by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: I Samuel 15:1-9
I. Some questions, by their very nature are difficult topics to take up. The things discussed make us queasy.
A. Yet, you will find that those opposed to Christianity will often attack with these same topics for the very reason that they know it makes you uncomfortable.
B. I Peter 3:15 - Need to be able to explain
C. Jude 3 - Need to be able to contend for the faith
D. One avenue of undermining faith is to find what appears to be conflicts, especially moral conflicts because most people have a hard time wrestling with them.
E. One such question raised by atheists is in regards to God ordering the death of children, such as found in our Scripture reading.
1. Children are innocent, so why would God order their deaths?
II. Before answering, let me point out that the atheist asking is insincere
A. An atheist doesn’t believe in God, nor in any absolute moral code.
B. Atheism has long supported the killing of children in the form of abortion. They justify the destruction of “unwanted” children for convenience.
1. Therefore to claim that God is unjust for ordering what they think is morally correct is an insincere position.
C. Second, to claim that the killing of children is wrong is an appeal to a moral code. This undermines their own belief that morality is relative. You can’t have it both ways.
D. Finally, as soon as the phrase “innocent children” is used, they are admitting the existence of not only a moral code, but also that there is sin in the world and adults are responsible for their moral choices.
III. People die
A. Keep in mind that this particular argument is selected for its emotional charge
1. It is the death of babies
2. It is by the sword
3. The reason is to get people upset - James 1:20
4. So the answer to ignore the emotions and look at the problem.
B. There is an assumption that we have the right to live and that God doesn’t have the right to take away life
1. Ezekiel 18:4 - God has the right of ownership. We only exist because God made us.
2. Death exists because man violated God’s command and let death in with his sin - Genesis 2:17
3. We continue to deal with death to this day as a result - Hebrews 9:27
C. If God cannot take life, then all deaths would be wrong, not just the deaths of children.
1. Yet, we accept the fact that everyone dies: the elderly, the middle-aged, and the young.
2. Death goes on until Jesus conquers it - I Corinthians 15:25-26
3. Death isn’t a punishment in itself. Rather, we should see that it is noteworthy that God has allowed us to live to this point - II Peter 3:9
4. God doesn’t want the wicked to die because it ends the hope of repentance - Ezekiel 18:21-23
D. In this world, people die. What God offers is real life - John 10:10
IV. Sin is contagious and must be controlled
A. Consider the world before the flood - Genesis 6:5-6
1. God destruction of the world was not arbitrary or done in a fit of rage.
2. As bad as mankind became, God gave them 120 years to change - Genesis 6:3
3. Noah preached to change the world - II Peter 2:4-9
4. People were offered salvation. They did not have to die.
5. Why did children die in the flood? Because their evil parents did not believe God.
a. Despite the parents’ bad choices, God doesn’t hold those choices against the children
b. They will have eternal life despite their parents’ sins.
B. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah - Genesis 18:20-21
1. Children lived in those cities
2. Abraham knew God would do something about Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin.
a. God wasn’t lashing out emotionally.
b. He told Abraham He was checking it out before delivering judgment
3. Abraham asked that the innocent be spared and eventually asked that the cities be spared if just ten righteous people could be found
a. Ten isn’t a very large number if you consider the population of several major cities.
4. Though ten were not found, Lot, his wife, and two of his daughters were rescued.
a. Lot delivered a warning that night, but no one would listen
b. Let’s be blunt: it was the refusal of the evil to listen that resulted in the death of their children.
C. Nineveh illustrates the opposite
1. God decided to destroy the city and the evil within it.
2. He sent Jonah to warn the people they had 40 days - Jonah 3:4
3. But they repented and God did not destroy the city - Jonah 3:10
4. These people saved themselves and their children by changing.
D. So what about the people of Canaan?
1. God told Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan, but they would have to wait 400 years. Why? - Genesis 15:16
2. It wasn’t because Israel was so deserving of the land, but God was accomplishing two things at once. He was removing a sin-ridden people and fulfilling a promise to Abraham - Deuteronomy 9:4-5
3. Even with these nations, God gave them the opportunity to flee - Deuteronomy 4:37-38
a. A reason for their destruction was their refusal to take the lose of their land as punishment for their sins.
V. The Canaanites were not good people and were not getting better
A. God lists out some of the sins in Canaan - Leviticus 18:20-23
1. Notice that among them was the fact that they were killing their own children
B. It was so disgusting that everyone involved had to be destroyed or the sin would continue to spread - Leviticus 18:24-25; Deuteronomy 12:29-31
C. God did not want the Israelites profiting from the evil of others. That is why the possessions where destroyed along with the people
D. What about the children, could they not be saved?
1. If only the adults and older children who already were learning the evil were destroyed, who would care for the children?
2. Which is a crueler death, instant death by the sword or starvation?
3. If the Israelites took the children in, then they would be profiting from the evil – extra hands on farms, or perhaps slaves
4. It was important for all to see that this destruction was not for Israel’s benefit; it was because of the Canaanites’ sins.
E. God chose to destroy the adults and bring the children home to Him
1. Of all involved, the children received the greatest mercy because if they grew up in that culture, they would have died in their sins.
2. They were spared the fate of their parents, just like Israel - Deuteronomy 1:39
3. But like Israel, the child suffered for their parents’ sins - Numbers 14:33
VI. The Canaanites did not have to die
A. Rahab showed that God accepted those who changed
B. She and her family were not a part of the destruction of Jericho because Rahab acknowledged God and His justice - Joshua 2:8-13
1. Notice that the people of Canaan had both advance warning and encouragement to flee, but they didn’t
2. But like Rahab, they could have changed, but they didn’t
C. It was their sins and their stubbornness that led to the destruction of themselves and their children
VII. Such destructions were rare
A. We forget that the Bible covers thousands of years of history. Only significant events are mentioned.
1. Yet it is easy to think that when we read one destruction after another that it was constant.
2. What we should note is that it was rare. It only happened with sin got really out of control.
3. Even then God gave those destined for destruction a chance to repent, and in some cases a chance to escape death.
B. Let’s put the responsibility where it belongs
1. It was the choices made by adult sinners who tried to call God’s “bluff” and found to their dismay that God doesn’t bluff.
2. It was their choice that led to the death of the entire group, including their children (whom some were already killing their own).