Psalm 137:9 says, “Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who pays you back what you have done to us. Happy is he who takes your little ones and dashed them against the rocks.” In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins described God as, “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.“[1] How could God condemn all but 8 souls in the flood? How could God wipeout Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities? How could God command the extermination of the Canaanite people? These questions often cause believers to run for cover. Believers may go on the offensive by turning the question around–Why does God allow any of us to live?

First, Remember Who God Is

God is the Supreme Being who has revealed his own nature in Scripture. When God described himself to Moses he emphasized his loving mercy and his duty to punish iniquity. “The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,  maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.”[2] There is a seeming contradiction in the claims to be “compassionate and gracious” while at the same time “bringing the father’s iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” More on this at the conclusion.

God’s purpose for the world demands that sin is punished. The Lord put his own reputation, his own glory, and his own name on the line when he created the world. God’s mission was to be fulfilled by judgment upon sin and devoted praise from those who receive divine mercy.

Second, A Perfect God Cannot Allow Wickedness to be Unpunished

Now that we better understand who God is, we can better understand his interactions with wicked people. Should God allow wickedness to go unpunished? The questions then are who should be punished and how much should they be punished?

Before the clearing of Canaan’s land and back before the cleansing Flood there was a perfect Garden. Adam, Eve, and God lived in that Garden until sin happened. The one sin was eating a forbidden fruit. They broke their divinely imposed diet. What was the punishment? Removal from God and his perfect Garden, increased physical pain, increased emotional strife, and increased temptations outside the Garden. Oh, and from that point forward every living creature was condemned to die (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12-21; 8:20; 1 Corinthians 15:21).

The question then is not why does God execute the unrighteous, but why does God save any? Why didn’t God send us to Hell yesterday? “There is certainly no one righteous on the earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “All are under sin” (Romans 3:9). In “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God,” the most popular sermon preached on American soil, Jonathan Edwards said, “There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”[3] But why?

Third, Why Is God Merciful to Any?

Why has God been longsuffering with his sinful creation at all? “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:27). How can God be merciful yet “by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7)? The answer is the glory of God revealed in Jesus. The Father’s wrath was poured on Jesus’ bloodied body so that God’s mercy would be brightly displayed in his blood. His justice would be defended in the punishment of sin. Wrath, justice, forgiveness, and mercy are parts of God’s character—God’s glory.

The real conundrum then is why God allows any to live. All have sinned. All deserve death (Romans 3:23). God has chosen to be gracious. God the Son chose to submit to the Father’s plan for redemption of sinful creatures through his own suffering. That sin must be eradicated. Satan, and his followers must be punished. God’s grace must also be extended. That is why Peter wrote, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and support you after you have suffered for a little while” (1 Peter 5:10).

 

 

[1] Richard Dawkins The God Delusion: 31.

[2] Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Ex 34:6–7.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1739–1742, ed. Harry S. Stout, Nathan O. Hatch, and Kyle P. Farley, vol. 22, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2003), 405.

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