In our last post, we looked at the fact that the God of the whole Bible is a good God and not a destroyer and that Jesus is the true image of God. The truth is that:
And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. (Luke 9.54-56, NKJV)
Now if the Son of Man did not come to destroy men, and the Father is just like the Son, then it is clear that the Father does not come to destroy men. The Father is not the destroyer. Now I know that often in the Old Testament it looks like destruction and disasters are being ascribed to God, but we know that this cannot be so because we understand that the Father is just like Christ.
When Jesus’ disciples asked to burn down a village, they thought they were being like God, but they misunderstood God, because Jesus – the image of the Father – showed them that He and the Father are not like that. He stated that the desire to destroy others is a different spirit from the spirit of Christ. The Father is not a different spirit to Christ,the Father has no desire to destroy people.
Jesus was not saying here in Luke 9 that He had a different plan from His Father – well God tried being harsh in the Old Testament, now we are going to try and be nice – no, Jesus only did what He saw the Father do. Jesus never saw the Father destroy people, not in the Scripture and not in their relationship (John 5.19).
If the Father did the sort of destructive behaviour that some people claim He is, then Jesus would have said “Hey James and hey John, what a great idea, let’s torch the place”, but He didn’t – He got right on top of His disciples and said “I am not here to destroy”. We need to realize this – God is not the destroyer.
One of the most powerful Scriptures in the Bible emphasises this so strongly:
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. – John 3.16-17. KJV.
Now the perishing here is the same Greek word as destroy in Luke 9.56 (apollumi). The Father wants to stop the world, and stop every human, from being destroyed. That is why He sent Jesus. So where does destruction come from? Well, keep reading John 3:
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. – John 3.18-19 KJV
The world is already heading towards destruction – that is the simple fact of the matter. The world was already on the road to hell and so were you. Jesus was sent by the Father to save it from self-destruction. If God was the destroyer, then God sent Jesus to save the world from God. That is nonsense. So if it looks like God is destroying in the Old Testament, we will have to dig deeper because we can see that God is not the destroyer.
The condemnation and destruction in the world are because it has rejected Jesus, men keep hold of sin, refuse to turn to the one redeemer there is, and they are destroying themselves by their selfish actions. In 2 Peter 2.1 Peter says that false prophets and false teachers “bring upon themselves swift destruction”. God is not even destroying false prophets, they are destroying themselves. Hosea 13.9 says “O Israel, you have destroyed yourself”. There is destruction in the world, there are disasters in the world – not because God is a big destroyer, but because the world denies God and rejects God and He is the only one who can stop us destroying ourselves!
God does not destroy us – He delivers us from our destructions (Psalm 107.20). It is not because of God that people are destroyed, it’s because they choose sin. Men choose to sun and choose to bring all sorts of destruction upon themselves. God sends His Word to heal us, not to harm us. Even in the midst of our selfish self-destruction, God sends His Word to save us and help us.
Hosea 4.6 tells us people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because they rejected knowledge. So, that’s not God destroying them there either. People are ignorant of God and selfish and that behaviour is destroying people. Now Hosea 4.6 gives us a big clue to how God deals with that kind of selfish behaviour, continuing with “I will also reject you, that you shall not be my priest… I will forget your children”. Now, that is not God being vindictive, harsh, or judgmental. Not at all, it is just God showing love and grace – God does all He can to show us love and kindness and redeem us, but if we walk away from Him, He will never force us to come back, He will never make us turn to Him, He will never force us into His arms. That is not love, that is coercion. God does all He can to rescue the sinful humans, but when we reject Him, He has to step back from us.
If God forced His will on us, God would be the worst dictator the world ever knew. But God gives us the freedom to choose, the freedom to sin, the freedom to reject Him. Love cannot be something that is forced, and the blessings that flow from love cannot be forced on someone. If you want to remain ignorant of God and His goodness, God will let you!
But The Bible Says God Destroyed This Person Or That Person
So, we now having built our foundation have to deal with the fact that there are definitely more than one Scripture in the Old Testament that at face-value ascribes destruction to God. But when we interpret the Word properly, we will see what this means. Let’s start with a familiar Scripture in Ezekiel first:
30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.
31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 22.30-31, KJV)
Now what the passage says is that no-one stood in the gap to stop God destroying the land, so He destroyed it with wrath. It is interesting to think that if you take these verses at face-value that God needs someone to stop Him destroying the land – He must find a person in the world to stop Him? If God does not want to destroy the land and God is the destroyer, why not just not destroy it? Maybe the answer is not what it first appears.
If we understand that in Hebrew what looks like causative language in English is very often what we would cause permissive language, then we can understand this Scripture and similar ones better. God is letting the destruction happen, because people choose darkness, but God is not causing the destruction, God is not the destroyer, God is love. God is just like Jesus.
How exactly was the destruction coming in the days of Ezekiel? To find out, just go back one chapter and read Eze. 21.31: “I will pour out my wrath upon thee, and I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath… and deliver you into the hand of brutish men and skilful to destroy”. God is not destroying – the brutish men are destroying, because the people of God chose the brutish men over God!
When you turn your back on God and push Him out of your life, then He is not there to protect and deliver you from the brutish elements of this world. God is not the destroyer, and you need to realize it.
Isaiah 34.2 backs this up by telling us that people who the Lord destroys are delivered over to other armies to be slaughtered. The Lord was not the destroyer, but the people rejected God and there was therefore no protection from the armies. The word “deliver” comes from the Hebrew word “nathan” which means to permit. God permitted it, because He loves us so much He will never force Himself on us, but He is not the destroyer. When we turn our back on God and reject Him, God withdraws His grace and lets the sinner walk into their own selfish behaviour and the consequences of it. God did not harden Pharoah’s heart – He allowed it to be hardened. If we are obstinate before God He will allow us to walk wherever we want into whatever we want.
God permitting a nation to be invaded by another nation is what the Scriptures are referring to and talking about when God “destroys” a nation. In the Hebrew language, it looks like it is saying “God destroys a nation”, but the truth is that God is not destroying anything, He is allowing it to take place by not forcing His protection and love onto an individual or community that is clearly rejecting His love and Him.
This is why in Ezekiel God was looking for a man to legally invite Him into the earth and stop the destruction. His will is not destruction, He doesn’t want destruction, He is not the destroyer. He is looking for someone to pray and turn to Him so He can show love that is genuine love and not coercion and save people. If no one stands in the gap, then God has no choice but to allow it – He must permit what we permit (Matt. 18.18-20).
This is so important we grasp this, and Eze. 22.31 actually says “their own way have I recompensed upon their heads”. People went their own way, and recompense here is the same Hebrew word “nathan” – God is allowing – not bringing – destruction. Satan is the destroyer.
Satan is the Destroyer
Satan is real and he is a destroyer. Satan does not work for God, because God does not destroy, and satan does. There is no developed information on satan in the Old Testament, he is only mentioned six times, and most of them are in Job. So, we sometimes do not realize his role in a destruction. But he is the same satan in the Old as he is in the New: the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. He came to destroy Job. Why? He was annoyed how much praise Job gave God, and was envious and jealous.
God removed His protection because Job was pushing God away, through fear. Satan attacked Job, not God. Satan destroyed Job’s family and businesses and health, not God.
But Job did not know that – Job had never read Job, Job had never read John 10.10, he did not have a Bible. So Job assumed God gave and God took away, but it is just not true. Every good gift is from God, and His giving is without repentance – so therefore, He does not give and take away. He gives and does not take away. When satan destroys Job with a natural disaster, Job calls it the fire of God. People still make the same mistake today, and ascribe the work of God to satan! Satan destroyed Job’s property, but the people called it the fire of God. Even today, if you get insurance they talk about natural disasters as acts of God. No they are acts of satan! God is still being blamed for things He did not do.
Now while there is no excuse for a born-again Christian who has a Bible for blaming God for destruction, but let us not be too hard on the people of Job’s day who knew nothing of satan. God says that satan moved Him to destroy Job without cause (Job 2.3) but God’s only part to play was to not protect Job and allowed satan to destroy. The NLT realizes this and translates Job 2.3 as “I allowed you to go against him”, and labels satan as the destroyer. This is how we need to interpret every time we see God labelled as the destroyer in Scripture – in the Old Testament and in the book of Revelation.
In the book of Revelation, we find out the four creatures are holding back the wind. They are actively working for God in holding back destruction (Revelation 7.1-3). They are holding back the winds of destruction and stopping them from blowing. The angel tells them not to hurt the earth until God’s servants are sealed. How would these angels hurt the earth? Not by getting in there and destroying – but by releasing their restraint of destruction and allowing the wind to do the destruction it would have always done had they not been there.
God does not engage in destruction, He is not the destroyer. When we read Biblical langauge attributing destruction to God, we need to utilize this principle and understand what is actually happening: God is being ascribed actions that He has only stood back and let happen due to his respect and love for humans and His refusal to force His way into them. In further posts, I will show how this is true throughout Scripture. Every disaster ascribed to God is actually caused by the evil duo sin and satan, and it is unrepentant sin that drives out God from situations that leads to satan and death rushing in to destroy. God is not the destroyer.