atonement, authority of the believer, biblical scholarship, blood covenant, calamity, calvinism, christianity, church, death, faith, God's will, Jesus Christ, religion, sickness, sovereignty of God, spiritual authority, theology
In my last post, I began making the case that the God of the Bible does not go around killing people, inflicting them with diseases, or causing disasters.
Many people would contest this claim, asking, “Well, what about the Old Testament?”
Whole books have been written about this; I’m not going to delve into the subject in near that kind of depth because the answers aren’t that complicated once you understand some principles from Scripture. It was once said that, “The Bible is shallow enough for the simple to come and drink and deep enough for theologians to drown in.” I’m going to approach this question from the shallow end of the pool. 🙂
The principles in play here are the following:
- The concept of “blood covenant”
- Spiritual authority
- The integrity of God’s Word and His promises
- The roles of Satan and human free will
We’ll start here with blood covenants.
What is a Blood Covenant?
The concept of blood covenant is both ancient and 100% biblical. There are many examples of people entering in covenant relationships with one another in the Old Testament. The covenant between the soon-to-be-king David and Saul’s son Jonathan is but one that comes to mind.
By far the single most important covenant relationship in the OT is the one between God and Abraham. Why? It is this covenant that forms the very foundation for our redemption in the finished work of Jesus Christ centuries later.
The details of how covenants were established is not the important factor here — the results and benefits of entering into a covenant is. When two people entered into covenant with one another, each was pledging that all their own goods, family, and wealth were at the complete disposal of the other party and to each party’s descendants forever. We see this echoed in the marriage covenant to this day: all the earthly goods of the husband and wife become mutual (community) property — at least in most states and in the absence of a pre-nup, that is!
When God entered into covenant with Abraham, He was saying to Abraham, “Everything I have is yours extending to your descendants in perpetuity,” and Abraham was saying to God, “Everything I have and that my descendants will ever have — including our very lives — is Yours in perpetuity.”
Abraham & Isaac at Mt. Moriah
And so we approach a story in the OT where many people — quite a few of them theologians, I might add — simply can’t get it right: the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him. I have heard more cockamamie, half-baked nonsense about this one story than any other passage in the entire Bible, other than the entire book of Job!
To establish some context, we find the account of God initiating His relationship with Abraham (Abram at the time) in Genesis 12, His establishment of a covenant relationship with Abraham in chapter 17, and this specific story in chapter 22.
Notice in the story that Abraham didn’t quibble with God about the issue — he simply packed up his son and their accoutrements and headed off for Mt. Moriah. Why? Because he knew the requirements of a covenant.
We know what then happened: as Abraham’s knife was descending to kill his son, the Lord stayed his hand and told him that his willingness alone was sufficient to prove his faith in and obedience to the Lord. In this way, Abraham demonstrated that he was willing to sacrifice his beloved son of God’s promise for his covenant partner, God. This event, standing alone, has no historical context and therefore means nothing, thus explaining why so many scholars — especially Jewish ones — come up with such ridiculous interpretations for it.
God Closes the Loop
This event’s historical context and true significance surfaces about 2 millenia later where God repaid that willingness in kind by actually sacrificing His only Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross — interestingly enough, in that same location, give or take a few yards — and thereby purchase the redemption of Abraham’s descendants (the Jews) as well as all mankind who would accept His gift by faith.
That is why Christianity honors Abraham as the “father of our faith.”
God’s Judgment on OT Heathen
The other nations of that era didn’t have a covenant with the Almighty. They were idol worshippers bowing down to the likes of Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, and the like. Much of their worship included all sorts of sexual misbehavior and perversions, including temple prostitution, homosexuality, and bestiality (sex with animals). Worshippers of Molech burned babies alive as part of their rituals. Nowadays, unintentional disciples of that same demon perform abortions, but that is a subject for another thread (not now, Cato, now is NOT the time!).
By the time the Israelites entered the Promised Land after being delivered from Egyptian bondage, many of these city-states had been given over to such practices for so long that the entire population had become infected with venereal diseases — including the animals! So to prevent the spread of these diseases and the practices that perpetuated them into the His people, God commanded the Israelites to destroy these cities and kill every man, woman, child, and animal to stamp out every vestige of their practices and the results of those practices.
Thus, at stroke, God executed judgment upon those nations for their false religions and perverse sexual behaviors, as well as preventing these practices and their public-health-disaster consequences from infecting His people.
Next post, we’ll discuss the downside to blood covenants: the consequences of breaking one.
Thanks for reading!