Many people seem to struggle with reconciling these two verses: “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8 “and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” Deuteronomy 7:2
For some, this doesn’t seem consistent with their understanding of a loving God. However, the problem isn’t that there is a contradiction between God being a God of justice and mercy. The problem is that people fail to recognize that justice is mercy. The story in the Bible regarding how God dealt with Sodom proves this very point.
“Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them; Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’ ‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. ‘This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’ They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door…With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’
When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city; for the Lord was merciful to them… But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt…He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.’ That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, ‘Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.’ So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him.
Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.” Genesis 19:4-36
God spared Lot and his daughters and what happened? The same sort of evil the men in the city that God had just destroyed were guilty of encouraging each other to gang up on someone to commit what we would call rape. While the men of the city seemed determined to rape Lot’s visitors by breaking down the door, Lot’s daughters seemed willing to committee the same crime of nonconsensual sex by breaking Lot’s ability to consent by intoxication. So the evil still continued even if the methods changed. Though he may have been more righteous that most living in Sodom, the father didn’t seem to have crystal clear morals either by offering his daughters to random perverted men whatever his reasoning may have been. Trying to force someone into sin to spare another from sin is still sin. And Lot’s wife, despite having the opportunity to be spared, was still willing to look back toward her old life. This is exactly why in some cases evil doers must be wiped out. Society’s perception of right and wrong can become so corrupted that if spared punishment they would continue to sin and try to justify it (and some rationalize the same sins today which is a an indication that God is not going to allow this world to last much longer).
Evil is why the Bible said, “But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 20:16-18 “But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord.” Isaiah 26:10
When people criticize God’s strict dealings with people and destruction of cities as unloving all it proves is that they are the ones who don’t know what loving is. It is not merciful to the victims or the offenders for God to turn a blind eye to sin and leave rape, murder, or any other wickedness unpunished so offenders can continue to bring suffering and sorrow to others and degrade themselves and others by promoting new depths of sin. Justice is a display of mercy toward people-it is not any less loving. And God in His mercy gave us an example of this so we could trust His love and not forget why sin must be destroyed even if to do so destruction includes the sinner. God doesn’t want to destroy people. “Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?'” Ezekiel 33:11
God would much rather save everyone, but He understands that to be able to save some those who are unwilling to change and are determined to hold onto sin must be destroyed with it so evil will not spread. That is why not everyone will be allowed into the new world. God will prepare eternal life for people to enjoy. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Isaiah 65:17 “For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” Psalm 37:9-11 With the final destruction of the wicked we can know “The Lord is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.” (Psalm 129:4) We can have confidence in God’s love for us.
Picture originally found here