If you sit down to read the Old Testament, you’re very likely to come across some events that are profoundly disturbing. There are instances where God commands Israel to wipe out whole cities—men, women, children, and animals. And it is not easy to reconcile these events with what we otherwise know about the nature of God.
People make two big mistakes when they tackle this issue. They try to justify God or they condemn God for allowing bad things to happen. As to the first error, God is sovereign and can do as he wishes. My task is not to justify God, but to understand and know him. As to the second error, this arises from the human desire to have our cake and eat it too. We want to be free to live our lives as we choose without anything bad happening to us.
But the freedom to live our lives as we choose means that we each have the freedom to harm one another—which we often do. The presence of evil in the world is relatively easy to understand. Man is free. Man commits sin. When we commit sin, bad things happen. And if God is just, then he cannot let evil deeds go unpunished. What can we know of God’s sense of judgement and justice?