Critics and folks who are simply hostile toward God or toward the notion of the real existence of a God of love often make much of the Old Testament historical record that relates stories of wrath and vengeance. It seems to give them some profane sense of well-being to render a judgment upon this God that He is like a cranky old man who wantonly zaps people who step out of line. A phrase often used is to speak of “the God of the Old Testament” as if there is first a nasty old God, but then a nice, newer one who took over around the time of Christ.
Let us submit today that it is an appropriate view of God’s disposition in the Old Testament era to view Him rather as a God of grace, and yes … of justice. Our first big idea as to why we should raise our eyes to care about people who are very different than ourselves is that God has always had a forever heart for all peoples.
You might say, “REALLY? God has always had a heart for all people? Yes, I know he did for the nation of Israel, and then for the church and the gospel to be preached around the world, but what about so much of the Old Testament?” And it is true that there are more than a few accounts of judgment, even commands to the Israelites to destroy completely some of the evil nations around them.
But what do you expect God to do? These were people groups who had completely turned against God and His revelation to them. They had also completely turned off even the general revelation residue of being created in the image of God – eliminating their consciences and any innate sense of right or wrong – some of them making Hitler look like a pansy by comparison. Infant sacrifice to man-made gods and idols was a rather regular practice among these groups. Annihilation was indeed true justice.
Looking honestly at the big picture we see God’s magnanimous grace on display at the very beginning of the story. It appears immediately after the fall of man through what is termed by theologians as the Protoevangelium. That is likely a new word for most of you. Break it down: “proto” = first, as is the word “prototype” …. And you can hear the word “evangel” in there – which you likely know references the “gospel” – the “good news” … so this is talking about the first good news.
After Adam and Eve fell into sin and rebelled against God’s command by yielding to the temptation of the Serpent (Satan), God shows up on the scene. God first confronted Adam … who blamed the woman … who blamed the serpent … who looked around but nobody else was there! Actually, he was quite pleased with what he – Satan – had done.
And God addresses them in reverse order with words of judgment about their respective futures …
Genesis 3:14-15 – So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
“You” = Satan, “the woman” = Eve, but the “he” is odd here. Who is this referencing? It can’t be Adam. It is actually anticipating the ultimate offspring of Eve – prophetically looking toward Christ. Jesus, though he would be stricken on the heel (anticipating the cross), through the resurrection would crush the head of the serpent/Satan.
(My favorite part of “The Passion of the Christ” film was when Jesus is depicted as stepping on the head of the slithering snake in the Garden scene. There is nothing worse than snakes!)
When man fell into sin, God could have let the death consequences fall upon mankind completely, and He would have been just in doing so and simply walking away and letting death take its toll. But in His grace, even there in the garden at the outset of sin in the human condition, He had a plan because of His great love for the peoples of the world. The Scriptures even say that Jesus is “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” Never see God as merely reacting to situations; He is orchestrating.
As mankind increased, so did evil – to the extent that only Noah and his family found grace in the eyes of the Lord. And we know the story of the great flood, as God in grace will begin over with mankind through Noah’s family. God could have justly washed them all away, but He saved one family through the deluge …
Genesis 9:1 – Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”
At the beginning of the next chapter, it gives the details and names of Noah’s sons and families…
Genesis 10:1 – This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood…
And then chapter 10 ends by saying …
Genesis 10:32 – These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.
And immediately the next chapter begins …
Genesis 11:1-4 – Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
Rather than do what God said, they do just the opposite and make a centralized place toward which all people would gather. And again, God must intervene – this time with the confusion of languages.
Genesis 11:8-9 – So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Once more, God could have justly given up, yet again. But He chose to act in grace, reestablishing mankind on the earth with a view toward them walking in relationship with Him. Most will not do that however, neither then nor now. That’s already a lot of divine grace on display, and we’re only 20% of the way through the first book of the Bible!
Yes, God has always had a heart for the peoples and nations of the world. And there is instruction in that for us to consider … we who have had His grace lavished upon us. Let our hearts grow more to be like His.