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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