Bible reading for May 22.
MIDIANITES DEFEATED. In a sense the invasion had begun, though the Israelites had not yet crossed the Jordan River. The tribes were located on the eastern plains opposite Jericho just north of the border of Moab (the Arnon valley). This land would become the inheritance of the tribe of Reuben. It was a region that had previously belonged to the Amorites, then taken by the Ammonites, and then ruled by King Sihon, recently defeated in battle. The Midianites, a semi-nomadic people, were living there, as well. The Moabites had recruited Midian to help stop the Israelite advance through idolatry and sexual immorality. This came in the form of an invitation to a peaceful, inclusive pluralism (also called religious syncretism). A people's ethnic identity would be embraced, but then their distinctiveness would be eventually lost. You remember all that we read about Israel needing to be separate and distinctive.
DOES GOD APPROVE OF GENOCIDE? Many would look at the events of chapter 31, and the successive battles recorded in Joshua, and ask the question, "How could God command the killing of all those innocent people?" This is not an easy subject to consider. Here are a couple of places to start: read, for example, "Old Testament Mass Killings" by Paul Coulter.
And also, Derek Caldwell with Ravi Zacharias ministries, writes,
First, I just want to make a general comment about judgment in the Old Testament. it is interesting to see that God is criticized for judging wickedness in the Old Testament in “harsh” ways, and yet the complaint now is that God does nothing in the face of evil. Whereas in times of strife we might cry out to God to wipe out our enemies, we would then reject God for doing that very thing in the Old Testament. Typically when we view Old Testament violence and reject it, we do so from a relatively comfortable vantage point – the idea of God having people killed seems so un-Jesus . And yet, for those who have struggled as a people (like African Americans in slavery and later in the Civil Rights era), it is these passages of a powerful God who decisively squashes injustice that gave them hope. After World War II, there was a resurgence in the “death of God” philosophy because, so the logic goes, how could God allow such terrible injustices to happen. That is a fair question, but I don’t find it particularly consistent. I understand why people would say that if God were real, He would have stopped that violent episode. Who is to say that He didn’t? And many of the same people who would criticize God for his alleged hiddenness during that time would also criticize God’s decisive judgment in the Old Testament story of, for example, the Canaanites, who sacrificed children and did other evil things for 400 years before God judged them.
Read the rest of the article here:
"How can you worship a God who commands genocide, like he did against the Amalekites?"
"For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs." (Psalm 75:6-8)
THE CUP OF WRATH. We may be tempted to think that the Bible, or maybe God himself, is filled with too much anger and judgment (Ps 75:7; 76:7). But God is not essentially wrathful (Isa 27:4), that is, it is not part of his essence or nature to merely be angry. He is by nature (essentially) righteous and holy and good and loving and merciful. And he is a God of justice and equity. His wrath, then, is his righteous response toward sin and rebellion in his universe, whether of angels or of men. Facing the judgment of God is likened to drinking a cup of strong, foaming wine that will cause one to stagger (Job 21:20; Ps 11:6; Jer 21:15; Rev 14:10).
HE DRANK THE CUP. Our Lord Jesus spoke of the cup that the Father was giving him to drink (Matt 20:22-23; John 18:11). He prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matt 26:39). This is the gospel: that Jesus drank the cup of wrath that we sinners deserve. He drank all of it, down to the very last drop. He suffered the wrath of God in full, that we might be given another cup, a cup of fellowship at God's own table (Ps 23:5; Matt 26:27-28). If Christ is our sin-bearer, then he himself has borne God's wrath in our place (all of it). But if we reject Christ as our sin-bearer, then we shall stand alone and will have to drain the cup of God's wrath against us. We will die in our sins.
TAKEAWAY. Most of us don't want to think about death, or eternal destiny, or about the possibility of there being a hell. Or that we could actually even deserve hell. Most of us think God should say the kinds of things we wish our physicians would say, that is, we want to hear them say we have only a minor illness or a condition that is easily treatable. We never want to hear that our condition is fatal or terminal. We tend to think too little of God's holiness and too highly of our own goodness. What an infinite mercy from God that he has sent his Son to save us: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:17).
Image credit: photo above by James Coleman on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The NET Bible is a free, online resource, and a ministry of bible.org.