As we continue to read through the Old Testament as part of our year-long reading of The Story, the blood, gore, and annihilation we read about disturbs many of us. Isn't this sort of thing the very reason we are bombing Libya as I type and why we invaded Iraq and why troops remain in Afghanistan? The killing of innocent people cannot be tolerated in a civilized, free society.
If this is so, then, how do we resolve God's actions under the old covenant with the God we know through Jesus in the new covenant?
Let me refer you back to an earlier post where I tried to explain "the anger of God" in the OT. I equated God's anger toward Israel to a parent's loving anger as he or she parented a rebellious teenager. We can get that.
But what about the slaughter of indigenous people under Joshua and the Judges' leadership, for example? That's a bit harder to get your head and heart around than a frustrated God with his defiant people. Here's a starting point: When God chose a tribe of people and a piece of land to represent him and his holiness and those people and that land to be how the rest of the world would know him, only the choosing God, Adonai, the LORD, can exist among the people and on the land. All else must go. People and property who represent Holy God must not tolerate anything in their relationships or on their land that do not portray the holiness of their God.
If we stopped there--where many have--then the defense of land and purity of lineage is a necessity. Bring on the wars and genocide. However, there was a magnificent shift in who was the revelation and location of God when Jesus came onto the scene.
I agree with N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, that two primary reasons for Jesus' death was his perceived attack on the Torah and the Temple. Jesus, not the Law, was now the revelation of God; and, Jesus, not the Temple, was now the indwelling presence of God. The Kingdom of God no longer resided in the tribes of Israel but in the Son of God, and that kingdom was no longer limited to the acreage by the Mediterranean Sea symbolized by the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus could not be tolerated because he did not defend what had been defended since the days of Abraham and Moses.
When Jesus died on the cross he took on all the evil both earthly and heavenly powers could muster, and he rode them down to their defeat. He then defeated death through the resurrection and walked among us to demonstrate what he taught and did was real and of God. The resurrected Lord is the revelation of God and the indwelling presence of God. The Kingdom is now the church, and all nations know God through their Jesus-like acts of love and forgiveness.
So, until Jesus came and became the presence and revelation of God and until he commissioned the new covenant people, the church, God demonstrated his justice (and mercy) through a chosen people on a piece of land.
That's why things look so differently in the Old Testament and the New and why we no longer fight wars to gain property for the dwelling presence of God or claim our tribe is the revelation of God. Jesus is all that.
As a friend said during one of our LifeGroup meetings, "I'm so thankful for Jesus." Me, too.