Christians often feel squeamish about Old Testament passages where God commands the complete destruction of cities: men, women, and children. But this is because we have often imbibed a sentimentalism that is not really Christian, and it has had disastrous effects on the Church.
The central point that must be driven into our hearts is the supreme holiness and righteousness of God. When God commanded the complete annihilation of people in the Old Testament, we are required to say Amen. He is God, and we are not. He knows all things. He made all things. He kills and makes alive. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Sentimentalism is a deeply resentful and rebellious heart that masquerades as pity and mercy. It resents God’s holiness and justice in crushing wicked nations, and it reserves the right to stand in judgment over God’s commands. It says, “I will do most anything that seems reasonable,” but there’s a thought lurking in the shadows that says, “Be careful. Don’t be too extreme or fanatical with religion because then you might end up doing something crazy.” But this is fundamentally rebellious. Is God God or not? Is He holy and just and good or not? To reserve some room for judgment is to say that God cannot be completely trusted and that you think your judgment or the consensus of modernity can be trusted.
All of this has had disastrous effects on our view of Scripture and the necessity of obedience, but it has been perhaps most harmful in our reluctance to kill our sin. When there was sin in the camp, the Lord told Joshua, “you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you” (Josh. 7:13). And it wasn’t until Israel had stoned Achan and his sons and his daughters and burned them with fire that the curse was destroyed.
Why are there so many professing believers in this land with so little impact? Why does God not give us leadership and victory? The answer is here. Our camps are filled with sins that we refuse to destroy. We refuse to stone and burn our sins with fire, and so we cannot have God’s blessing and we cannot stand before our enemies.
Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash
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