A little while ago I decided it was time to read the Bible from beginning to end. As you may recall, God tells the Israelites to take the land and kill every living thing in it, including women and children (Deut. 20:16-18). The most frequent question I get from people is how can God be so violent to kill innocent children. They want to know what kind of God am I following. And I don’t fault the question. No matter deep your belief system this seems extreme. The flood also killed every living thing, but it feels a bit different. First, it was God who flooded the earth and he did so after telling Noah, a righteous man to save his family and pairs of both clean and unclean animals as well as birds. Scripture says that God only did this because creation had become so corrupt and violent that he could not look upon it (Gen. 6:11). The flood ending with the promise from God that he would never destroy the earth by water again gives these passages a reverence that the others don’t have. Maybe it’s because God isn’t the one doing the actual killing. Maybe it’s because the soldiers are being told to kill the descendants of Noah. It is definitely uncomfortable to think about small children, infants, and animals being killed when they aren’t the ones choosing to turn away from God.
There have been a lot of studies on this and a lot of different viewpoints. Some scholars say that it is by God’s grace that anyone lives and because he owes us nothing, he can take us when he wishes. Some scholars like to point out that God sent many messages ahead to drive out the people living in the promised land before Israel was sent to kill those who would not leave. Some say that the people there would have had a too corrupting influence and if Israel were to remain pure, the people had to go. I don’t want to spend a lot of time here because that isn’t the topic today.
When people ask me about this, it’s usually because they are trying to understand why bad things happen to good people. They are especially bothered by children who die due to cancer or some other illness. They want to know why would God allow it to happen in the first place, let alone not heal a child. The truth is I don’t know the answer to those questions. I have thoughts, but I don’t have a direct line to God’s thoughts. What I know for certain is that God doesn’t view death the same way we do. For us, it is an ending, but for God, it’s a continuation of his relationship with us. How do I know that? Well, the Bible refers to death as sleeping through both the Old and New Testaments. The very definition of sleep is that it is a temporary state.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 states “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this, we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep”. This passage demonstrates that we will wake up from that state of sleep/death in the presence of God. This is to be a comfort to those of us who are still awake and hoping to see our sleeping loved ones again. God knows that once we sleep we will wake up in a place that is described in Rev 21:3-4 as a place where God will dwell with us and there will be no more tears and no more death. It states that the old order of things will pass away. I am super happy that I live in a time when the Holy Spirit is living in me, instead of the time before Jesus ascended. But I am beyond excited at the thought that God will be living with me. I will see him and hear him clearly. I won’t have to doubt that my desires are shouting down his will for me. I am excited to know that all of my loved ones will be fully restored and so will I. So, what kind of God am I following? The kind who promises a loving relationship with me and wants the best for me for all eternity.