So, what's up? Well, there are some easy answers that many people quickly opt for.
- The Bible is wrong. God never did this. So forget the Bible. If you must believe in it, believe the good parts that work with your spirituality.
- The Bible is right and therefore God is crazy, angry and hates people.
Forgive me if I don't go down those roads. I try to see the Bible through the eyes of Jesus. He didn't jettison the Old Testament and I think he had a little clearer picture on things than any of us. So that leads me to believe that we must be missing something. Now, what we are missing...I'm not sure. I can only speculate. So that's what I'll do here just a bit...
- God kills people to make a point in a very barbaric culture to very barbaric people. This is a culture that killed people over a donkey. If you were going to communicate to people that you were holy and not to be messed with, how would you communicate that? With note cards? God tends to relate to people throughout history in different ways based on the context. Note how in the New Testament this only happened with Ananias and Saphira. It just happened once in a limited way...just enough to remind people of his holiness but not willing to "go there" as a regular practice.
- Judging God's actions through the eyes of our culture is impossible. We have no idea the context of the times. We can only guess. It's interesting to watch Moses have a change of heart in Exodus. God tells Moses to get down from the mountain because his people were worshipping a golden calf. God wants to wipe them out and start over. So Moses begs for their forgiveness. He even offers to die on their behalf. So God forgives them. But what does Moses do when he actually gets down to the pagan party? He gets angry enough to break the Ten Commandment tablets. My point is that even Moses had a change of heart when he saw what was really going on. He got angry just like God did. My guess is that if we were there we would see things differently.
- As I mentioned in my post below, I don't think the death of people necessitates them going to hell. God is making more of a point about himself than he is of the people. He is holy and blatant sinfulness cannot stand in his presence.
As I said, I don't really have the answer. But I think we have to be careful before we are quick to assume that the Bible is wrong or God is crazy. It is just possible that we don't see the full picture. The Bible's overall message is consistent enough that when I see something that I don't understand that I simply put a question mark by it and trust that someday things will be made clear.