Have We a God of Destruction? -- By: Everett F. Harrison

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 091:361 (Jan 1934)
Article: Have We a God of Destruction?
Author: Everett F. Harrison

Have We a God of Destruction?

Everett F. Harrison

Every reader of the Old Testament must be impressed by the frequency with which the word “destroy” appears on the sacred page. For many, this spoils the Old Testament. At the very least, it means in their minds that the Old Testament must be put upon a distinctly lower level of appreciation than the New. It may even mean that the Old Testament is to be discarded, except for the nobler portions that can be salvaged because they happen to accord with New Testament emphases.

Before resorting to such drastic measures, we would do well to see if there is any reason for this aspect of the Old Covenant that will bring it into harmony with the revelation of the New, and therefore into harmony with the divine purpose as disclosed in the Bible as a whole. In Galatians, Paul contrasts Israel under the tutelage of the law with the one who has become justified by faith in Christ. The first is but an infant; the second a full-grown son. Who would think of dealing with an infant in the same fashion as with an adult? The child needs to be nourished and protected and taught before the life is strong enough to take its place in the world. It is exactly this difference which appears in the religious life of the two great dispensations. The temper of Old Testament piety is subjective and conservatory. Evil is resisted rather than overcome. There is almost no religious propaganda by the nation, for her time and strength are taken up in trying to be faithful to God and His requirements. James’ definition of religion, therefore, in keeping with the character of his book as a whole, is more truly representative of the spirit of the

Old Testament than of the New, for the ideal religious life under the gospel is much more active. It is perhaps best summarized in the word “witness,” descriptive of one who has experienced the transforming grace and power of God in order to become a channel for this message to the world. So we may say that God was at work in the old economy bringing up His children, but in the present age He has turned them loose as full-grown sons, able to live in the world and overcome it.

With this distinction in mind, we can readily understand that when God took Israel at Sinai as His chosen people, He was obliged to manifest clearly those attributes that would inspire a reverential fear and obedience. He no longer seems the mild, kindly Deity who walked and talked with the patriarchs; He is now dealing with a nation, and that nation needs discipline. And if He must be stern in His dealings with the covenant nation as regards its internal development, He must be equally rigid in guarding His people from outward corrupting influences, the abomin...

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