The editor of a Christian periodical asked for comments on a question relating to God’s dealings with the nations in the Old Testament. The following seeks to answer that.
In the Old Testament, and in Revelation from chapter 4 to the end, we are given an insight into God’s direct governmental dealings with the earth. In this Christian period, God does not seem to interfere directly, although he never relinquishes his overall control. Let me explain. For its treatment of the Jews, Germany has not been obliterated – yet; for their “liquidation” of 600,000 Serbs, the Croatians (prompted by the Vatican) have not been destroyed; nor has Spain for the Inquisition, nor France for the massacre, on St. Bartholomew’s Day and subsequently, of 70,000 Heugenot Christians. Judgment is held back for now.
It stands to reason that if a people have an earthly inheritance, then it must involve the destruction of all enemies. Christians have a heavenly calling (“Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” Hebrews 3:1) so we pray for our enemies rather than destroy them. To understand scripture we must remember that although God has not changed, his ways with men on earth have been marked by successive unfoldings of himself and his attributes. Abraham was a pilgrim, so God made himself known to him as the Almighty God, the one who protects and is sufficient. To Moses and Israel he declared himself as Jehovah, the “I AM”, the self existent One, “the Same”. To us he is revealed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God has displayed good things – such as the law and the Levitical system – but he has a right to bring out better things – as he has in our period, “God’s dispensation which is in faith”, see 1 Tim.1:4. Now he is now known in grace; love has been fully displayed at the cross of Christ.
When God called Abraham, he told him that his seed would inherit Canaan after being oppressed [in Egypt] and would enter their inheritance after more than 400 years. Then comes a principle of profound significance – Genesis 15:16, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full”. God does not execute judgment until evil is fully developed.* Hence Israel was later told to destroy the inhabitants of the land - Israel blessed and God’s judgment of the wicked.
* [The great tribulation will commence when the man of sin stands in the temple in Jerusalem and declares that he is God - full blown apostacy.]
God’s witness in Israel was known to the nations.
When Israel made the exodus from Egypt, there was an abundant testimony to the fact that God was with them. The Red Sea did not just part in silence. The physical happenings in the heavens and on the earth were stupendous. Read the section Psalm 77:14-20. Verse 14: “Thou art the God that doeth wonders; thou hast declared thy strength among the peoples”. Then in verse 18, “lightnings lit up the world; the earth was troubled and it quaked”. This was no local storm. Psalm 46:6 : “The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; he uttered his voice, the earth melted”. Again in Psalm 97 we get further evidences of the scale and grandeur of the exodus. To quote a portion – in verse 4: “His lightnings lightened the world: the earth saw and trembled”, and verse 6: “The heavens declared his righteousness, and all the peoples saw his glory”. Now let us confirm that the nations did get the message of God’s delivering power. According to Rahab, the people of the city of Jericho were fully aware. In Joshua 2:8-11 she told the two men sent by Joshua: “I know that Jehovah has given you the land, and that the dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you”. Rahab reached the conclusion that “Jehovah your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” so she hid the two Israelites in her house. Later when the walls and city of Jericho were destroyed, she and all in her house were saved due to her faith. She then “dwelt in the midst of Israel” and became part of the royal lineage, leading to David and on to Christ – see Matthew 1.
The reception of the witness.
God had declared to Abraham that he would “bless those that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” in Genesis 12:3. The “thee” involved later also Isaac and Jacob (Israel) and by extension that nation. There was a direct link between a nation’s response to Israel and their blessing or otherwise. Even though their time had come, the Amorites were given an opportunity to acknowledge God and his people when Israel, travelling towards Canaan, asked to be allowed to pass through their land without touching even their water – see Numbers 21:21-32. Sihon the king of the Amorites refused, so they were destroyed by Israel. The next obstacle was Og the king of Bashan who came out to fight, so he and his people were destroyed. They had refused God’s witness at the time, and they had many years to consider it – from the exodus from Egypt to that point. By extension to matters eternal, it is truly said that there will be none in hell because they could not believe; they will be there because they would not. Christ sorrowed over Jerusalem when he considered its coming destruction because they “would not” – Luke 13:34. It is a principle even today that a nation’s treatment of another’s ambassador indicates its attitude to that country. The Lord stated: “He that receives you receives me, and he that receives me receives him [the Father] that sent me” - Matthew 10:40.
The destruction of the idolatrous nations continued. However there were many individuals who recognized God’s testimony. In some, their faith shone and exceeded many of their contemporaries in Israel. Take persons like Rahab the harlot, Ruth the Moabitess and Urijah the Hittite; the Lord said of the Roman centurion “Not even in Israel have I found so great faith” – Matthew 8:10.
When God established David in the kingdom at Jerusalem, the nations were subjugated. And finally, when Solomon reigned, they brought their tributes and peace was “universal”. The queen of Sheba in Africa was an example of one who responded to the report and was blessed.
“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” - Genesis 18:25.
This is another grand principle stated by Abraham. It is a great comfort when we have questions about matters of judgment. On this basis I believe that a person will not go to hell just because he has not heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God will take notice of his response to whatever testimony he has received. As scripture states in several places, creation itself has its message and if he gives God glory and is thankful, God will take account of that. See Romans 1:21.
Make no mistake, blood will flow again when Christ returns to deal with this world – “the Lord Jesus from heaven, with the angels of his power, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God, and on those who do not obey the glad tidings of our Lord Jesus Christ” – 2 Thess. 1:7-8.