Remember the old chant where the worship leader would say “God is Good!” and the congregation would respond, “All the Time!” I only saw that used a few times in churches, but I wonder if anyone ever took the time to apply that to their Bible reading.
One of my favorite Biblical accounts is found in 2 Kings 2:23-25, when a bunch of unruly young boys start making fun of Elisha and calling him “Baldhead.” In a strange turn of events, Elisha pronounces a curse on the boys, and two female bears maul forty-two of the young children to death.
It’s kind of a funny story to tell to youth groups, but it’s also jam packed with some very serious questions. Atheists love this passage in the Bible. They love to say, “Would a good God send two bears to maul forty-two children?”
The short answer is, “yes.”
I know what you’re thinking, “How could this account possibly be morally good?” First, we have to deal with an inherent problem we all have. We all think we can come to the Bible, judge its morality, and determine whether it’s good or bad based on our perception of moral right and wrong. We can’t. We can’t bring a foreign morality (which I call immorality) to the Bible and judge it. If the Bible is to be judged (and it really doesn’t give mankind the authority to judge it in the first place), it’s going to have to be judged on its own morality.
Was Elisha, and subsequently God, immoral for sending two bears to maul these disrespectful little punks? Without even appealing to total depravity, or the inherent sinfulness of man, I think I can safely say “No.” Elisha wasn’t just some random dude. He represented God as THE prophet. He asked, and received, a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit. As a prophet, he represented the Word of God to the people of Israel. For these kids to mock him was to mock the very Word of God. That, in and of itself, is sufficient justification for God to kill them (as if God needs us to justify him…hilarious!).
Let me do you one better though.
Even if these kids had not made fun of Elisha’s bald head, God still would have been perfectly holy, perfectly good, and perfectly justified if he had mauled them to death with bears. In fact, they should count themselves blessed that the whole company of them were not mauled by six dozen bears.
What in the world am I talking about? Am I just Calvinist Hulk raging? No, I’m talking biblically (which, to some, may be considered Calvinist Hulk raging).
You see, the Bible says that the wages of sin is death. It also says that all have sinned. So we all are deserving of death because we are all sinners. God can kill whoever he wants, and still be completely holy, completely good, and completely righteous because everyone is already guilty of crimes deserving of death. When these kids were mauled to death by bears they were not innocent kids being treated unfairly, they were guilty kids getting their just due from a God who had allowed them breathe for far too long.
So let’s ask a very important question of this biblical account: “Why would God be good if he sent a bear to maul all of us right now?”
The first thing the Bible teaches us is that WE are broken. We are sinful. We are in desperate need of saving and we are dead set against the Word of God. When we begin evaluating the morality of the Bible we have already missed the book’s first message: We are not qualified to evaluate it. It evaluates us, and has determined that our just punishment is death.
“But That’s NOT FAIR!!!” The unbeliever protests.
Of course he would protest, he’s dead set against the Word of God, and all of mankind has been since the fall of Adam and Eve. Apart from the convicting work of the Spirit, We WILL always judge the Word as unjust, because it judges us as unjust. The Word produces a sort of Catch-22 that can only be fixed when the guilty parties—YOU and ME—repent and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of the sins we’ve committed (like judging the Word of God as immoral, for example).
So let’s see if we can all still say the old chant together:
“God is Good!”…
“ALL the Time!”
Even when he sends bears to maul forty-two youth for making fun of his prophet.