C.S. Lewis’ friend, Charles Williams (a fellow Inkling) said (paraphrasing) this: “Sometmes one must build an altar in one place so that the fire may fall someplace else.” I think the point being that this requires fidelity from the one building the altar. Thus he/she/we go on doing what’s right because it is right, trusting that Father knows best, and sees.
By the way, as God, He knows of every injustice inflicted upon us, and indeed upon everyone in the world. These wrongs will be righted–in His time and in His way. If not here and now, then certainly in the hereafter. In the meantime, all He requires is that we trust and obey. Some find this too hard to do, or let their questions and doubts choke out their ability to trust, and build a prima facie case against the existence of God based upon human pain, suffering, and evil. To those God says (as He did to Job) “Where were you when I created the world, since you are so old?” This may seem cold comfort, but it is indeed the same answer He gave Moses: “Tell them ‘I AM’ sent you.” Who? I AM. No explanation. This is the narrow way that Jesus spoke of, and few there are that find it.
Some may say that God is a schoolyard bully–a moral monster–because of the atrocities described in the Old Testament. That He can’t be moral, wise, or holy by “causing” these things. But in my mind there is a vast difference between God causing something, and Him allowing something. Satan caused Job’s suffering, but God–for reasons entirely His own–allowed it. (And the real kicker? At the end of it all, He gave tacit approval to Job’s railings, while denigrating his “religious” friends!). His keys, His kingdom: He can do as He likes–whether we like it, or understand it, or not. That’s sovereignty.
As for the brutality of the Old Testament, on this side of Calvary, I would conjecture that stories–which I believe to be historically accurate–were recorded for our edification, namely to show us the harsh consequences of sin. There’s a cost to not living life God’s way. God’s own children sojourned in Egypt for 400 years, time in which the inhabitants of Canaan had a chance to repent, and start living the kind of life God had for them (remember, God was merciful to the inhabitants of Ninevah when Jonah preached to them), but they opted not to. I think it’s notable that the folks dwelling in Jericho had heard of what God had done, and were terrified. Of those people, only Rahab believed the testimony of the “missionaries,” and responded in faith. Thus she, and her household, were saved. The New Testament, in Ephesians, says that “it is by grace through faith that you are saved, and that not of yourselves…” The other denizens of the city had the same choice, but didn’t respond in faith. Was it harsh to wipe out everyone there? Certainly, but I can imagine a scenario where the children, for instance, were left alive, knew what happened to their parents, and in their bitterness sought revenge. That hatred would grow like a cancer. So God had His people nip it in the bud. Harsh, yes. Do I like it, no. But God, being sovereign, can do as He wills with His chattel. (Of note is the fact that He dealt with His own children (the Israelites) the very same way: those that heard the spies reports, and did’t believe, perished that day. Which God followed up with a unique business opportunity for Joshua and Caleb: a forty-year funeral march. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “slain in the spirit, doesn’t it?). What the fearful, unbelieving Israelites had in common with the fearful, unbelieving Jerichoites was just that: unbelief. They were alike in their lack of faith.
You don’t like that? Take it up with God. Wrestle with Him like Jacob, accuse Him like Job, He seems to enjoy it. Commends it, even. He wants you to engage. And interestingly enough (like a parent), He will hold you accountable to your own choice should you choose not to engage with Him. The same Bible that speaks of His mercy and love, also tells us that His “spirit will not always strive with man.” Choose you this day.
Speaking of Christianity, the brilliant G.K. Chesterton said “God and man made it, and it is making me.” Point is: we don’t get to redefine God’s terms to suit us. It’s very much a take Him, or leave Him, proposition. He intended it that way. If we could fully understand Him, He wouldn’t be God at all, but merely a construct of own making.
As for me, I choose to embrace Him in the splendor of His transcendent mystery. I pray you would do likewise.
Addendum: Many of you reading today may not believe in a realm outside of time, but those of us who do, likely share the conviction that (in the words of C.S. Lewis) “time is a contrivance created for the convenience of man.” Consider: while there are good, sensible reasons for doing so, ponder with me the entirely arbitrary nature of time zones, and indeed “daylight savings” time. And this inquiry can’t begin in philosophical materialism, which rules out any transcendent reality from the get-go. If one begins by begging the question, anything that doesn’t fit inside the box of that worldview is promptly, yet unfairly, discarded. Folks of this bent simultaneously claim they are the open-minded ones here, sincerely making honest inquiry–when all they’re truly doing is not explaining, but rather explaining away. They can’t have it both ways.
God is who He is who He is. Your choice: take Him, or leave Him.