Incarnation of God in the Violence of Israel

incarnation of godThe death of Jesus on the cross is the pinnacle and apex of the incarnation. It is His most triumphal moment. Which of us would seek to take it from Him and say, “No, no! Jesus! You cannot die a criminal’s death! You are innocent! That is only for guilty people. You must live! You must rule! You must reign! You must act like God!”

In response, as Jesus dies, He says, “I am acting like God. Don’t you see? This is what God has been doing all along!”

But we won’t allow it. We try to take away God’s most triumphant moment. By explaining away the violent portrayals of God in the Old Testament, or by calling such evil actions as “good,” we are trying to get God down off the cross.

We tell Him, “Even though You look terribly guilty in the Old Testament, we are going to call ‘good’ all those bad things You claim to have done. All that genocide and murder which would be monstrous from any person and any other god, we are going to name as ‘righteous’ and ‘holy’ because it’s from You.”

We won’t let God do what He wants to do. We won’t let Him get up on the cross. We won’t let Him incarnate Himself into the sinful affairs of mankind and so destroy His righteousness, dignity, and power. We won’t let Him appear guilty. We brush the sin and shame under the carpet. We wash the blood off of His hands and feet and side.

And how does God respond to our feeble attempts at cleaning up His tarnished image? He says,

Why do you think I made it so obvious that I was the one commanding genocide, war, and murder? I want to appear guilty! I want to take the blame! But more than that, I don’t want you to think that such behavior is ever good, is ever holy, or is ever righteous! That’s twisted!

In what universe is genocide and murder ever good? Not in any universe I created! The only universe where such things are good is the perverted, imaginary, nightmarish universe that exists only within Satan’s mind. And he is lying to you, and telling you that since I did it, these are good, and so if you want to do this too in my name, then murder and genocide and war can also be good.

Don’t fall for that trap! The reason I did what I did in the Old Testament is to expose that lie and lay bare that trap! The reason Jesus came was to make it crystal clear what kind of God I am!

I am love. I am grace. I am mercy. I am forgiving. I am long-suffering. I am patient. I am kind. Please, please, for your own sake, look at Jesus. Look at Jesus and see Me!

This is what Jesus was saying all along: “Look at Me! I will show you what God is like!” And we know that Jesus was not guilty, even though by all outward appearances, He looked exactly like a guilty criminal dying on a God-forsaken cross. But this is the incarnation. As we saw earlier from Philippians 2, it is this aspect of the incarnation—the death of Jesus on the cross—where Jesus most fully reveals God to us.

It is there that He looks guilty, that He was despised and rejected by men, that He died a criminal’s death, and took His place among the wicked. But He was not guilty of any crime. He simply took the sins of the world upon Himself so that He could conquer over sin, death, and the devil by bearing them all into the grave.

So also with God! God incarnated Himself into the affairs of Israel (and some of the surrounding nations). As a result, He looks terribly guilty. It appears as if He has committed some of the worst crimes ever carried out in human history. He is often despised and rejected by men, and is treated as a criminal by some, and if the world could put God in trial, they would most certainly condemn Him to death for crimes against humanity. And when the sentence is read, He would nod His head in acceptance, would not say a word in His defense, and would go quietly to His death, however horrendous and terrible it might be. Why does He do this? Because this looks like Jesus!

This principle of the chaos theory is that just s Jesus incarnated Himself as a human, eventually taking on the appearance of a criminal worthy of death, so also, God incarnated Himself in the human affairs of the Israelite nation, so that He appears to be guilty of their crimes when in fact He is not.

God of the Old Testament and JesusThis post is part of my ongoing series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament. Specifically, I am trying to answer this question:

How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?

To see what I am arguing so far, click here.

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  1. Tony Papilli says

    Jeremy, is it in fact possible that God was guilty of all these things by simply just allowing men to take the evil and sinful course that they already were on and agreeing to let them do it? I have been meditating on the experience of the other eleven tribes against the tribe of Benjamin, Judges 20. God told them to “go and do it”, attack the Benjamites, with disastrous consequences. It’s interesting that God said Judah shall go first. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. Finally, the eleven tribes “offered a sacrifice”, God said to “go again and attack” and they achieved victory over the Benjamiites. It is interesting that a sacrifice was the “lynch pin” that pulled off the victory.

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