Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ex-Rex: Early Reactions to Joshua 12

This post is part of a series I am doing this year to study all the chapter 12's in the Bible for 2012.

"Another One Bites the Dust". A first reading of Joshua 12 gives you the list of the Kings that are taken down. East of the Jordan by Moses and West of the Jordan by Joshua.

When you read Joshua, you have to hearken back to Deuteronomy 20 where God gives inspiration, organization, and specific commands for the Israelites to capture the 'land of inheritance'- especially the command to 'do not leave anything alive that breathes' and 'completely destroy' all the ites "as the Lord God commands".

Obviously, this has been an area of attack by skeptics and non-believers for ages- the cruel God of the Old Testament and His Holy War on the land of Canaan.

For some reason, this has never bothered me. I mean, I understand why some would be upset and confused. But I have never felt like this is out of the nature of the God of the Bible. Yes, it is contrary to the 'big ole Santa Clause god' that many worship, but is is well within the expectations of the God of the Bible whose wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

But the 'Warrior God' has never bothered me. I want my God attacking sin and injustice.

Think of it this way- the world is polluted and infected by evil men. True freedom led to the infection that now destroys. The world is littered with pain and betrayal and lies and half- hearted tokens of selfish ambition.

God's plan involves a process where He will educate and liberate His people. He does this by calling a man out of the pagan world and begins a process that will, slowly over time, set the stage for types and shadows of everlasting salvation- in real time, space, and history.

He promised this man (Abram), in a beautiful covenant- land and descendants.

So throughout the pentateuch (Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) he has marked out this territory and constantly renews the covenant with new people and new signs.

The current commander is now Joshua who is succeeding the Mosaic part of the covenant by conquering the land.

And so God marks out the territory- and will now till it up- seeking to rid it of impurity and false worship and intending to root into pure and holy ground a people to show the world who He is. They will themselves be a type and shadow of the ultimate fulfillment of this covenant of grace.

The land will eventually house a King and a temple- the land will be a place of endless blessing and curses- always showing man to be unfaithful- totally incapable of fulfilling the requirements of the covenant because of their sin nature.

But God has already sworn the penalty- Who will pay for the broken oath. He alone passed through the split carcasses- Throughout Jewish history, He is moving toward the day when He Himself will be the sacrifice foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament and will serve forever as the High Priest in the heavenly temple- and secure our place in the eternal land.


A final thought about the God who fights... This point is brilliantly pointed out by Tim Keller  as he quotes Miroslav Volf :

My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance…My thesis will be unpopular with man in the West…But imagine speaking to people (as I have) whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned, and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit…Your point to them–we should not retaliate? Why not? I say–the only means of prohibiting violence by us is to insist that violence is only legitimate when it comes from God…Violence thrives today, secretly nourished by the belief that God refuses to take the sword…It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence is a result of a God who refuses to judge. In a scorched land–soaked in the blood of the innocent, the idea will invariably die, like other pleasant captivities of the liberal mindif God were NOT angry at injustice and deception and did NOT make a final end of violence, that God would not be worthy of our worship.           Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf 

In other words- it is our faith in God to ultimately right all wrongs that allows us to give in and leave it to Him. If you take away the God of eternal justice, you actually instigate revenge among humans. Only God's grace, born in His holiness, can break the sin cycle of an 'eye for an eye'.


I want to end this initial thought on the warrior Joshua, to mention another great warrior, Joshua Chamberlain. I am reading the classic "Soul of the Lion" which elegantly details his life, his work as a ministerial candidate and teacher at Bowdoin College, and his courageous decision to volunteer to fight and preserve the Union.

This sweet man of Christ, turned into a warrior, and his gallant leadership played a huge role in winning at Gettysburg and changed the tide of the Civil War.

I guess the point I am making is that we as christians sometimes lose the understanding that there are times to fight. And we must leave our passivity when the battle is raging.

And just as Joshua in the Bible, and just as Joshua Chamberlain were misunderstood when they decided it was time to fight; we must be willing to be mis-understood and attack with gusto.

I can give testimony that the weak and cowardly will not like the posture of war- it takes a real man to do it right in the face of opposition.

But when God says the kings must fall, and the idols must be torn down- may we be found to fight faithfully and fearlessly in the task.

What will our list of victories look like? What kings and idols have toppled under our assault?

No comments: