I’ve told you before that some of my closest friends are atheists. Over the years, we’ve had several deep conversations that challenge my own beliefs in God (in the end this strengthens my own faith).
One such (repeated) conversation is how can God be loving and gracious and yet command armies in the Bible to kill entire villages?
How’s that loving?
How is this God any different from other gods?
To be honest, this is a tough conversation to have with non-believers because some things just take faith to accept…but it’s also hard because to even begin to understand, one must have a deep understanding of the HISTORY of the Bible and the context of what was transpiring around certain events (and I have a mediocre grasp at best).
In the 6th Chapter of “The Grace of God” by Andy Stanley, we begin to understand WHY God told Joshua to kill all living things after the walls fell around Jericho.
Jericho had become increasingly corrupt. Destroying them wasn’t some quick decision made by an angry God. While the Bible doesn’t tell us God sent prophets to warn the people of Jericho to repent, it’s likely He did. After all, the harlot Rahab had heard stories about God and was willing to risk death to help Joshua’s spies. Her knowledge had to come from somewhere.
Also, you need to remember there were other instances in the Bible where God sent messengers to nations besides Israel-calling them to repentance- Nineveh is one such example. So it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that God HAD warned the inhabitants of Jericho BEFORE sending Joshua in to destroy them (plus they had 6 days of the Israelites walking around the walls to have a change of heart and repent…and they didn’t).
Even taking all that into consideration, why destroy them…why not just enslave them…wouldn’t that be kinder?
Here’s what a Christian needs to understand about God…He loves us too much to NOT protect us from evil- that’s why we have laws. And because we can never live up to those laws, we have grace. But even the laws are about grace- Grace goes out of its way for others in ALL ways imaginable. (click to tweet)
God had called His people OUT of bondage from Egypt and He didn’t want them to go back. They were still “new” in their walk with God, with trusting Him. It was still much easier for them to turn back to the idols their flesh could understand and manipulate. Grace didn’t want to take any chances with these fledgling Israelites. Grace wanted to offer God’s people the best shot at success/happiness as possible.
And since God wanted what was best for His children…a clean slate was in order. A chance to take possession of the Promise Land without any defilement getting in the way of the relationship between God and His chosen people.
As we know, it didn’t really matter that they had a fresh start. Over time, if we don’t guard our hearts, our flesh will win out. It did with Israel. Even though God had given them His laws to help safeguard their relationship from idolatry, even though He had purged the land of defiling acts against His holiness, the Israelites slowly hardened their hearts against God.
We’re all guilty of doing this.
That’s why God’s grace trumps the law.
It’s why we all need to seek His grace daily.
It’s why we can’t begin to understand the lengths God will go in order to help His children live the abundant life (John 10:10).
God doesn’t make sense.
His grace doesn’t make sense.
Sending His Son to die for us doesn’t make sense (John 3:16-17).
Some things simply take faith.
Faith can be strengthened with a solid foundation of Biblical truths …but still some things simply take faith to accept.
God having Joshua kill innocent lives is hard for anyone to swallow…even harder for an unbeliever to understand how Grace toward God’s people meant others had to die.
But grace can’t always be explained…it’s better experienced firsthand. (click to tweet)
To read more thoughts on this chapter, check out Jason, Sarah, and Dusty’s blogs (and links to others who are participating in this book club).