Going through Judges definitely will challenge your view of God. It’s a violent book. There is no way around this and some “scholars” attempt to allegorize and “nice” God up by some pretty ridiculous interpretations just further proves the point – Judges presents to us a picture of God that SHOULD rattle your cage. In the span of the first 3 chapters we get over 20,000 people dead plus an assassination. Every story – somebody is coming to a violent end often in gory detail.
There are some explanations to some of this violence. The surrounding nations of Israel were brutal and barbaric. The whole system of worship from these other nations led to sex slave trade as well as child abduction and at times sacrifice. Foreign kings were known for their brutality. For God to send judges with equal violence is understandable on one level but it does some serious damage to the adage that God is a God of love and peace.
Herein lies the problem – God presents Himself as He really is – not as we would like Him to be. It’s never – NEVER – the complete picture. NEVER. We ‘see through a glass darkly,’ we have a limited perspective and a limited understanding. It is ENOUGH of a perspective to have an understanding of God, limited though it may be. It is sufficient enough of a perspective to make a decision about Jesus and the validity of His claims but it isn’t comprehensive. It will never be comprehensive this side of Heaven.
So to trust ourselves – with our sin baggage – to alter and “nice” God up is a dangerous proposition. To twist and appease the violence as presented in Judges is a very real temptation. We’ve seen how it’s been used to justify horrible actions – just watch 12 Years A Slave.
God is holy, not nice.
What a loaded word – holy. God gets holiness right, humanity seldom does. I’ve heard some of the most hate-filled speech under the guise of holiness. I’ve seen incredible hurt dished out under the title of holiness. God’s holiness is framed by His love. He IS love as well as holy. The two are never separate with God, an impossible balance for humanity to get right as we always seem to err on one side or the other.
But God doesn’t. He is perfect love. He is perfectly holy.
This Holy Love confuses me. There is violence in Judges, at the hand of God, He claims it as His own. There is also redemption and grace. For all the times the Israelites cried out – there was never repentance. They kept abandoning God, rejecting God. He continues to redeem and deliver. It’s an expensive process – bathed in blood – never ‘nice.’
I don’t get it. I’ll admit it. But then again, the cross was all these things as well – violent, love, redemptive, bathed in blood, not nice. This Holy Love is disruptive, intrusive, demanding. It confronts and forgives. It demands and restores. This Holy Love challenges and gives rest. It’s bloody and white as snow.
I do like nice. And comfortable. There are times when we compromise God’s holiness for the sake of nice. We just want to be “nice”, we don’t want to rock the boat, we don’t want to offend. I get it. And I’m not suggesting being offensive for the sake of being offensive or proving that an argument can be won.
I’m not even talking about “others.” I’m talking about ourselves. Judgement begins in the house of the Lord – and we Christ-followers are the “house of the Lord.”
I desire to live in this zone of Holy Love – not compromising one for the other, stumbling over one for the sake of the other. It’s elusive but not impossible.