Originally published July 8, 2014
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones,
and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.
That’s a pretty tough verse, isn’t it?
Married women. Widows. Little boys.
When I read that verse, I think of somebody like me. Or, somebody like my ten year old. It’s hard for me to put myself in a Midianite woman’s sandals and imagine the Israelites coming for my son. My son, who’s basically a good kid, and certainly hasn’t done anything worthy of an army coming after him to execute him.
Do you ever follow criminal trials in the news? With 24-hour news channels and courtroom TV channels, we’ve probably all watched for the verdicts of a few. Have you ever been surprised by a jury’s verdict or a judge’s sentence? Maybe you were certain the defendant was guilty, but the jury acquitted him. Or, you figured a life sentence was a sure thing but only a few years were handed down.
It’s easy to lambaste a judge or jury for making what we consider to be the wrong decision. But, think about it: that judge and jury sat through hours of testimony, legal arguments, instruction on the law, and presentation of evidence. They know much more about the case and all the players in it than we do. They know things we don’t know. And those things we’re ignorant about are likely the very things that led them to make a different decision than we, with our limited knowledge of the case, would have made.
What if your spouse, parent, or best friend had been a juror in one of those cases in which you were appalled at the verdict, and he had voted opposite the way you thought he should have? What if he told you, “Look, I’ve been told not to discuss the case, but, trust me, this was the right decision.”? Would you trust him?
It’s the same way with God.
We come to passages like this one, and our first reaction is righteous indignation. How could God make a decision like this? It seems so unjust. An arbitrary, capricious, and callous verdict. It’s easy to throw stones thousands of years later.
But, if God is God, He is, by definition, absolutely perfect in justice, perfect in love, perfect in mercy, perfect in patience, perfect in wisdom, and perfect in His knowledge of every detail of every situation on earth, ever, including people’s thoughts and intentions. He never makes a wrong decision. If He were lacking one iota in any of these areas, He would cease to be God, and there would be no reason to trust Him.
But He isn’t. So we can.
We generally trust human judges and juries to carry out justice in the cases they’re assigned, despite the fact that we know of cases of judges who have been bribed, juries that have been tampered with, defendants who have been framed, and jurors who vote guilty based on race, sex, status, or some other irrelevant condition.
But God doesn’t fall into any of those categories. He is the perfect Judge, able to mete out perfect justice, because He’s also the perfect eyewitness. He knew everything about the case of the Midianites because He saw each of them, and everything that was going on in the world around them, inside and out.
I can’t say that about my knowledge of this case. Can you?
God’s not discussing the case of the Midianites with us, but, “Trust Me,” He says, “This was the right decision.”
He’s got a pretty good track record of being right. I’m going to trust Him on this one since I don’t know all the details. How about you?
Have you ever found it hard to trust God
because of a difficult passage of Scripture?
4 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday ~ Shall Not the Judge of All the Earth Do What Is Just*?”
What a clear explanation, Michelle! We sit in judgment of God so often, forgetting that we will one day stand before His judgment throne with only the shed blood of Jesus Christ as our defense. How arrogant we are!
Thanks, Deb! :0)
Michelle, great post. If I may add something to the discussion…over the years I wondered about these types of verses in scripture as well. Then I began reading missionary biographies. What I realized over time was that we in the Western world have absolutely no concept of what it is like to live in a pagan society where there has been no gospel light whatsoever. Especially in the older bios the missionaries were very honest though discreet about what life was like among these pagans or worshippers of false religions. I likewise want to be discreet, but the truth must be told and it helps us understand these passages in the scripture. One example I could cite would be Amy Carmichael’s experiences in India. She went as a missionary but in the course of time she found out that little Indian girls, and sometimes little boys, were being sold by their poverty stricken parents to the priests at the temple to be used in some terrible “worship” rites. The child was then considered “married” to the god. I am talking about children as young as 6. Amy does not tell us what went on in the temple, and she may not have known all herself, but it can be pretty well surmised. If a child was especially beautiful this was a very big temptation for parents. Amy began rescuing children from this fate and began an orphanage. But there were times when a child was brought that was so corrupted because of what they had undergone that she had no choice but to send the child back to family in order to protect the others in the orphanage.
So maybe now we can understand somewhat why God would have them destroy these pagan women and children? Perhaps they had been so corrupted by the evil they had seen or experienced that they could not be brought in amongst the Israelites? It was actually the mercy of restraint from God, to stem evil and not allow others to be debased as well.You compared yourself and your child to the Midianites, but really there is no comparison. You and your child, and others of us in the West in particular, have lived under God’s restraining hand, (not to mention a godly upbringing in your child’s case). In the past, God has mercifully not allowed our country to go that way, and we had enough gospel light to provide salt and light in our society. But this is not the case in other places and in other times in history. I must add that we are now getting a glimpse in our land of what it means to live in a pagan society. You can imagine if there were no Christian witness or influence at all what it might be! It is Romans 1:18-32.
Excellent points, Julie! Since the time I originally wrote the article, I have had a chance to do a little study on some of the pagan nations that surrounded Israel. Like you, I don’t want to go into detail about the atrocities – in their worship rituals, daily life, and military practices – they carried out, but it was quite horrific.
Another point is that it’s not like these nations stepped out of line once and five minutes later God destroyed them. These things had been going on for centuries before God’s patience came to an end and He destroyed them. Furthermore, as you referenced, Scripture tells us that God was evident to them through creation and their consciences so they were without excuse.