Recently our Gospel Transformation study was reading in the book of I Samuel where we came across an incident that raised some serious concerns about God and His goodness. In I Samuel 15 God commands Saul, King of Israel, to utterly destroy the Amalekites because of their treatment of the people of Israel on their way into the promised land. The Lord says to Saul, “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (I Samuel 15:3).
Several years ago my daughter, Hannah, and I also struggled with this command. Can you guess what upset Hannah in this verse? Our conversation that followed went something like this: She said to me, “But I thought that Jesus loved little children. Why would God command that children and babies be killed?”
How do you answer? You can only say, “Go and ask your mother” so many times. “You should ask the pastor” wasn’t going to work for me either. So I thought for a moment, and I prayed that Jesus might give me words to help Hannah to understand. Then I said, “Just because God kills you, does not mean that He doesn’t love you.”** Hannah looked more than a little confused by this statement, so I asked, “Who has God loved with an infinite love from all eternity?” She knew the answer to this question; “Jesus,” she said.
“That’s right,” I replied, “God has always loved and delighted in His one and only Son with a love that can never be measured. But let me ask you this, what did God do to His one and only Son whom He loves with an infinite love?”
She wrinkled her brow and pondered for a moment and then it came to her, “God killed His Son.”
She was right. God killed His Son. Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the will of God to crush him; he has put him to grief.” On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter proclaimed that “Jesus [was] delivered up [to be killed] according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The Father who loves the Son willed to crush Him, to deliver Him over for crucifixion. Just because God kills you, does not mean that He doesn’t love you. Jesus above all others shows us this.
It is a hope-giving truth for 7 year-olds and 37 year-olds and 87 year-olds. One day we know that we will die, that God will take our lives. It may be by cancer or car accident; it may be a heart attack or a bomb in Iraq. Unless Jesus returns first, we will all die. But the fact that God will kill us one day does not mean that He doesn’t love us.
No, what it means is that there is something that is infinitely worse than death and something that is infinitely better than earthly life. We often think of death as the worst thing that could happen to someone, but we know it is not. Hell is the worst thing. To spend eternity away from the presence of the Lord and all that is good, is horror beyond imagining. To spend eternity in the presence of God, seeing Jesus face to face, knowing Him as we have been known, is joy unspeakable. Life in God’s presence will make this life (and our death) seem almost as nothing, compared to what is in store for those who know and love Jesus.
Let us join with the apostle Paul and say, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Let us add our voices to Job’s and proclaim, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). Let us remember that God loves us, and therefore “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Amen. Just because God kills you does not mean that He doesn’t love you.
**But did God love these infants and children of the Amalekites? As I stated, just because God kills you does not mean that He doesn’t love you; but the fact that God kills you does not mean that He does love you. Did God love these pagan children? For some the answer would be that all children who die before the age of accountability (whatever that age may be) are elect children and will go to heaven. Thus God did love these children. Rather than have them grow up as pagans and be lost eternally, He brought them to Himself. This may be.
One might also consider that even if these children were not saved, it may have been more loving of God to take their lives at an early age than to allow them to grow up. Why? Because as they grew older, walking in rebellion to God, their sin and guilt before God would have been compounded, and thus their degree of eternal punishment would have been much worse (see Luke 12:47-48; 20:47; Matthew 11:22).