As a Christian, I would be the first to admit that some of what I read in the Old Testament (OT) makes me uncomfortable. There are things in the Bible that offend my 20th Century sensibilities. Yet we must look at the context of that command and understand it in its historical setting.
In the instances where Israel was commanded to wipe out an entire population, that command resulted from the evil that was being practiced by the soon to be conquered people. One of the most detestable practices was that of child sacrifice. God chose to eradicate the people to contain the evil.
On the other hand, another argument against belief in God is based on God’s apparent inability to contain or eliminate evil. People struggle with seeing the love of God when bad things have happened in their own lives or in the lives of others. The question is framed something like this: “how do you expect me to believe in a God that would allow the Holocaust to take place?”
But we cannot have it both ways. We cannot on the one hand complain when God steps in to eliminate evil and then complain when he does not. We cannot be the final arbiter of determining the justice (or lack thereof) of God.
The original attack on God’s credibility came in Genesis 3 when Satan asked the question of Eve, “did God really say?” There is always a danger when we assume the authority to stand in judgment of God.
God created humans as moral agents with the ability to choose well or choose badly. That ability to choose has not been rescinded and we get it wrong much of the time. If God changed the world so that none of us could choose to do wrong, we would all then become automatons.
The fact is that I choose badly every day. There is not a day that goes by where I do not have an inappropriate thought, say something that is hurtful to others or fail in some other way.
This does not eliminate the so-called “problem of evil.” We will never fully understand how the justice and love of God can be simultaneously if effect. Depending on our point of view, we will often be uncomfortable with what God allows or doesn’t allow.
So the question then becomes, am I willing to allow God to vanquish the evil in my own heart? Am I willing to admit my own finitude? Am I willing to worship a God who sometimes makes me uncomfortable? Am I willing to allow God to be the judge and trust that he will get it right?