I love hearing from you! Those of you subscribing to my page/newsletter, I asked you to send me questions you have, and I would do my best to answer them. (If you haven’t subscribed, go to the top of the page and share your email address with me.)
Well, we’re kicking off the Q&A series “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” with the first question from one of you!
I’m reading in the Old Testament now and it seems like all it is about is fighting and plundering. Just curious why God would have them kill and take what wasn’t theirs. It just doesn’t seem like something God would approve of and yet He allowed it.
This question has a lot within it! Let’s break it down:
Yes, the Old Testament describes a lot of fighting and plundering! War upon war. Sin upon sin. Battle upon battle. It seems as if the moment one issue is resolved something else goes terribly wrong and the cycle of conflict and strife begins anew. So why?
Is this not like our lives? If scripture were nice and neat and everyone’s lives looked pretty and perfect, we’d likely believe it was a fairy tale. Real life, at least mine, is messy. The moment I get my life together in one area, something in another area goes wrong. So I find a lot of comfort in the “messiness” of the Bible.
War changes the rules of the game. We see it from the beginning of time. In times of peace, and for those not serving in battle, we live by a code of conduct; but in times of war those serving in battle are governed by a different code of conduct. God gives specific directives for the troops during different battles depending on what His goal and purpose is. It can seem like this way of thinking is a double standard, but it’s not. I’ll explain in the next section.
Not only do we live with physical war, but we also deal with spiritual warfare as well. For us to think God isn’t in the business of war is foolish. From the moment Satan decided he wanted to be greater than God, all of creation has been at war. Ephesians 6 is very clear about spiritual warfare. Seeing God’s mighty hand in the direction of physical war reminds us of the battle we face every moment of every day. We are in a constant fight.
3- God is HOLY.
In the Old Testament, people were required to continuously atone for sin via the blood sacrifice of animals. Prior to the Cross this process was lengthy, costly, and required priests and sacrifices on specific days and seasons, and for specific sins. Because of this system, there were multitudes of laws the people of God adhered to in order to keep their lives as free of sin as possible. In keeping with living holy lives, God told His people, the nation of Israel, to not intermarry with other nations and not live according to the customs of others. This separation wasn’t cruel or discriminatory, but rather for their protection. God already knew which people would have their hearts willing and softened to His message of truth and salvation. So those unwilling to serve Him were used to help bring those who would serve Him closer, and sometimes that meant during war.
When the nation of Israel would turn away from holy living and serving God, they would often face seasons of bondage to a king of a foreign land. As their distress under bondage, persecution, or struggle became great they would cry out to God for salvation. God, in his goodness, would hear their cry, have compassion upon them and offer them salvation. But we must remember, the cost of salvation is always steep. Atonement for sin carries the price of blood.
In the era of New Testament living, our blood sacrifice was covered for us at the Cross. We are quick to live in “the love of God” more than the “wrath of God” because we don’t see the price of our sin being paid with blood on a consistent basis. We have unlimited access to God through the power of the Cross if we accept Jesus as savior and honor Him. But we must never forget, or take for granted, the holiness of God.
Holiness isn’t a characteristic of God, it’s who He is. God is Holy. And He commands His people to be holy as well. (1 Peter 1:16)
This holiness is one of the reasons during battles in the old testament the children of Israel were commanded to wipe out all the people in the lands they conquered. God wanted no room for them to have access to the idols, sin and habits of the people they were conquering.
In our humanness we view people as “innocents.” But to God, none of us are innocent. Every one of us is guilty of sin. The Israelites battled pagan people who had no regard or openness for God. The consequences of their disregard and sin was death. And many times that was accomplished in battle.
4- Why keep the plunder?
I guess another question is why not? War comes at a cost. It’s terrible, it’s messy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. These men serving in battle knew they may never come home and be able to provide for their families again. So (in my thinking- this is not found in a specific verse of scripture) when there were battles where God allowed the men to keep specific things or gave permission to go through the plunder, it also served as a form of provision for the soldiers.
It must also be noted, there are specific areas in the Bible where God is very clear the soldiers were not to raid the land, not keep spoils of war, and must not harm specific people. The punishment was extreme when the men failed to obey God’s commands. (Joshua 6-7 are an example)
5- Allow versus Approve.
Sometimes we think allowance is the same as acceptance or approval. They are two distinct concepts. God may allow something to happen, but that doesn’t mean He approves.
God didn’t approve of Eve eating the forbidden fruit in Eden, yet she had free will and hence God allowed it. It’s the value of free will. We have a choice. God allowed Job to be tormented and afflicted by Satan, but that doesn’t mean He approved of the pain. He did however know Job would withstand the suffering, draw closer to God because of it, and be a witness to the glory and faithfulness of God through it.
We must never mistake God’s allowance with His acceptance.
It seems easy to wrap up an article in five points about a question, but the truth is, a lot of the times God doesn’t make sense to me. More times than not I am left scratching my head and thinking, “Really, God?”
I have no idea why He does a lot of what He does. His methods, His timing, His means, they all leave me wondering so much. But what I do know without any hesitation is the character of God is trustworthy. In the depth of sorrow He is true, and in the height of joy He is true. If I were able to understand God and think like Him, I would have no need for Him. I love that God is so powerful it’s hard to understand Him.
While my heart may question His commands at times, I know the character of my Commander is trustworthy. It is because of this I am able to bow my heart in submission and follow Him.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
I hope this helps answer your question sweet friend, and if not, let’s investigate some more. God’s never afraid of our questions!
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