Well it was surely inevitable that at some point throughout this Bible reading plan, that I would be scheduled to blog on a day of an Old Testament reading that was filled with battle, war, death and destruction. Part of believes that Pastor Heather will have a little grin on her face while reading today- wondering how I am going to reconcile my pacifist viewpoints with the Scripture. (for the record, PHeather and I have a great ‘iron-sharpens-iron’ relationship when it comes to topics like this- we both learn from one another)
But don’t get too excited, as I am not going to use this blog as a platform for the debate between pacifism and just-war theory- Far more intelligent men and women of God have done that over centuries; work and thought to which I cannot come near with a few hundred word blog post. (If you want to discuss it further with me though, I’d be happy to have coffee with you) What I will say, and perhaps it will be helpful to others out there that are struggling, is that it is ok to wrestle with a text like this. It is ok to not understand why God would instruct the complete annihilation of groups of human beings. To be honest, if that doesn’t make you feel unsettled in any sort of capacity, I might be a little concerned. Texts like these do force us to think about it. And in these moments, it is important to keep in perspective the whole narrative of the ‘Gospel’ story. What is the greater character of God? What is it that He is really after in His people? What is He trying to accomplish on the earth? Those questions however, are not there to get you off the hook in thinking about the families that were destroyed and the human face that was on the people who were wiped out by Joshua and his armies. It is fair to balance the grand scheme of things with the immediate moments of humanity. Let yourself sink into it, and bring your questions and concerns to the Lord in prayer and meditation- remembering always, that God is good.
There is one part of today’s reading that I do want to highlight, and it is the story out of chapter 9: the Gibeonite deception. Did anyone else think that once Joshua found out that they had deceived Him that they would be destroyed? Instead, because the oath before the Lord was taken, they were not allowed to do so (ch. 9 vs. 19). This is interesting to me, because originally they were a people that God was going to destroy by the hand of Israel- yet, they were saved from destruction because of their fear of the Lord and of Joshua’s armies. Yes, they were still cursed by Joshua and bound to a life of slavery and servant-hood- but it is fascinating to me that their lives were spared, due to their cunning. It also shows me that it was indeed possible for the people of Israel to be reconciled with those that were occupying the promised land- That another fate possible for ‘the enemies’ of God’s people. I love the Gibeonite confession (ch. 9 vs. 24-25). How do we look upon their humility?
Just as a footnote- in Nehemiah 3:7, it states that a Gibeonite was part of the rebuilding of the wall- I think that it is very beautiful, that ancestors of this people (that should have been destoryed) actually remained allies of God’s people later down the road and got to serve side by side with the Israelites for God’s glory.
ps. It was very tempting to blog about the stones from heaven (ch. 10 vs. 11) and the sun standing still in regard to the great volcano debacle of 2010, which has kept me stranded in Europe- but that just seemed too cliché :) God is still in control of His creation-