The Patience of God
Why was God so hard on Israel while ignoring the Chinese or Indians or any other peoples?

An early Christian bishop by the name of Marcion raised the question about the nature of the God of the Old Testament in contrast to the God of the New Testament. He believed that the Old Testament deity was inferior to what we know in the New Testament about Jesus expressing the love of God and care for people.

The Jewish people of the Old Testament were treated harshly at times. Before we can understand the harsh treatment we must look at the accounts in the Old Testament. People read sections of the Old Testament and conclude that God is mean. Bill Maher said on a TV program that “God in the Old Testament is a psychotic mass murderer.”
( The real issue seems to be that man wants to take away from God the right to make rules for his creation, and if he did make rules it would be wrong to enforce them.

There are only two reasons for judgement in the Old Testament.  Judgement on the Jews was because they were rebellious when Yahweh who delivered them from slavery to freedom.   Judgement on non-Jews is related to their long time evils lasting hundreds of years.

People who are immoral do not want to be judged for their immorality whatever form it takes. Moreover, western culture has become so relativistic that there does not seem to be anything wrong anymore. We tend to want mercy for ourselves but judgement for people we think are wrong. So, let’s look at the big picture in the Old Testament.

The first indicator is the story of the creation of humans. This is the model in Genesis in which the first two people were created.

“God said, "Now we will make humans, and they will be like us. We will let them rule the fish, the birds, and all other living creatures." So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women. God gave them his blessing and said: Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28 CEV for all quotes)

The beginning involves the union of one man and one woman, not two men, or two women, because the goal of lots of people would not be possible. There is a purpose in his creation of humans.

This is reaffirmed in the conversations of Jesus. Some people were asking about divorce and here are Jesus’ comments:

“He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matt. 19-4-6)

The model does not allow for polygamy, polyamory, bestially, incest, homosexuality, or divorce. Even though people have rejected the model for many different reasons there is vast suffering that takes place when this happens and it is not God’s doing. The suffering is the result of disobeying the Creator’s purpose or rules. The suffering may relate to the demeaning and suffering of women as in polygamy, or the suffering of children in divorce, or the rejection of the model in homosexuality. Great suffering often took place because the man did not honor and love the woman. The problem was in his heart not in the rules. Many of the later laws in the Old Testament support the original model. The model intended joy and happiness for man and woman in marriage leading to a family.

In the human realm when a device is invented there are directions on how to use it. Following the directions means that it will work as intended. Ignoring the directions may mean that the device will be ruined, or need fixing.  Humans invented things for a purpose. A camera can be used to drive a nail, but it will not do a good job and would break the camera.  There is a right way and a wrong way to operate a machine.

Remember the human model was designed by Yahweh for man’s best interest and happiness. A departure from the model means the rejection of the Creator’s plans for humans. Rejection may be based on lust for others, for sensuality, for domination, or just plain perversion.

One of the prominent areas of concern relates to homosexuality. Recently South Africa's Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he will never worship a "homophobic God" and will rather go to hell.

The retired archbishop was speaking at the launch of a UN-backed campaign in South Africa to promote gay rights. ( 26 July 2013) Violence against homosexuals is unwarranted and terrible, but if you reject the Creator’s model of the human specie are you telling Him that he made a mistake? Your model is better than His?

The Old Testament is strict in its judgement on homosexuality because of the special relationship that the Hebrews had with Yahweh.

Second, we must recognize that Abraham the father of the Jewish people was a nobody in terms of power, prestige, or fame. He was chosen by Yahweh to do certain things that would be important for his progeny. He was called to leave his homeland, journey to the land of Canaan where Yahweh told him that his offspring would be given the land

Some of the key passages are the following:

“The LORD said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you. (Genesis 12:1-3 )

(One might reflect for a bit about this verse in light of the Muslim hatred of the Jews that has existed for 14 centuries beginning with Mohammed.)

(The other reflection relates to blessing the whole earth . The Messiah is the ultimate end of this blessing through proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the forgiveness of sin to all who accept His Lordship.)

“After Abram and Lot had gone their separate ways, the LORD said to Abram: Look around to the north, south, east, and west. I will give you and your family all the land you can see. It will be theirs forever! I will give you more descendants than there are specks of dust on the earth, and someday it will be easier to count the specks of dust than to count your descendants. Now walk back and forth across the land, because I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)

“Then the LORD said: Abram, you will live to an old age and die in peace. But I solemnly promise that your descendants will live as foreigners in a land that doesn't belong to them. They will be forced into slavery and abused for four hundred years. But I will terribly punish the nation that enslaves them, and they will leave with many possessions. (Genesis 15:13)

“ Four generations later, your descendants will return here and take this land, because only then will the people who live here be so sinful that they deserve to be punished.” (Gen.15:16)

“ I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God. I will give you and them the land in which you are now a foreigner. I will give the whole land of Canaan to your family forever, and I will be their God. Abraham, you and all future members of your family must promise to obey me. (Gen.:17:7-9)

Attention must be given to the command to drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.
When Yahweh gave the promise to Abraham it would be 400 years before that would happen. Genesis 15:16 indicates that the people living there would become so sinful that they deserved to be punished. The worship of the people of Canaan involved temple prostitution in hopes of the fertility of the land, sacrificing their children to the god Moloch, making gold calves to worship, worship of the stars, Baal, Astarte, and others.

The family of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, wind up in Egypt because of the famine in Canaan. They stay there and eventually most of the patriarchs die. Eventually they are enslaved by a king who did not know Joseph. This slavery increased for a long time and soon Yahweh makes a move to rescue them from slavery using Moses and Aaron. The plagues on Egypt show the helplessness of the gods and the Israelites are delivered from slavery, led thru the Sea, and brought to Sinai where Yahweh reveals Himself and his purpose for them. He gives them laws to live by, but his patience is tried by the continual whining and complaining so that after such a long time when they reject going into the promised land, Yahweh declares that none of those over 20 years would see the New Land.

The laws that were laid down for the Israelites were for their own sake. Moses sums up the issue, Choose Life, not Death, in chapter 30:15 of Deuteronomy.

The Israelites have a collective history of seeing Yahweh deliver them from slavery, give them a new land that was promised to Abraham, provided for their needs for 40 years in which food, water, and protection were provided as they traveled to the new land. In light of all his care and provisions, the gift of the promised land, how should the Jews have lived in relation to Yahweh?

The contrasts are made in the speech of Moses:

“Today I am giving you the laws and teachings of the LORD your God. Always obey them, and the LORD will make Israel the most famous and important nation on earth, and he will bless you in many ways. The LORD will make your businesses and your farms successful. You will have many children. You will harvest large crops, and your herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats will produce many young. You will have plenty of bread to eat. The LORD will make you successful in your daily work. The LORD will help you defeat your enemies and make them scatter in all directions. The LORD your God is giving you the land, and he will make sure you are successful in everything you do. Your harvests will be so large that your storehouses will be full. If you follow and obey the LORD, he will make you his own special people, just as he promised. Then everyone on earth will know that you belong to the LORD, and they will be afraid of you. 1 The LORD will give you a lot of children and make sure that your animals give birth to many young. The LORD promised your ancestors that this land would be yours, and he will make it produce large crops for you. The LORD will open the storehouses of the skies where he keeps the rain, and he will send rain on your land at just the right times. He will make you successful in everything you do. You will have plenty of money to lend to other nations, but you won't need to borrow any yourself. Obey the laws and teachings that I'm giving you today, and the LORD your God will make Israel a leader among the nations, and not a follower. Israel will be wealthy and powerful, not poor and weak.” (Dt. 28:1-13)

But if you will not follow the laws of the Creator, Yahweh:

“But you must not reject any of his laws and teachings or worship other gods. Israel, today I am giving you the laws and teachings of the LORD your God. And if you don't obey them all, he will put many curses on you. Your businesses and farms will fail. You won't have enough bread to eat. You'll have only a few children, your crops will be small, and your herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats won't produce many young. The LORD will make you fail in everything you do. No matter what you try to accomplish, the LORD will confuse you, and you will feel his anger. You won't last long, and you may even meet with disaster, all because you rejected the LORD. The LORD will send terrible diseases to attack you, and you will never be well again. You will suffer with burning fever and swelling and pain until you die somewhere in the land that you captured. The LORD will make the sky overhead seem like a bronze roof that keeps out the rain, and the ground under your feet will become as hard as iron. Your crops will be scorched by the hot east wind or ruined by mildew.” (Dt. 28:14-21)

“Foreigners who speak a strange language will be sent to attack you without warning, just like an eagle swooping down. They won't show any mercy, and they will have no respect for old people or pity for children. They will take your cattle, sheep, goats, grain, wine, and olive oil, then leave you to starve. All over the land that the LORD your God gave you, the enemy army will surround your towns. You may feel safe inside your town walls, but the enemy will tear them down, while you wait in horror. Finally, you will get so hungry that you will eat the sons and daughters that the LORD gave you. Because of hunger, a man who had been gentle and kind will eat his own children and refuse to share the meal with his brother or wife or with his other children.” (Dt. 28:49-54)

There is a special relationship between Yahweh and Israel. He did so much and required their obedience. In the long run it was thru this people that Yahweh was to visit his people in the Incarnation and bring the good news of his concern for all peoples.

There is little in the Old Testament about “foreigners” who were not Jews. The Chinese civilization was going on and all kinds of things were done in China and there is no word about any of that. Similarly, there is nothing said about the Indian civilization which was old. The treatment of wives, the idolatry that was practiced, the practice of suttee, a widow throwing herself on the burning pyre of her dead husband, the terrible practice of Caste, etc.

The Hebrews were singled out to show what a relationship with Yahweh would mean. They were to be a special people through whom the Messiah would come. The New Testament gives the story of this person’s birth, his special purpose in declaring the Kingdom of God and giving his life for mankind for our forgiveness and everlasting life. While anyone can reject all of this, the real purpose of Creation is that we might have life now and life everlasting.

It is sad to read the history of the Jewish people in the Old Testament. In spite of the amazing things Yahweh did for them, they rebelled, became idol worshipers, and were eventually to experience all that Moses wrote about. The people went into the land sometime around 1290 BC or earlier. Very quickly they imitated the people in the land in doing idolatry, even sacrificing their children in pagan rites to the gods. Yahweh delivered them repeatedly from their oppressors, and they would return to rebellion against Yahweh. The patience of God continued with them even when they rejected Him as King and demanded a human king. Saul was a poor king, then David, and then Solomon. Solomon was led into idol worship by his wives. As a result the kingdom was divided into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom was quickly into terrible idolatry with its sordid practices and it began about 960 BC. Prophets were sent to call the people to repentance, but they did not pay heed to them. The patience of God ran out in 722 when the Assyrians came to carry the people to captivity according to what Moses had told them.

The southern Kingdom stayed more faithful for a time, but eventually the people were judged for their idolatry and sins and were captured and taken to Babylon. There were a number of Godly kings in thesouthern kingdom but also some terrible ones. The patience of God held steady until 586 BC when they were captured by the Babylonians and deport from the country.

One must not think that Yahweh was capricious in making decisions. He sent prophets to call the people back to Him, but eventually after centuries the judgement came upon them for their disobedience. In captivity they learned the hard lessons of their unfaithfulness and Yahweh brought them back to the land where they were diligent in their obedience.

In conclusion, good parents seeks to teach their children that many things bring happiness and many things have grave consequences. Many temptations are around that are part of the culture we live in but will bring terrible consequences. Parents want the best for their children.
Drugs can fry your brain ruining one for life as well as relations with others. There are things one can do that will bring about the death of the person. Good parents want the child to avoid these kinds of action because the parents deeply love them.

We speak of God as Father, and He wants the best for us. Idols that are worshiped can do nothing for us. They can’t hear, speak, or act, or do anything for us. Only Yahweh can do that.
His outrage about idolatry is related to His love for his child and wanting the best for us.

We are deeply saddened when our children engage in activities that we know will harm them. We may even be out raged, when they become head strong in persisting in activities that will destroy them. We may ask: why will they do such things? We have taught them well, and they are bent on destroying themselves. Why?

We had children because we wanted to give them life, we wanted to love them, we wanted to live with them. We spent on their education, taught them the love of God, tried to model life for them. Does Yahweh do any less for us? He created us. He has taught us. There is good and evil in the world and we are taught to seek life, not death. He is greater than ourselves as parents and as Creator he has made rules for the good life. He is also judge and evil has its consequences. The advice of Moses is still valid–choose life!!