Joshua and Judges, and many other books of the Old Testament are filled with these images of the people of God routing and destroying their enemies. And those of us today oftentimes scratch our head and say, how do we reconcile this with Jesus who said things like bless those that curse you and pray for your enemies. How are we to deal with this?
One of the more interesting explanations I've heard was given by a professor of mine at seminary and he said one way to look at this concept of holy war, as seen in the Old Testament, is to understand it as an act of worship. Just as in the sacrificial system, the offerings were to given in a certain way, and everything was to follow a precise pattern, so in this conquest of the land was the war to be fought in a certain way, and done the way that God told them to do.
So, let's not think of this as war, but rather as an act of obedience to God. And, in this case, the people were completely obedient to God. What about us? Has God told us to do something that might not make sense, or might not be the way that we'd do it? Even then, believe in faith, and trust that He is at work. As the old hymn goes
Trust and Obey
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to Trust and Obey
New Testament Lesson
I love that simple verse in this passage, may you be made strong with His strength. There are a lot of ways that we can be made strong. We can be made strong with our pride. Or with our will. Or with our knowledge. Or with our experience. Of with our . . . whatever it may be for you. But, this passage says, be made strong in His strength. Our strength should come from God, for His will not fail. Ours will. We are all needful of His grace and mercy and strength. And, until His strength is our strength, we will not have the strength we need for the day. Today, may we grow strong in His strength.
It is a terrible thing to be angry when something good is done for another person. We see that in the text today, when Jesus heals, but in the manner or time that the religious leaders would have liked, they get angry. They do not celebrate that this man has been healed; they do not celebrate that he will have new life, they do not celebrate at the wonder and Majesty and power of God. They are angry, because it didn't happen the way they wanted it to.
Do we think sometimes that unless it goes the way that we want that we should pick up our ball and go home? The religious leaders missed out on what God was doing through Jesus because it wasn't the way that they would have done it. May we not make the same mistake.