Grace and Judgment
Grace trumps judgment.
It only happens when grace remains,
and when the judgment remains as well.
As Christian you can be embarrassed. People who do not believe but know a little about the Bible, may ask you nicely how it went in the past with the people of God. Were not complete nations to be eliminated? Were e.g., with the fall of Jericho not all inhabitants killed? Did not all inhabitants of Canaan have to be killed as well?
Time and again it says very clearly: men and women, old people and (small) children, all of them were to be killed with the sword. Can you just imagine what that must have looked like? Is this the God in which we believe? Does he give these kinds of instructions? Is he cruel?
The kings of Israel knew how to wage war. Even though they did not always act according to God’s commands. The way e.g., in which Jehoram fought against Moab brought great wrath upon Israel (2 Kings 3).
So, not all situations are as bad as they appear to be. And people did not always act according to what God had told them. That should make us careful when we read some of these stories.
What remains is then primarily the actions of Israel against the inhabitants of Canaan. And indeed, there were specific instructions for this. God himself had instructed the people to leave no one from Canaan alive.
It is quite understandable when someone who reads this story gets stuck with a number of questions. Just try to imagine what it must have been like. Man and woman, old and young, everyone got killed…
You never solve this when you only approach it from the viewpoint of people. Then this is genocide, and nothing else. Then the Bible becomes an inhumane book.
The point however, is that God is acting in this. He himself turned Sodom and Gomorrah upside down (also with men and women, the elderly, and the young). With Jericho he uses the service of people, but it is and remains a godly judgment. Therefore nothing was allowed to be taken from the spoil, it was a raid by the people.
When the LORD made his covenant with Abraham and promised him Canaan, he added that his children had to wait 400 more years. For, he said, only then will the iniquity of the Amorites be complete (Gen. 15:16).
Now we cannot measure it exactly, but that is not our place to do. But why 400 years, and not a few years more, or less? No idea. But the clear point is: the LORD punishes when the iniquity is complete. It is his retaliation, at a time which is right.
That is why the Israelites had to wait all that time, even in Egypt, in misery. It seemed as if their cries were not being heard. There is more to say about it, but also this: earlier, it was not yet the time for the deserving punishment of the Amorites. God deals justly (with us), also in regards to his enemies.
Then we can still ask the question: must it be this way? Is this our God, who act this way? Does this not make one shudder?
Yes, that is true.
It makes you think.
But then think especially that God’s justice cannot be bent. He is the source of life, the only One. He gives generously and liberally (Psalm 81). But outside of God there is no other means of existence. Can you argue against that? And does this not apply to everyone, for men and women, for the elderly and for the young children? No one has anything to look for or to expect outside of God. In his world you cannot exist without him.
There comes a day when God will judge the whole world. When her iniquity will be complete.
Now he shows it to us, as an example; in Sodom and Gomorrah, in Jericho, and actually all of Canaan had to be smitten by his judgment. As a witness for all peoples and nations, an image “beforehand” for all time.
John hears the angel say to the people who occupy the earth: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev. 14:7). That is it exactly, for on God’s earth there is only one manner of living. It is being said in the prophecy, and it is being shown in the (yet contained) judgment.
But however just it may be, is it not cruel to let people get killed that way? What a scene this must have been, men with swords sparing no one. How does God look at that?
Yes, all too quickly the conclusion is drawn that God may get a certain satisfaction from this. In that way people give themselves a reason not to believe in God.
And yet, they then overlook what comes first with the LORD. Before the judgment comes, he wants to redeem. He wants to save as many people as possible. And that can only happen in one way! Namely, that the Son comes to this earth, and take on God’s judgment.
This is how our God is: his judgment is inescapable, but instead his own Son offers himself up for us, rather than that people would be lost.
This is how God looks at the people who bring the judgment over themselves: can I still save you? The measure of iniquity is not yet full, the LORD still gives (us) time, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Handling The Sword
It is remarkable that the Lord also executes his judgment by the sword of people (as we sing in Psalm 149:3, Book of Praise).
That cannot have been a simple matter.
Especially not, as people honestly realized: “we actually deserve this punishment as well”.
When punishment comes this close, yes, when the Lord includes you in the execution part of it, then it becomes very clear that you live by grace alone. By the blood of redemption that was sprinkled over you.
Now the Bible does not explain further about the personal experiences of the Jewish warriors who were handling the sword. We have no information on that. But is it needed?
You only need to hold a sword once, and you know how it feels.
Nowadays, the sword that God places in our hands (or rather: in our mouth) is spiritual.
But it still is about the same judgment. The judgment that is carried for us by the Son of God.
The judgment that outside of him, no one will stay alive, no man or woman, elderly person or young child. When you realize this, can you then remain quiet about it?
Can you then speak with people in your neighbourhood and just keep talking about the weather, as if nothing is going on? Will you not tell them by Whose grace you live? And that outside of Jesus there is only death?
This is still not a simple task. The Word of God is like a sword that pierces someone’s heart.
With all its consequences. It does not fit (well) in this age of far-reaching privacy. The protection of everyone’s private life is as high as the walls of Jericho. And yet, God can make these walls come tumbling down, just like that.
Your Will Be Done
The trumpets of the end-times are already sounding. We hear of wars and disasters, hate and injustice. And still the last trumpet is not yet blown. God still gives plenty of time, as he truly wants many to be saved.
Please note: that is what God truly wants.
Let his will be done. Pray for that and make yourself available for it. For the will of God is still happening (also) through the service of people.