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What kind of God do we want, anyway? 091112
It is a very difficult question, isn’t it? Readers of Joshua 8:1-23 may agree. In this account, the king of Ai, his city, his people, his land and cattle were all captured, plundered and killed by the army of Joshua, as he was led by God.
As a believer and disciple of Jesus, I find this difficult, and others as well. I can’t see how the father, God, with Jesus his son could direct these battles. It just seems like we’re talking about two gods, one which helps Joshua slaughter all the residents of a city, women and children included.
Has God grown up, and has God changed, so that now he leads us, through Jesus, to a new life? Or have we changed and grown up, some?
The answer to these questions are rather personal for each of us. One answer which may apply to all of us, is that God is infinite, and we are not, so trying to reach idea an (in our small minds) thast ‘includes’ all of God is not possible. Our faith needs to grow first, before we try to judge what God is or isn’t.
My own opionion is that our small ideas of God have grown. At one time, in the Old Testament there is talk of those using stones or large rocks as ‘gods’ or swearing that God lives on a certain mountain. We no longer believe that because we’ve grown (a little) since then. We’ve seen a larger world, perhaps, and seen a larger universe, and God is still larger than we thought!
Today, as we recall the events of September 11, 2012 can we not say that our God leads us to revenge, or that their God has led them to attack us, or that our God leads us to sell weapons to everyone in the middle east?
May God forgive us for much of what say we do in His name.
Pray for peace,
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The Message (MSG)
9-15 This is what Hezekiah king of Judah wrote after he’d been sick and then recovered from his sickness:
In the very prime of life
I have to leave.
Whatever time I have left
is spent in death’s waiting room.
No more glimpses of God
in the land of the living,
No more meetings with my neighbors,
no more rubbing shoulders with friends.
This body I inhabit is taken down
and packed away like a camper’s tent.
Like a weaver, I’ve rolled up the carpet of my life
as God cuts me free of the loom
And at day’s end sweeps up the scraps and pieces.
I cry for help until morning.
Like a lion, God pummels and pounds me,
relentlessly finishing me off.
I squawk like a doomed hen,
moan like a dove.
My eyes ache from looking up for help:
“Master, I’m in trouble! Get me out of this!”
But what’s the use? God himself gave me the word.
He’s done it to me.
I can’t sleep—
I’m that upset, that troubled.
16-19 O Master, these are the conditions in which people live,
and yes, in these very conditions my spirit is still alive—
fully recovered with a fresh infusion of life!
It seems it was good for me
to go through all those troubles.
Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline.
You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing.
But my sins you let go of,
threw them over your shoulder—good riddance!
The dead don’t thank you,
and choirs don’t sing praises from the morgue.
Those buried six feet under
don’t witness to your faithful ways.
It’s the living—live men, live women—who thank you,
just as I’m doing right now.
Parents give their children
full reports on your faithful ways.
20 God saves and will save me.
As fiddles and mandolins strike up the tunes,
We’ll sing, oh we’ll sing, sing,
for the rest of our lives in the Sanctuary of God.
The Message (MSG)
8 God said to Joshua, “Don’t be timid and don’t so much as hesitate. Take all your soldiers with you and go back to Ai. I have turned the king of Ai over to you—his people, his city, and his land.
2 “Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king. Only this time you may plunder its stuff and cattle to your heart’s content. Set an ambush behind the city.”
3-8 Joshua and all his soldiers got ready to march on Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand men, tough, seasoned fighters, and sent them off at night with these orders: “Look sharp now. Lie in ambush behind the city. Get as close as you can. Stay alert. I and the troops with me will approach the city head-on. When they come out to meet us just as before, we’ll turn and run. They’ll come after us, leaving the city. As we are off and running, they’ll say, ‘They’re running away just like the first time.’ That’s your signal to spring from your ambush and take the city. God, your God, will hand it to you on a platter. Once you have the city, burn it down. God says it, you do it. Go to it. I’ve given you your orders.”
9 Joshua sent them off. They set their ambush and waited between Bethel and Ai, just west of Ai. Joshua spent the night with the people.
10-13 Joshua was up early in the morning and mustered his army. He and the leaders of Israel led the troops to Ai. The whole army, fighting men all, marched right up within sight of the city and set camp on the north side of Ai. There was a valley between them and Ai. He had taken about five thousand men and put them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, west of the city. They were all deployed, the main army to the north of the city and the ambush to the west. Joshua spent the night in the valley.
14 So it happened that when the king of Ai saw all this, the men of the city lost no time; they were out of there at the crack of dawn to join Israel in battle, the king and his troops, at a field en route to the Arabah. The king didn’t know of the ambush set against him behind the city.
15-17 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be chased; they ran toward the wilderness. Everybody in the city was called to the chase. They pursued Joshua and were led away from the city. There wasn’t a soul left in Ai or Bethel who wasn’t out there chasing after Israel. The city was left empty and undefended as they were chasing Israel down.
18-19 Then God spoke to Joshua: “Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai—I’m giving it to you.” Joshua stretched out the javelin in his hand toward Ai. At the signal the men in ambush sprang to their feet, ran to the city, took it, and quickly had it up in flames.
20-21 The men of Ai looked back and, oh! saw the city going up in smoke. They found themselves trapped with nowhere to run. The army on the run toward the wilderness did an about-face—Joshua and all Israel, seeing that the ambush had taken the city, saw it going up in smoke, turned and attacked the men of Ai.
22-23 Then the men in the ambush poured out of the city. The men of Ai were caught in the middle with Israelites on both sides—a real massacre. And not a single survivor. Except for the king of Ai; they took him alive and brought him to Joshua.
The Message (MSG)
Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
4-11 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
12-13 So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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