by Meredith Hicks
There is a stigma surrounding the ‘Old Testament God.’ People don’t want to talk about the God who destroyed entire cities and passed judgment down on sinners. No one puts Genesis 19:24-25 on their lock screen as inspiration: “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” In fact, people don’t even like to read it. We question, how could “all” the people truly deserve this? Why can’t God save them instead?
And, despite Pharaoh being who Pharaoh is, people don’t want to think about how the Lord hardened his heart. Exodus 9:12 reads, “And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Again, we question, why can’t God save Pharaoh? How is it fair for Him to just write Pharaoh off like this?
We like to think about God as our Father, friend, savior, not the destroyer of cities and the judge who hardens hearts. In reality, God is all of these things. He is a destroyer of cities and a judge. He is a just ruler, and what we rightly deserve is His wrath and judgment.
Sodom and Gomorrah did truly deserve destruction. They were places of power-abusing people practicing murder, theft, idolatry, sexual assault, pride, and so much more. God is almighty and has every right to pass judgment down on these places, whether it sits well with us or not.
The Lord’s judgment on Pharaoh was just and deserving. God even gave Pharaoh chance after chance to accept His sovereignty. Moses goes to Pharaoh time and time again, pleading for the Israelites to be freed, and God reveals Himself time and time again through the ten plagues. Pharaoh is steadfast and hardens his own heart toward the Lord. God then passed judgment down on Pharaoh and made final Pharaoh’s own decision out of free will to harden his heart. Who are we to question the Lord in this?
Advent is a period of waiting. During this period, it is important to remember not only God our friend but also God our King. In the midst of the cheeriness of Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and upbeat carols, we can’t forget why we have reason to be so cheerful. The Old Testament can help remind us of our sinful nature and what we rightly deserve. The Old Testament is life without Jesusーlife without the cross. While we wait for Christmas day, reflecting on these stories of Pharaoh and Sodom and Gomorrah brings us closer to a place of full gratitude for the gift of Jesus’ birth.
Matthew 1:21 states, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Through Jesus, we can receive grace and mercy. Deliverance from our sins is not what we rightly deserve; it is a free gift. We do not have to face eternal condemnation and destruction but, instead, are granted eternal life. This is grace. We have done nor do we need to do anything to deserve it.
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).
Meredith Hicks is a second year student at the University of Virginia.
This article is part of the Duke Crux X UVA Bearings 2021 Advent Series, a collaboration between the two Augustine Collective Organizations.