I Wrestle With God
Jen and I are in our teaching rotation for our church’s Children’s Church. There’s a curriculum we follow and this round I’m teaching on Joshua and the conquest of The Promised Land. My first lesson was on Jericho. Now, everyone seems to love this story. It’s so full of intrigue and suspense and, let’s face it, a very unorthodox military strategy. But it also shows God’s protection of and faithfulness to the Hebrews.
Only problem is, I don’t like this story, nor the one that follows (battle of Ai). I’m sorry. I’m being honest. And I’ve had this whole discussion with God already. I asked him, How am I supposed to teach this story to children? How am I supposed to make sense of it?
Why the consternation? After the walls of Jericho fell the Hebrews were to go in and take the city, sparing no one.
They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it–men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
Okay, look, I’m not a pacifist at all. I firmly believe that the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” applies to murder and not to killing in war. That’s self-defense, kill or be killed. But killing an infant in its mother’s arms, a toddler, a seven-year-old little girl isn’t self-defense. It’s barbaric. Is it not murder?
When radical Muslims do it in the name of Allah we cry terrorism. We’re sickened. It’s nothing less than horrific murder. But when the Hebrews do it in the name of Jehovah (because Jehovah ordered them to) we accept it.
This is what I’m wrestling with God about.
Don’t worry. I’ve not lost my faith (if anything it’s grown stronger), I’ve not turned my back on God. I just have questions.
Now, I know there are all kinds of doctrinal and theological explanations for this (and Jericho wasn’t the only city where this order was given). I’m familiar with them, have studied them, and can argue them to anyone (so, respectfully, please don’t post long comments giving a theological lesson). And if we stick to the realm of theology it minimizes the impact of this act, distances it from us and places it in the circle of academia. But when we think about it and when we see these folks as real flesh and blood people with feelings and fears. Families that laughed together and played together. When we picture the massacre in action–mother’s trying to protect their children, babies run through with a sword, little ones hiding under a table or in a corner witnessing the slaughter of their mommy–it’s pretty tough stuff to handle.
And makes me question God. And wrestle with Him.
So where do I land on all this? How do I make sense of it? Well, some will call it naive, some will call it illogical, some will call it downright idiotic, but I land back in Scripture.
I don’t understand God. I never will. His ways are above our ways and His economy of justice is above ours. So, in faith, I have to settle on Genesis 18:25:
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?
That’s it. When my own knowledge and wisdom falls short I must rely on my faith that God is just and good and right . . . all the time. He doesn’t need to explain Himself to me or justify His actions to me.
But I still had a hard time explaining that to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders.