thousand…” (Exodus 32, my gross paraphrase)

    He causes rain to fall on the righteous and the wicked.

    He spends a lot more time telling people to be ‘strong and courageous’ and that he’s still with them than he does yelling at people. But we don’t walk all over him, either.

    The second dilemma is similar: what should we pray for when confronted with hypocrisy, exploitation, officiousness, and greed? Do we want God to do more smiting these days? Should we cry with the Psalmist, “O Lord, how long will you look on?” (Psalm 35:17) Is praying for judgment the right way to honor God’s holiness?

    Or should we abide in patience with Peter? He tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) But God didn’t seem very patient with Ananias or Uzzah.

    Short answer? Yes. As far as Ananias and Sapphira: Remember, God knows the heart. And while we don’t know everything that went on behind the scenes, God does. Back to the question, I think God prefers genuineness. He doesn’t mind us getting mad and telling him what we think should happen to these people.

    “He has shown thee, O Man, what is good and what the Lord requireth of thee: But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8 – Sorry, KJV is how I was taught that verse.)

    So I think the answer is to love justice and prefer mercy. If a man’s heart will be turned, may it turn. If it will not, then may justice roll like a river, and righteousness like an everlasting stream.