Sometimes God is a stranger to me
Joshua 11: It was God’s idea that they all would stubbornly fight the Israelites so he could put them under the holy curse without mercy.
It’s bloody with lots of death and destruction. Individual tribes and cities and also coalitions of previous enemies resist the onslaught of Joshua’s army. Now victory has come and war is over. I know that the book of Joshua gives a “marching to victory” view of the Canaan Conquest while Judges paints a less pretty picture, but frankly, even the positive view of Joshua makes me cringe. All the slaughter of entire peoples: men, women, and children — even, in some cases, animals. The Scriptures explain that it isn’t that God wants to give Canaan to the Israelites so he helps them exterminate those who live there. Rather, it’s that those who live there are so degenerate, so unholy, that God doesn’t want them or anything about them to contaminate the people he’s chosen. Still, I struggle with this because it seems so distant from “God is love.” I confess that sometimes God is a stranger to me. Still, that which is wrong humanly speaking isn’t necessarily wrong for the Creator. The “Giver of Life” has full authority to be the “Taker of Life.” Sometimes devotional lessons are hard to come by in passages like this, but here’s what I get today: there is an “other-ness,” a sobering, even a fear-generating side of the Lord. I love him and I trust his character but I definitely don’t always understand who he is and why he does what he does. I am glad God Almighty doesn’t need me to be his defender.
Take Away: Sometimes we simply have to trust and believe even as we struggle to understand.
The nation that ignores God
2Kings 17: They lived a “nothing” life and became “nothings.”
The 17th chapter of Second Kings is the epitaph of the Kingdom of Israel. After centuries of ups and mostly downs they exhaust the patience of God. The Lord hands them over to their enemies and the citizens are removed from their beloved land to live in exile the rest of their days. God’s verdict is clearly stated: “the exile came about because of sin…they had accumulated a long list of evil actions and God was fed up…God said, ‘Don’t!’ but they did it anyway.” For decades it has appeared that they can brush God Jehovah off and do things their own way. They’ve behaved as though his Commandments are mere suggestions that don’t really apply. Traveling that road has brought them to its only possible destination and now they’ve arrived: “they lived a ‘nothing’ life and became ‘nothings.'” What happens to a nation that’s been abundantly blessed by God but persistently chooses to ignore him and his ways? This chapter ought to really frighten us.
Take Away: The future is dim for a nation that ignores the Lord and his blessings.