Again, this question is really answered in the previous two posts, [cref how-can-an-all-good-all-powerful-god-allow-disasters-like-hurrican-katrina-famines-and-war How can an all-good, all-powerful God allow disasters like hurricane Katrina, famines, and war?] and [cref how-can-an-all-good-god-tell-moses-and-joshua-to-kill-thousands-of-innocent-women-and-children] , but I want to take the opportunity to explain something very important about the Bible.
When you take something from the Bible, you must take it from the context of the entire Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, and try to understand it from the perspective of the true author, which I believe is God, so he makes his decisions thinking about all people, for all time, being immortal. So how does this effect this command?
Your question comes from the Old Testament book Deuteronomy 22: 13-30, and it is true and accurately stated. Now, what was the purpose of the Old Testament? The Old Testament or “Covenant” agreement between God and man, in its simplest form, is “I God am perfect and to be truly united with me you must be perfect. Here are the rules, follow them perfectly.” If you are going to be serious about this the results for sin must be severe because the ultimate end is eternal. But could anyone ever really keep all the laws perfectly? Of course not! There in lies the true purpose of the Old Testament. No matter how clear the rules, and how severe the punishment, none of us, absolutely no one, could keep them and be worthy of being in God’s presence. But, if God did not make every effort to be extremely clear about the reprucussions of sin, we could make the claim he was unjust. So to make his point that we cannot earn our way to heaven, God had to be willing to make extreme examples.
That is the Old Testament, but we need to see how this fits into the context of the entire Bible, so what about the New Testament?
There is a story in the John 8: 1-11 that addresses this so exactly it is almost scary! The religious leaders bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and remind him of the above passage. They ask him if she should be stoned or not. Most of us know his answer: “Let the one among you who has never sinned cast the first stone.” This contrast the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. The New Covenant basically says this: “I (God) have proven to you through the last 1,500 years of the Old Covenant that all people are hopelessly sinful no matter how hard they try or how extreme I am. Yet, I being just must not let evil go unpunished. Therefore, I will punish my own son for your sins and offer your forgiveness if you are willing to admit you need it and my son suffered for you. You in return, must be forgiving to others for you yourselves are sinners.”
For all this to make any true sense you must again be reminded of God’s perspective as stated in [cref who-is-god-and-what-are-his-characteristics Who Is God And What Are His Characteristics]. But in short summary, if you take the passage of the Bible in the context of the entire Bible, we see that we clearly are no longer supposed the stone people for adultery. Jesus changed everything.
The next logical question of course is: “So God changes over time. I thought he was always the same. It doesn’t make sense.”
Of course God doesn’t change, but humanity does. When you are a parent you may spank a 2 year old to teach them not to touch a hot stove, but do you spank your teenager? Humanity and its relationship with God matures over time. God doesn’t change, but we have changed a lot and current humans with vastly greater access to information etc. are treated much differently than God would have treated humans 2,000 years ago. I hope humanity as a whole has matured at least a little over all this time. From God’s perspective, it all makes a lot of sense.[cref logically-christian Logically Christian Home Page]