Monday, February 19, 2007

The Violence of God

Joshua 10 is a disturbing chapter. The five kings of the Amorites rise up against Joshua and his invading army, to defend themselves and end this disturbance in the land. But God is on the side of Joshua, and he enables his people to rout the enemies, the Amorites have no chance.

vs8 "The LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one one of them will be able to withstand you."

vs10a "The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon."

vs11 "As [the Amorites] fled before Israel...the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites."

vs12 "On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel..." Joshua asked the LORD to still the sun for the day, so that the slaughter could be completed.

vs14 "There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a human being. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel."

As I was reading this section of Joshua, I was again re-shocked at the level of death and violence commanded by God, but also by God himself. This is uncomfortable, especially having just read through the Beatitudes of Jesus: blessed are the peacemakers.

Several things come to mind to help make sense of this:
ONE - in Genesis 15 God informs Abraham that his people will go into a foreign land for 400 years, and then they will return to the Land of Promise...for that land is currently inhabited by the Amorites, and their sin has not reached its full measure. When Abraham's people return after the 400 year absence, they will be returning as instruments of judgment. Moses makes clear in Deuteronomy 28 - if you obey me, you will be blessed, but if you act like the Amorites, you'll get their future. This story in Joshua is not one of random violence, but a judgment upon a people that have done many wicked deeds to others and their own.

TWO - this story takes place around the year 1500BC, over three-thousand and five hundred years ago, it is a story of an ancient people, a story taking place in a violent world. The actions of Israel are not out of place for their day. Kings of cities brutally enforced their rule upon other weaker cities, cities were places of long as you didn't let other cities get too powerful. Outlying villages and farms were in constant insecurity of raiding parties and ambitious kings.

THREE - God instituted "eye for an eye", meaning that the judgment would be equal to the crime - God is not slaughtering the innocent; God is bringing justice to a people who promoted, celebrated, and allowed all sorts of crimes against humanity. No reformation of their soul was possible - their hearts were hardened, they were sadly unwilling to listen to the words of God.

The stories of Joshua conquering the Land of Promise is on one level a very sad story. There is relief for the nation of Israel, that they get to come to a land with so much abundance and put down some roots. But they will, in large part, be just as guilty of the same sins as the Amorites. And God will have to sadly bring in other nations to do to them what they did to the Amorites because of hardened hearts, and finger-plugged ears.

And thus we have a more profound understanding of why Jesus (Greek translation for Joshua) rode into Jerusalem riding on a beast of peace (donkey), not on a beast of war (stallion) in the Gospels, and why Jesus comes on a stallion in Revelation. To those with an unhardened heart, peace is a welcome gift. But to those with hard hearts, only violence and death will satisfy their desires. Jesus, don't give up on us yet - keep bringing your shalom, keep riding through this world on the beast of peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying your blogs! Thanks, Timm!