God and the Nations

Derek Ouellette —  January 29, 2010 — 14 Comments

Welcome to Opposing Views Friday. This is the place where I post a question that invites your comments and views on various subjects. The floor is open to you with only three simple requests: 1. Keep your comments short (one thought at a time is helpful) 2. Be respectful and 3. Stay on topic!

Question:

In Genesis 15:16 God remarkably tells Abraham that his decendents will be sent to Egypt for four generations because the sins of the Amorites “has not yet reached its full measure”.

In Genesis 18:20-21 God says He’s going to check up on the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to see how bad they are. They are judged and destroyed.

The book of Jonah is about how God sends a messenger to the Assyrian capital with a message – repent or perish.

The Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Persians, they are all variously judged in the books of the Prophets. Either through war (as in the case with the Amorites) or with natural (unnatural) disasters (as in the case with Sodom and Gomorrah).

The question I want to put forth today is this: Does God still deal with secular unbelieving nations today as He did in the Old Testament or was there a fundamental change in God’s dealings with the secular nations after the cross? Or what?

Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory

    Nope – there was a fundamental change in God’s actions in this world with Christ. It’s still unclear for me that the Jewish interpretation we have in Scripture of these events is truly accurate – if the God we know in Christ (through his life, willing sacrificial death, and subsequent glorious resurrection) is the true God, the genocide of these groups of people is mindboggling. I’d love help wrapping my head around the YHWH in comparison to Jesus. Perhaps it’s merely the Israelites’ way of articulating good things and bad things that happen to them, but judgment on them and on other peoples seem so far of from Christ.

    Regardless of your views on the Old Testament, believing that God continues to judge before the Day of Last Judgment allows for things like Pat Robertson’s heinous statements about Haiti or his and Jerry Falwell’s comments about Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. These things are not God’s judgment on this world, but things God allows to happen due to sin and brokenness. The whole earth cries out for the sons of God (says St. Paul in Romans 8) and is groaning for restoration. We are to be the people who bring the Kingdom of God to this earth and continue to pray that it come in full (as it currently exists “now and not yet”).

  • Geneinne

    I think that God does still deal with nations in somewhat of the same way that he did in the Old Testement. Perhaps we experience more grace, or it seems, at times, but the New Testement, especially including Revelations clearly states that God will still judge nations.

  • http://harrysheresy.wordpress.com Harry Heimann

    If God has changed then (Heb 13:8)would be a lie. Also (Rom 1:18) says the wrath of God is being (present tense)revealed from heaven against all ungodliness of man. What you have to realize is this statement has been going on since Paul wrote it.In what way is it being revealed? Can one say it is ABSOLUTELY NOT like it was in the O.T. In Matt 23 you have the 7 woes againt the leadership of Isreal being fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple itself. Was that not N.T.? Matt 23:38 decared the temple was now THEIR house and it would be destroyed, it happened 40 years later. Not everything is God’s direct judgement and yes, we live in a fallen world so bad things happen, but to say none of it is directly from God, is to say God is not involved in our world-at least not in the sense of judgement.I would strongly disagree. You know, Pat Robertson spent 2 minutes talking about the pact Haiti made with the devil (which is true) but he spent another 20 minutes talking about how to help them. He already had people on the ground. Sometimes we hear what we want to hear and change God to be what we want Him to be like.

  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory

    Geneinne/Harry:

    The judgment discussed in the NT (especially in the tricky apocalyptic language that permeates St. John’s Revelation) is a single and final eschatological judgment at the End of Days/Day of the Lord and vehemently NOT a continual judgment of nations and peoples as found in the OT. To take Hebrews 13:8 as you suggest would be to completely misread that passage and infer that all of God’s actions in history are incongruent with his “sameness” – for actions are an agent of change, while inaction is an agent of non-change. The Incarnation is necessarily an action that contradicts such a narrow reading of “sameness”, for God descended to the earth, put on human flesh, and put off his knowledge of himself as the second Person of the Trinity; he CHANGED. That’s not to say that God’s behavior ever contradicts his character (far from it!), but to interpret Hebrews 13:8 and other passages about God’s immutability in a way that negates God’s action is patently false. Another example that refutes such a claim is Exodus 32:9-14 where Moses changes God’s mind (“Then the LORD relented” v13a). God, being in relationship to His creation, necessarily must alter his actions to account for human free will. Again, His actions are always according to His character, but they do differ throughout time.

    Your reading of Matthew 23 also fails to convince, for here we have Jesus cautioning and warning the leaders of Judaism against the hypocrisies he sees in them. This isn’t judgment in the Sodom-and-Gomorrah sense, nor is the fall of the Temple judgment upon Judaism, it is a radical overthrow of the entire Temple/sacrificial system since Jesus fulfilled that (yes, it is “judged”, but not in the sense we’re talking about with death and destruction). There’s no judgment on Jews, in fact there’s a great case to be made that Jews still have every advantage over the Gentiles (Romans 3) as they can better understand the nature of the Messiah and what that means for the world (since they were always meant to bless the whole world).

    If I hear another purported Christian claiming that the entire Haitian people made a pact with the devil (which is entirely apocryphal – if anything, it was a rogue priest and a handful of slaves, but I’ve yet to read any eyewitness accounts of this event [http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2010/01/god-satan-and-the-birth-of-haiti/]), I might pull my hair out. God did NOT judge Haiti (for one, it’s an OVERWHELMINGLY…

  • http://harrysheresy.wordpress.com Harry Heimann

    Eric: I don’t want this to turn into a clash of the Christians senerio. First I did not claim (as a “purported Christian”) that the entire nation made a pact with the devil. I agree that it ocurred in the late 1700’s and that it was limited in number. I was only referring to the fact that Pat Robertson spoke a couple of minutes on that issue and the rest of the time on how to help the people. The media took everything out of context (as do many others) and only hear what they want to. I also never said that this was an apocalyptic (whole world) type judgment on God’s part only that God’s judgment could have been involved and to think it wasn’t would be to deny the actions of God in biblical history. I agree with you God can and does change His mind (Ex 32:9-14))but in keeping with His nature (Ex 32:27-35) God commands that the people on the Lord’s side kill their rebellious brothers and sends a plague on those who were involved in the calf incident. I also admit the incarnation involved change but never as to their nature. Lastly there are differing views on the book of Revelation some which include judgments culminating to the Day of the Lord. As to pre-eminence of the Jews, what happened to the “one new man” (Eph 2:11-22) “neither Greek nor Jew..” (Gal 3:28) or God as a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34)? Again, I know that as to the Jews and their pre-eminence there again as varying views (covenental-dispensational) I don’t want you to go bald so I will end this with (Rom 1;18)- the wrath of Godis being revealed and will be revealed until the end of days in varying manners. A side note: Judiasm in its real form with their attonenment for sin, along with all their geneologies did end with the only place God designated for them (2 Chron 7:12)

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    I sympathize with Eric’s position. I want to think of God strictly as he was revealed in Jesus Christ.

    A couple of years ago Greg Boyd tackles this issue, his premise is:

    In Christ we learn that God is the kind of God who chooses to suffer at the hands of enemies and on their behalf rather than use his supernatural power, or earthly powers, to defeat them. In Christ we learn that God loves his enemies, and commands us to do the same. In Christ we learn that it’s God’s will that his people refuse to engage in violence against enemies, and instead imitate Jesus by sacrificially serving them. (See Here)

    I really sympathize with this position but I have two criticism’ of it: 1. While Christ is the revelation of God, we should not assume that what the Gospels recorded of Him is the whole revelation of God to the exclusion of the rest of the testimony of the scriptures (2 Pet 20-21; 2 Tim 3:16). 2. I think a false dichotomy is created in this argument: either he loves his enemies or he commands his servants to crush the skulls of them; either he suffers to save them or he judges them for their sins.

    This false dichotomy hits at the heart of the issue I think. Eric is right that God does in fact change. Harry agrees with Eric, so on this we all agree. But this fact needs to be qualified. When Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same always, and Mal 3:6 says that the Lord does not change I believe this is in reference to his character. Sometimes we want God’s love without his Judgement (or Holiness). Sometimes we want God’s Holiness (Judgement) without his love. But the point in God’s immutablility is that He is who He is – both Holy and Love. It is because of God’s love that he died for the world (John 3:16), it is because of His Holiness and Righteousness that he Judges (Romans 3:3-6). That last passage is key here and needs to be studied well, that God is faithful to Himself, to who He is and always has been.

    Finally, I think Jesus affirms the historicity of God’s judgement of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 11:22-24) and even pronounces a historical judgement of his own on the nation (including it’s sacrifical system, perhaps because of it, but not restricted to it) of Judea (Matthew 23:38; Luke 21:20).

    This brings me to my concluding thought: I see no reason in scripture to lead me to believe that Gods dealing with the nations has changed. It seems to me that God allows corporate sin (even of unbelieving nations) to go only so far. Sure a judgement is to come (the Last Judgement), but who’s to say that God doesn’t also judge in the here and now to restrict the tyrany of sin? (Sodom was Judged historically [Gen 18:20-21] but they have a future Judgement in store [Matthew 11:24 “day of Judgement”].)

    Having said that, I still wrestle with this issue…

  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory

    Harry/Derek:

    My frustration is with Christians claiming apocryphal stories as fact (I still have yet to see any FACTUAL evidence for a Haitian “pact with the devil” – if those sorts of things are even possible). I find it completely acceptable to call out Pat Robertson and his inanities. If we simply let him slide because he sent people to help, then we should welcome the Scientologists with open arms (or the Dawkin’s militant atheistic non-profit that is strictly anti-God) in the same fashion. As Andrew Osenga said on Twitter: “Pat Robertson, stop it. You should be ashamed of yourself. I’m ashamed to allegedly share the same Jesus as you.” Twitter.

    The evidence that I see against God’s historical judgment in the present (as opposed to the eschatological judgment in the future) is the entire New Testament, save for the trickiness of Revelation as almost nothing is clear in that book (given that we do not have the same genre of “apocalyptic literature” that it belongs to). Nowhere do we see God’s present judgment on kings, rulers, nations or churches – the only example I can think of is Ananias and Sapphira, but calling that “judgment” in the sense of Sodom and Gomorrah is a bit of a stretch. There’s little evidence beyond a rather over-reaching reading of God’s immutability to suggest that he continues to judge the nations the way he apparently judged Israel’s enemies – perhaps that’s because he has done away with the distinction of Jew and Gentile (which is not to say that the Jew has no advantage over the Gentile – he has much in every way: Romans 3).

    Furthermore, we have absolutely no place to call a natural disaster, or human atrocity, God’s will or judgment by God. We are told, time and again, to let judgment and vengeance be the Lord’s and not our own (especially on unbelievers) – what business is it of ours? The sin here comes in proclaiming something that is not necessarily so, using faulty facts, and naming God as the acting agent in the destruction of his people. Again, Haiti’s population is 85-95% Christian – a far greater percentage than even the United States.

    My comments got cut off last time, but my point remains: the disaster in Haiti is a humanitarian crises, NOT a judgment or simply a natural disaster. Earthquakes of this magnitude hit different parts of developed Western nations all the time, yet due to Haiti’s poverty (poor structures, etc.), this earthquake…

  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory

    Earthquakes of this magnitude hit different parts of developed Western nations all the time, yet due to Haiti’s poverty (poor structures, etc.), this earthquake has caused MASSIVE devastation.

    For more.

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Eric,

    Since we know how God did deal with nations and since no where in the scriptures does it say otherwise, I still think the onus of proof – in a discussion like this – would be on you. An argument from silence is not a very strong argument (to say “the entire New Testament” seems to me to be an argument from silence). I have also suggested that the destruction in 70 A.D. which Jesus predicted (Luke 21:20) just happens to fit well in this discussion. Though it is a judgment on the “system”, the nation is clearly also judged.

    But I believe we cannot know when a nation is judged verse a simple natural disaster or something else, so this discussion is purely superfluous. It’s an intellectual exercise and a good discussion but no one here is (or should be saying) that God absolutely judged (for example) Haiti.

    [crop]

  • http://harrysheresy.wordpress.com Hary Heimann

    Eric: You say you are frustrated with apocryphal stories so because the Haitian curse scenario is obscure lets leave that one and go to another.

    You state “Again, Haiti’s population is 85-95% Christian – a far greater percentage than even the United States.” were as I believe it is much lower than that. From the Haitian travel site: “Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti, but voodoo may be considered the country’s national religion. The majority of Haitians believe in and practice at least some aspects of voodoo. Most voodooists believe that their religion can coexist with Catholicism.” and from the Hartford archives: “Voodooists represent the largest sector of the Haitian population – there’s a saying here that Haitians are 90 percent Catholic, 100 percent voodoo – but they have no legal rights.” (see Traveling Haiti and Here) for full articles relating to this. You can’t practice voodoo and Christianity at the same time and claim to be a christian.

    We all can say thing that we wish we never had said and take it back but know that it is impossible once it is out there. Maybe Robertson feels that way I don’t know but to call him a “purported Christian” because you disagree with him is no reason to question his faith or to put him with the likes of Dawkins who hates a God He doesn’t believe in.

    You also state “Nowhere do we see God’s present judgment on kings, rulers, nations or churches – the only example I can think of is Ananias and Sapphira, but calling that “judgment” in the sense of Sodom and Gomorrah is a bit of a stretch” I would again point out Israel was indeed judged as a “nation” in 70 AD and 5 of the 7 churches also were judged and have faded into history. The only church still there is Philadelphia. God has indeed continued individual and corporate judgments but even Sodom was not apocalyptic in nature (world wide) Only 2 qualify – Noah’s flood and the End. Not all disasters are from God (again we live in a fallen world) but to exclude Gods active role would limit God and bring the Scriptural evidence`we have into question.

  • Jamie

    I don’t understand how someone can claim to be a Christian and pass such a broad judgment on so many people!!!!!

    I’m not saying Pat Robertson is not a Christian, I’m just saying I don’t understand how he can be?

    Why would God judge so many people, killing babies, toddlers, men and women without discrimination – almost surely Christians as well? At least in Sodom God spared the Righteous.

    I agree with Eric (above), I don’t think God does this stuff anymore.

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Jamie,

    I hear what you are saying. I posted this question not because I have a dogmatic opinion but because I really do struggle with it.

    I think sometimes it’s easy to emotionally detach ourselves from the O.T. and just say, “well God had the Israelites slaughter the nations, and that’s that”. But then as you remind us that in Haiti thousands of innocent babies were killed without, as you say “discrimination”, that kind of puts things into perspective.

    So I don’t know if God absolutely deals with the nations today as in the O.T. and if He does I don’t think anyone can say when or where or even how. But when I look at the scriptures, this is what I see.

    But I feel your angst.

  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory

    Harry/Derek:

    I would concede that God certainly CAN act in this way, and perhaps I lean towards Derek’s understanding that we don’t know if God is presently judging any people/nation. It’s out of our hands (and, thus, out of Robertson’s, though he tries to proclaim that somehow). I still reject the idea that God continues to judge the world in this way, but I’ll add this corollary: “God does not continue to judge the world in any discernable way”. (Aside from the Revelation of St. John, how it is that we even think of being able to know God’s discernment in the world is beyond me. Robertson and other “Christian” bigots ought to keep their mouths shut when they know not.)

    Harry, your argument that Haitians are not Christians because they incorporate voodoo (which is actually closely akin to the Catholic/Orthodox veneration of saints/icons than “witchcraft”) into their practice is not necessarily valid, especially when it’s contrasted with your next comment about Robertson. If you’re able to dismiss claims of Christianity because of an incorporation of voodoo (would you dismiss the secular holidays of birthdays, Wintermas or Easter simply because historic Christianity incorporated those “pagan” beliefs and infused them with new, Christian understanding?), what stops me from being able to do the same about claims of Pat Robertson’s Christianity. His actions and words (as well as the entire 700 Club as an entity) smacks of anti-gospel, pro-prosperity teaching that has little to do with Christianity other than buzzwords. His “predictions” have been false and completely contrary to the teaching of Christ regarding attempting to divine the “last day”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Robertson#Predictions

    I’d suggest that, since I don’t know any Haitian, Christian voodooists (or however they would choose to be termed) that we cannot pass judgment on their specific beliefs – we don’t know what they are. Yet, for one who purports to be a Christian and follow the non-violent, peace-loving Christ who asked us to turn our cheeks in defiance of ourselves and our own sense of entitlement, I don’t know that it’s a stretch in calling Pat Robertson out for being an antichrist or preaching a gospel other than the one we received from the apostles. We are not to judge those who are not in our fold (or those whose faith we don’t know because we don’t know them), but we do seem to be called to judge those within our fold who preach…

  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory

    We are not to judge those who are not in our fold (or those whose faith we don’t know because we don’t know them), but we do seem to be called to judge those within our fold who preach something other than Jesus crucified and resurrected and Way of the Cross (e.g. hardship and toil for the sake of the world to come).