Joshua: Part 5 (A hard to answer question…what about the children?)

PART FIVE – The Children

 

There is a theological debate about what is called “the age of accountablility.” In other words, we believe that children are innocent, right? If a one-year-old dies, do they go to heaven? They didn’t have the opportunity to accept Jesus, or did they? Or is the age of accountability two? Or three?

Interestingly enough, this really isn’t a Scriptural concept. It is simply based on our understanding of God’s heart. We believe that God is not in the business of sending one-year-olds to hell. In fact, I believe that at one or two, FAITH is all the child knows (hence, why Jesus spoke so highly of children and wanted children to be OUR role models).

 

But regardless, we need to get back to the book of Joshua. As noted, entire cities were wiped out. Some believe that this meant only the men (men were often the only ones counted in the census). But I am not so sure. However, I have to ask…God’s fault or man’s fault?

 

A father is the head of his household. What this means is that the well being of his family has been placed into his hands. His decisions affect the child for better, or for worse. And God does not immediately right every single wrong…if God warns the father to leave an area and take his family, but that father disobeys God and stays, then it’s very likely the children will die with the father. This scenario is certainly not pretty…but it happens.

 

And remember…God is just. This upcoming part might sound heartless…but I promise you it is just the opposite. A child might lose their life in the book of Joshua, but as far as eternity is concerned, they will get what they deserve (because God is just). If a young child was killed (I really, really don’t want to sound heartless) but ended up in heaven for their faith, then God’s justice is shown. Our lives here are a shadow of what is to come…but I’m not just saying that as a trump-card for an argument. It’s an actual reality. Justice is ALWAYS accomplished in the end, although not always visible.

 

One more thing…a different ethnicity could proselytize into God’s people…unless they had constantly, constantly rebelled. In the case of the 31 enemy cities in Joshua, I am assuming that they had been warned, but they were too late. I know that God is patient…He does not punish RIGHT AWAY, He warns first. But if a father rejects the warning, the children can often be caught in the collateral.

 

So why did God favor stubborn, hard-headed, unrepentant Israel? God’s intention for Israel was for them to be “a nation of priests.” Priest, by definition, is a mediator between God and man. They were originally intended to be God’s representative to the nations of the world, showing His character and winning them to His name. But things didn’t go that way……….or did they? Israel led to Judah which led to Jesus Christ, our high priest, our mediator between God and man. God’s plan was never to go hang out with Israel and not with the other kids on the playground. Rather, God’s plan was to USE a regular old nation like Israel as priests in order to win the other nations to Himself (see His promise to Abraham, “all the nations of the world will be blessed through you”). In the end, Israel itself failed (they were horrible representatives, becoming just like all the other nations in their idolatry), but Israel’s seed, Jesus, succeeded.

 

All that to say, Romans says that God shows no favoritism. God did not want to bless Israel but curse everyone else. He wanted to bless Israel so that they could bless everybody else. He wanted all people, all nations, to glorify Him.

 

I, for one, am glad that we are in the New Covenant. God has always loved everybody…meaning that He wanted what was best for them. And what is best for them is to glorify God the way He wants to be glorified. Which happens to be by having faith in Jesus Christ…God invented the Way to Him, so when we use that Way, He is glorified.

Because He loves us, He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But the wicked still have to die…doesn’t mean that God likes it. I’m going to finish this WHOLE ANSWER to your question/rant by copying and pasting all of Ezekiel 18:

 

Ezek 18

18:1 The Justice of a Righteous God

Then another message came to me from the LORD: 2 “Why do you quote this proverb in the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’? 3 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you will not say this proverb anymore in Israel. 4 For all people are mine to judge — both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins will be the one who dies.

5 “Suppose a certain man is just and does what is lawful and right, 6 and he has not feasted in the mountains before Israel’s idols or worshiped them. And suppose he does not commit adultery or have intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period. 7 Suppose he is a merciful creditor, not keeping the items given in pledge by poor debtors, and does not rob the poor but instead gives food to the hungry and provides clothes for people in need. 8 And suppose he grants loans without interest, stays away from injustice, is honest and fair when judging others, 9 and faithfully obeys my laws and regulations. Anyone who does these things is just and will surely live, says the Sovereign LORD.

10 “But suppose that man has a son who grows up to be a robber or murderer and refuses to do what is right. 11 And suppose that son does all the evil things his father would never do — worships idols on the mountains, commits adultery, 12 oppresses the poor and helpless, steals from debtors by refusing to let them redeem what they have given in pledge, worships idols and takes part in loathsome practices, 13 and lends money at interest. Should such a sinful person live? No! He must die and must take full blame.

14 “But suppose that sinful son, in turn, has a son who sees his father’s wickedness but decides against that kind of life. 15 Suppose this son refuses to worship idols on the mountains, does not commit adultery, 16 and does not exploit the poor, but instead is fair to debtors and does not rob them. And suppose this son feeds the hungry, provides clothes for the needy, 17 helps the poor, does not lend money at interest, and obeys all my regulations and laws. Such a person will not die because of his father’s sins; he will surely live. 18 But the father will die for the many sins he committed — for being cruel and robbing close relatives, doing what was clearly wrong among his people.

19 ” ‘What?’ you ask. ‘Doesn’t the child pay for the parent’s sins?’ No! For if the child does what is right and keeps my laws, that child will surely live. 20 The one who sins is the one who dies. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own goodness, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness. 21 But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my laws and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. 22 All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done.

23 “Do you think, asks the Sovereign LORD, that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I only want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. 24 However, if righteous people turn to sinful ways and start acting like other sinners, should they be allowed to live? No, of course not! All their previous goodness will be forgotten, and they will die for their sins.

25 “Yet you say, ‘The Lord isn’t being just!’ Listen to me, O people of Israel. Am I the one who is unjust, or is it you? 26 When righteous people turn from being good and start doing sinful things, they will die for it. Yes, they will die because of their sinful deeds. 27 And if wicked people turn away from their wickedness, obey the law, and do what is just and right, they will save their lives. 28 They will live, because after thinking it over, they decided to turn from their sins. Such people will not die. 29 And yet the people of Israel keep saying, ‘The Lord is unjust!’ O people of Israel, it is you who are unjust, not I.

30 “Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn from your sins! Don’t let them destroy you! 31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and get for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? 32 I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live!

NLT

 

Joshua: Part 4 (Questioning God is good…if for the right reasons)

PART FOUR

 

So in the book of Joshua, I believe that God is justified in commanding the complete extermination of a people. He knows something I don’t know. I have speculated what it could be (whether He warned them or how evil they really were). But even if this were not so, I know that a) God has the right to do so, and b) God is morally perfect. I am not. His judgment is right, even if I don’t understand why.

 

I also have to be careful that this “man-centered thinking” doesn’t creep up in my interactions with Him. It is alright to question Him for the sake of learning to think more like Him. However, most of us question Him because we want to know why He does what He does. We want Him to justify His answer.

My pastor says that he can, within 15 minutes, prove to someone that the reason they ask for that justification is because they want to be God. I didn’t believe this at first, until he asked this question…

“What if God gives you an answer, but that answer isn’t good enough for you?”

It is at that point that I realize that in my heart, I am asking for God’s answer because I want to judge whether I find that answer valid. My friends ask questions about why God does what He does, and I put my friends in the judge’s seat and I put God in the defendant seat. But how in the hell did my friends end up in the judge’s seat? How did God end up in the defendant seat? This makes no sense!

In the book of Job, Job questions God with a valid question: Why do good people suffer? God’s answer: Four chapters of “Who are you to ask that? Where were you when I was creating the entire freakin’ universe?” Job’s response is repentance.

Questioning God’s existence is good, not bad. We should always question why we believe what we believe. As for questioning God, if we believe that God exists and that He is all-knowing, and if we believe that the Bible is His word, then questioning Him is GOOD if it is for the purpose of LEARNING. To say: “God, I disagree with you…” actually isn’t bad at all, if it is followed by “…but I know you are right, so teach me.” That’s awesome. But to say “God, I disagree with you…” and then try to convince Him, well, C.S. Lewis would say that you can’t argue with God because the logic you use to argue with Him was created by Him…so arguing with Him is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.

 

Finding a section of Scripture where you totally disagree with God is a good thing…because it means that you have found a learning opportunity. Woe to the person who only speaks with those whom they already agree with.

Joshua: If God is love, why does He kill people in the Old Testament?

So an old “youth kid” from when I was youth pastoring did three things. 1) Grew up (I guess people do that), 2) Went to George Fox, and 3) Sent me a message, asking a question about the Bible.

It was a tough question…but the reason I was excited to answer it is because it is a question that I remember struggling with when I was younger in the faith, and it’s a very good question. We are taught that God loves everyone, right? We grow in in Sunday School learning that…but then when we read the Bible, we come across the book of Joshua (or the prophets) and we hear about God wiping people out. What?

I remember having that question myself. So I gave my best answer, and Ariel gave me permission to copy and paste her question, as well as my answer. So first, here is her question:

 

Hi Carson!
I have a question/rant that I would like to get out, and you are the only person I could think of going to who might be able to answer it (:
So..
I recently read the book of Joshua, and it made me quite upset! How could the Lord possible allow the genocide of an entire race of people (the Canaanites). Its pure brutality! And please don’t tell me that they were evil people, because what about the poor babies who have no control of how their parents have behaved. Why would the Lord allow a people to settle in an area if he has it “reserved” for his people, the Israelites. I thought God loved everyone. Why does he only help his “special people” even though they doubt him continually.
I just think it’s horrible to wipe out an entire race of people just to take their land. I understand that God promised them their land, but their must have been another way.
Sorry for just randomly bringing this up, but I figured that perhaps you might be able to help me sort out an answer, or maybe some justification?
Oh! and congratulations on your new baby! She is simply precious!

 

 

So the next five posts will be my answer…but since I typed it into facebook, you won’t get to enjoy my “Boldface and italicize every third or fourth word” style…but I do capitalize a lot of stuff.

And yes, my daughter is precious 😉