Joshua 10:40-41 (The Message)
Joshua took the whole country: hills, desert foothills, and mountain slopes, including all kings. He left no survivors. He carried out the holy curse on everything that breathed, just as God, the God of Israel, had commanded.
Reading through Joshua is not for the squeamish. On second thought, reading a lot of the Old Testament is not for the squeamish. We were taught in Divinity School that killing all the people that were conquered was the acceptable practice of the day. Really? Genocide? I guess there’s no getting around it. The invasion and conquest of the Holy Land was brutal. To kill everyone was also to wipe out their religion. You don’t let the old people live because they will continue to speak the traditions. It is said that Communist Russia outlawed the church but the grandmothers still told the grandchildren the stories of the Bible and its faith. They kept Christianity alive.
A careful explanation of the fertility cults of the Canaanite people is (again) not something to discuss in a family friendly devotion. But it was provocative and Moses knew it would lure the people of Israel away from the faith of their ancestors. The only way to keep that from happening was...well...to wipe out the worshippers. Of course, we know that didn’t happen. Many DID remain to wreak havoc on the prophets like Elijah and Elisha.
But what is interesting in this rendition of the Old Testament is the wording: holy curse. It was a religious crusade. It was killing in the name of God. It was NOT Geneva Convention warfare. So I will remind you of the great fact of our faith: it becomes MOST dangerous when we use it as a holy curse. It is dangerous when we justify meanness, death, destruction, and chaos as some kind of work of God. And don’t think it doesn’t happen...even today.
Life was hard in biblical times. Life is hard in these times in many ways. Basic human suffering has happened in the name of freedom, greed, denial, selfishness, and misinformation. Some sectors of faith have called it God’s will. It is not. It is not God’s will that a virus kills. It is not God’s will that we can do what we please no matter who it affects. It is not God’s will that people needlessly die. It is God’s will that we love and work together for the common good. It is God’s will that community is the responsibility of all of us. It is God’s will that love wins in the end. There is nothing holy about this pandemic. But how we love and move carefully to do no harm is, indeed, holy.
Maybe the rest of Joshua won’t be so difficult....
O Thou who calmest from above,
the pure celestial fire impart;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
on the mean altar of my heart.
There let it for thy glory burn
with inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,
in humble prayer and fervent praise.
Pastor Rick Moser