A few weeks ago, I put my kids to bed, and started studying for this lesson. To set the scene: I was sitting at the kitchen table, my study materials around me. My husband was an arm’s length away, washing dishes. He and I are both familiar with scripture. Matt has an amazing bank of memory verses. We have both read through Joshua before, but knowing I’d have to speak on this passage made my reading seem even more outlandish. My first sit down to study this passage actually made my stomach hurt. Joshua 7 especially seemed so off-putting.
I’d break into Matt’s dishes reverie every once in a while.
“LISTEN TO THIS!” I’d shout. ‘Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him.’ (Joshua 7:15)
“LISTEN TO THIS!” ‘Twelve thousand men and women fell that day – all the people of Ai.’ (Joshua 8:25) “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?” I asked him like I was the first one telling him this story.
My husband is the most even tempered person God has ever created. He can be a man of few words. While I was flailing, offended and scandalized by God’s word, Matt didn’t even look up from the dishes.
He quietly said, “Yeah. That’s the God you’re going to pray to tonight.”
I still can’t get that sentence out of my head. “That’s the God you’re going to pray to tonight.”
How can the God of Joshua 7 be the same God of 1 John 4? How can the God that commands so much destruction be called a God of love?
We know that God’s word is true. We know God doesn’t change. He can’t contradict himself. We know that we are under a covenant of Grace now, because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. That doesn’t make this passage easy to take in, but it does add the insight we need into God’s character.
As soon as I stopped flailing, I actually paused, and thanked Jesus. Because we are meant to be offended by this text. We should be uncomfortable when we read about this much death and destruction. And we have Jesus to thank for our discomfort.
Jesus valued people, all people women: children, the sick, the foreigner, the pagan. The way Jesus loved people was such a beautiful, revolutionary ethic. Jesus was so winsome, compassionate, and humble. And generations of Christians, have done their best to love like him, practicing humility, and charity. Jesus set forth a new standard, a new ethic that makes violence and destruction even more repugnant today.
Do your best with these tricky passages. Take note of how God’s word makes you feel this week. But no matter how you’re feeling, or what questions you have… please, please PLEASE remember that God loves you. His desire is that none should perish, and that all should come to repentance. (1 Peter 3:9)
And I can’t say I’ll have convincing answers on Thursday, but come anyway, and we’ll wrestle together.