Slaughter at Jericho


Could the loving God of the New Testament order the complete destruction of the inhabitants of Jericho found in the Old Testament?

The massacre of the inhabitants who occupied the fortified city-outpost known as Jericho can raise many questions in the mind of the careful reader. The higher critic has claimed for many years there was a conflict between the Bible and current archaeological data and that the claimed historicity of the sacred text was merely exaggerated colorful myth. Some liberal thinkers have viewed the Jehovah of the Old Testament as a deity who required appeasement and blood sacrifice to satisfy his capricious lust, while the New Testament god, in their view, is all about love, acceptance, and toleration. Then, the atheist uses the Bible to “prove” to the Christian that the God of his Scripture is a warmonger and the murderer of innocent women and children, and even if He did exist, He would remain unworthy of the worship and adoration required to satisfy His huge ego.

Even many an ardent Bible believer has felt some uneasiness at the unashamed transparency of the sacred text. Along with this comes the struggle to reconcile the relationship between a good and benevolent God and the obvious presence of evil in the world, especially as it relates to the death of women and children.

Recall the youthful gusto with which many have sung the traditional American spiritual.

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,

Jericho, Jericho,

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,

And the walls come a tumbling down.

Of course, in Sunday school, as we marched around the chairs and pretended to blow the ram-horns, we were definitely on the side of the “good guys.” On the other hand, Jericho and its inhabitants were the villains who deserved to lose their city, though we didn’t know why. Only much later did we come to realize there was a sober side to this deadly dance, which gave new face and fresh meaning to our childish play.

Let us consider the text as it reads in the Authorized Version of the Bible.

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword (Joshua 6:21; KJV).

Try as we might, there is no way we can dodge the dilemma by laying the event at the feet of an overly zealous Joshua leading a nomadic army of marauding, misguided Israelites. Nor can we sweep it under the rug by allowing for some kind of modified divine permission or restraint, which might absolve God from any direct culpability. The fact remains; it was a carefully calculated act with a specific goal in mind. Jehovah ordered it (Deuteronomy 7:2), and Joshua did it (Joshua 6:21).

The qualifier in this saga seems to be what is referred to in Genesis 15:16 as the “iniquity of the Amorites.” The nations that occupied Canaan had become so hideously debauched, so degenerate in custom and practice, that the judgment of God became imminent. We are told in the Mosaic account that God is preparing to act and His long-suffering is about to end.

For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants (Leviticus 18:25; NASB).

In the larger context of the writings of Moses, the Amorites are viewed by Jehovah as representative of the whole of Palestine. Further, it was as if they had become so saturated with corruption that the very earth itself spit them out.

Recent textual discoveries in Ugarit confirm the Scripture record of centuries filled with idolatry, sodomy, bestiality, sorcery, and child sacrifice. Consequently, each generation had polluted the next with idolatry, perversion, and blood. We must not read Deuteronomy 18:9–12 with an emotionless indifference in the way that some would read yesterday’s news. Parents offered up their children to the god Molech by fire. Child sacrifice is more than an unfortunate, ancient tribal custom. It is a hideous, twisted ritual conducted by men who have reprobated themselves into beasts. Then again, the customs of Canaan are not really a quantum leap from ancient religious ritual to our current indulgence of “a woman’s right to choose,” are they?

The problem of Jericho is easily solved. God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible just as He is. His self-revelation to Moses (see Exodus 34:6–7) is very revealing:

And Jehovah passed by before him and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth; keeping loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children . . . (ASV).

Can we not see that God’s disposition is showcased in His long-suffering, equity, mercy, and patience? He never acts in a knee-jerk, capricious manner. Yet at the same time, God reserves the right to be God, doing as He chooses when He wills and with universal authority over His creation. Even as he pleaded for God to spare the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham declared, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). So the answer to the problem lies bound up in the character of God as revealed in Scripture. Is there ever a time when divine genocide is justified? The answer must be yes, because the judge of the whole earth always does what is right. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that in time the long-suffering of God will transform itself into judgment if the warnings are not heeded.

A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy says it well:

Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere, there must first be the corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

Here are words from the Apostle Paul challenging us to think biblically about the nature and character of God. “Behold then the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22; ASV).

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A Time to Kill


Is it okay to kill, like David killing Goliath or Joshua eliminating Canaanites? Or is killing forbidden?

“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13; NASB).

“If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed” (Exodus 22:2).

“Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:15–16).

“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17).

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him (1 Samuel 17:50).

In order to answer this apparent contradiction, we must make a distinction between killing someone and committing murder. Murder is the unlawful taking of a life, while killing may be lawful or unlawful. The establishment of capital punishment actually extends back to the Noahic Covenant when God declared, “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:5–6).

Even before this, Cain was afraid of the other members of his family seeking to kill him after he had murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:13–15).[5] In the cases outlined in Scripture, taking the life of another in the name of justice was not murder. The question poses a false dilemma in that killing does not have to be always right or always wrong — God has provided qualifications.

Because man is made in the image of God, the death of a human is not taken lightly. In the laws given to Israel through Moses, those sins that were worthy of death were detailed. Leviticus 19 is one such place where these commands are given. Since these are commands directly from God and God cannot lie, we understand that there must be no contradiction in the commands. Those who committed sexual sins were to be justly killed, but only upon the clear affirmation of their crime established by witnesses.

As the author of the first five books of the Bible, Moses would not have written contradictory ideas. If we allow for killing to be wrong in every case, when a person carried out capital punishment, as commanded by God, they would have to be killed for the taking of a life. Then their life would be demanded, and so on until humanity was left with one. Extending the logic allows us to see how absurd the claim of a contradiction truly is.

The Bible provides many circumstances under which the taking of a life is legally allowed by Scripture. Killing another person in an act of self-defense (Exodus 22:2) was permitted with no consequences. There are examples of God calling the people to war against other nations to punish them for their sins. When Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, God commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy the idolatrous peoples who inhabited the land (Deuteronomy 20:16–17). A list of their sins can be found in Leviticus 18, including incest, murdering children, and so on. When God called Israel to war against those in the Promised Land, then He was permitting the killing in this situation, making men His agents of justice, as in the case with capital punishment.

The killing of Goliath by the young David was, likewise, justified in the eyes of God. In fact, David was angered by the way that Goliath blasphemed God and met him in battle. David did not trust in himself, but in the Lord to deliver Goliath into his hands. This is an example of continuance of the war the Israelites had been engaged in with the inhabitants of the Promised Land, as directed by God.

God repeatedly chose war and capital punishment as a way to bring judgment on peoples and individuals who were acting in defiance of His will by doing great sin. He ordained the killing as a punishment to accomplish His purposes in the world.

This should give an idea of seriousness of sin. In the eyes of a perfect and holy God, one sin is worthy of death (Genesis 2:17). Since we are all sinners, we are all under the death sentence already. In essence, we are all on “death row,” and those who murder or do other terrible sins as described in Scripture simply had their wait on “death row” shortened.

God hates sin, especially those that lead to any situation where a human life is lost. His holy nature and subsequent hatred of sin make the taking of a life acceptable only in the rarest of cases. We should never seek to minimize the taking of a life — a life made in the image of God. Remember that taking a life for justifiable reasons is only necessary because we live in a world of sin. The perfect creation would not have required death for any reason.

Left in the Dust


Do snakes really eat dust like Genesis says?

Some people try to discredit Genesis by saying snakes don’t eat dust, as Genesis 3:14 claims and that, therefore, the Bible is in error.

After the serpent deceived Eve, God cursed it, saying, “On your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life.” Although we can’t know for sure that the serpent referred to in Genesis 1 really was the same as a snake today, many people use this verse as a reason not to take Genesis literally, since snakes don’t eat dust.

Many have responded to this charge by pointing out that a snake has an organ located in the front of the roof of its mouth that functions as a chemical receptor. The Jacobson’s organ helps the snake smell. As a snake’s forked tongue darts out to sense its surroundings, it, at least occasionally, licks the ground or picks up dust particles. Once the snake pulls in its tongue, it inserts the tips of its forked tongue into the two openings of the Jacobson’s organ, where the particles are identified and analyzed. The snake’s brain can “read” the smells and tastes from its tongue. So, in a way, snakes really do eat dust.

But is this really what God had in mind when He cursed the serpent? Probably not. Let’s look at Genesis 3:14–15 for the context:

So the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

You are cursed more than all cattle,

And more than every beast of the field;

On your belly you shall go,

And you shall eat dust

All the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel.”

Notice that the serpent’s curse included crawling on its belly, eating dust, bruising the heel of the woman’s Seed, and the Seed bruising the head of the serpent. Most theologians have recognized verse 15 as the protoevangelium (“first gospel”). God, here, prophesies the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, the one who would die for our sins and rise again, defeating Satan. The bruising of the heel and the bruising of the head are obviously symbolic language, pointing to a greater reality. Recognizing this in no way violates the historical genre of Genesis: the symbolic language is still couched within a largely literal framework.

So did God curse the animal or Satan? It appears He cursed both of them. Throughout the Scriptures, God commonly speaks to the vessel and then to Satan. Here are a few examples.

In Ezekiel 27–28, the Word of the Lord was said to Tyre itself (Ezekiel 27:2), then to the ruler of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2), and then a lament beginning in Ezekiel 28:11 to the “king of Tyre.” This one was specifically directed to the one influencing the king of Tyre — Satan.

Jesus rebuked Peter and then spoke to Satan when He influenced Peter in Mark 8:33.

In Isaiah 14 God spoke to the king of Babylon and in some parts, to Satan, who was influencing him.

This concept of speaking directly to Satan while he is influencing someone is nothing uncommon. So there is no stretch to understand that the Lord is speaking to the serpent and Satan in Genesis 3. Genesis 3:14 is said to the serpent, and then Genesis 3:15 is said to Satan, who is influencing the serpent.

The curse pronounced upon the serpent of “eating the dust” results in it now crawling on its belly in the dust. It used to be like one of the “cattle” and “beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1, 14), but now will crawl on its belly and eat dirt. More importantly, this imagery of eating dust is symbolic of a creature low, despicable, abhorrent, and degraded. In Micah 7:16–17, God prophesies of a time when the nations will come crawling to Him:

The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;

They shall put their hand over their mouth;

Their ears shall be deaf.

They shall lick the dust like a serpent;

They shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth.

They shall be afraid of the Lord our God,

And shall fear because of You.

A proper understanding of the context (literary, historical, and theological) helps us understand what God meant when He cursed the serpent. There is no contradiction here , but rather a wonderful promise of victory by a risen Savior.

Who do people say that I am?


Does GOD Exist?

Does GOD Exist?

“Who do people say that I am?” asked Christ.  Who do you say that I am?  A sharp, pointed question that might leave some struggling to answer.  Have we, have you, have I, thought about the answer to that question?

After yet another exchange with the leaders of the church, Christ has some quiet time with his disciples away from the crowds, scribes and Pharisees.  It was time for discussion with his disciples.

It is not uncommon to wonder what others think of you, even if you are the Son of God.  “Who do you say that I am?”  Maybe this question was borne out of curiosity on the part of Christ or maybe it was something of a test for his disciples.

Who do you say the Son of Man is?  Christ often referred to himself as the Son of Man.  Christ referring to himself as the Son of Man confirms his divinity and his human nature. 

When I pose the question to you about who Christ is and who is he to you, what kind of response would I get?  Maybe an objective, textbook-like answer free of emotion or attachment.  Jesus is the Son of God, Savior, Lord, teacher, rabbi, to name a few.

Should our answer as Christians be far more personal and connected?  I think that it should be.  This man they call Christ that existed on the same plane and form as God took on flesh to live in this world of selfishness, violence and pain.

He came to this world not as a military leader or educated, learned part of the church hierarchy, but as a suffering servant.  He could have had everything, but he chose to possess nothing.

Christ could have chosen more educated, sophisticated men to lead, that might have been easier.  He could have stopped the beating, torture and crucifixion that he endured.  He chose to follow his father’s will, out of obedience, not out of weakness.  There is nothing weak about Christ or being a Christian.

When you speak about your family do you speak in stiff, unemotional tones or do you talk about my parents, my children, my spouse.  I have referred to my kids as my wife’s kids when they do something that I’m not pleased with.

When you speak of your father do you say, “My biological father conceived three children with my biological mother?”  I don’t know anyone that talks like that.  It is personal, my dad, my mother, my grandparents, my children.

The relationship that each of us has with our God should be deep and meaningful as well.  My God, My Savior, My Creator.

Christ asked his disciples this question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but other say Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

Some say John the Baptist, Christ’s cousin, the man with the strange appearance, the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Others say Elijah, the prophet who upstaged 450 pagan prophets at Mt Carmel.  Still others say you are Jeremiah.  A prophet who was given the task of preaching to people that didn’t listen to him.  History refers to Jeremiah as the weeping prophet.

 The disciples had answered the question of who and what others thought Christ was.  Now come this sharp, abrupt question, “But who do you say that I am?” 

The pointed words, questions and parables that came from the Son of God.  Had the time he had invested in them made an impact?  Had they seen enough to erase any doubt they may have had?

The brash, outspoken disciple, Peter, fires back, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”….and there it is .  You are the Son of the living God.  A God that is alive, who works in this world to bring life to his people.

Peter did not say you are the Son of the cold and distant God.  He did not say you are the son of the God that we’re not sure about anymore. 

Christ is the God that took on flesh.  He is the God that desires to have a relationship with those he created, to those that he loved enough to give them the freedom of how to live their lives. 

The God we serve is a God that heals, reveals, that brings life, eternal life to his people.  After Simon Peter had answered, Christ said to him, “Blessed are you son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, it is from my Father in heaven.”

It was not mere mortal that had told Peter of Christ’s true identity, it was a revelation, a truth spoken to Peter from God.  How blessed Peter must have felt.  Not only does he live during Christ’s lifetime, he is one of his very disciples.  Of that chosen few God has revealed this most precious of truths.

Whether he realized it or not, Peter had attested to the truth, that Christ is the son of the living God.  Truth is an interesting thing.  Many search for it, but not everyone finds it.  We are called to search for the truth in our own lives.

The truth is that Christ is the son of the living God.  That much is truth.  But we are called to continue to seek him, to seek our God, to seek the truth in our own lives.  As I mentioned earlier, the relationship each of us has with our God should be personal.

It is not as easy as leaving here today saying, the preacher said that Christ is the son of God.  That is truth and now I’ll be on my way.  We are called into a deeper relationship with Christ and with one another.

On this truth, on this revelation, Christ said that he will build his church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  On this truth that Peter attested to Christ built his church and in spite of all the violence, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, shootings, terrorist acts, darkness, selfishness and need for convenience in this world, nothing, including the gates of hell will prevail against it.  Nothing.

Who do you say that Christ is?  Is it a question that you have given much thought to?  The Son of the Living God.  Can you see his work in your life, in others and in your church? 

Christ would continue, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Then he sternly warned them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

We know that Christ’s ministry was a fairly short, it lasted about three years.  He will give the keys to his church, the keys of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples to spread the good news.

It would be the acts of the disciples and apostles that would spread the gospel after Christ’s death and resurrection.  It is our responsibility to do the same today.  We have been granted the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

To be the church, to be on the front lines of our community.  Helping those in need, assisting the poor and engaging people of all ages.  My hope for each of you here today is that you would draw closer in your relationship to the Son of Gog.

That your search for truth would begin and would continue.  That the revelation of truth that was granted to Peter would be granted to you as well. I hope that if the question is posed to you, “Who is Christ to you?” 

That you would answer with conviction, with passion, with the knowledge of blessings too numerous to mention in your life that has come from the God we serve.  Will you join me in prayer?  Good and gracious God, this world needs people that know you, your son and the truth that was revealed in today’s scripture.  In spite of the pain in this world, there is much that is good.  We have seen examples of neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger.  Continue to reveal yourself and your Son to us.  Draw us into a deeper relationship.  Make this church a shelter, a safe place and a place where your spirit is always present and everyone is always welcome.  Amen.

Pastor Shawn LaRue

Author of Incomplete

Counting Offspring


 

If Jesus is God’s “only begotten Son,” then how can angels and Christians also be God’s sons?

It is clear from verses such as the following that one title for Jesus is “Son of God.”
And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29).

Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).

And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:62–64).

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1).

Throughout Scripture, others are also called “son(s) of God.”

Adam (Luke 3:38)
Angels (Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7)
Believers (Matthew 5:9; Romans 8:14, 19; Galatians 3:26)
“A son of God” or “sons of God” are monikers for those who follow after God. But the phrase “the Son of God” is used only for Jesus Christ. He is called the “only begotten Son” to be more precise (John 1:14, 3:16, 3:18; 1 John 4:9) and “His [God’s] own Son” (Romans 8:3). Jesus is referred to as “the Son” when God is referred to as “the Father” (John 3:35–36, 5:19–27, 6:40, 17:1; 2 John 1:9; Matthew 28:19). In fact, Jesus is the Son, the second person of the godhead, which cannot be said of any human or angel.

When understood from the whole context of Scripture, there is really no contradiction. Jesus is called “the only begotten” as the unique Son of God in a very real sense that no angelic being or member of humanity can share.