Posts for October 2012
2 Posts found

Joshua 20.20-21, 24 – The Bible’s hard lessons
Posted: 14 October 2012 in Joshua

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword….. And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.

Nowadays reading about Joshua destroying whole nations at the behest of God makes us feel uneasy. But I think it needs to be remembered that, following the fall, the whole of mankind stood (and stands) condemned in the sight of God, and that they have no right to expect anything from him except judgment.

It is at this point God’s mercy enters into the picture, and he chooses a people for himself with the intention of bringing them, and eventually the Gentiles, to salvation. In the book of Joshua, however, we read about a time when, in order to accomplish his purpose, God authorises, and even commands, the destruction of entire nations. Especially (but not exclusively) in the light of the fall, God has the sovereign right to do that. The rationale for their destruction was that his chosen people should not to be enticed into the idolatry which was prevalent amongst the pagan nations.

Clearly the God whom the Bible reveals to us is not a picture postcard God, and it is easy to imagine what atheists, and perhaps even some Christians, would make of him. Nevertheless, if we are serious when we profess the Bible to be the inspired word of God, we must accept that it is there to teach us. That leaves us with two choices. Either we can allow it to teach us about God and his ways, even when we don’t like what we are hearing, or we can try to insist that our own ideas are a better guide to God and his nature. The latter being a shortcut to the very idolatry the Bible is there to save us from. Perhaps also, we should focus upon God’s salvific purposes, even in passages such as the above.

Today when men go to war, the rationale is more likely to relate to something like oil than the will of God, and, according to a certain way of thinking, our own greed is a vastly superior motive for warfare. War is not something to be desired under any circumstances, but it is noticable how any secular motive will get a relatively free pass.

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Leviticus 11.1-7 – The bringing of a chosen people to God
Posted: 10 October 2012 in Leviticus

And the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.

One of the things I notice about the very detailed dietary regulations to be found in the Old Testament is that nowhere is any explanation given for the stipulations. We may feel tempted to come up with rationalisations of our own, but if the Bible offers none, it is not really legitimate for us to go beyond that which God reveals. The Lord clearly thought the fact that he commanded something should have be a sufficient motivation for obedience on the part of the ancient Hebrews, and so it should be for us. A rationalisation which is often heard is that the regulations were motivated by considerations of hygiene, but that does not seem to me to be very easy to reconcile with the oft repeated (and, more importantly, biblical) assertion that Christ has fulfilled the law. If that is true, something more profound must be at stake than the deleterious effects of eating rotten meat.

Although the reasons for particular regulations is not given, and they must remain hidden within the inner counsels of God, the overall motive for them is clear enough; which is that the Jews were to be marked out as a people specially set apart as the chosen people of God, and who would live under his governance. We now live in the time of the New Covenant, and Christians understand the people of God to be marked out not by aherence to dietry and other regulations, but through their submission to Christ, and through their conscious dependence upon his sacrifice. It is in this sense, of bringing a chosen people to God, that Christ has fulfilled the function which the Law was originally meant to fulfill.

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