One of the favourite accusations against God is a law in ancient Israel: stone a rebellious son who will not obey his parents.1 It sounds cruel, very cruelChristians are frequently asked why they cling to such a tyrannical God?
This particular law was part of a very specific agreement (covenant) between God and the Israelites. There is nobody who lives on earth today that has that covenant with God. It was replaced by the New Covenant in Jesus.
So why did God originally make a covenant with the Israelites? As Owner of the universe, God wants moral people to live in safety and happiness, without fear and harm. The Bible teaches that the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) is eternal. They always existed in peace, love and harmony. We call it the Trinitarian Love Relationship. That is God’s goal: that all people will love Him and their neighbours, in a productive, peaceful, society not hindered by violence and hate.
The covenant laws with old Israel affected most areas of relationships: God and man, marriage, family and society. Compare it to an ideal country—a president or leader with no skeletons in his cupboard. He is honest and loves and cares for his people. That means he makes laws for their benefit. The nation obeys the laws and the people love their leader and their neighbours. So there are no murders, rapes, child abuse, divorce, thefts or pornography. Who wouldn’t like that? It will be glorious and liberating with no jails or pain. People will be happy, carefree and productive.
That is what God intended for the Israelites: He as the perfect Leader and they the model nation. That included the command to remove the rebellious son, so that his rebellion would not spread. The Israelites failed and were eventually exiled for breaking the terms of the covenant. It illustrated that people cannot live up to God’s standards, but He promised a solution, ‘The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.’2
The New Covenant was with Jesus. He would change the hearts of people who accept His death on their behalf. He would make it possible for them to obey and love God (with the Holy Spirit to help, teach and guide them). Jesus opened the way to the Trinitarian Love Relationship, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’3
Why do atheists and skeptics question the old covenant with Israel to convince us that God is cruel and vindictive? That covenant applies to no one living on this planet today. They have to convince themselves that God is a terrible cosmic tyrant. That gives them a hypothetical reason to reject Him.
Conclusion: God’s law in the Old Testament doesn’t apply to anyone living today. The Israelites failed to live as God wanted them to (the Old Testament), but He sent Jesus to gather a people for Himself. So at the end, God will have His very own nation, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.‘4
Question? God’s old covenant with Israel revolved around the Tabernacle and later the Temple where animals were sacrificed. If that old covenant with Israel still stands, why is there no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem today?
- Deuteronomy 21:18-21
- Jeremiah 31:31
- Mark 12:30-31
- Revelation 21:3