God: Contradictions and Harmony
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1980
Transcribed and Edited by David Sielaff, September 2008
Read the accompanying Newsletter for September 2008
There is no more important subject than the comprehension of the nature of God. How many of us can say we really know God? Some who espouse the biblical revelation often ask others, “Do you know God?” They mean, do you know Him in a salvation way and they mean it with good will. If they know God then they should know His nature, His ways, and His manner of life. Do they really know Him? Or, to bring it home to us, do we know Him? Do we know Him the way the biblical revelation shows Him to be?
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I want to look at this issue closely and examine the nature of God and see the contradictions that exist there, but also the harmony. We will look at some very unpopular sections of the Bible, some you probably never heard a sermon or a lecture about because they are so unpopular. If you want to understand the nature of God we should not avoid any factors that impinge upon His character.
God reveals Himself primarily through two means. One is through the biblical revelation. The other is through nature. The two can be married together without difficulty, but we must understand what God is talking about and not isolate certain sections of the Bible about God from the other sections, taking the totality into account. None of us who are mature should avoid the realities of God as revealed in the biblical revelation or as reflected in the natural creation of God, the world we see around us. Are we willing to face the issue in a mature spiritual way? If we do so we may be in for some surprises. We can gain essential knowledge about our Creator that will help us love and respect Him even more. That is what life is all about.
Though we shall encounter some contradictions in His nature, as we look at it as free human beings, we will see a harmony as well, because I will not present information about contradictions unless I can also show harmony. We ourselves can obtain the harmony that God wants us to have as revealed in the Holy Scripture.
To begin, there is one premise that I offer. It is a personal premise of mine, and it happens to be biblical. If any of us believe the biblical revelation then we will not have any difficulty with this principal. It must be accepted before we ever begin a discussion of the nature of God. The principle is that God is sovereign over all creation. That means He controls and rules everything, that all energy, all power, is invested in Him, that nothing in the universe occurs without His express permission. I say that this is the premise we must start from. It is something that I believe personally, but whether I believe it personally or not makes no difference. It is His biblical revelation. God almighty is exactly that — He is almighty. Once we realize this principle, we will not get into any trouble when it comes to understanding God’s nature.
On the other hand, if we think that He is slightly inferior in any way, relative to any subject, then by definition He cannot be God. That is a fact. God is God because He is sovereign. If He has any limitations whatsoever, anything that shows God to be inferior to Him being almighty, it shows He is not God. The Bible makes it quite clear that God certainly is infinite in knowledge and wisdom and in power.
“YHWH kills, and makes alive: he brings down to the grave, and brings up. YHWH makes poor, and makes rich: he brings low, and lifts up. He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are YHWH’s, and he has set the world upon them.”
1 Samuel 2:6–8
That verse shows the almighty power of God. There are other verses that go even farther:
“Both riches and honor come of you, and you reign over all; and in your hand is power and might; and in your hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.”
1 Chronicles 29:12
“And said, O YHWH God of our fathers, are not you God in heaven? and rule not you over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in your hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand you?”
2 Chronicles 20:6
“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What are you doing?”
I could go on listing such verses, and give New Testament verses to show that God is almighty. Satan is a power, a personality according to the Bible. He has a good deal of power and usually exercises it in the sense of evil, as we are told in Scripture. But Satan compared to God is nothing. There is no comparison whatsoever. God Himself is in control of the entire universe, and whether it be Satan or his angels or all men, women, children, all the kingdoms on earth or in the universe; none can stay the hand of almighty God. He is in charge completely. That is the premise that we must start from. It is a proper one.
By taking this position we put God into a problem from the very beginning from our point of view. God can always get out of problems. He is very good at it. He will always win. But from our point of view He is into difficulty because it means that all things that happen, whether by commission or omission, happen because God Himself is in charge and either allows or does what occurs. We look around us and see great evil in this world and in the universe. We read in the Bible about Satan the Devil and all of the evils that come from him. We want to pass the blame upon Satan or upon all evil people, but we think that God is always good, always righteous, never has anything to do with any bad thing here on this earth, yet He controls the entire universe? He does, according to Scripture, and common sense tells us that He does.
The point is, if Satan does anything that is bad, if men on this earth like Nebuchadnezzar, Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, or anybody else do bad, God could stop it immediately if He wanted to. Does He do it? Sometimes He does, but often He does not. In fact there seems to be more evil around than good; but there is good also. If God is sovereign, if He is almighty, then He is ultimately responsible for every evil act that occurs in the universe, as well as evil in your own life. God is responsible. I did not say that God was to blame, although I could if you want to put it that way. Certainly He is responsible. God is almighty.
Do you want to understand God’s nature? The God we see in the Bible is a God of love, and I believe it. I will show you later how God is love (John 3:16–17; 1 John 4:8–10, 16). At the same time with all the evil we see in the world and in the universe (that He is allowing), we are faced with contradictions.
First I want to show the contradictions, later we will look at the harmony. There are profound contradictions as far as we humans understand the nature of God. The wisdom that the writers of the Bible used (under inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit) to describe God’s nature is found throughout the Bible, but particularly at the very beginning. When God reveals His teachings, normally the first time a teaching occurs is when God explains it in simple and plain language. I could give an illustration of a particular Hebrew word or a Greek word describing some factor of God’s plan of salvation and in most every occasion that you first find that word in the Bible, it is where God and the biblical writers explain it in clear simple language. I have never seen it fail yet. It may, I do not know, 1 but every time I have checked it, God explains exactly what He means with the first usage.
When you open up the Bible you first come to the Book of Genesis. The first chapters deal with the creation of the universe, the world, and then man. In chapter 3 the first confrontation of man with God’s nature takes place. It occurs with a serpent being introduced in the garden. The first person to meet this serpent is a woman. Here at the beginning of the Bible, one aspect of the nature of God is revealed. Most remarkable, the serpent explains the first factor of the nature of God and it happens to be true.
Someone may say, well, if the serpent made this indication, then it could be false. I grant you, it could be false but we will find that God backs up the serpent’s statement later in chapter 3. Let us look at the first illustration of the nature of God in the Bible. It is most remarkable:
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which YHWH God had made. And he said unto the woman, ‘Yea, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ And the woman said unto the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘You shall not surely die:’”
The serpent lies in verse 4, but consider carefully verse 5 where the serpent tells the truth. Here we find the first indication about the nature or the character of God:
“For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened [the human’s eyes], and you shall be as gods [Elohim], knowing good and evil.”
The word “evil” does not mean to be like a sinner, although the woman did sin by taking and eating the fruit. The word “evil” is not to be equated with sin. The two are entirely different. All sin is evil but not all evil is sin. 2 The best word that could be used here is “bad.” After all bad is the opposite from good and that is what the Hebrew word means. So the serpent was actually saying to the woman:
“For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods [Elohim], knowing good and evil [bad].”
This means then that something must be associated with God that He is able to know good and bad. If you know good and bad, you will be like God in some way. Contrarily, if you do not know good and bad, you will not be like God. That is the implication. This word “knowing” here, I must point out (and it is very important), can sometimes mean in Hebrew to be “aware of,” that is, to be aware of good and bad. Obviously God is aware of good and bad. Are you aware of good and bad? Of course you are. We all are aware of it. I keep repeating that phrase because it is important. But that is not really what is meant here.
This word “knowing” is the same word used in other expressions in the first parts of Genesis. 3 The word is used in Exodus chapter 1 where it says that another Pharaoh came up that caused the Israelites to be put under servitude. This new Pharaoh did not “know” the laws that Joseph made that were just and equitable (Exodus 1:8–14). 4 This term in Genesis 3:5 should clearly be interpreted in the sense of “knowing by experience in an intimate way.” Interpret the word that way (and that is the true way), here is what you get:
“For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods [Elohim, God or gods], knowing [experiencing] good and evil [bad].”
That is what it means in an intimate way. It was bad certainly, but what this statement is saying is that by eating you will become like God because He knows and experiences good and bad. Of course we know God is aware of good and bad, but I wonder how many of us ever considered that God experiences good and bad? This is almost contrary to our thinking, is it not, and to our philosophical teachings that we have been taught from childhood?
It was the serpent who said all of that, it may be wrong, another lie. It is not wrong at all. Go to verse 22, after Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit which they were commanded not to eat. They were expelled from the garden because God came and pronounced judgment upon them. “And YHWH God said, ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil [bad]’”(Genesis 3:22). The man and this woman experienced bad by sinning. God has never sinned. God can do anything He pleases, and yet He never sins. Sin is the transgression of law, but the lawgiver makes the laws. Can He change the laws any time He wants to? Of course He can. You can never accuse God of sinning, but the man and the woman did sin against God. That is how they experienced the bad. God never sinned, but He does experience good and bad.
This is a revelation when you think about it. You and I are put on earth, according to the New Testament (and the Old Testament as well) to become children of God. You will become members of His family. That is the object of our being on this earth for some 70, 80, 90 or 100 years, or 120 like Moses. We are here to become like God. The first thing about learning to be like God is to know and to experience good and bad.
It is most remarkable but most people think that God never experiences bad, but He does. What about us? When we are resurrected from the dead in the future, we want a utopian type of existence, don’t we? You bet we do. You will get a utopian life, but it will be in a way that most people do not consider. You will get it (and God has it now), but some people think that bad would be completely eliminated from the entire universe some time in the future. There will never be any bad anymore, just all good. That will not be the case. In fact, there will always be bad around. You will have to learn, like God knows now, how to always view the good and not the bad. That is where the harmony will come in later. Most people do not understand this at all. Yes, there are Scriptures in the Old Testament about vicious carnivorous animals which will eat straw and be docile. True! Whole natures will change. Your nature will change.
If you will be like God, you will know and experience good and bad throughout all eternity. You will have the power in the future (this is what God will give you) to always live above the bad and accept the good. You will appreciate and love the good because, although the bad is there if you want it, in the future you will never want it. That is the key of what God will give to us. This bad and good seems to be a contradiction because most people want to associate God with good only, and never want bad associated with Him. The Bible says from the beginning, if you want be like God you shall experience good and bad.
We are so far off base in our theological conceptions about God, no wonder we do not understand Him and His nature. When people say, “Do you know God?” I say, yes, but I don’t know if you do. I am trying to learn more about Him myself. I know one thing for certain, He experiences good and bad. At the same time He has power, authority, and willpower to always view the good from His point of view. I will point that out as we go on. God uses bad for us on this earth at times, as is shown throughout the Bible.
Good is the opposite of bad. If God is associated with both, we have a contradiction from the beginning. All of us want to see good with and from God. He is good. He is utterly righteous. He never sins. He is perfect in all that He does. This again seems like a contradiction, because some of the things that God allows to happen, not only by commission but by omission, are enough to put Him from our point of view, in a pretty bad light.
I said I would go into unpopular Scriptures that most of us have avoided. Most ministers would not want to quote some of these Scriptures. It is time we looked at the whole scope of the plan of salvation and the nature of God and not try to avoid anything. If we avoid anything we will get a misconception of our Savior, and of God Himself and His nature. So I will give 3 major contradictions of God from man’s point of view. They are utter contradictions because they emphasize the bad as far as God is concerned. There will not be any doubt of this because any reasoning person will have to admit that what the Bible says has to be true, and even nature itself confirms it as we will see.
Look at Deuteronomy chapter 2. It takes place at the 39th year of the Exodus from Egypt. Israel was commanded to stay in the wilderness because of rebellion. They are on their way northward. Israel was told to conquer the nations on the east, some Canaanite nations. After going through Edom, Moab, and part of Ammon, they came to the area east of Jordan Valley. 5 Some Canaanite nations were there under the leadership of a man called Sihon. Moses asked to let Israel pass through their land to cross over the Jordan River. Why did Sihon not let Israel pass?
“Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for YHWH your God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into your hand, as appears this day.”
From this verse Sihon himself would have said go on through, but God made him have an obstinate heart to deliver Sihon and his people into the hands of the Israelites. What happened? Moses, because of obstinate heart of Sihon, attacked the cities of Sihon on the east side of Jordan, and Israel conquered them. When Israel finished, there was devastation that defied imagination. What Moses says is pregnant with meaning:
“And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones [babies, the infants], of every city, we left none to remain.”
This is one of many Scriptures that people avoid because in verse 30 it says that God put an obstinate heart into Sihon to not give in to Moses. As a result they had their entire civilization wiped out — men, women, and babies. Men and women may not be so bad in one way because they are adults and great evil in them, no doubt. But little babies in arms? Why should babies be killed? Two years old, three month old babies, one month old. I know this is unpleasant but I am afraid they were killed. It does not stop there:
“Then we turned, and went up the way to Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. And YHWH said unto me, ‘Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into your hand; and you shall do unto him as you did unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.”
Do the same thing. Moses, Joshua, and the Israelites were to wipe them out to every last baby. God says I want you to do the same thing to these people here. What happened? Moses tells us:
“And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city.”
We call that today an “atrocity.” If Moses and Joshua and the leaders of Israel, even though they would have claimed “we have God’s permission and in fact the command of God Himself,” if they could be caught and put in a court of law today, it would be the Nuremberg trials all over again. 6 You and I would probably agree, would we not? Moses and Joshua would say, “God told us to do it.” Oh, He did, did He? What if they pointed at God? I guess they could truthfully do so. God told Israel to wipe them out. Not only that, this was on the east side of Jordan. When they got on the west side where most of the Canaanites were, what was to happen there? Turn to chapter 20 of Deuteronomy for the laws of warfare for the ancient Israelites.
This has always made me wonder that people who claim to be law keepers today and make that a part of salvation, why do they not obey all the laws that went to ancient Israel. I am thankful that they do not because the laws of warfare were drastic. Read the whole chapter, but look at verse 16 where Moses was instructed by God to do with all of the cities and peoples west of the Jordan River in the land of Canaan:
“But of the cities of these people, which YHWH your God does give you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes: But you shall utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as YHWH your God has commanded you. [Here is the reason for it:] That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should you sin against YHWH your God.”
The reason for wiping them out, man, woman, and child, was to keep the Israelites from going into idolatry. That makes sense to me for men, women, and even teenagers maybe to die. It makes no sense to me, Ernest Martin, for a baby to be killed, because I cannot imagine how a baby in arms knows anything at all about any sticks or stones or a piece of metal that is an idol. It says the reason you wipe them out is to keep from having the abominations of idols. That is the only reason. God said wipe them out. How could a good God command Moses and Joshua to do that? It is a contradiction, is it not? 7
What does Joshua do when he entered the land of Canaan? Read it in the Book of Joshua, city after city after city, he says, I left none that breathed (Joshua 10:40). I killed men, women, and children. I took no captives, none. He spared the fruit trees. He spared a few cattle in some cases, and not even that in all cases. He did not spare humans at all. These are very unpopular Scriptures, but they are in there. I am glad they are because they illustrate something we need to know. I am not saying it is good. It is bad. I am saying that God knows what He is doing. I come to a conclusion on this later. I will not argue with God on the subject, but I will say what I would do in the place of Moses and Joshua, as far as Ernest Martin is concerned.
There are other contradictions so far as God’s nature is concerned. Look at Matthew chapter 2. It deals with the nativity of our Lord and several incidences take place that are most remarkable in showing the power of God, the nature of God, and how He acts and reacts with humans here on the earth. It describes an incident for saving Jesus Christ when He was a baby from the intrigues and barbarism of Herod the Great.
“And when they [the wise men] were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be you there until I bring you word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.’”
The angel was aware of Herod’s barbarism. He knew what Herod would do. He had seen Herod’s nature on other occasions, even toward his own family. He knew the Christ child would be a rival of Herod and his family, and he would try to get rid of the baby, certainly. “When he [Joseph] arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt” (Matthew 2:14). I am glad Jesus was taken to Egypt because if he had not been taken there, Herod could have gotten hold of Jesus and there would have been problems. 8 They departed into Egypt. Matthew gave this illustration to show God’s power in saving Christ.
“And [Joseph] was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son.’ Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof [not just Bethlehem, but villages all around], from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, ‘In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.’”
The traditional tomb of Rachel was just north of Bethlehem. Matthew gave this prophecy as being fulfilled as a result of “the killing of the innocents” as they are called. Not only were the wise men earlier given a dream to return to the east by a different route so they would be protected, but Joseph was given a dream by an angel who told him to flee with the young child because these babies would be killed. Jesus was taken to Egypt under God’s power and saved, which is wonderful. Why did God not also tell the other parents in a dream to save their babies? Herod was soon going to have his viciousness against them.
God did not warn others in Bethlehem or in the coasts thereof. This seems to be unkind to say the least. If you were an angel and you had the opportunity to tell those parents to save their little babies, how many of you would do so? I have had babies in my arms, my own children. I love my children. I would do almost anything to protect them; you would too. If something was to happen to any of them, I would pray to God to help me protect them some way, somehow. I am of the nature, as most of us are, that I would want my neighbors to have as many blessings as I have. If I get some blessings, they should get blessings too. Those other parents lost their babies! It happened as a fulfillment of prophecy. Where was God at the time? I know where God was. He helped His own Son Jesus. He was saved.
This third point is worse than the others put together. The greatest contradiction of all is how God the Father treated His own Son Jesus Christ. It is most remarkable. Jesus was born into the world as a human being, of the seed of Abraham. Protected by God, He grew up for 30 years, began to preach for some 2½ years. You know the story; it is the central part of the Christian message of what Christ, God in the flesh, God the Father’s own Son did for us by living a righteous life for us, at the same time died for us so our sins can be forgiven. All of that was planned before the foundation of the world. We know that.
Jesus Christ was slain from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). It was in God’s plan. I want to show you the greatest contradiction that you could possibly imagine as far as God the Father is concerned. His firstborn Son that He protected up to the time of the crucifixion, at the last moment He allows His own Son to be slaughtered in the most heinous way. Christ Jesus was willing to go through it, and He did. His Father in a sense turned His back, according to the biblical revelation, upon His only begotten Son and let Him be crucified in front of Him. That is an utter contradiction.
I have three children and one is a boy. I tell you, even if it were in the plan of God, I would balk. I am not like Abraham. Maybe the rest of you are like Abraham. Abraham believed that he and Isaac would walk down from that mountain, that Isaac would be resurrected from the dead, when you look at the whole story (Hebrews 11:17–19). We are told to have the faith of Abraham, but I tell you, it would take a lot of gumption on my part for me to kill my only son. I would not do it if I could help it. Of course not. Neither would you. I am not going to kill anybody else’s child either.
It is interesting. It is an utter contradiction, that God the Father would allow His own Son to be killed, and in the most excruciating type of death that you could imagine. Yet it happened.
These are contradictions. I also say they are all bad, evil. Is anyone going to argue with that? Someone could say, oh, the crucifixion is not bad. It had a real good effect. Oh, it had a good effect. Good came out of it, but I still say it was absolutely bad. It was intended for us to understand how bad it truly was. 9
These things are in the Bible and you would think a good God, if He is good all the time, would never countenance such barbarism. But I am afraid we find it in the pages of the Bible and cannot escape it. Will we bury our heads in the sand? Or will we face the issue squarely as mature individuals? We can understand the nature of God if we have a proper comprehension of the biblical revelation.
These three points from the Bible give the “bad” of things, but even nature itself, what is happening today and throughout history, also shows a great contradiction as far as God is concerned. I will give one illustration, but there are many millions that could be given. We are told in the news about the starvation presently taking place [in 1980] in Cambodia. I do not know much about Cambodia. I have never been there. The people are far away and almost out of our thoughts. We do not see the starvation of men, women, and children going on there at the present time. If it happened in the United States or Great Britain or close to us, we would be more aware of it. We have enough sense to know that what is happening in Cambodia is bad. A number of appeals are put out by Christian organizations and others to send food, money, and clothing to help. Anything bad in that? No, that is good, that is fine.
Where is God in all of this? God knows people are starving in Cambodia at the present time. God knew what was happening in Nazi Germany in World War II, did He not? God knew what was happening in China when millions of people were killed by the Red Chinese to get their government going. The Soviet Union killed millions to advance communism. Where was God in all such horrors?
These are fundamental issues we need to consider. The nature of God is involved because we think of Him as a good God — and He is a good God, no doubt about it. The first chapters of Genesis say that if you are to be like God you will know and experience good and bad. Both are in the nature of God. (I did not say sin.) Good will come out of it in the long run. Even nature itself today with the starving people in Cambodia or in the other areas of the world, show that God is committing a “crime” of omission, from our limited understanding, because He could step in, being almighty, and stop such evils now. He does not do so.
These are contradictions. There is no question about it. They are in nature and in the biblical revelation. I have given contradictions; now let us get to the harmony because that is the most important part of all. God does give harmony and good to mankind, and He will give it universally one of these days. Universal reconciliation is not only a hope, but it is a fact. If a person does not believe in it while the Bible says it is true, then the very character and nature of God will be tarnished. But it is a fact and He will redeem Himself entirely, although to be honest He does not need redemption. He knows what He is doing. You and I may not understand, but He knows what He is doing.
God has come to mankind and introduced in the Bible and in nature a harmony for every one of us to see, to show His real nature, and what He wants for all mankind and all creation that He has brought into existence. That harmony starts with the introduction into the world of one man according to the Bible. That man is Jesus Christ. This is when God begins to show good in all of its ramifications in the highest degree by the introduction of His Son into the world. Jesus Christ is the antithesis of evil in the world. Notice His life of 32½ years. There was no sin, no injustice, no unrighteousness, no greed, no selfishness, none of that is in any way associated with Jesus Christ while on earth, according to the biblical revelation.
For 32½ years He expressed, according to the Bible (and I believe it), complete and utter harmony in the sense of showing what virtue? The virtue of love. The virtues concomitant to that would be mercy and goodness and justice and righteousness, and all those others, which we associate with God. He came to be an example for all of us human beings. With the introduction of Jesus Christ into the world God shows mankind (and all in the universe) the harmony that He wants to exist in all creation, and He has coupled it all together in the life of one man, Jesus Christ. That is where the basis of Christianity rests. It rests in Him, and a belief in Him. Jesus Christ was perfect and for 32½ years He expressed the type of humanity that each of us should be expressing if we possibly can. He is the example.
I ask this question: did Jesus Christ while He was on earth harm a hair of anyone’s head, ever? No. While He was on earth did He help people? Did He show mercy and goodness? Yes He did. Did He heal people? Yes He did. He did all types of things good for people. Did He get angry with people? Yes He did, the Pharisees. Why? Because they were doing evil. All the time He showed good, righteousness, and mercy, and all of the attributes of love that we should emulate because God wants us to do so.
By the introduction of Jesus Christ (God’s own Son) into the world, He will show mankind and the whole universe where harmony and good really come from and what will come as a result. Love was shown by Christ throughout His life. God’s own Son demonstrated God’s nature of love when He was here. Christ Jesus killed no Canaanites. Christ Jesus did nothing in any way to harm anyone. He did not call any judgment to come upon people at that time, did he? Not at all. In fact when someone slapped Him on the right cheek He said to turn the other. He submitted Himself as a lamb to the slaughter.
There was no person that ever has shown more love and concern and goodness than Jesus Christ, and who was He? He was God in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). He was showing mankind what God Himself is really like. When they asked Him, “show us the father” (John 14:7–11), Jesus said “he who has seen Me has seen the Father.” They are two different personalities, granted, but at the same time that is how God wants people to see Him as He really is — through Christ. We know that God Himself is allowing bad to exist now, do we not? But for the 32½ years that Christ was on earth nothing but harmony existed in that man. He was a man but He was also God at the same time.
Love and mercy only can be shown in power. Maybe love can be shown without too much power, but you never show mercy to a person unless you have the power to extend that mercy. Jesus Christ while He was here on earth did not exercise fully that power in showing love and mercy. If He was God while here on earth He could have done anything He pleased, call 12 legions of angels to come to protect Him at any time (Matthew 26:53). The only power He showed here on earth was the healing of people, raising the dead, and other miracles. Did He exercise His power over the nations at the time? No, not at all. Did He show His power against all evil in the world or the universe? No, He did not. What did He exercise? He showed enough mercy and love to give us an example of what true harmony is, as far as God was concerned. Christ on earth expressed only a limited power.
When Christ returns the Bible says He will come in full power. That full power will be in judgment at the beginning, but the full power He will exercise when He returns will also show love and mercy, the way He did when He was here in limited power. Love and mercy and goodness can only come through power. The more power you have and the more mercy you can give, the better the situation will be. Just imagine what will happen when Jesus Christ comes the second time, or when He has rectified the whole universe to Himself and He shows the mercy, the love, and the goodness that He expressed some 2,000 years ago, but He will do it under full power. It will be marvelous. That is going to occur. The Second Coming will introduce Christ showing mercy and judgment like He had for 32½ years, but He will come in full power. 10
We cannot blame Moses and Joshua for what is happening in Cambodia right now. Who is in the judgment seat as far as humanity is concerned? God still is. We cannot condemn Him, but at the same time He is allowing all that to go on over there. He is still exercising bad. Why He does it is His business. He will bring good out of it because He has given us the example of harmony in Jesus Christ. That is why Christianity is not only a good religion, it is the only religion. In fact it is the only truth because harmony is found in Him.
If I had a dream to kill someone, I would refuse. The Charles Manson group believed they were doing God a service when they killed people. All types of crazy people will arise. If I had the most vivid dream you could possibly imagine to hurt somebody, I have the personal example of Jesus Christ. I would refuse to do it even if I felt it was God Himself told me to do it! In fact, I do not think He would.
Some would say, you would be in utter rebellion to God. Instead of rebellion, I would have God’s respect because I could not live with myself if I was killing people or doing anything to harm people in the name of God. I could not do it. I am not criticizing Moses and Joshua. I do not want to do that either.
I know this much, Jesus Christ has given me an example and the only harmony in the whole universe is found by that example. It is better to go by that. If God wants to criticize me for disobeying to do some evil, well then, He will have to do it. I just have to tell Him to His face: Sir, I would rather be dead than to hurt anybody. That is the way I feel. Don’t you feel that way also? I think God would respect you. In fact I know He would.
Let us go to an example of something like that in Jeremiah chapter 35, a beautiful chapter of the Bible that illustrates this point of what a person should do to get the respect of God. God is almighty. He has to deal with all things in the universe, good and bad. Let Him take care of all that. But when it comes to you and your relationship to Him, you better practice the good as best you can, and let the example of Jesus Christ guide you. Let God take care of His business and you mind your own for the time being. 11
Jeremiah lived before and during the captivity at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who conquered Judah, and took many Jews captive. Not all had gone and Jerusalem was not quite destroyed yet, but they were within an ace of being so. God was upset with the Jews because they simply would not obey His wishes, His commands. So God says to His prophet that He wanted him to do something:
“The word which came unto Jeremiah from YHWH in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, ‘Go unto the house of the Rechabites, 12 and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of YHWH, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”
That is not too bad: “Give them some wine to drink,” means in God’s house. What does Jeremiah do?
“Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites; And I brought them into the house of YHWH, … And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, ‘Drink you wine.’”
Who commanded the Rechabites to drink wine? Jeremiah did, as the spokesman of almighty God. It was none other than a command from God Himself that those Rechabites drink that wine in the House of God. It could not have been any more authoritative.
“But they said, ‘We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, You shall drink no wine, neither you, nor your sons for ever [for the age]: Neither shall you build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days you shall dwell in tents; that you may live many days in the land where you be strangers.’”
They were to be nomads and just like Arab Bedouins they could not drink wine. That is what their father commanded them to do.
“Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he has charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters; Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed: But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us. But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and for fear of the army of the Syrians: so we dwell at Jerusalem.’”
In other words that is the reason we are at Jerusalem. We should be out in tents, but we are here.
“Then came the word of YHWH unto Jeremiah, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction to hearken to my words? says YHWH. The words of Jonadab [God is speaking] the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment:
Notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but you hearkened not unto me. I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return you now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and you shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but you have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.
[God’s conclusion:] Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people have not hearkened unto me: Therefore thus says YHWH God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil [the bad] that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.’”
And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel; Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he has commanded you: Therefore thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever [for the age].’”
God punished Judah but honored the Rechabites. God commanded them to drink wine in the Temple. They refused. Most remarkable! They set themselves to keep the commandment of their father. They made a vow, kept the vow, and God honored them. That is an example of good. There is nothing evil in any of that.
So, if you heard a voice out of heaven and it said it was God, and maybe it was, telling you to go contrary to the example set by the greatest harmonious life that ever lived, Jesus Christ, do you think that you ought to go against that? I will be a Rechabite. I think that God might honor that, not to harm people but to do good, God would pat you or me on the back and say, “good for you, that is what you should do.” This is how I look at the whole problem.
When I was still in a former denomination I knew the Scriptures where Moses was commanded to slay men, women, and children. I was talking to my older brother about biblical matters and I wanted to show him things he probably did not realize were in the Bible. I turned to Deuteronomy chapters 2 and 3 and chapter 20 where God commanded Moses to kill men, women, and children. I read it to him. His eyes got as big as saucers and he said, I have read that before and it is in there. I said, “what does that show you about God?” He said, “I do not like what I see there, but I love God.” Then my brother made a staggering comment to me. It was so honest, so simple, and so plain that I never thought of it before. He said “Well, I love God so much He must know what He is doing, but I do not like what was happening there, and I forgive God!”
I had never heard anything like it before. I always say God forgive me, God forgive us. Humans think that we need forgiveness, and that is true. But here was my brother giving a childlike answer. He was very astute in many things, but like a child he said, I don’t like what was going on, I guess God knows what He was doing, but from my point of view, I forgive Him.
It stopped me cold. I thought intensely about what he said. On the way home I thought, surely God expects that we should get forgiveness from Him, but look at all the evil things that happen in this world. Yet we have the example and the harmony and the love of Christ. This also seems to be an utter contradiction. Why is it that some of us are sick? Why are some of us lonely? Why do some of us have no money? Why are some of us without food? All types of things afflict us. God says He loves us, and I believe that, but why in the world do we go through all this pain? It looks like it is necessary. I have had that thought going through my mind since my brother told me years ago: I forgive God. 13
I do not think God needs forgiveness, but on the other hand, think about it for a moment. It is marvelous in one way. Look at the harmony that can come between two people. If two people are in animosity toward each other, had a spat or are enemies. Suddenly they decide to make up. If only one gets a good heart and makes up, but the other person does not make up, there is no harmony is there? What really shows harmony and forgiveness? It is when it is a two-way street. That is exactly what the apostle Paul said that God the Father through Jesus Christ is making, a two-way street of forgiveness and understanding.
Look at Romans chapter 5. God starts the reconciliation for His disharmony with man. Man does not like God in many instances. God has done a lot of things we do not like. We sometimes want to put Him in the judgment seat. 14 From our way of looking at it He practices quite a bit of evil or bad. We wonder, how could good ever come out of God’s plan? Paul understood this principle completely: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Christ did not die for the godly, for the righteous. He died for the sinners, “for the ungodly.” Do you know when He died for you? It was when you were ungodly. You had not repented. You had not got right with Him. You had not made up with Him at all but He died for you, according to Paul, when you were ungodly. It does not stop there:
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
There it is again, ungodly and sinners. It does not mean we have made up with him. We are sinners but He died for us. He loved us so much He was willing to do that while we were in an attitude of utter rebellion.
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled [conciliated] to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled [conciliated], we shall be saved by his life.”
“When we were enemies” of God, His Son died for us to show how much love He has. The only time you can get harmony is when both are willing to forget and forgive and to love. It has to be on both sides. Has man been an enemy of God? Yes. Has man considered God to be His enemy at times? Yes, he has. Has man been ungodly? Has man been a sinner? Of course. Man has been in the wretched state of not making up with God at all because we do not like God. We read Scriptures of God doing evil in the Bible and we do not like what is going on there. We see what is happening in Cambodia, we do not like what is going on there. He knows we do not like it. He has made us with enough mental power to see what is right and what is not right. He knows all of that. We know good and bad.
While we were in a state of being enemies of Him, He comes along and makes up with us. As far as He is concerned it is all over, He is friends with us from now on. Paul said in 2 Corinthians chapter 5: now that we know that God has reconciled Himself to us when we were sinners and enemies of His, now “be reconciled to God”(2 Corinthians 5:20) through Christ. Reconciliation is a two way street.
That is what Jesus Christ came to do, to show harmony and love, and God is showing His love to humanity through Christ, though God uses evil of all types, and to this very day He uses it. Read the Book of Revelation about what God will do when He introduces judgment to this world. It is not a pretty picture. The prophetic events of the future will cause people to suffer greatly. The innocent shall suffer as much as the guilty, because when you put an entire nation under starvation, everyone suffers: men, women, and children, and children die. Does God come to their rescue? No, He does not.
Though man wants to be an enemy with God, there is one harmony God has given to man to show that all things will work out good in the end. That harmony is Jesus Christ. That is why Christ is so important to this world and to all humanity, and to everything in the universe. When you really look at it, evil is here on the earth and in the universe. Will God one day take away the bad entirely and only the good will be left? If a person analyzes Scripture properly he must answer in the negative. The bad will never be taken away intrinsically. The potential for bad will always exist as long as there is life in creation — with God, with man, with man glorified. However, what God promises us in the future is an ability, through His power, love, and concern, and through His giving us a proper approach to things, is to live always above that bad.
In Genesis 3:5 remember the serpent said that if they take of the tree they would be like Elohim, knowing good and bad. In verse 22 God comes along and says, I took them out of the garden because they had become like one of us (Elohim), knowing good and bad.
Let me tell you something about God. He uses good and bad. He uses it on earth, we know that. He has the capability of using it properly in a judging way that you and I cannot use. We have the example of Christ as far as goodness is concerned and He never lifted a hand against anybody. That is the key that we should practice as a proper example. God can use both good and bad, and He does so. As far as He is concerned He has power and authority and character in Himself to always live above the bad. He uses evil at the present time but He exercises power over it. I know that to be the case because if Jesus Christ is an absolute replica of God the Father in heaven and Jesus Christ did not harm a person on earth, He was above evil in every way and He was able to control it. Evil was around but it did not touch Him. That is the way it is with God the Father at the present time.
What God wants to do — and what Jesus will do — is to conquer all the bad in the universe and then He will give us, by glorified bodies and by rejuvenation of our minds, by the experiences we have had that show how bad evil really is, though bad will intrinsically be here as long as life is here, we will have the power and be able (through Jesus Christ) always to practice the good instead of the bad. That is the way that love can be shown. Love is very difficult to show without bad around, or without hate. Take a marriage relationship, a man and a woman together, or children, a love relationship can develop when there is hostility around and the man protects the woman, and the woman protects the man in her way, and they live together because even though there is harm around them, they can live in harmony.
Love and joy and happiness can really come when two people get together, seeing evil all around, yet they practice the good one to another. Love and mercy and goodness can always be there. That is the way it will be for eternity. Yes, there will be bad intrinsically around, but through God’s help we will be able to always practice the good for our own joy and the joy of everybody else in the entirety of the universe. That is what God’s whole plan of creation is all about.
The harmony comes by Jesus Christ. There is no contradiction in Him. That is the key to existence. That is the key to Christianity. It is the key to the nature of God. That is why you should practice, and I should practice according to the Scripture, nothing less than what Jesus Christ Himself practiced. If anything goes contrary to that, you can always decline, or you can always do what Christ did and you will be in the best shape you could possibly be in, because that is where love rests. There is no contradiction in Christ.
L. Martin, 1980
Transcribed and Edited by David Sielaff, September 2008
1 First historical uses of a Hebrew word may not first occur in the Torah, the first 5 books of Moses. Genesis was compiled by Moses from older extant writings. The Book of Job is also a very old writing from before Moses compiled the Torah. It also contains “first time” uses of terms and expressions. DWS
2 A stomach ache is an evil but there all types of evil that could afflict you that have nothing to do with sin. God uses evil time and again. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by an earthquake as it says in the Book of Jeremiah, a great evil that came from God (Jeremiah 2:19, 16:10, 19:3, 15, 23:2, 26:13, 35:17, 39:16, 40:2, 42:6, 44:2, 7, 11). It may have been in judgment, but the point is that anything that is “bad,” any calamity, any problem, any difficulty, is known as evil in the Bible and it is not necessarily equated with sin. ELM
3 It really means to know intimately through experience, experience through intimacy. For example, the supreme sense of two people “knowing” each other is that of a husband and a wife relationship where the Bible says they “know” one another (Genesis 4:1, 17, 25). That is a euphemistic expression used for when they come together in the closest of intimacy of “knowing” of one another. We could use other more explicit terms, but you know exactly what that means. It means to have a relationship by intimate experience together as a husband and wife. ELM
4 It does not mean at all that the new Pharaoh was unaware of Joseph’s laws (Genesis 41:37–57, 47:13–26). He knew of the laws but he did not “know” them, meaning he did not practice them or put them into operation. The ancient Jewish Targums (which are paraphrases of what the actual Hebrew means) come out and say that a new Pharaoh arose that disregarded the laws of Joseph. The Bible uses the term “knew not Joseph” regarding the acts that Joseph did as well as his laws. ELM
5 When you go to the Holy Land and look down to the Jordan Valley from the Jerusalem hills, you can see Jericho there, the River Jordan in the middle of it. Look on the other side to see a great ridge of mountains with a plateau at the top, and over on the east side of the mountains was the area where Moses and the children of Israel were in their 39th year of the Exodus. ELM
6 The Nuremberg trials were the legal tribunals conducted by the allies against the leaders of Nazi Germany after World War II. Among the charges were “crimes against humanity.” DWS
7 I have heard all types of explanations trying to get God out of this moral problem. Some from my former denomination are so humorous they ought to be in the comic strip. For example, here is one explanation: they had some kind of disease so they all had to be killed. I ask you, where in the Bible does it say they had any kind of disease? It does not at all. Other explanations have come up: if you would raise those Canaanite children, they would be so different from the Israelites that by nature they would be totally evil. They would corrupt Israel because they must be evil by nature. Well, I can take any little child and it makes no difference and there are always kids who turn out wrong. [For example, see Dr. Martin’s article “The Tribe of Benjamin” at http://askelm.com/doctrine/d080801.htm. DWS] Yet why kill them all? The children had not done any sin or crime against anyone. If they were so wicked by nature, put them in a compound somewhere and keep them there. ELM
8 I know there could have been 12 legions of angels to protect Him, but at the same time Herod was vicious and his nature was contempt and utterly selfish. He would have stooped to the lowest part of human nature to get his own way. ELM
9 To see a glimpse of how bad it was, read about Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and His request for God the Father to remove the cup of crucifixion from Him (Luke 22:39–44). DWS
10 Since Jesus Christ came to earth and showed us the model of what humanity and God truly ought to be, what would Ernest Martin (or yourself) do if God came now, with my knowing the example of Jesus Christ clearly in Scripture? He could say to Ernest Martin I want you to lead some Israelites or some Americans or somebody out into the desert and come up against some Canaanites. I want you to take those cities and kill every man, woman, and child. Do you know what Ernest Martin would do? I could tell God, I am sorry sir. I respect you. I love you, but I will not do it. You will have to get somebody else. To me it is no longer an expression of harmony given to me as an example by Jesus Christ. Am I going to criticize Moses and Joshua? I better not do that, but I will tell you, if they were ever brought up in a court of law, no matter if they would plead “God told me to do this,” Most people would convict them. Would they deserve it? That is for you to decide. It is all in the Bible. ELM
11 I have a few things that I will ask God when I see Him face to face to one of these days, and so do you. I think He will have some good answers. They better be good! That sounds almost blasphemous for me to say it that way. It is not blasphemous at all. I think He wants us to see justice and judgment and goodness, and He wants all of us to see His wisdom and what He has been doing in the past. He will show us why He has done what He has in His creation. ELM
12 These Rechabites were people who lived among the Jews in Palestine. They were practicing Jews in a sense or they could not have gone into the House of the Lord, but they were separate and distinct in some ways as I will show. ELM
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