Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 80: Joshua 7-9; Psalm 67; John 1

Destiny, manifest or otherwise...
As difficult as Leviticus and Deuteronomy were with regard to parsing God's Law and hearing "hard" words of God's jealousy for the impossibly high standard of fidelity required of Israel under the conditions of the Covenant, Joshua does not make for easier reading. Israel, under Joshua's leadership, enters the Promised Land and quickly is commissioned to destroy Jericho. The battle for Jericho is to be dedicated to God, and the city will be razed and all in it killed and destroyed as an offering. Everyone and everything in it. That is genocide. This is not Sodom or Gomorrah, this is Jericho. Aside from Rahab, the prostitute and her household-spared because she sheltered and protected Israel's scouts/spies as they surveyed the land for invasion-everything is to be wiped out. Moreover, God declares that anyone who attempts to rebuild the city will be cured. Further, when Achan of Judah takes a single robe and a couple of shekel's worth of silver from the city instead of leaving it to be destroyed, God deserts the Israelites in their first battle for Ai, and eventually Achan and his household wind up being stoned, killed and burned.

Surely, God gives the victory...but this kind of victory leaves me cold.

I embrace that God intends to give Israel the Promised Land. I understand that there were people already occupying that land when God led Israel out of the wilderness. I know that conflict is inevitable, and that conflict in ancient days between peoples meant drawn swords and the depredations of war. That doesn't make it any easier to take, as I read of the destruction of Jericho, of Achan and his household and of Ai. It leaves me rooting for the people of Gibeon, who in their deceit lie to Israel in order to secure a treaty of peace for their people...and then wind up in indentured service to God's service as woodcutters and water haulers.

the Gibeonites deceive, and sue for peace
Joshua is the story of Israel securing its destiny, the land that God has promised to them; but it is also a story of blood and conflict that stands as a lesson. When it comes to embracing a destiny that entails conflict, we need to be very careful that we not assume that our desire is our destiny-manifest or otherwise. There is a temptation to embrace exceptionalism when destiny calls. Ultimately, in Joshua, there is a repeated assertion that victory over any foe is not due to Israel's exceptionalism, but instead as the result of God's intention to act on behalf of Israel. It reminds me, when chants of "we're number one!" start to bubble up within me. Joshua reminds me that particular sort of victory often entails terrible loss on behalf of all those not fortunate enough to be "number one." May God give us strength to continue to read and learn on our journey with Joshua and Israel (and their opponents) in this book.

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