What is God Capable Of?

I was driving down the road one morning listening to our local radio station, when one of the hosts took me by surprise. I can’t quite remember what the news story was that got the discussion going, but it had something to do with people tossing children into the air. It was some sort of Eastern religion as I recall. Whatever the specific story, I remember the Christian radio host saying, “Whenever you have religion mixed with children being hurt, you know God is not in it.”

I’m about to walk a dangerous, though Biblical, line. I absolutely cringe whenever I hear someone say, “God is loving, he’s not capable of doing anything like that.” Let me ask a very serious question: What is the God of the Bible capable of? What if the God of the Bible is capable of doing things that we openly deny he is capable of? What does it say about our view of who God is?

In this study I’m going to reveal what I consider to be the most ghastly thing attributed to God in all of Scripture. As I do this, I want you to honestly consider whether or not your conception of God is really capable of such an action.

When Mothers Eat Their Children

Back in 2010, I wrote an article entitled “Children for Breakfast.” In that post, I examined a number of passages that reference the siege of Jerusalem and, in particular, the sickening fact that women were starved to the point of eating their own children.

I want you to read all of the following passages. As you do, ask yourself whether or not you can comfortably attribute these atrocities to the God you love and serve.

You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters
-Leviticus 26:29

The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.”
-Deuteronomy 28:56, 57

See, O LORD, and consider! To whom have You done this? Should the women eat their offspring, The children they have cuddled? Should the priest and prophet be slain In the sanctuary of the Lord?
-Lamentations 2:20

The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people.
-Lamentations 4:10

You know what’s most bothersome about these passages? I mean, other than the obvious horror of what’s being described? What’s disturbing is that these atrocities are attributed to God. I’m guessing most will recoil at this thought. Notice the context of the passages I’ve just cited. The first two are from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. God is laying forth the Law and warning the Israelites of what he will do if they do not remain faithful to him. Lamentations comes after the fulfillment of all that God had said he would do.

If there was any question as to God’s roll in all of this, the context of all of these passages actually answers the question. Take a moment and read the verses surrounding Leviticus 26:29. God says over and over, “I will, I will, I will.” Check out Deuteronomy 28:58 which is the very next verse after two quoted above. God says he will do this so that they will fear the glorious and awesome name of the Lord. Notice Lamentations 2:21,”You have slain them in the day of Your anger, You have slaughtered and not pitied.” Finally, note Lamentations 4:11 which says, “The LORD has fulfilled His fury, He has poured out His fierce anger.”

So let me ask the question again: Is the God you serve capable of doing something like this?

Should We Talk About It?

I remember pouring over commentaries to find some sort of explanation on how to deal with these extremely difficult sorts of passages. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I stumbled across this comment from Adam Clarke,

“From these horrible scenes it is well to pass with as hasty a step as possible.”
–Adam Clarke

I disagree completely with Adam Clarke on this. If we are going to love and serve the God of the Bible, we had better be able to come to grips with the God of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Lamentations. I’m going to share an extended quote from the article I referenced above because it applies directly here.

I think the Church needs to take some time and discover the God of the Bible. We have created, worshiped, and preached a God who loves unconditionally, winks at sin, and loves the sinner and hates the sin. We have heralded grace, mercy, and love and in the process failed to herald the Holy God of the Scriptures. We have, as Clarke advises, passed by hastily these horrible scenes of the Scriptures, to our own detriment.
–Jeremy Lundmark

Frankly, I don’t want anyone to walk away from these horrible scenes until they can say unreservedly, “Praise be unto his glorious name.” If you can’t do that, if you can’t praise this God, you are not worshiping the God of the Bible. How dare any of us hastily pass by any part of God’s precious Word? No, we must say “Yeah and amen” or “Good riddance” to this God.

The God of the Bible or Your Idol?

This point in my book, the Fury of God, is meant to draw a hard line in the theological concrete. It is intended to provoke people with false conceptions of deity to anger and irritation. It is intended to separate the real from the fake, and the nominal from the genuine. I want people to show their true colors. I want them to either affirm or deny this God.

It’s one thing to not understand the God of the Bible; it’s another thing to reject God as He is revealed in Scripture. This IS the God of the Bible. IF you reject this God, you reject Jesus Christ who claimed to be one with this God, who came to do the will of this God, and who died on a cross to save us from the wrath of this God… If the God you believe in, and the Christ you trust in, is not the God of Jeremiah’s Lamentations, it is another god. If it is not the God of the Bible, then it is likely a god of your own making. (Fury of God, 168)

The God of Lamentations is a God that nobody wants anything to do with in our day. The problem is that the God of Lamentations IS the God of the Bible. Are you following the God of Scripture or an idol you pieced together from a few passages in the New Testament?

How Should This Make Us Feel?

I want to close with something that will help add some perspective. As you’re reading this you may be thinking, “I believe in this God, but it’s still seriously messed up! I’m not sure I understand this.” That’s a fine position to be in and I think Lamentations helps us with this,

This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.“The LORDis my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!
-Lamentations 3:21-25

Jeremiah lived through these events. If you take the time to read Lamentations you’ll see how truly disturbed he was by all that God was doing. And yet, even as he was in the midst of all this, he still hopes in the Lord. He recognized that all this had come upon them because of their disobedience. In fact, Jeremiah was one of the key prophets that the people ignored which led them to this horrific place in their history.

Consider this: If Jeremiah, who was living through these events, could come to grips with this God, shouldn’t we be able to? Jeremiah, even in the midst of all this judgement could still see the goodness, compassion, and mercy of God. He had a balanced view of God at one of the most imbalanced moments of Israel’s history. Fellow Believers, we need to heed Jeremiah’s example and praise God not only for his love, compassion and mercy, but also acknowledge his holiness, justice, and judgement.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Have you ever studied the Book of Lamentations?
  2. Do you think God might still judge like this today?
  3. Does the God of Lamentations fit your conception of God?
  4. Are you Comfortable affirming that God did these things? Why or why not?

Photo by Lk Luka via Flickr