This week we continue in the Old Testament books of history, beginning with Joshua and Judges. Having escaped from Egypt, the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until God announces they are to enter the promised land of Canaan. Moses dies and Joshua is chosen to lead the children of Israel. Then begins the military campaign to take the land.
As we read on in the books of Joshua and Judges, there are a number of stories about atrocious things that God’s people do. Destruction, murder, pillaging, slaughter, rape, and slavery. To most people its quite troubling to read things like this when we believe that God is loving, kind, and a God of Peace. Its our job to interpret these stories of conquest through the lens of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as Christians we reject the use of violence as a means to holiness because Jesus Christ demonstrated that salvation comes through his self-sacrifice, not by force or conquest. When we look to scripture for guidance in our life, we look at it all through Jesus.
Throughout the Bible we’re presented with challenges on how to interpret and apply scripture’s teachings. One helpful distinction is to realize that sometimes the Bible is descriptive and sometimes the Bible is prescriptive. When we are sick and go to the doctor, the doctor or nurse will ask us to describe our symptoms, “My throat hurts and I have a fever.” By describing the symptoms, we can identify the problem. In this case, perhaps its strep throat. Then the doctor might prescribe an antibiotic to treat it. The Bible can function the same way: it is descriptive of the problem of sin, it prescribes a covenant of holiness for its solution.
Ultimately we must deal with the fact that these stories are in the Bible that we believe is God’s word to us. They must be interpreted through the lens of Jesus Christ, and we must understand that we can’t just ignore them and throw them out. Whether or not God commanded Joshua and the Judges to kill or he merely tolerated their violence for a time, these passages are not prescriptive for us. Violence does not make us holy people; sacrifice does.
What then can we learn from the story of Joshua and the Judges? The guys from the Bible Project work through the way the book of Judges is descriptive of a nation that persistently falls into the cycles of sin, idolatry, and injustice… and the consequences of a community that rejects the Law and Life prescribed by God.
That repeated phrase found in the book of Judges sets the tone for interpreting the book, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Without leaders to inspire us to do better, human beings tend to revert to their selfish instincts. God called Judges like Deborah (Judges 4:1-23), Gideon (Judges 6-7), and Samson (Judges 13:1, 7, 24-25; 14:5-16:31) to both save the people from their enemies, but to lead them from sin into obedience to God. At this, they frequently failed. The story of how God uses very flawed people for his good work continues…
Journaling Questions for this Week
Read 1 Samuel 1:1-20.
- Try and summarize the story of Hannah in just a few sentences. Also note some of your questions about the story: what don’t you understand?
- Think of a time you were discouraged. How did people help or hurt you in that time?
- What makes a person a good leader?
NEXT WEEK: We serve dinner at Wonderful Wednesday again so meet in the kitchen at 5:15pm.