When God told the Israelites to drive out the nations in the land they were going in to possess (see Deuteronomy 7), one must understand some of the history of those cultures that God was judging through the Israelites in order to properly understand his nature.
You see, that land was occupied by twisted pagan cultures. These societies worshiped their gods by forming idols made of metal or stone.
And they did despicable and horrific things like sacrifice their children in the fire to these false gods, not to mention the other perversions that filled the land. Some of their idols were cast in such as way that the arms of the idol were stretched forward with the palms up, and in some of their worship ceremonies, they would heat up the hands to a white-hot temperature and then place their small children on the hands that had now become like two frying pans.
The children would lay there and scream in agony as they roasted to death.
It is no surprise that these practices were an abomination to God, and thus he ordered the Israelites to cleanse the land of these pagans and wipe them out completely. But one must also take into consideration that God had obviously allowed these cultures to flourish for hundreds of years prior to that point, thus demonstrating his love, mercy and patience.
And when they would not repent of their detestable practices, he had them wiped out by the people — the Israelites — who regarded his ways.
Now, one could ask, “How could a loving God wipe out entire races of people?” But one could just as easily ask, “How could a God of justice allow such horrible things such as child sacrifice to continue?”
So the answer is that because God is loving, he gave these people ample time to repent. But when his patience had run out, he then acted according to his justice. So the fact that God had these people annihilated was both an act of mercy and an act of justice.
It was an act of mercy because it prevented any more children from being roasted in the fire, and it was an act of justice because it brought judgment upon those who were carrying out these atrocities.
Some people seem to have a problem with the concept that God may choose to slay a person or groups of people. But God, as the giver of life, is the only one who has the right to both take life and to order others to take life (capital punishment). God is indeed a God of love, but he is also a God of justice.
As the creator and judge of all the universe, he has the right to do with us as he pleases, and thank God, his love, say the Scriptures, outweighs his wrath. But he is a God of wrath, no question.
Romans 11:22 declares, “Consider therefore the kindness and the severity of God; severity to those who fell, but kindness to you (the Christians being addressed), provided that you continue in his kindness (that you continue to follow him and have faith in him). Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”
Whenever people raise the objection of God being unjust because he ordered the annihilation of certain groups, they obviously do not understand how merciful and loving God was being to these societies by allowing their indescribable wickedness to go on year after year.
Yes, God is a god of love, but we must also acknowledge the other side of his nature, which is that of wrath. To focus on one at the exclusion of the other is to pervert the true nature of God.
Edinburgh’s Andy Robbins is a former worship leader and pastor of Columbus’ Blessed Life Fellowship. He can be reached at fblessedlifefellowship.org.