There are some people who are of the opinion that the mistakes and sins of the prophets of old should not be preached about or spoken of, especially at the hearing of those who don’t believe the Word. I find it crucial that we talk about it.
The first question I’ll be tackling in this series is: Why did these people speak like this?
Take another look at the verses I mentioned in the previous post:
“Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.” – Psalm 139:21-22 NASB
“How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” – Psalm 137:9 NASB
Why did God’s people ever speak like this? Shortly and simply: because they are human beings, just like me and you, who sometimes slipped.
There is absolutely no point in justifying the words or explaining them away. The people who wrote the Psalms and the prophets we read about in the Bible were not perfect people and we are reminded of that continually.
Some may wish that David never slipped or Abraham never lied or Job never doubted or John the Baptist never questioned but the reality is that they did.
Others may wish that verses like those above weren’t ever recorded, but they were. What we should be focusing on are the more important questions; as an example, does that mean that they were violent people? According to the Bible records, we have to say no.
Using David, again, as an example, we have an account of an opportunity he had when he could exact his vengeance on someone who was after his life. King Saul wanted David dead. In a long chase after David, King Saul takes a rest and David finds himself in a position where he can get rid of Saul once and for all. Instead, he is forgiving and tears a piece of Saul’s robe as proof of what he could have done. That alone burdens his heart with guilt.
Can you believe that the same person who wrote about this strong and violent hatred can be forgiving and merciful or even be so sensitive?
What about the sons of Korah? Can you believe that the ones who wrote Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God…”, and many others, also wrote the violent words concerning the crushing of children against rocks?
We can possibly excuse it and say, “This was the Old Testament” but we’d be making a grave mistake. Does the God of the Old Testament condone hatred but then change His mind in the New Testament? To say that, we would have to dismiss the whole book of Jonah that speaks about a prophet who was so angry with God because of His patience and grace. Read his words,
Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
– Jonah 4:2 NASB
In fact, so much of the Old Testament is put aside because we don’t understand it.
You see, when David, or the Sons of Korah, or others like them, were under oppression or were fleeing for their life, they were afraid, some even angry towards their oppressors. They allowed their situations to govern their choices.
However, when those same people were granted the power to do as they had wished, their response was that of forgiveness and mercy and love. When David finds out that there is still a descendant of King Saul alive, he deals with him in the most respectful and loving manner. Read about King David and Mephibosheth.
We look at the Old Testament and cringe at some of the things we read. What we should do is look into our own hearts. Have you ever spoken to a Mexican about the Spaniards? Or a Palestinian about Israelis? An Armenian about the Turks?
We are far more ruthless than using mere words of anger; we don’t only hate with utmost hatred, we hold grudges, we build stereotypes, we rouse others and build hatred in them also.
Why did people in the Bible speak words like the ones we read? Because despite their commitment to God, they still sometimes fell. They were afraid and they got angry; but when they could carry out their terrible judgments, they held back. I am not condoning the language used, but I do hope that even if we are ever hurt by anyone that we are willing to be forgiving and merciful when called to step up to the plate.