Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 5: Conquest and Settlement: The Disruptive Truth of Israel’s Holy War
Lesson 55 – Old Testament Holy War (Post-Exodus), Intolerance to Peaceful Coexistence
27 Mar 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ve covered the call of Abraham and the Exodus and Mt. Sinai. We try to capsulize these events because one of the things you want to take away from this kind of approach to Scripture is a sense of being able to reason your way through and associate Scripture in a powerful way with the big problems of life, so that the big problems of life never float around your brains and your hearts loose, they always float around, if they float around, solidly surrounded by Scripture frameworks. The big idea behind the Exodus is that God, at that point, brought into existence a counterculture and He’s never stopped building a counterculture from the time of the Exodus on through history. Why is He building a counterculture? Because He’s repudiated Noahic civilization. Noahic civilization began here, we call it just civilization, but biblically what we call civilization is Noahic civilization, it’s the civilization God instituted through Noah, through the sons of Noah, to all of our racial backgrounds and our cultural backgrounds. But that civilization became paganized very shortly and could not fulfill spiritually.
So the big idea behind the Exodus is not just a Sunday School story, the big idea behind the Exodus is that it’s a message that the grandeur of civilization, the arts, the sciences and the technology, beautiful and compelling though they may be, do not fulfill the needs of man in his heart. There’s something missing, and no matter how long you live, we have to relearn that again and again. Sometimes it’s the sad way, sometimes God has to take civilization away, as for example the believers in Albania right now, watching their country fold up and destroy itself in two weeks, that’s a shock. Sometimes it’s in prosperity when people have the finest of everything and they still aren’t satisfied, because there’s something nagging. What is that? That’s because we’re men and women made in God’s image, we’re theomorphic, we’re made in His form, and because we are we are not ever going to be satisfied unless we have a personal relationship with Him. The Exodus is a dramatic illustration of the fact that God knows this, and He’s working behind the scenes of history to one day create a divine counterculture, i.e. a civilization having the elements of the Noahic civilization, but in addition having something else, and that’s spiritual life.
We said that the Exodus is a picture of judgment/salvation, so when we think of salvation, we covered several points, we said that the story of the Exodus was that God was gracious before He judged, He didn’t suddenly lower the boom but He was gracious and forbearing. The second thing was that when He did lower the boom, He lowered it perfectly; it wasn’t a statistical smearing of results with accidents here and there. There was a one to one correspondence between the saved and the lost, and there wasn’t any half-saved or accidentally saved, or accidentally lost. There were those who had blood on their door who did not suffer loss of their first-born. There were those who did not have blood on their door and did suffer the loss of their first-born, not only the first-born in the human area but also their animals. Obviously there were only two classes of people, either they had blood on the door or they did not have blood on the door. There were not three or four classes, there were only two classes.
Which leads us to another feature that we always see about salvation, and that is there is only one way to be saved. We’ve gotten two excellent ideas out of this. Next time somebody challenges you or you’re in a discussion with family or friends, and I know this sounds bigoted, because it did to me when I was a non-Christian, why is it Christianity has this obnoxious trait of saying that it and it alone is the way, the truth and the life, when other religions are more open-minded. I mean, the eastern religions say a little bit here and a little bit there, sort of a religious cafeteria. We have two pictures in these events of the oneness and the uniqueness of salvation. The first one was the flood of Noah, one and only one boat, one and only one way to be saved. What’s the one way in the Exodus? The blood on the door, there’s only one way. Why is that? Because God designed it that way, so you have to listen to Him, because He’s the One that’s judging.
Then we said that in both the case of Noah and the Exodus, man and nature are both involved. Salvation is not complete until more than just the spiritual part is taken care of, hence Easter, and hence the fact that we are not totally saved until both our spirit and our body are saved, and the resurrection is the story of the salvation of the body. Christianity alone deals with this in any substantive way. Look at all the other religions; do they deal with a resurrection? Ever hear of that? Resurrection is unique, it’s unique to biblical faith, another one of these unique things that we’ve seen again as we work through these things. What did we say was unique about our faith here, Creator/creature distinction? No other religion outside of the Bible has the Creator/creature distinction. What about the fall, what was the uniqueness of our faith? The uniqueness of our faith was that we and we alone have bracketed evil, we and we alone have limited evil; all the other people believe in an eternal existence of evil, that’s why they kill themselves. The flood is the story where we have the picture of salvation, we saw the uniqueness there.
The Noahic Covenant, we introduced the idea of a contract and that’s unique outside of the Bible, you don’t have people making contracts with God, or God making contracts with people. These are the neat little features that show our faith to be true. They are things that are totally missing in everybody else’s approach. Only in the Scriptures do we have these unique characteristics, and we want to drill ourselves so again and again we remember this, because they’re the features of our God. What was unique in the call of Abraham? The fact that we have an electing, sovereign personal God, that history is going to be His way, His personal way, it’s not run by a computer, it’s not a pile of marbles. It is run by the personal will of the personal Creator. The uniqueness of the Exodus is that the only revolution of a group of people out of a civilization without an army. Think about that, it’s the strangest revolution that man has ever witnessed in history. All other revolutions, all other freedom movements have always involved armed conflict. This is the only one that didn’t. Why is that? Because God was going to show that it’s His tools, not man’s tools by which this is accomplished.
We came to Mt. Sinai and we said again this is a unique thing. Have you ever heard of a civilization or a nation anywhere in the history of man that ever heard the law being spoken from a mountain by God in the public audience of a million people? This wasn’t a private vision, this was witnessed by the entire nation, out loud, in Hebrew, so you could record it with your tape recorder. This is the God-given law. In the Mt. Sinai incident we tried to show these three great truths that underlie our faith, the doctrine of revelation, the doctrine of inspiration, the doctrine of canonicity. Each one of these under girds this. It’s meaningless to talk about this as the authority unless you talk about this in the framework of that. Otherwise this is no better than Shakespeare, no better than any other piece of great literature. The Bible has to be seen in the light of its own framework, its own frame of reference. And those three areas of truth give that frame of reference. We said that the doctrine of revelation, the important thing to remember about this Bible is that it insists that it is a conversation from God, the words of God, just as the Word of God sounded on Mt. Sinai, so the Word of God through men’s pens developed this book. So this is not just a human authored book; human authors, yes, they were necessary but not sufficient, God gave the Bible. So there we have revelation. That’s why this is authoritative. For example, skeptics like to call this, when you get into a debate or a discussion, oh, you’re building your religious beliefs out of an old ancient book. That’s an innuendo, it’s a vocabulary, it’s a name calling device, “an ancient book.” The answer to that is did 2 + 2 = 4 back in Babylonian times? Then we no longer follow 2 + 2 = 4 because that’s an ancient truth. The issue is whether this is truth, not whether it’s old.
Inspiration, we said, is a subset of revelation in that this book has captured some, but not all, revelation. And the third truth we went through last time was canonicity, and that is that the church recognize through the leading of the Holy Spirit which Scriptures were inspired and which aren’t. But having said that, the Bible is always the authority over the church, and the good news of that is that it cuts human authority down to size, it doesn’t who you are, who I am or who any of us are, this stands above all of us. Therefore we never have to face in our lifetime, we can face claims of absolute power and Christians down through the ages have had to do this, either from the church claiming to be infallible, or the king claiming to be infallible. Remember the revolution Cromwell led in England, from which we got our freedoms, basically? What was the issue the Puritans faced in England? That the king claimed to be a divine authority and he claimed to be the ultimate authority, and the Puritans said no, this is the ultimate authority. So they beheaded the king, amazing situation that occurred. This was unheard of, nobody ever dared to come up a king that had divine rights and cut their head off, and it wasn’t done in a riot, that’s the difference between the way the Puritans went about things and the way riots go about things. The Puritans debated in Parliament, passing parliamentary procedures, etc. It all was done in a very rigorous and orderly way.
Tonight we’re going to move on to another section of the Bible. We’re going to deal with the conquest and settlement period. This introduces a whole new set of books, and we want to kind of diagram it for those of you who may be a little unfamiliar with the Old Testament. We’ve looked at the Pentateuch, we’ve looked at Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, we’ll kind of put all these together because it’s all part of the Law. These five books constitute the Torah, or in the New Testament it’s called the Law. You’ll see three words in the New Testament describe the Old Testament: Law, prophets, and writings. Those are the three Jewish words that describe it. We’re finishing up with the first part of the Old Testament, the law. The Law sets forth the foundation of the Old Testament. Everything else is a follow up to the Pentateuch.
We’re going to deal with a period of history that starts with Numbers, it starts in Deuteronomy, it continues through Joshua, it continues to Judges. So this period of history looks like this on a time line. Here’s 2000 BC, that’s Abraham; here is 1000 BC, that’s David; half way between, about 1400 BC is the Exodus, and from the Exodus period on up close to the time of David is the period of history we’re looking at. During that interval of world history there’s not any sign of a super power bothering Israel. There’s not one mention of Egypt in existence.
This is why I mentioned the fact that, I’m personally persuaded there’s something radically wrong with the way we’re looking at secular history because right in here, during all this time, it’s like Europe in the Middle Ages, there’s no super power, just feudal kingdoms here and there. In the midst of this we have the most controversial section of the Bible. I don’t know of any other section of the Bible that’s more ridiculed, apart from Genesis 1, than this area. Joshua, the last part of Deuteronomy, Numbers and Judges all contain holy war. That’s what we want to look at. All these truths that we’re discovering have a theme of disruption to them. The call of Abraham was a disruption, the Exodus was a disruption, Mt. Sinai was a disruption, and now conquest [can’t understand word] surely is a disruption, because now we get to face the problem of a bloody, messy war. What is this doing in the pages of God’s Word?
Three key criticisms of the Bible come out of this period. These three things you’ll hear out of the mouths any knowledgeable non-Christian, whether they’ve read the Bible or not, they’ve been told about these things. And when we read the Bible we have to be honest, these three things are there. One of them is genocide, there is genocide in the Scriptures, an awful genocide, and we have to deal with why. It’s there, you can’t debate it, you can’t hide it, it’s there. So what do we say? The second thing about it is, it is the most obvious example of intolerance the history of the world had ever seen. Certain things are tolerated and other things are not tolerated, and anybody that differs is killed and destroyed. Why is there such intolerance? A third thing is why was there a divine insistence against peaceful coexistence? Why was peaceful coexistence considered to be evil? These are three stunning problems that every Christian has to come to grips with: genocide, intolerance and an aversion to peaceful coexistence.
What I’ve tried to do in this chapter, you’ll see it as it unfolds in the notes, I’ve taken seven examples from this period of 300+ years, not because there are seven, there’s plenty more. I picked seven key events because each of these seven events shows some aspect of these three problems. Our aim here is to come to grips with something our God is telling us here. This is a lesson about our faith. Whenever we get clobbered with criticism over something, it’s probably time that we sat down and reflected and not done the very dangerous thing of pretending it’s not there or tying to hide it. No, we just let it all hang out, let’s get it all out on the table and let’s see what we’re talking about. That’s what we’re going to do. So we’re going to take seven examples that involve these three problems: genocide, intolerance, and an aversion to peaceful coexistence, exactly the opposite of what you consider to be ethical behavior. Not only is this opposite to what you would normally consider to be ethical and “Christian” behavior, but it is commanded by God.
We’re going to take these seven things and each one of these seven involve passages of Scripture in Exodus, some in Deuteronomy, I always give you the passages and I recommend that you look at these chapters because in class we can only get dips and dabs in it, but maybe we can whet your appetite so you’ll read through some of this. The first two we’re going to deal with tonight and these involve things that are going on in the book of Exodus, Exodus 32-34, Deuteronomy 9-12, and Exodus 34 and Numbers 33. Those are the central passages that we’re going to work with.
Turn to Exodus 32. I showed slides of Mt. Sinai; one of those pictures was shot toward Mt. Horeb and in the lower left side of the photograph was this little mound of dirt, and I said the tales of history, the oral tradition, says that that little mound of dirt off to the side of Mt. Horeb was where the event of Exodus 32 took place. Here’s the scene. Verse 1, “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.  And Aaron said to them, Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.  Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.  And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” So it is party time while Moses is up on the top of Mt. Sinai. What we have to do is look at what’s going on here, there are a number of things and we can’t get into all the details, but it’s really got some neat stuff in it.
One of the things in verse 1 that you want to look and read between the lines, do you notice there’s something wrong with the authority structure here. When God called the nation out, He left them with an authority structure. The authority structure was the elders, and Moses and Aaron. Now all of a sudden in place of that kind of a situation, we suddenly developed a democracy. Now what we have is, we have the people coming to Aaron, and that isn’t recognized too well by us because we’ve all been brought up to believe in democracy. Yet when you read further in the chapter, verse 21, Moses confronts Aaron over this, and look at the conversation that goes on here, it’s kind of neat. “Then Moses says to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?’ ” What they did to Aaron is they put political pressure on him, notice how verse 1 goes, the people saw, and they assembled themselves about Aaron. Here he is and he’s got all the people ticked off, so you’ve got the whole group of people trying to tell him what to do. Yet in verse 21 Moses goes back to Aaron and says, hey, I don’t care if all the people wanted to do this, you were supposed to be the leader, how come you caved in?
And then Aaron said, and this is one of the classic excuses of Scripture, look at this one closely, this is a ripper. “Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you…’  And Aaron said, Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil.  For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’  And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
You’ve got to catch the humor of Scripture because there’s a lot of humor, particularly in the Old Testament, and you have to learn to recognize it, because it’s not terribly overt, but it’s there, and the more modern translations have had more fun with these passages, translating them in a more relaxed way because when the King James translated the Old Testament it was so serious and pious, you think God spoke in the King James English and it just kind of ponderously goes on. But if you have the opportunity to read it in the original language you see it’s not that at all. A lot of the Bible is really written in the language of the street. In fact, it’s very, kind of unreligious in and very crude in places. The only conclusion you can come to is that for God apparently it’s more important that He communicate than the format that He uses to communicate, because communication is so important for Him, to get His message to us. And if He has to use the language of the street, He uses the language of the street. It’s not that He’s slighting quality language, it’s just that that’s the way people speak, that’s the way people understand. But this is one of those neat little humorous jabs, Aaron said hey, I couldn’t help it, I just threw it in the fire and out came the calf. The idea is that something’s out of control right at the beginning.
If you look at verse 25 Moses picks up on that, “Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies—” this is the New ASV. Verse 26, “then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said ‘Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered together unto him. Then he did some nasty things to the Levites, he ordered them to go in and kill people. This is kind of a bloody mess here, but do you know what’s happening? The issue is that this nation is going to be run under an authority structure, and if you don’t like it, you can get off is basically what’s happening to the Israelites here, and they’re out of control in verse 1. So Moses takes drastic measures with the Levites to bring them back under control. This has tremendous ramifications later for the doctrine of sanctification, because when we get into this, I’m going to go through all the blood and the gore here so we see what the passage is saying, then we want to come over to this doctrine. This is the doctrine that grows out of this—the doctrine of sanctification, or spiritual growth in our life. Somehow that doctrine is tied to the answer to those three questions, why is there genocide, why is there intolerance, and why is there an aversion to peaceful coexistence? The answers to those three problems bear directly upon our Christian growth.
Let’s look further. Ask yourself as we look at verses 3-4, particularly verse 4, what have the people done by the end of verse 4? Obviously they’ve built a calf, but based on what we’ve talked about in the past, can you see through the idol to what has actually happened here, what’s the force, what kind of a spirit is being revealed through this act of pressuring Aaron to make an idol. And particularly what kind of spirit is it that defines that clause found in the end of verse 4, “This is your god … who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” Let’s look at that sentence, let’s analyze it. This is your god, and then a pronoun type clause here, you, who brought you, out of Egypt? Now is this part of the sentence correct, never mind the “god,” but does that clause describe real history? Yes, were they brought out of Egypt? Yes, they were brought out of Egypt. The discussion that they’re having here has not to do with the event of coming out of Egypt in the sense of the raw basic fact; they all know they came out of Egypt. We’ll call this a little piece of data.
In verses 1 and 4 what do you notice? That there’s a conflict, apparently, in the interpretation of the data. They’re not denying the data, today the critics of the Bible even deny the piece of data, they deny the Exodus ever happened, but these people lived too close to it to deny it. They’re holding on to the data, they believe the historical event happened, but what’s their interpretation of the event according to verse 1 and 4? There’s a conflict of some sort going on between verses 1 and 4. What is it? Verse 1 is human beings that did it; verse 4 is a god did it. Let’s examine a little more carefully, same sentence, this is the god, who is making this assertion? Who is designing, defining and naming this god? Is the god doing the naming or is man doing the naming? It’s man that does the naming. What event have we studied, the climactic event of the Noahic civilization, where we found the same kind of language? They built the tower of Babel, that we may make… we may make a name for ourselves. See that spirit of autonomy? That’s a spirit of sin, that’s pride, and that’s what’s in all our hearts. That’s what our flesh loves. We want to define and carve out some area that we control, we want control, we want to rule, we want security, and we want it on our terms. That is the essence of sin. You see it in the tower of Babel and you see it right here.
They’ve faced themselves with this event, but the event couldn’t possibly be the Creator doing. This history has got to be explained some other way, either by a political explanation, Moses, a sociological explanation, or a religious explanation but it’s got to be explained in some way so the God of the Scripture certainly couldn’t have done it. With this spirit you could have a video tape of the resurrection of Jesus and as one person said, oh, strange things happen in the universe. Think about it. You could actually have evidence of Jesus Christ’s physical body rising out of the tomb on Easter and somebody could come up with that, “funny, strange things happen.” The spirit of autonomy always tries to create an explanation for data and history no matter how stupid it sounds to, to us when we are filled with the Spirit it sounds stupid, when we’re in the flesh it doesn’t because we might go along with it. So here we have us defining our own meaning. You can take that and apply it to any point in your life, I can apply it in my life, is that when we see sin operating we’re doing the same thing, we’re engaging in exactly the same thing, we’re not making a golden calf, but we’re really saying well, this all happened because of this and this and that and you know, God’s doesn’t listen to prayer, He’s not involved in this, you just let me handle this. We do the same thing.
So right at the start of this whole thing, right at the mountain, the very foot of the mountain when God’s giving the Law, this is going on down below. What is the whole point of the Law? It’s a revelation of God’s lordship, and the servant/master relationship. It’s authority, isn’t it? Up on the top of the mountain God is speaking and beginning His rule over this people and while He is speaking, you’ve got to catch the irony of this event, at exactly the hour that He’s talking to Moses about ruling this people, the people are autonomously interpreting their existence to such an extent they’re defining the nature of God Himself. On the top of the mountain God is defining reality, on the bottom of the mountain man is defining reality. Both are making ultimate statements; the two cannot coexist. One or the other has to yield, because they’re both universals. God says I am the authority and I define the meaning of life. The people down below are saying we are the authority and we define the meaning of life. You can’t put those two together and get coexistence. Those two principles are at war eternally; that’s the nature of what we’re going to see in this holy war.
Let’s read further, verses 7-8, “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” It’s interesting, God puts them with Moses, but watch what happens. Moses was an interesting person; all these guys have very interesting biographies. If you’ve ever done a study of the life of Moses, or any one of these men, it’s encouraging to see them because one time you see them in all their grandeur, and the next moment you see them fall flat on their face, and it’s so comforting to realize that that happens to every one of us. Here you’re going to see one of the great moments in Moses’ life, magnificent moment. The Holy Spirit works through this man in such a way that he reveals not just something in his life but through his life he reveals something that eventually comes through the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 8, “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” Verse 9, “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.”
Look at verse 10, “Now then let me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Think back for a minute. What was the promise to Abraham? The promise to Abraham was that there would be a seed, an eternal seed. Abraham, through Jacob, had great grandsons which became the tribes of Israel. One of those tribes was promised that he would have to rule the scepter; the scepter would never depart from this tribe. The tribe was Judah. The scepter would never depart from Judah. What tribe is Moses in? He’s of the tribe of Levi. What God is threatening to do here, it’s a tremendous moment in verse 10, God is threatening to violate His own word. God is threatening to undo His promises. The wrath of God is horrifying in this sense. Here you have a revelation of God threatening to undo His very word. It’s an amazing statement, you can read this over and get very religious and pious and not even catch what’s happening here. It’s an awful moment. In verse 11 Moses quickly comes in, and he makes one of the most famous intercessions in all of Scripture. And this is a picture of the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look what he does. “Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou has brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?” See God tested him, notice how God phrased it in verse 7, “your people,” and “you brought them out of the land of Egypt.” Then you have in verse 11, Moses goes back and says no, they’re Your people, and You brought them out of the land of Egypt.
If you were a Hollywood film maker, and you wanted to dramatize this, and you were trying to write the script, and talk to your camera crew and organize this scene, what would be some things that you would try to highlight, in other words, the voice of God and the actors? What strikes you about this conversation that is unusual and kind of almost unbiblical, if we dare say that? What do you notice about Moses and the way he talks to God? And the way God is talking to him. God is threatening him; God is challenging him, almost, to challenge Him back. God is pushing him to see if Moses will push back. This is not a polite religious prayer. It’s not that kind of a prayer at all. Moses argues with God, that’s what’s going on, and you’ll see that several other times in the Bible. There’s some amazing stuff in the Psalms where this happens. These guys go one on one, toe to toe with God Himself. As some skeptic once said, this is why the Jews run the banks and run everything else, after all, they argued with God for 14 centuries, they can certainly argue with man. These were tough people.
Moses makes an argument, this is bargaining. Look how he bargains with God. He knows God is really ticked, he knows that God could very well do exactly what He’s saying in just a fraction of a second. Moses is trying to calm God down, in other words. And to work on God’s heart, what does he do? I’ve never seen this mentioned in a book of prayer, but here you have Moses arguing with God and convincing God, based on a deep truth that’s sitting there and lodged in God’s own heart. Look at it carefully. Verse 11, “Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why doth Thine anger burn….” Verse 12, “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth?’ Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people.” Now verse 13, see why I took these events in sequence, you all studied the event of verse 13, we went through the , look at it: “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel [Jacob], Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.” Verse 14, “So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” or He repented.
That’s one of those rare passages that cause theologians all kinds of problems, because it looks like you’ve got the immutability of God changed here. But one of the things we want to look at is verse 13 and the logic behind it. Remember how I said there was that burning thing that was going through the darkness in between the slaughtered pieces that were on either side of it, and it just went back and forth. I said it was the oath of malediction, and that you could properly translate that passage by saying God is talking, I will be damned if I do not do this for you, it’s an oath of malediction. That’s the force of the passage, undeniably the force of that passage in the Hebrew. Very, very powerful swearing that goes on. That’s exactly, verse 13, what Moses picks up on, he goes back to when God made the original contract, he goes back to the very way God swore to Himself and he throws it right back in the face of God. This is kind of scary stuff, and I’m not saying I would have the courage to do this at all. And I don’t think many of us would, most of us would be sitting there, “what do we do now” kind of thing. Can anyone suggest something that this shows about the interaction between God and man in prayer, that elevates it above, shall we say the calm, stereotypical religious prayer? What’s happening here that you don’t normally associate with nice prayers? This isn’t nice praying. This is tough bargaining. It’s almost like God reaches out and smacks Moses and Moses turns right around and smacks God, smacks God with His own promise.
Obviously God knew going into this what was going to happen. Why do you think God set this up? You could say, I don’t want to use this word promiscuously but it’s like God’s playing with Moses’ mind here. Why did God do it that way? What do you think that God is trying to force out of Moses? Moses is going to be the leader of these people, they’re a sinful people. They’re a people that are going to screw up, and he’s got to cope with it, he’s got to deal with it and remember Moses naturally didn’t want to. Remember the first picture you get of Moses, oh well if I go back they’re not going to think much of me; I’m not anybody, etc. What God’s doing is He’s forcing Moses to stand up and assume authority and take the bull by the horns and do something with it. In this case he did take the bull by the horns, he broke it. But what we have here is a teaching lesson that God is giving to Moses to build him as a spiritual leader and out of this whole passage, chapter 32 presents two great truths in this event.
We call this the covenant breaking at Sinai, and out of this covenant breaking event we get two great truths. One is that for a holy people to submit to God, their hearts must be dealt with, they must have circumcised hearts. This is what God says in the book of Deuteronomy, O Israel, that your heart was circumcised. There must be spiritual surgery on the organ of life. This is a compulsion, we would say in Christian terms what you’ve got here is what you hear all the time, and you hear it in New Testament vocabulary so I think we get immune to it because we hear it so often, it doesn’t register any longer: it’s only Christ in you that can do the life but not you, not me, not our flesh, it has to be Christ in us that lives the life. Here you see the natural man doesn’t submit, the required spiritual surgery has to happen, so the first great truth of this is hearts must be circumcised in order to be servants of the Lord. It does not come naturally.
Second, for a sinful people to abide in fellowship with God there must be an intercessor, a priestly [blank spot]… Exodus 34:11, “Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.” See the intolerance, see the problem I gave, point 3, the avoidance of peaceful coexistence. Look at what it says, think about what is said in verse 12, “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, lest it become a snare in your midst.” You cannot enter into peaceful coexistence with these people, ever! Verse13, “But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherahs  –for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—  lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they play the harlot with their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invite you to eat of his sacrifice;  and you take some of his daughter’s for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods, and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods.  You shall make for yourself no molten gods.” Then it goes on and describes it. In a nutshell, what is he warning about in verse 15-17? In sociological, political terms, what’s God holding a red flag up here for? What would happen? He’s talking about social relationships developing in a peaceful environment, and intermarriages occurring. Yet that’s forbidden. There is an intolerance for that kind of peaceful coexistence, that must not happen. There must always be a hostility, an animosity, a war that goes on between you and the inhabitants of this land.
Let’s look further, in Numbers 33:50, this is just a sampling of these kinds of passages, you can find more, just look at a concordance, but I just want to convince you that it’s not just an isolated passage. The critics are right, this stuff is here. They’re wrong in how they’re interpreting it. “Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying,” this is just before they’re going to go in, this is a little bit later than the other passage.  “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan,  then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places;  and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it,” etc. Verse 55, “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land in which you live.  And it shall come about that as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you.” So clearly there is a divinely authorized intolerance to things.
To get some background and interpret this, we want to leave you with some thoughts on how to interpret this, turn back to Genesis 15:16 to get some background. Way back in Abraham’s day God forecast what He was going to do, He announced beforehand, and he said in the very chapter of the , which we read when we went through this, and I said we’d return to it; we are returning to it tonight. In Genesis 15, while He was making His covenant with Abraham He sowed a little thought in here, He said in verse 16, “Then in the fourth generation they,” that is the sons of Abraham, “shall return here,” back to Palestine, “for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” In other words, the people that dwelt in this land, God was grooming, that these people had gone negative toward God, negative volition, negative volition, negative volition, negative volition, and they just were going down a spiral and God said I know how they’re going to go, they’re going to reject Me and reject Me and reject Me until their hearts are so hard they’ve reached rock bottom. And when they get down to this level I’m going to order you folks in there and you’re going to clean them out. This is going to be genocide, I want those people removed from this earth, and I’m the Lord and that’s what I said, so I want you to go in there and I want you to kill them, all of them. I don’t want you intermarrying with them, I don’t want you associating with them, I don’t want anything left of their civilization, I want it destroyed. I want animals destroyed, and especially all signs of their religious beliefs. Can you imagine the ACLU in this situation?
Let’s turn to our notes on page 3. While I was in Texas, and I lived there many years, I was given this piece of literature from the PLO, some Arab students were demonstrating in the university where we were, and I took some of their literature, I wanted to see what they had to say. And here’s an actual quote from a propaganda pamphlet issued by the PLO. This was twenty years ago, I’m sure it’s the same today. Look at how the Arabs look upon this passage in the Bible. “’Under the leadership of Joshua, the Hebrews invaded the state of Canaan. Crimes of the most heinous nature were perpetrated against the inhabitants, as readers of the Old Testament know.’” In other words, they’re saying see, Israel is still doing it to us poor Palestinians, they’re always killing us, and they’re always murdering us. This is not to justify present Israel here; I’m just saying that this is an example of the skepticism and the criticism of this passage of Scripture.
I want you to follow the quote from Dr. Meredith Kline. Here is our answer, this man has one of the clearest, finest I’ve ever read to the dilemma of why is there genocide, why is there holy war, how do we as Christians talk about loving our neighbors at the same time we’re killing them, in this passage at least. Here’s Kline’s quote: “If Israel’s conquest of Canaan were to be adjudicated before an assembly of nations acting according to the provision of common grace,” underline “provisions of common grace,” this is a key statement, “that conquest would have to be condemned as an unprovoked aggression and, moreover, an aggression carried out in barbarous violation of the requirement to show all possible mercy even in the proper execution of justice.” Continue the quote, this is an explanation, follow through this and we’ll pick this up next week, but in this quote is one of the finest statements of how to handle this problem. “The unbeliever is the believer’s neighbor today; but the reprobate is not the neighbor of the redeemed hereafter for the reason that God will set a great gulf between them. God, whose immutable nature is to hate evil, withdrawing all favor from the reprobate, will Himself hate them as sin’s finished products.”
That’s another thing to underline, that goes back to that Genesis 15:16 passage, the iniquity of the Amorites is full—sin’s finished products. “And if the redeemed in glory are to fulfill their duty of patterning their ways after God’s, they will have to change their attitude toward the unbeliever from one of neighborly love to one of perfect hatred, which is a holy, not a malicious passion….” This, by the way, is not now, it’s in eternity. “It will only be with the frank acknowledgement,” and here’s the substance of the answer, “It will only be with the frank acknowledgement that the ordinary ethical requirements were suspended and the ethical principles of the last judgment intruded that the divine promise and commands to Israel concerning Canaan and the Canaanites come into their own.”
See what Kline was saying, remember when we defined God’s love, we said that grace has a starting point and an ending point, we said evil is bracketed, evil started there, and then the new creation happens and evil is put over into an eternal garbage heap called the Lake of Fire, so you have this period of time in between this. That’s where grace operates. Grace doesn’t eternally operate. What we think of is as eternally operating because we’re in it now, but grace stops once the judgment occurs, once history is over grace is all over. An example is the history is all over for the angels, the angels have decided, Satan is never going to be saved, the demons are never going to be saved, their day of salvation, if it ever was, is over. History is closed to them; there is no grace available for them. Grace is only a temporary, historical thing in the Christian position. Therefore, what happens, that’s why I said underline common grace, there’s an ethic of common grace, and we’re used to those ethics, the unbeliever loves those ethics, the ethics of grace, because it enables the freedom to rebel against God, and he wants those ethics, he calls those the high evolved superior ethics, the ethic of tolerance, that’s the ethics of grace. So we do have the ethics of grace, but at one point in history to give revelation of what He is going to do at this point, God back here gave for a moment an adumbration, a small historic revelation of this that’s going to happen on a mass scale over here. Holy war in the Old Testament is a preview of the wrath of God in the final end of history, when He exterminates those who have finally rebelled against His gracious call to salvation. There will be no tolerance in that day.
So as you think about genocide and intolerance and these other things, these are heavy issues, and why they become so heavy is that they can’t be discussed without bringing into the discussion the return of Christ, and the final judgment in history. And people don’t want to deal with that, they want to keep safe in this ethics of common grace over here, that is comfortable, but this is very uncomfortable. So we’re going through an uncomfortable portion of the Scriptures, it’s a messy portion of Scriptures, but out of it will grow, I think, a renewed appreciation for the nature of who it is we worship.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is why ultimately did Moses have the audacity and the courage to talk to God and I think you have to boil it down to the fact that he hung everything on God’s Word, that when the chips came down and he sensed God’s anger, I think the dynamic of that conversation, because God was kind of threatening, I’m so mad I’d like to undo My own word, and Moses, where could he build his case, and I think that passage tells us that in praying that before you go waltzing into God’s presence sometimes hastily, if there’s a real big issue in life, it helps to prepare yourself before you go to pray, and think through why, are we giving God reasons to answer our petitions. That sounds kind of funny, why do you have to give God reasons to answer petitions. But do you see what Moses is doing there, he’s going back and building a case that if You do what You’re threatening, God, You’re going to undo the covenant that You gave to Abraham, You’re going to bring your whole plan into disrepute. And You’re not getting the glory, and ultimately the reasoning in that prayer becomes that You should answer this petition that I’m making to You because of your glory. Notice the petition isn’t saying, oh, people are going to get hurt, because the issues are so big that that’s a trivial thing, it’s not trivial, but you know what I mean, the foundation on which Moses stands is deeper than just human hurt, it goes back to the very nature and character of God and His plan for history. There’s a cosmic reason for answering this prayer.
Question asked: Clough answers: Good point, that God putting pressure on Moses forced Moses to go back to the Word, because if you’ve read Moses and his life you know there are several places where he did get his eyes on people, after this event. Remember, he got so ticked off at them one day that he took the stick to the rock, he became angry at them, upset by the people, and he suffered the problem of leaders, leaders always do that, and he was no different, he just got his eyes on the problem, eyes on the people, and got frustrated, and mad, etc., but in that moment he didn’t. At that moment he could have looked down there and said you know, that’s not a bad idea God, wipe them out, we’ll start all over. But he didn’t, he went back so that the hurt, he could have thought about hurting people, he could have thought about yeah, get rid of them, that gets rid of my leadership problem, he could have thought about ooh, wouldn’t it be nice to have my own private nation, he could have gone to any number of mental routes in his head, but what came out of that wonderful intercessory prayer was he went back to the glory, character and the glorification of God and His Word.
So that’s one of the most amazing prayers, I think, in Scripture. I think of all the prayers I’ve read in Scripture there’s only two or three that come close to that one. The other one, I know my wife likes to use, is in Psalm 73, it’s a prayer by Asaph, and he’s angry at God for allowing the nation to get invaded, things are going downhill, and Asaph has the gall … you know, if somebody got up here on Sunday morning and prayed Psalm 73 there’d be some people in here wanting to get that guy out of here because in Psalm 73 Asaph prays God, would you mind getting your hands out of your pocket and walk through this mess so you see it. So those are the kind of prayers that, when I read those, I really realize … it’s kind of a rebuke to me I guess because we get into this what other people think about the way our prayers sound, and I don’t think at this point Moses particularly cared whether CBS or NBC was filming the event, he was going at it with God, and he could care less what you thought about the prayer, what I thought about the prayer, or anybody else thought about the prayer, it was one on one, just between him and God. I think that honest that is something that is probably refreshing to God, even though it sounds nasty, in the final analysis they’re talking to one another. So it’s kind of interesting. But that has to be one of the two or three places in Scripture where there’s pretty heavy praying going on there.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think so; she’s making a point that when you pray often God will lead you back to the Word if you’ll just persist long enough. It’s almost like we have to get our spirits moving and then He hears us. The man that led me to the Lord many years ago used to say, to a group of us on the college campus, he used to say, guys, you know God can’t steer a parked car, and his whole point was, do something, get rolling, and then we can get the course corrections. But if you sit there and just think, do I do this or do I not do this, do I do this or do I not do this, and you wind up in a total glitch all paralyzed, tied up in knots, now what do I do. And the best thing to do is just do anything, whether it’s in prayer or something else, just do something and get rolling, but keep your eyes on the Lord and let Him steer the car.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think it’s neat, the cometary phenomena, you know, it’s interesting in the Bible, there’s not too much really said about comets and planets other than the fact that the Greek word for planet, I’m throwing planets in the same cases as the comet for this reason, stars are relatively fixed, and planets if you map them, all the time that they wander around the sky, and comets are obviously a wandering star. But it’s interesting, the Greek word to deceive and be unstable is the word planet, and it’s used in a lot of the New Testament epistles for somebody who’s just a wanderer, who’s not rooted in the Word of God, the planets and the wandering stars are looked upon as pictures of a lack of stability. They again and again appear in Scripture as emblems, in the very vocabulary. It’s kind of neat that the word planet is planeo in the Greek, and they were called planets because they’re not fixed against the fixed star background.
The interesting thing from the creationist point of view of what’s going on out there is that comet, as well as all comets, have very short lifetimes, in the order of thousands of years, and the debate over that comet is that it’s wearing out. I mean, obviously matter is coming off the tail, you can see it out there. Well, it’s going to wear out because finally it loses all matter. If the universe is millions and millions and millions of years old, how come we still have comets? Why aren’t they all worn out? The evolutionist has to answer that, and he has an answer, that somewhere in the solar system matter is entering the system, from somewhere, and there has to be fresh matter intruded because obviously those things, after a couple thousand years they’re gone. So now the question is, why do we continue to have these things? So it represents kind of a neat conundrum for the other side. [can’t understand, something about 30,000,000 people killed] But they always like to say it like oh see, see that’s a religious cult of some sort, religious people are so hokey that they see these things and go crazy. Well, maybe pagan religious people do but a biblical Christian says Who’s in charge, I don’t care what the comet does, Who’s ruling the universe. And another point to think about that comet too is if one of those things ever came close to the earth we’d have a flood, because of the gravitational field ripping up the seas and just throwing them across the continent—that would be the end of civilization. What covenant have we studied that tells us that’s not going to happen? The Noahic Covenant. If that’s so, then the implication of the Noahic is that every comet has to be under His control, because if just one of them was loose it could violate the terms of the Noahic Covenant.
So again, it’s comforting to always think of these things. You go out and see a rainbow, think of that, that’s a picture of what the throne of God looks like, it’s a geophysical 3-D, a hologram if you want call it, what the throne of God looks like. Go out, look at a rainbow and thank Him, hey, I saw your signature today God, it’s kind of neat. With a comet, to be able to say that we know the One who controls all that. The whole idea, whether it’s a comet or anything else, or people killing themselves or what, what we want to do as Christians is automatically ingest that material and suck it up inside a biblical frame of reference. And just do it again and again, because when we don’t do it, what we do is we start packing stuff in our brains and it sits there undigested, and it can undermine us, it becomes tools for Satan’s workshop, when it’s not encased, as it were, in biblical vocabulary and thought. The more you do that, the more protection you have against temptations.
Next week we’ll start with that Kline statement, so look at some of those passages and get an exposure to those events, very famous stories, if you’ve been to Sunday School you’ve heard all of them, but what we want to do as Christians in this class is go through and see what the grand motifs are behind these events. And tonight we just introduced holy war, that’s what we want to continue and study, the justification for holy wars.