At the end of November we wrapped up our Equip Class on the Old Testament book Joshua at Desert Springs Church. Joshua is that book with the story of Jericho, a story famous in children’s books and flannelgraph. But not the whole story. Here’s how it ends: “Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21). Joshua’s sword has a lot of blood on it.
This presents a difficulty to sensitive and attentive readers. In a book filled with the gracious promises of God for his people and even careful instructions for justice for their life together (Joshua 20), what should we make of this apparent military overkill? Was God right to command this and was Israel right to carry it out? What shall we say to those who call the Bible a barbaric book, who use this as an example of how religion spoils everything?
If the Bible is true and we’re reading it right, then, yes he was. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for us to understand.
As with any text of the Bible, we need to situation this one in its immediate context, the context of the story that is unfolding in Scripture, and in the context of the whole Bible. This specific question gives us a great exercise in biblical interpretation. Four resources will be helpful to you in thinking this through:
- “God’s Justice in the Land of Canaan,” Kyle Dillon
- “How Could God Command Genocide in the Old Testament,” Justin Taylor
- “Introduction to the Book of Joshua” in the ESV Study Bible
- The Morality of God in the Old Testament, G.K. Beale
We should not be surprised to bump up against hard questions in the Bible. We’re fallen and finite creatures. We don’t have the whole picture and if we did we’d have a sinners take on it. Gratefully, God’s Word is true at every point and we can trust it. And gratefully its story leads to a cross where the Lord dealt fully and finally with the injustice our own sin, and a resurrection where he conquered death for those who entrust themselves to him.
*This article was crossposted at the Desert Springs Church Blog.
For most of my life, Leno and Letterman have been night time’s funny men. Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show until I was 11, but that might as well have been before I was born. I only remember these guys.
And for the most part, they have only been clowns to me, often hilarious, sometimes annoying, and sometimes inappropriate. What they have not been to me is human. But as humans, they have hopes, they lose loved ones, they do terrible things that hurt others and cause them shame, and they need the love of Christ.
Here are two videos worth your time:
Leno on Life, Relationships, and 20 Years at Tonight
Letterman on Being a Weasel
Two quick thoughts on Letterman’s admission.
First, a guy like Letterman has been doing camera for the better part of his life. But we can appreciate and hope that these words are genuine. One insight that I found helpful here was his admission of weasel motives even in the moments before he confessed to his Late Show audience. He thought he might get some sympathy out of the event. He didn’t have to say that, and perhaps exposing his motive at that point is part of coming as clean as he knows how. But it is at least an honest assessment and reflection on the trouble in his own heart. I was humbled by the sheer honesty of that moment.
Second, Letterman spoke about needing to discover why he did what he did, and about atoning for his sin. The Christian can only know heartbreak at this point for a man who needs but does not know the forgiveness of God. A man whom the world has loved does not know the love of God, and he can’t know peace until he does.
Why did he do what he did? How can his sin be atoned for? How wonderful are words of another David’s in his confession of adultery in Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Because of God’s “steadfast love” for us in Jesus Christ, sinners like Letterman, like you, and like me can know the forgiveness of God. We can be clean, and whiter even than snow because Jesus Christ, who never sinned, died a sinner’s death. Through faith in him and him alone, our sins can be removed “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
Three boys from Minnesota who “don’t like video games that much” are playing with snow instead. They made a Snow Puffer Fish, a Snow Walrus, and a Snow Shark. The Snow Shark was this year’s creation and how I came into their story. Apparently, they think “it’s just fun to be outside” together as brothers. Here’s their work:
Snow Puffer Fish
It has been hailed as the all time “best Bible reading plan in the history of the whole entire world ever.”
It’s the Bible Eater, a Bible reading plan with a few unique features. For example, it’s flexible, working in a format that assigns texts to quarters of the year and a pace per day, and it helps you know when you’re reading a significant chapter in the Bible’s salvation story.
Here’s how it works:
WHAT TO READ AND WHEN
The following reading rhythm will get you through the Bible in one year.
- Old Testament: Read 2-3 chapters per day and take 4 days off per month. Read 1-3 designated one-sitting Old Testament books in each quarter, indicated in blue. Reading several books in one sitting like this helps keep the daily chapter readings manageable. These specific books were chosen because they are the right length to keep the reading plan simple, and because some books, such as 1 and 2 Chronicles, can be helpfully read in a single sitting for the big picture.
- New Testament: Read 1 chapter per day and take 4 days off per month. One gospel is assigned to each quarter and Romans and Hebrews are assigned twice across the year.
- Quarterly Format: Some people prefer a reading assigned to each calendar day. This plan assigns several books of the Bible to each quarter and gives you a reading rhythm to follow. If you get behind, don’t feel like you have to catch up now. Just get back on the wagon and catch up on your own time by the end of the quarter.
- Reading Both Testaments Together: Since we read the Old Testament from our New Testament perspective, it is good to read both testaments together. Romans and Hebrews are assigned twice, since these two books are especially helpful for seeing how the Bible’s story unfolds and how the Old and New Testaments relate.
- Redemptive Historical Highlights: Every chapter in the Bible is important since every word in the book is from God. But some chapters are more crucial for helping us understand the overall narrative of the Bible’s salvation story. Red highlights indicate these kinds of chapters. Old Testament highlights indicate promises of a prophet, a priest, a king, a new exodus, a new creation, etc. to come. Others show the need for the promised savior in the unfolding drama of God’s grace toward sinful humanity. New Testament highlights show the fulfillment of these expectations in Jesus Christ.
Click here to learn more and to download the Bible Eater. There are also versions in several translations, including, Czech, French, German, and Spanish. Then, for a fuller explanation of the plan and its rationale and design, read this article published at The Gospel Coalition Blog.
Of course, there are many ways and paces to read through the Bible, and if you clicked the first link in this post you’d see that the very flattering quote was my own. For a round up of numerous other helpful resources, read Justin Taylor’s Blog, “How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014.”