By Phares Gilchrist
I’ve taken a different approach to reading through the Bible these last couple of years. It suits me well but requires I resist some spiritual peer pressure. I have been reading slowly. Not every day. And thinking differently about what I am reading. In other words, I’m not looking for the broad meta-narratives, nor am I going for personal application, though that often results as the Holy Spirit works. Rather I am going for first thoughts.
For instance, Joshua. I know him as the trusted companion of Moses, the faithful warrior, strong and courageous. Focusing on the meta-narrative — how God protected and provided for Israel — side steps some issues that I need to honestly wrestle with concerning the character and nature of God. This book, followed by Judges, causes one to have to look war and its consequences squarely in the face.
Here are some thoughts I have had — God is fearless in exposing the corrupt nature of man, most often with His own people, but in this case, those who have been left to their own devices for so long the entire culture is socio/psychopathic. He could have sanitized all of these Old Testament stories. He did not. No sin is spared exposure. It is breathtaking and shocking to see how utterly corrupted our natures can be.
This can appear to be quibbling over split hairs to a broader audience, but I had to evaluate the actual terms that describe God’s command to wipe out the Canaanites. Kathleen and Jamie will be covering this with their usual depth and insight, but if the concern is social justice, God’s decision here was for social justice the way Germany and Japan had to be vanquished. It came after hundreds of years of trying to deal with these tribes to no avail. Ruth and Rahab demonstrate God does indeed desire for these tribes to know Him, and He is willing to impart grace.
I afford myself far too much latitude in the seriousness with which I treat my own corrupt nature, His grace to me, and the actions I take and how they reflect His character. I have to know His character to reflect it. My job is to pursue that knowledge in direct relationship with Him. Not through osmosis, otherwise known as pretending.
Pretense prevents transformation. It is another form of conforming to outward appearance rather than being changed from the inside out. There are many problems with this, but the ones I see most often are when marriage gets tough, kids become challenging, and life becomes tedious. Those who are seriously pursuing have the spiritual octane to persevere. Those who are watching the clock are already too late. Philippians refers to this as working out our salvation in fear and trembling. In other words, God does the saving, I do the submitting.
Strength and courage to face life squarely is my prayer for us as we look at Joshua.