Friday, September 15, 2006

I Don't Understand

Intro.: Madeline Murray O'Hare is one of the most well-known athiests ever to live.

  1. But as a young person she attended a Presbyterian church.

  2. Years later, the current pastor of her former church had an opportunity to sit down with Ms. O'Hare. As part of that conversation he asked her why she had so thoroughly rejected the church.

  3. She replied that there were two reasons – first she was bothered by the hypocrisy that she saw in the church – Christians behaving badly.

  4. But she said that there was something else – it was the cruelty and violence she saw in the scripture. She put the question this way, “How could a God of love, allow such atrocities in the very book he was responsible for?”

  5. I want to look at one such passage today.

Read: Joshua 6:21-27


Trans:Madeline Murray O'Hare was not the only person to be bothered by the troublesome passages found in scripture.

  1. But I would be amiss, if we did not spend some time discussing the issues that surround these passages.

  2. I want, in the next few minutes, to look at four principles that can help us understand and respond to these difficult passages.


  1. Four principles

    1. The God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament

      1. There are those who would like us to think that the difference between the OT and the NT is the maturing of the human race.

      2. They would argue that the NT culture that spawned the books from Matthew to Revelation was, well, a different culture.

      3. That presents a problem – it suggests that scripture is more a human book – written to human standards.

      4. Yet scripture uniformly claims that it is the word of God.

(Ill.) I was reading about the manufacturing of US currency. They put all kinds of effort to prevent countfeiting. Some of them you probably know – the top secret paper that is used to print the paper is said to be 75% cotton and 25% linen with red and blue silk fibers. There is, of course, the strip going through the paper, And there is a watermark reproduction of the portrait on the larger bills. But did you know that there is also a couple of hidden features in our bills. First, there is a fluorescent chemical in them that when held under a UV light they shimmer. And the very last part of the manufacturing process is to run the bills between two high-pressure rollers that provide a uniform thickness that cannot be imitated.

Scripture also contains proofs of his status as God's word – whether it be its accuracy compared to other ancient writings, its fulfilled prophecies, its scientific accuracy, and verification in history. i

      1. Scripture clearly shows God as being present in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. John begins his gospel the same way that Moses began the book of Genesis - “In the beginning, God...

(Appl.) Because God is the same in the OT and the NT, we can trust what it says.

    1. God chooses to take an active part in our world – both when we are good and when we are bad

      1. God has been actively interacting with his creation since its beginning. We can read about his interaction with his individuals throughout history.

      2. There are those who think that God created the world, and then set it loose.ii “Classical deism holds that God created the world by setting it into motion, but does not actively intervene in it.”

(Ill.) In the midst of the enlightenment, when deism was spreading rapidly, Voltaire proclaimed that within twenty-five years the Bible would be forgotten and Christianity would be a thing of the past. Forty years after his death in 1778, the Bible and other Christian literature were being printed in what had once been Voltaire’s very own home!

      1. Amazingly, God interacts with his people whether they are being obedient or not. We are not surprised when God is present when things are going well, but it must be noted that God is also present when His people are disobeying.

(Ill.) Theologically, we speak of God as being omniscient or all-knowing, omnipotent or all-powerful, and omnipresent or always-present.

(Appl.) We normally do not have problems with the first two – God is all knowing and all-powerful. But I wonder if we really believe that God is always present. I mean, it seems that when we are going through our dry times that we most often think that God is not present. Or if we find it easy to lie or some other sin, do we forget that God is there. Omnipresent leaves not exceptions – God is always there, he is always present.

    1. God is just – both in the OT and in the NT

      1. The last of the two principles focus on God's character. In both the OT and the NT we see God's justice.

      2. God hates sin – not the sinner, but sin. In the OT we see the principle applied as the Israelites face nation after nation. In the NT the principle is restated – “the wages of sin is death.” Rom. 6:23

      3. Perhaps you remember the story of Anaias and Saphira in Acts. They had agreed to share all they had with the church. But that's not what they did. Instead they kept part of it for themselves. On the night that the apostles challenged their behavior, they died. The wages of sin is death.


He that falls into sin is man.

He that grieves at sin is a saint.

He that boasts of sin is a devil.

He that forgives our sin is God.iii

    1. God is also a God of grace – both in the OT and in the NT

      1. And that reminds us that God is not only just, he is also full of grace.

      2. We looked last week at Rahab – the most unlikely recipient of God's grace. She had placed her faith in God – we even conjectured that if the other residents in Jericho had turned to God, they too would have been spared.

      3. Isaiah remindes us that “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

      4. When our broken bodies, when our broken hearts, when our broken souls are touched by the grace of God, we will never be the same.

      5. If we are bothered by some of the horrible things that have taken place in God's name, we must also be surprised by the grace that God bestows on an undeserving world.

Conclusion: Have we answered all the possible questions that you or someone may ask?

  1. No - but the four principles covered here are begin to provide a balance that helps to understand.


iHurley, V. (2000, c1995). Speaker's sourcebook of new illustrations (electronic ed.) (15). Dallas: Word Publishers.


iiiGreen, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Bilical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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