Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lone Prophets

Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner has stumbled on the importance of prophetic teams. When several prophets function together, the anointing is multiplied, not added. The Holy Spirit loves to chop up a revelation into a jigsaw and give pieces to different people and then watch their excitement as they put it back together.

The other side of this is that we can often assume that we have the whole picture when we are only holding a piece of a jigsaw. The piece that we have might be pretty, but we need to get together with others to get the full picture. I suspect an unbelievably large number of people have been given partial messages by lone prophets.

The one-one man band was never part of God’s economy. The lone prophet (and the lone evangelist, and the lone pastor) should never have got past Pentecost. The big man syndrome is a curse on the church. God’s way is a big Holy Spirit working trough a whole lot of little men.

On the other hand, while there is strength in several prophets working together (1 Cor 14:29) there are also risks. I have seen a group of prophets get together and rark each other up in the flesh. The result is not a pretty sight.

God’s way is to bring a few prophets together with someone with a pastoral gifting and an evangelist being present as well. The latter two would help the prophets keep their feet on the ground. (I am not referring to a one-man band pastor. He would just try to control the whole set up).

There is a real safety in a balanced ministry. When several people with different giftings (that sometimes rub against each other) submit to each other in love, the anointing is multiplied even further. That is the next step up from a prophetic team.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Prophet Samuel (11) - Amazing Prophet

Samuel was a great prophet in a time when Israel was still confused about the role of the prophetic ministry. This confusion is recorded in the scriptures.

Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, "Come, let us go to the seer," because the prophet of today used to be called a seer (1 Sam 9:9).
Samuel was the first real prophet in a time when Israel had wandered away from the Lord. He developed into this ministry without anyone to mentor him. He had no prophetic example to follow. He grew into this ministry by listening to God. In this situation, we should not be surprised that the got a few things wrong. Given that he preceded Jesus and had no written scripture to guide him, it is amazing that the made so few mistakes.

Samuel's life is recorded for our benefit. We can learn from his mistakes and we should be inspired by his example.

This full series can be found at Prophet Samuel.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Prophet Samuel (10) - Samuel and David

Samuel retired to his home, but there is no retirement in God’s book. He soon stirred Samuel up again.

The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king" (1 Sam 16:1).
The Lord spoke at the beginning of the action, so Samuel was in a safer mode of operation. Anointing leaders is part of prophetic business, so Samuel was acting within his calling.

Once again, Samuel nearly fell into the trap of acting on his own ideas.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam 16:6-7).
God had to correct Samuel to prevent him from anointing the wrong person. When Samuel discovered David, the Lord spoke clearly.
He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.
Samuel heard the Lord speak clearly. He anointed a very special man and released the anointing of the Spirit on him. This was another great prophetic event. Most prophets would be happy, if they had one event like this in their lives.

The Stone Ceiling

James Goll has shared a dream about a Stone Ceiling. I found the dream compelling, but I have noted that the dreamer is not always the best person to interpret the dream. Life experience can sometimes prevent the dreamer from understaning what it means, so always take the dream more seriously, than the suggest interpretation. This makes me wonder if James got the interpretation wrong when he described the dream as a call to move toward an open heaven.

Firstly, I have always found the concept of an open heaven to be quite odd. It suggests that the problem is in heaven. That is nice, because it means that we are not responsible, but I doubt that it is ever true. My experience is that the problem is always on earth. The problem is usually a closed earth, not a closed heaven. God may sometimes closes heavens in response to a closed earth, but the latter always comes first.

I took the low stone ceiling as a challenge to church leaders. Instead of building a temple of living stones, the leaders of the modern church have built themselves into a stone ceiling that prevents ordinary members of the church from rising to their full potential. Just as a glass ceiling in business prevents women and other groups from rising to the top, a stone ceiling in the church is preventing many Christians from fulfilling their calling. I suspect that the can opener James saw was a man-apparatus that opens things up for a select few.

The accepted teaching on leadership in the modern church means that only the special people at the centre of things can have full access to heaven. Those on the edge of things cannot rise to full maturity, because the stone ceiling prevents them. If these people want to rise to full maturity, they have to move into that centre. James Goll is in the fortunate position of being able to move into the centre, but most people cannot.

This situation does great harm. Every believer is supposed to be a living stone in God’s house and not a pebble under a stone ceiling. Pentecost means that every believer can experience the fullness of blessing and anointing, and grow to maturity where they are. They do need to move to the centre to grow to full size.

James noticed that there was a lot of religious stuff hanging around the edges. This is what happens when people get frustrated about their lack of opportunity. Some respond by slipping back into religious behavoiur.

I was interested that James left the centre and went back to the edge. That is often where God wants his prophets to be standing.

He has put most people on the edge where they are and wants them to grow into fullness where they are, so they can reach out into the world. That can only happen if the stone ceiling is removed by the leaders of the church. A hole in the centre of the stone ceiling is not a solution.

I suspect that God is calling the prophets to expose the stone ceiling, so it can be smashed and blown away.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Prophet Samuel (9) - Death of Agag

Samuel asked for Agag the king of the Amalekites to be brought to him. Agag thought this was good news, but Samuel had a different attitude.

And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal (1 Sam 15:33).
Most commentators applaud Samuel for doing what God commanded, whereas Saul is condemned. I am not sure that we have got this right. Saul had certainly lost touch with God (1 Sam 15:11), but there is no evidence from the scriptures of God commanding Samuel to slaughter Agag.

The impression I get is that Samuel acted on his own initiative. The expression “before the Lord” could be translated “against the Lord”. This would confirm that Samuel was not acting in obedience to the Lord.

Even if God did want Saul to kill Agag, that did not make it right for Samuel to do it. A prophet must not act as judge or military commander. A true prophet should be totally separated to God, so they should not be acting as the executioner of criminals or military prisoners. Samuel went beyond his calling as a prophet by executing Agag.

These events are a serious warning to all prophets. They must be careful stay within there calling. When a prophet thinks they are being ignored, they can be tempted to fulfil their own prophecies. This is a dangerous thing for any prophet.

Many people are disturbed by the description of Samuel hacking Agag into pieces. They say that a God who would order this is not very nice. I agree with this view, but I am also certain that God did not order this violent death. The scriptures do not say that God commanded that Agag be hacked to hamburger.

This paints Samuel in a lesser light, but we should not cast aspersions on God just to protect Samuel’s reputation. Samuel did not have the benefit of knowing Jesus, so it is not surprised that he was influenced by the culture of the time. On the other hand, we cannot condemn him by Christian standards, because he did not have the benefits of the life and teaching of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Prophet Samuel (8) - Saul and the Amalekites

The next intervention by Samuel in Saul’s life was quite strange.

Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD (1 Sam 15:1).
Saul knew who Samuel was and that he was a prophet, so Saul had no need to be reminded that Samuel had anointed him as king. There is no evidence in the passage that the Lord told Samuel to speak to Saul, so it seems like he was acting on his own initiative. Maybe Samuel reminded Saul of his role as kingmaker to build up his personal authority, because he did not have authority from God.

Samuel told Saul that God wanted him to attack the Amalekites.
This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys'.
This was a ruthless message straight out of the blue. Samuel said that he spoke in the Lord’s name, but his strange introduction suggests that this was not true. God had promised that he would wipe out the Amalekites (Ex 17:14), but he did not say how he would do it. There is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that God intended Saul to do it.

Telling Saul to totally destroy everyone, including women and children was really drastic. This command has given God a bad name, because it does not seem to be justified and is inconsistent with Deuteronomy 20:14. This was not a command from God, but Samuel was acting on his own initiative.

Saul gathered a large army and attacked the Amalekites. He captured their king and totally destroyed all the people. Then the Lord spoke. Unlike in the early part of the chapter, this time the word of the Lord did come to Samuel.
Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night (1 Sam 15:10-11).
The usual interpretation is that the Lord was upset, because Saul had allowed the King to live, but this is not what the word of the Lord said. The word was that Saul had not performed or kept his commandments. The reality was that Saul had not observed God’s commandments for kings. This was the reason that God rejected Saul’s kingship.

It is interesting that Samuel grieved all night. In the earlier events, he seemed to undermine Saul’s kingship, so I doubt that he was grieving about Saul’s fate. I suspect that he was upset, because he was beginning to realise that he had given bad advice to Saul. Usually when the Lord initiates something, his word comes to the prophet to get things started. The word of the Lord coming after an event is a sign that Samuel had been out of order in stirring Saul up to fight.

The other interesting issue is that when Samuel spoke to Saul the next day he did not repeat the word that Lord had spoken. He said something quite different.
Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD " (1 Sam 15:17-19)?
The Lord had not mentioned the Amalekites or the plunder to Samuel, but this is what Samuel focused on. He put a different spin on the word of the Lord.

After some argument Saul admitted that he was wrong.
Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD” (1 Sam 15:24-25).
It is interesting that Saul confessed to violating the commandments of God and disobeying Samuel’s instructions. This is a hint that Samuels instructions went beyond the Lord’s commandments.

Despite Saul repenting, Samuel did not offer to intercede with the Lord for him. This is strange because the Lord usually responded positively to repentance. When Samuel left Saul that day he never spoke with Saul again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prophet Samuel (7) - Saul and Samuel Stumble

When the Philistines came against Israel with three thousand chariots and a huge army, Saul gathered selected three thousand men and sent the rest home. It seems that he was trying to trust the Lord.

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter (1 Sam 13:8-9).
When the troops began to scatter, Saul got tired of waiting and offered a sacrifice to the Lord. Saul was wrong to act as priest, because he was from the tribe of Benjamin. However, there are a couple of others things we should note. Samuel was not a priest either, so Saul was just doing what Samuel had done before him, when he added a priestly role to his legitimate calling. Saul was copying Samuel's bad example.

The other thing to note is that Samuel seemed to be miffed with Saul and set him up to fail. He told Saul to wait for seven days, but did not turn up when the seven days were ended. There is no suggestion that God delayed Samuel, so he seemed to be being a bit mischievous. Then as soon as Saul sinned, Samuel turned up, just like he was waiting for him to get into trouble.

Samuel rebuked Saul.
You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure (1 Sam 13:13).
This rebuke is interesting as it seemed to come from Samuel. There is no evidence in the scriputures that the Lord told him to speak these words. Samuel told Saul that his kingdom could have lasted for all time, but that was not true. Only Jesus could have a kingdom that would last forever. However, Samuel was correct in saying that Saul’s kingdom would not last.

Samuel then left Saul to his own devices with a rapidly diminishing army.
Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred (1 Sam 13:15).
However, the Lord had not deserted Israel. When Jonathon took the initiative, the Lord intervened.
Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God (1 Sam 14:15).
The Lord rescued Israel, despite the failings of Saul and Samuel.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Prophet Samuel (6) - King and Retirement

Although Samuel knew that Israel did not need a king, he obeyed the Lord. He received a very clear word about who should be king.

Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me (1 Sam 9:15-16).
Samuel obeyed God even though he knew a king would bring harm to the people he loved. Sometimes prophets have to take tough actions.

After Saul was appointed, Samuel made a retirement speech.
Samuel said to all Israel, "I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day (1 Sam 12:1-2).
This speech suggests that he did not fully understand his calling. It was true that his would no longer be the judge for the nation, but God had never intended to have that role anyway. More important, you cannot retire from being a prophet. God was not finished with Samuel in this role. Although, he was old and gray, he would have several prophetic words to bring in the future. He pointed to his sons, but they were not prophets. Samuel was still the prophet to the nation, not his sons. He should not have been retiring.

The second part of his speech was all about money.
Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right." (1 Sam 12:3).
This was a bit rich. It was true that Samuel had never accepted bribes or cheated anyone, but he had allowed his sons to take bribes and pervert justice, so he was being a bit precious in demanding that the people give witness to his innocence.

Most ministries can get by with technical holiness, but a prophet to the nation must be squeaky clean in their handling of money.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Prophet Samuel (5) - Samuel and the King

The greatest prophetic incident in Samuel’s life occurred when Israel demanded a king. The Lord spoke clearly to Samuel about the evils of kingship and Moses gave a clear warning to the people. This is probably one of the most important prophetic messages in the entire Old Testament.

This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take…. He will take… He will take… He will take… He will take … and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day (1 Sam 8:11-18 truncated).
The prophecy has been fulfilled again and again through history. The warning should ring in the ears of every generation in every nation. Choosing a human ruler is rejection of God. Human rulers will take and take and take, regardless of how they have been appointed or elected. They make free people into slaves. Human government is not God’s plan for his people. He wants us to be free to trust and serve him.

The irony is that Christians have become so used to human government that we no longer heed Samuel’s warning. He said that they would “cry out for relief” to the Lord. Christians no longer do this. They have some much faith in human government, they think that if they can just get the right human government, then everything will fine. They believe that the problem will be solved at the next election. This is not true. Human government is never the solution. They only solution is to cry out to God for relief.

This full series can be found at Prophet Samuel.

Running Mutts

Obama the drama has chosen a real Joe as his running mate.

One of the greatest problems for every American presidential candidate is choosing a running mate who will not show him up. Given the mediocrity of most presidential candidates, this can be quite difficult. They have to find someone even more mediocre than themselves.

Imagine the problems that John the jaw must be having. He has to find someone who cannot find Pakistan on a map and who will not make John look old and tired. There cannot be many outside of the senate who fit that job description.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Prophet Samuel (4) - Sons of Samuel

The consequence of Samuel’s aggrandizement of power was manifested in his family.

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba (1 Sam 8:1-3).
Samuel was wrong to appoint his sons as judges, because God had not commanded him to set up a ruling dynasty. The prophetic calling was not hereditary, so Samuel should not have been appointing his sons as his successors. By taking this action, he contributed to the nation’s desire to have a king, because he trained them to be ruled by one man and created the expectation that this role was hereditary.

Bad appointments produced bad behaviour.
But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice (1 Sam 8:1-3).
Samuel’s sons were dishonest and perverted justice. This is what happens when a few people are given a monopoly over justice. Monopoly power makes them vulnerable to greed and corruption. In God’s system of decentralised judges, no one has a monopoly position, because people are free to choose which judge they will ask to adjudicate. If a judge becomes corrupt, they will become redundant, as they will have no cases to decide.

There great irony in the corruption of Samuel’s sons is that his first prophet word had been a challenge to Eli, the High Priest who had turned a blind eye to the corruption of his own sons. By ignoring the failings of his sons, Samuel fell victim to the first sin that he had called. This is a warning to prophets to stay within their calling. By taking on the role of judge and priest that were not part of this prophetic calling, Samuel make himself vulnerable to the sins that he have seen in others. Samuel should have stuck to being a prophet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dropping the Baton

The American men and women dropped the baton in the 4x100 relay at the Olympics. This must be a sign, but I do not know what of.

Read my lips. This was not George W's fault.

Oops. Maybe they were employed by Ned,

The National Endowment for Democracy

Prophet Samuel (3) - One Man Band

Samuel’s tendency to take on additional roles led to his becoming judge over all Israel.

Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel. And he built an altar there to the LORD (1 Sam 7:15-17).
Having one judge over the entire nation was not part of God’s plan. His plan was to have numerous local judges functioning in their local communities (Deut 1:15-18). Local people would go to judges they trusted to get their cases resolved. If a local judge made a bad decision, they could appeal to a more experienced judge. Having many judges strengthened local communities and prevented the aggregation of political power.

A prophet like Samuel would have a role in assisting with any really difficult cases that needed the wisdom of God. However, Samuel went beyond this role and set himself up as a circuit judge for the entire nation. He also set himself up as high priest by building an altar at Ramah.

This still a problem in the church. Many prophets have taken on the role of pastor. Evangelists have become pastors and pastors have appointed themselves as apostles. The church will only become strong if we all stick to the calling that God has assigned, even if we can see a gap that needs to be filled.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Prophet Samuel (2) - Defeating Philistines

Samuel led the people to repentance and guided Israel to a great victory over the Philistines.

And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines" (1 Sam 7:3).
The people did repent, so the Lord delivered them from the Philistines.
The Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites (1 Sam 7:10).
This demonstrates the correct way for a Christian community to defend itself. The first step is to repent of all sin. This releases God to confuse the enemies and make them flee.

The victory over the Philistines was a wonderful prophetic incident, but closer reading reveals several blemishes. Firstly, the Israelites responded to God’s victory, by slaughtering the fleeing Philistines.
The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car (1 Sam 7:11).
God had not commanded the people of Israel to engage in this destruction. He had promised that he would deliver Israel, so their actions added human works to God grace. A great victory by God was spoiled by unnecessary vindictiveness.

The second blemish on this incident was Samuel’s behaviour.
Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel's behalf, and the LORD answered him (1 Sam 7:9).
Samuel was correct of cry out the Lord, and the Lord answered his prayers, because Israel had repented. However, Samuel came from the tribe of Ephraim (1 Sam 1:1). Only the descendents of Aaron were authorised to offer sacrifices on behalf of Israel, so Samuel was acting presumptuously, when he offered the sacrifice. Although Samuel was called to be a prophet, he slipped into the role of high priest. This is the flaw in Samuel’s character. When he was successful as a prophet, he began to take on other ministries that were not assigned to him. A prophet to the nation must be careful not to go beyond their calling by acting as priest or judge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prophet Samuel (1)

God provided the Old Testament histories for our benefit.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Cor 10:11).
The things recorded happened to teach us about God’s requirements for his people. We can learn a lot from reading the Old Testament, however we must not assume that because a situation is recorded that God approved the actions taken. Some incidents were recorded as warnings of wrong behaviour.

In some histories, the Old Testament assesses the behaviour and states whether it was good or evil. However, many other events are just recorded without comment. In these cases, we need to assess the action against the moral teaching of the Old and New Testaments and against the lifestyle of Jesus. I think that we accept too many of the stories uncritically. We just assume that prophets always behaved correctly, when there is no reason that that should be true.

Christians should be careful following the examples of Old Testament heroes. They did not have the benefit of knowing Jesus or living in the fulness of the spirit, so their lives will often fall short of what God expects of us. That is why Corinthians says that their lives are a warning to us.

I have always been a great fan of the prophet Samuel, but recently I read the record of his ministry again using a less credulous approach. I also came to the books named after him with a clearer understanding of the role of kings in God’s plan. I began to see Samuel in a different light. He is still a great prophet, but he was also very human. He made several serious mistakes, when his humanity overpowered his prophetic gifting.

Samuel received a powerful calling to be a prophet to his nation.
The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word (1 Sam 3:19-21).
This full series can be found at Prophet Samuel.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Second Coming Delayed

George W Bush is unwittingly holding back the second coming of Jesus.

According to Hal Lindsay, John Hagee and Grant Jeffries, Iran and some other nations will invade Israel, just before Jesus returns. During this war, nuclear weapons will be released on the mountains of Israel.

The interesting question that Hal, Hag and Jeff do not address is where these nuclear weapons come from. The only Middle East nation that currently has nuclear weapons is Israel, but Israel would not bomb itself. This means that Iran will need to develop nuclear weapons before this prophecy can be fulfilled.

This provides an awful dilemma for Hal, Hag and Jeff.

  • Jesus cannot return until Iran has nuclear weapons.
  • President Ahmadinejad of Iran is doing his bit and attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
  • George W is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
It follows that George W is holding back the second coming.

Christians who are looking for the second coming should be praying for President Ahmadinejad. If he does not get on with the job, Jesus might not be able to return. Maybe George W is losing popularity because he is holding back Jesus.

Does this sound like nonsense? Of course it is. This just proves that Hal, Hag and Jeff have lost the plot. For more see False Teaching.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Winning the War (3)

Unfortunately George and his neocon mates do not get spiritual warfare. They do not understand that when a war breaks out, evil spirits arrive from all over the place. The pervasiveness of emotions like fear, hatred and anger make it easy for these spirits to penetrate deep into human lives. An armour plated Humvee and a Bible on the locker provides no protection for a young soldier who does not understand what is going on. This creates two serious problems for an invading army.

Firstly, even if the physical war is won, the spiritual war continues. The spirits of anger, hatred and death remain on the battlefield after the guns are quiet. These spirits destroy any community that still exists after the ravages of war. This is what is happening in Iraq. It was predicted by Daniel.

The king of the South will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North. Then the latter will raise a great multitude, but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former. When the multitude is carried away, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cause tens of thousands to fall; yet he will not prevail (Dan 11:11,12).
Daniel is describing the spiritual forces that will emerge during the war in Iraq. I have explained this more fully in What’s Going On.

Winning the physical war in Iraq is irrelevant to history. The spiritual war will be lost and that will have serious consequences for the entire world.

Secondly, a more serious problem is that, solders in the invading army with no spiritual protection will pick up some of these evil spirits and take them home when their tour of duty is complete. This can change the spiritual tide in their home towns and villages.

The North American continent had a relatively low level of spiritual activity when the first Europeans arrived, but the spiritual landscape of America has been radically re-spiritualised by the wars it won and lost during the last century.

The soldiers who went to Europe in World War 1 picked up and took back the spirit of greed and pride that produced the Great Depression in the 1930s. The GIs who served in Europe and the Pacific duing World War 2 carried back the spirits of anger, rebellion and rejection that produced the cultural revolution of the 1960s. The soldiers who served in Korea and Vietnam brought back the spirit of apathy and complacency that now pervades small town America.

The boys and girls currently serving in Iraq have the worst spiritual protection of any American army ever. They are carrying an host of evil spirits back to America that are so terrible that the Department of Homeland Security would be horrified, if they could see what is happening. I do not know what the consequences will be, but it will not be a victory.

Wake up, Prophets!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Winning the War (2)

I judge the success of any activity by its contribution to the Kingdom of God. The only test for whether an enterprise has been successful is whether it has advanced the Kingdom of God.

Has the won war in Iraq advanced the kingdom of God? Have the American boys and girls who invaded Iraq with their guns and Bibles helped advance the Kingdom of God.

Those who cannot tell the difference between the kingdom of God and the American system will say they have. Those with clear understanding of the Kingdom God will realise that the Kingdom of God has gone backwards in the Middle East.

Thirty years ago, the Middle East was ruled by secular governments. Islam was cultural religion being drowned by modernism and secularism. It was ripe for the gospel, but American military adventures have turned that around. Now Islam is alive, stirred up and militant. More and more nations are ruled by Islamic governments. The Americans have just installed another one in Iraq. Good move, George.

Meanwhile the people planning the next big attack are probably living in America already. They will be getting organised and planning their plans moves. Some members of their team could even be working for the Federal Government.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Winning the War (1)

Winning a war is easy, if you carefully define what winning means.

You can win a war several times, if you keep changing you definition of victory.

George W Bush has managed this well. He announced that the Iraq war was won when the army rangers entered Bagdad. He announced that the war was won again in 2003, when he landed an S3 Viking on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf. I suppose that it felt like a war was won.

The war was won when Saddam Hussein was captured, and again when he was sentenced to death.

The war has been won again with the defeat of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, although it did not exist before the US invasion. It is a bit odd winning a war against your own creation. Actually, Al-Qaeda in Iraq has not been defeated. Most members have just moved to Afghanistan and other countries where the Crusader Invader is more vulnerable.

George W could easily win this war seven or eight times, before his Presidency is all washed up.

John the Jaw and Obama the Llama have got onto the same bandwagon. John the Jaw is going to keep troops in Iraq for a hundred years. If he keeps changing the objective, he will be able to announce the war is won every few years. That could work out to nearly fifty wars being won. Wow.

Obama the lama is going to get stuck into Afghanistan and win a war there. He does not realise that George W won that war a few years ago. But that does not matter, most Americans have forgotten that too. If Obama works his objectives right, he could win the war in Afghanistan several times.

Ralph Nader is looking back to Vietnam. Why not? Get the right spin doctors on the job and set the right objectives, America could win that war again too.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Old Testament Violence (18) - Modern Israel

The principles outlined in these posts are relevant to modern Israel. If God has brought them back to their land, he will protect them. If they had his blessing, they would not need the weapons of war. God would deliver them from their enemies.

The reality is that Israel has always had extremely militaristic governments, a big armaments industry and many nuclear weapons. This is not surprising, because most modern Israelis are secular people, who do not trust in God. Those who do believe in God also believe that Deuteronomy and Joshua provide justification for using extreme military force to defend their land.

The strange thing is that many Christians also believe that Israel should use whatever military force is necessary to defeat their enemies. They would be happy for the United States to drop nuclear weapons on Iran to protect Israel. They see a million deaths in Iraq as justified, if it removes an enemy of Israel.

Those who hold this view have forgotten that God once delivered Israel using 300 men with trumpets. The belief that the defence of Israel justifies brutal military force is based on a false understanding of the Old Testament.

This is the end of this series. The full set is here.

In a few days time, when I have caught my breath, I will give provide a few insights into the prophet Samuel that should calm any sheep that are still bleating.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Old Testament Violence (17) - Trumpets and Torches

The defeat of the Midianites when Gideon was leader of Israel is another example of the way that God defends his people. The Israelites had turned away from God, so he gave them into the hands of Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so oppressive that the children of Israel had to hide in the mountains and watch all their crops being stolen or destroyed. They were so impoverished that they called out to God. He raised up Gideon to deliver them. Gideon gathered together twenty-two thousand men, but God reduced his army to just thee hundred men.

The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place" (Jud 7:7).
These three hundred men did not have swords. All they had was trumpets. They surrounded the Midanite camp at night with a covered torch burning in one hand and a trumpet in the other. When Gideon gave the signal, the uncovered their torches, sounded their trumpets and shouted.
While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled (Jud 7:21-22)
Three hundred men armed only with trumpets and torches defeated an army too large to be counted (Jud 7:12) when God sent confusion and they killed each other as they fled in the dark. That is how God likes to defend his people

Despites receiving God’s grace, Gideon responded by going over the top.
Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them (Jud 7:24).
Although God had specifically told Gideon to send these people home, Gideon called them out again. These soldiers killed some of the Midianites who were fleeing. This is what usually happened in Israel. When God gave them victory, they responded with unnecessary destruction and slaughter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Old Testament Violence (16) - Faith Defeats Weapons

When the Israelites were at their best, they did not need to fight to defend themselves, because God threw their enemies into confusion or sent a trouble amongst them that caused them to flee.

The Philistines were defeated when God caused a flying stone to hit Goliath between the eyes.

The Arameans were defeated when they heard a strange sound and fled in fear.

The Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army…. so they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives (2 Kings 7:6,7).
A huge Assyrian army was defeated by sickness.
That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there (2 Kings 19:35-36).
When King Amaziah hired a hundred thousand troops for 1000 talents of silver to defend his nation, God said he was wasting him money (2 Chron 25:7-9).

When Jehoshaphat was attacked by three armies, God won the victory.
The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped (2 Chron 20:23-24).
When the people of Israel trusted in God, he protected them from invading armies. They did not need to use the weapons of war.

From a Distance

Many commentators have written that John McCain is ready to be president because he has experienced war. That is true. McCain experienced life as a prisoner of war, but he did not experience the real horror of war.

As he flew his Skyhawk at ten thousand feet above North Vietnam, he just pushed the button and released his bombs. He then returned to his aircraft carrier, had a shower and sat down in comfort for a good meal.

He did not hear the people screaming as his bombs descended upon them. He did see their limbs being torn off. He did not hear the muffled cries of people crushed under the weight of collapsed buildings. He did not see people being burned to death by his bombs. He did no hear the mothers crying because his bombs had killed their children.

John McCain did war from a distance. He did not see the death and destruction he wrought. That makes him dangerous.

I understand that the American Air Force only dropping bombs on military targets, and that innocent civilians are supposed to get out of the way when they see them coming. I presume that John McCain killed women and children to protect us from a terrible, evil threat, but I cannot remember what it was.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Old Testament Violence (15) - Defence against Attack

Although the Israelites were over zealous in slaughtering the inhabitants of Canaan, this does not mean that is never a justification for war. There were a few times when the nations attacked Israel and defence was justified.

Sihon King of Heshbon is an interesting example. Moses sent a message to him asking if his people could pass by. Moses promised that they would stay on the main road and pay for any food that they used.

Let us pass through your country. We will stay on the main road; we will not turn aside to the right or to the left. Sell us food to eat and water to drink for their price in silver. Only let us pass through on foot (Deut 2:27-28).
Moses did everything possible to avoid picking a fight with them Heshbonites. He offered to pay for food and grazing. However, the heart of King Sihon was hardened. He responded to Moses’ request by sending his army out against the Israelites at Jahaz. God spoke to Moses and promised to defeat this army.
The LORD said to me, "See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land (Deut 2:31).
The Lord helped the Israelites win this battle. Deuteronomy does not describe how God intervened, but Moses describes the outcome.
At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women and children. We left no survivors (Deut 2:34).
This verse seems to imply that the Israelites destroyed all the men, woman and children, but that is not the full story.

Firstly, there is no evidence that God commanded them to destroy everyone. God allowed the Israelites to defend themselves, if when they were attacked. He assisted them in these situations. However, he never commanded them to annihilate the women and children when they were defending themselves.

If they had destroyed all the woman and children, Moses would have been disobeying God. However, Moses was not disobedient. This is just another example of a verse being translated harshly for no reason. The last three words literally say “We left none to remain”. This is not the same as “no survivors”. Moses may have been saying that they drove the people out and allowed no one to remain in the towns of this land. He was not claiming to have slaughtered all the women and children. This view is confirmed in Judges 11:23, where Jepthah sent the Ammonite king a message about the land taken from Sihon.
Now since the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over?
This confirms that the Israel did not destroy the people of Heshbon, but drove them out before the people of Israel. The harsh translation of herem in misrepresents Moses actions.

A further confirmation is the Greek version (Septuagint) of Isaiah 17:9, which says that the Hivites and Amorites deserted their cities.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Old Testament Violence (14) - Crossing the Jordan

Joshua’s first task was to lead Israel over the Jordan River. God brought them to a river that was in flooded and dangerous, so that he could exalt Joshua as leader and set the tone of ministry. He told Joshua exactly what to do, but not what would happen.

And the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river' " (Jos 3:7-8).
Joshua explained to the people what would follow.
And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD -the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap (Jos 3:13).
He also explained the reason for this event.
This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites (Jos 3:10).
This is an amazing statement. God dried up the Jordan river to prove that he would drive the Canaanites our of the land. God confirmed what he was planning to do. Joshua knew that God wanted them driven out. He must have known that God did not want them slaughtered.

God also tried to set the tone for Joshua’s ministry. By doing a repeat of the crossing of the Red Sea, God showed that Joshua had the same gift of miracles as Moses. He showed that Joshua could win a great victory by just obeying God. He did not have to anything but stand and watch do his work. That is what God intended for him. He intended that Joshua would make a declaration to release his power. The Canaanites would see the power of God and flee in fear. The Israelites would take the land as God undertook his works of power.

Joshua did not understand this. He worked one mighty miracle at Jericho, but slipped straight back into military action and slaughter. Despite seeing a great miracle of God at the Jordan River, Joshua quickly fell back to trusting in human strength and military power.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Old Testament Violence (13) - Jumpy Joshua

What happened after God defeated the Amorites is bizarre. Joshua told the sun and moon to stand still so that Israel could slaughter the fleeing Amorites.

There are several odd things about this incident.

  • The Lord had already defeated the Amorites and chased them out of the area. I am not sure why Joshua wanted more time. It seems like he wanted to get in on the Lord’s victory.
  • he Lord had said that he would bring the victory, he did not tell Joshua to slaughter the Amorites.
  • God did not instruct Joshua to make the sun stand still.
  • Joshua seemed to be trying to go one better. God had sent hail stones, Joshua would control the sun and moon. This seems like hubris.
  • I am not sure why God listened to Joshua’s command to the sun. I suspect that because Joshua had made this reckless command in front of the Israelites, God did not want to dishonour his leadership at a critical time during the taking of the land.
  • Israel took vengeance on the Amorites, even though God had not commanded it. These particular people had only threatened Israel, so they were was actually nothing to avenge.
The author of the book of Joshua noted the event as strange.
And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel (Jos 10:14).
The Lord had fought for Israel and won a victory, but he listened to a human voice and allowed him to disobey and slaughter the fleeing army. Even the author of Joshua finds this hard to understand.

The problem is that Joshua misunderstood his calling. He had the gift of miracles. God had given him power to perform miracles. Joshua had used this gift at Jericho, when the walls came tumbling down. However, he was not content with this miracle and spoilt it by supplementing his gift with the sword, and the slaughter of all the inhabitants.

At Gibeon, God confirmed Joshua’s gift of miracles by responding to Joshua’s declaratory prayer, even though he prayed for the wrong reason. God is sometimes so keen to get us doing his stuff that he does stuff for us, even when we stuff up. The miracle of the sun standing still was God’s blessing on Joshua’s faith and gifting, not approval for the slaughter that followed.

God intended Joshua to release his miracle power to defeat the surrounding nations. They would see the awesome power of God and be so filled with fear that they would flee. Joshua did not get this and fell back on the power of the sword.

Part of the problem is that Moses had not fully understood his gifting. He had experienced many miracles in Egypt and a great victory over the Egyptian army at the Red Sea.Each time he had stretched out his staff, a miracle followed. God did the work. Moses and the people just had to be still.

Despite these amazing experiences, Moses mixed the power of the staff with the power of the sword when attacked by the Amalekites. He stood on the hill with staff and prayed. Joshua stayed on the plain and fought with the sword. Joshua did not see Moses praying, so he thought that he had won a victory with the sword.Joshua assumed that his fighting was the key to the victory. This was his first encounter with the nations and Moses had trained him to trust in the power of the sword.

If Moses had used the used the power of the staff against the Amalekites with Joshua standing at his side, Joshua would have learned how to release the power of God. Instead he set him on the wrong path by sending him out against the Amalekites with the sword. He taught Joshua to use the sword, when he should have been training him to use his gift of miracles.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Old Testament Violence (12) - Victory God's Way

A key victory by Joshua is recorded in Joshua 10. On this occasion five Amorite kings attacked the Gibeonites, whom Joshua had agreed to defend.

Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it (Josh 10:5).
Joshua marched up from Gigal with his entire army. This time he got a clear word from the Lord.
The LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you" (Jos 10:8).
The Lord promised that none of the Amorites would stand and fight. They would all flee from the Israelites.

The Amorites were surprised and the Lord threw into confusion.
Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly, having marched all night from Gilgal. So the LORD routed them before Israel, killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them along the road that goes to Beth Horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. (Jos 10:9-10).
Some translations imply that Israel chased them, but the original text is clear that the Lord who pursued them.
And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the LORD cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword (Jos 10:11).
The Lord pursued the Amorites and rained down hailstones upon the fleeing army. The victory was achieved by the Lord, while the people watched. This is how he prefers to work.


Judging by his last speech before leaving for Beijing to watch the Jingo Games, George W is quite put out by the Chinese government for invading Tibet and putting dissenters in prison without trial.

What is wrong with these pesky Chinese. Don’t they know that God has given America special authority to invade any country in the world and change the government by force. Only America is allowed to hold taxi drivers in prison forever without trial.

While he is in China, George had better put these upstarts right.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Old Testament Violence (11) - Ambush at Ai

We see a similar pattern at Ai. Joshua slew more people than necessary. God told Joshua to set an ambush behind the city.

Lay an ambush for the city behind it (Jos 8:2).
Joshua did what God had commanded.
Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night. And he commanded them, saying: “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready (Jos 8:3,4).
However, Joshua set a second ambush that was not part of God’s plan.
So he took about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. And when they had set the people, all the army that was on the north of the city, and its rear guard on the west of the city (Jos 8:12,13).
This second ambush prevented the inhabitants of Ai from escaping. Under God’s plan there was nothing to prevent the people of Ai from fleeing into the wilderness. Joshua twisted God’s plan by blocking them in for slaughter.
When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed] all who lived in Ai (Jos 8:24-26).
Joshua decided how long the killing should continue. He personally hung the king of Ai on a tree without specific instruction from God (Jos 8:29).

International Sport

International Sport is the maidservant of Nationalism.
Nationalism is the cheerleader for Totalitarian Democracy.

Taxi Justice

George W’s Kangeroo court in Guantanamo Bay has just sentenced Osama Bin Laden’s taxi driver to five years in prison for crimes against humanity. Despite three years of surfing on some of the best water boards in the world, this was all that they could pin on him. It seems that his vehicle did not comply with US vehicle emission standards, so it made a serious contribution to global warming.

It is good that confidence in American justice has been restored, but I doubt that this will satisfy American thirst for revenge.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Old Testament Violence (10) - Joshua at Jericho

Joshua was much more violent than God. When he was leading the people against Jericho, God gave him very precise instructions.

Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in" (Jos 6:2-5).
God said they should march round and shout and blast trumpets. He said they should go “straight in”. However, God did not tell Joshua to kill and destroy the inhabitants of Jericho.

Joshua told the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants of the city.
Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent (Jos 6:16,17).
Joshua told the people that only Rahab should be spared. There is no record of God telling Joshua to give a command to destroy the inhabitants.

Joshua went even further and vowed that anyone who did not join in the destruction of Jericho would be under a curse.
Abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it (Jos 6:18).
Joshua went beyond what God commanded. God had told them to destroy the idols and altars, but he had not bound them under a curse. Joshua commanded Israel to destroy everything and put them under a curse if they disobeyed. Achan caused problems for Israel, not because he had disobeyed God, but because he failed to honour the vow that Joshua had made on behalf of the Israelites (Jos 7).

When Achan’s actions were revealed, God did not accuse Israel of disobedience, but failure to keep the covenant.
Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep (Jos 7:11).
There was nothing in the covenant that forbade him plundering of silver and gold that was not part of an idol. However, Achan failed to fulfil the vow made on his behalf by Joshua. The curse came because he broke this vow.

The Israelites obeyed Joshua and slaughtered the people of Jericho.
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….Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD's house (Jos 6:21,24).
The people of Jericho were massacred, but there is no evidence that God intended this to happen.

God’s plan was that the people of Jericho would flee the city. Those who survived the earthquake and collapsing walls would have been trembling in fear. They would have done a runner as soon as the Israelites came in over the collapsed wall. God wanted the people of Jericho to leave the city and flee the land. Joshua slaughtered them before they could flee. He was more violent than God had intended.

Jingo Games

The Jingo Games start tomorrow.

I find it rather bizarre that a competition between individual athletes is turned into a competition between nations. I suppose that it is better than fighting wars to decide who is best, but why to we need to prove that we are better than other nations.

I also feel sorry for the athletes. They do all the hard training, but their nation takes much of the credit.

The concept of an individual athlete representing their country is quite odd. An elected politician cannot represent me, so how can an unelected athlete be my representative. If they knew how unathletic I am, they would not want to represent me.

I am sure that many Christian will be really stirred up about their nations performance. I just wish they would be as stirred up about the Kingdom of God.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26-28).
If this is true, why would I want to claim that I am an American, or a Canadian, or a New Zealander? If I am passionate about the Kingdom of God, how can I be passionate about my nation?

I am very wary about cheering my national team. I do not feel comfortable about saying "We won" when all I did was sit on a couch, and perhaps cheered.

National pride is the thin end of the wedge of nationalism. Nationalism dominated the twentieth century and terrible evils were done in the name of nationalism. I suspect that people who get wrapped up in a national team, will be more susceptible to the militaristic adventures of their nationalist governments.

Nationalism also buttresses state power. When a government politician says, "We have prevented people from foreclosure", he is using the word "“We"” in the same way as the person sitting on the couch who says, "We won a Gold Medal". Both are taking credit for something to which they contributed nothing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Old Testament Violence (9) - Batman Joshua

Joshua is a Christian hero, but he got a lot of stuff wrong. He is not listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. In fact the author of Hebrews specifically says that Joshua did not provide rest for his people.

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day (Heb 4:8).
Yet God had promised Joshua that he would give the people rest.
Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: 'The LORD your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land (Josh 1:13)
Instead of resting in God by trusting him to do the fighting, Joshua tended to get stuck in himself. He constantly relied on the military power of Israel, when he should have been trusting in God. He depended on human strength, when he should have rested in God and watched him drive out the Canaanites. Joshua did not see all that God had promised and he did not gain rest for his people. Unfortunately, Israel remained under threat of war, when it could have been at rest.

Part of Joshua’s problem was that he was not good at hearing directly from God. Joshua was not a prophet as Moses had been (Deut 34:10). He was not skilled at hearing the voice of God. God sometimes had to send an angel to get him to hear (Jos 5:13-15).

Joshua also tended to do what he remembered God telling Moses to do.
As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses (Josh 11:15).
Unfortunately, Joshua did some things that God had not commanded. Getting your guidance second had is always dangerous. Joshua sometimes got things wrong, because he misunderstood what Moses had heard.

When they arrived at the Jordan, Joshua sent spies into the land (Jos 1). God has not commanded him to send spies. He acted on his own initiative.

Joshua acted without consulting God when dealing with the people of Gibeon.
The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath (Jos 9:14,15).
Joshua did not inquire of the Lord, but trusted in the evidence in front of him. This serious mistake caused Joshua to make a covenant with his enemies, something that God had forbidden. Joshua had a habit of acting without consulting God. He often did more than God required. I will look at a couple of examples in the next to days.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Old Testament Violence (8) - Moses Mistakes

Moses did not fully understand his gifting. He had released his people from captivity to Pharaoh by working signs and wonders. He had destroyed the mighty Egyptian army by holding out his staff. Despite these amazing experiences, when attacked by the Amalekites, Moses mixed the power of the staff with the power of the sword.

Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands (Ex 17:9).
God did not give this strategy to Moses, because Moses acted without consulting God. Moses stood on the hill with staff and prayed. Joshua stayed on the plain and fought with the sword. This was mixing God’s power with human strength, so it became a struggle. Moses should have used the power of the staff with Joshua standing at his side. By mixing God’s power with the power of the sword he set Joshua off in the direction of violence. Mixing God's power with human power works in the short term, but is damaging in the long term.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Old Testament Violence (7) - Evict the Canaanites

Moses repeated God’s promises to Israel in Deuteronomy 7. Most commentators say that God was telling the Israelites to totally destroy the Canaanites, but this is not correct. Moses begins by repeating God’s promise to drive the inhabitants of Canaanites out of the land.

When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you (Deut 7:1).
This is quite straightforward. God will “drive out” these seven strong nations and the Israelites will take possession of the land.
The confusion comes from the next verses.
When the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods (Deut 7:2-4).
The phrase “destroy them totally” is “herem”, but the message in the rest of the paragraph shows that “destroy” is not the appropriate translation in this context. Moses’ message was that they must have nothing to do with the Canaanites. They must not make a treaty with them. They must not marry them. This would not make sense, if all the Canaanites had been destroyed, as there would be no one to marry and no one to make a treaty. In this context, herem would be better translated as “totally separate from them”.
When the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must totally separate from them. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them.
God would deal with the Canaanites. The Israelites should avoid all contact.

Moses is very precise about what should be destroyed.
Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God (Deut 7:5,6).
God wanted the Israelites to destroy the idols and all sacred things that belonged to the previous inhabitants of the land, but he did not want the people destroyed. He would deal with them himself.
The LORD your God will clear away these nations (Deut 7:22).
Moses also explained how God would expel the people of Canaan.
Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God…throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed (Deut 7:20,21,23).
The Lord will bring confusion, discomfort and vexation upon the Canaanites. He will send hornets among them to fill them with terror. They would realise that a mighty God is with the people of Israel and they will flee or hide. The word “perished” in verse 20 is “abad” which comes from a root meaning “wander away” or “escape”. The word “destroyed” at the end of verse 23 is not “herem,” but “shamad”. It can mean “come to nothing”. That is the fate of the Canaanites. They would escape in every direction and cease to be a people.

Rahab described the fulfilment of this word. She describes her people’s response to hearing about what God had done.
When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below (Jos 2:11).
The spies reported to Joshua,
All the people are melting in fear because of us (Jos 2:24).
When they arrived at Jericho, the spies’ words were confirmed.
Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in (Jos 6:1).
God had filled the Canaanite nations with fear and trepidation.

Moses message was confirmed in Deuteronomy 9. He warned the children of Israel that they must not take credit for gaining the land, even though it belonged to a people who were mighty and strong. God would go ahead of the Israelites as a consuming fire and subdue the Canaanites. God might destroy some of the Canaanites, if he chose, but the Israelites should drive them out of the land. Bereft of land, they might perish, but the Israelites were not given permission to slaughter them.

The children of Israel must not take credit, because the victory belonged to the Lord. He was the one who was thrusting the people out and driving them off their land. Moses message was very clear. The people living in the land were not to be slaughtered, because God would drive them out. This was God’s judgment on their wickedness.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Old Testament Violence (6) - Spiritual Protection

God did not tell Israel to kill or destroy them the Canaanite. The only thing they were to destroy was the altars and Asherah poles.

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God "Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same (Ex 34:11-16).
God repeated his warning about mixing with the people of the land. They must not make treaties with them because this would lead to compromise.

This passage are quite clear. Firstly, God had declared judgment against the Canaanites. They have lost their right to live in the land and will be evicted. God would execute that judgment by forcing them out of the land. The Canaanites would flee leaving most of their wealth behind. God did not say that they should be slaughtered. There judgement was being “driven out” of the land.

Secondly, God declared that he would bring this judgment himself. The Israelites would reap the benefit, but they were not to inflict it.

God had a good reason for expelling the Canaanites. Their wickedness has increased enormously, so their land was full of evil spirits. Canaan had become the haunt of every foul demon and bad spirit. The children of Israel had already demonstrated a vulnerability to the practices of the people around them, so God was running an enormous risk by bringing his people into this land without any spiritual protection.

In the Old Testament age, there was no cure for evil spirits. When King Saul was attacked by a spirit, he could be calmed by David’s singing, but he could never escape their torment (1 Sam 16:14-23). Jesus had not yet died for sin, so evil spirits had not been defeated. The Holy Spirit had not come on all people, so evil spirits could not be cast out. The only way to keep safe from evil spirits was to keep separate from people who carried them.

Going into a land that was a stronghold of evil spirits was not a good idea. In the hostile spiritual environment of Canaan, the children of Israel needed serious protection from spiritual attack. The only protection from evil spirits was to keep separate from the people who carried them. Forcing out the inhabitants of the land would get rid of the demonic powers they carried.

God did not want the inhabitants of Canaan killed, because eviction was more effective for dealing with evil spirits than destruction. If the people possessed by spirits were killed, the evil spirits would remain in the land and seek out other victims to control. The most vulnerable person would be the soldier who killed their previous home. Fighting hand to hand with people carrying evil spirits is very dangerous. Evicting them is risky too, but not as bad, because most demons will leave with the people who carry them.

If the Israelites had allowed God to expel the inhabitants of Canaan, they would have got rid of most the demonic activity that dominated the region. Because Joshua slaughtered many of the inhabitants of Canaan, he allowed an army of evil of spirits to remain in the land. This is one reason why the people of Israel were so easily led into evil. By slaughtering the Canaanites, Joshua opened his people to spiritual defeat.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Old Testament Violence (5) - Canaan

Christians have tended to confuse the Israelites’ behaviour with God’s character. There is a big difference between God’s command and what his people did. In this section I focus on God’s words and actions. When I look carefully at what God told the Israelites to do when entering the land of Canaan and what he said should be done to the Canaanites, I get quite a different picture of God. He was not bloodthirsty and violent.

God did not order his people to slaughter the Canaanites. Rather, he promised that he would drive the Canaanites out of the land in the same way that he freed his people from slavery in Egypt. He would do mighty signs and wonders that would fill the people of Canaan with fear and cause them to flee.

The children of Israel did not understand this promise. They thought that they had to take the land using military force, so they became aggressive and bloodthirsty. However, they were acting presumptively rather than obeying God, because he had not authorised their violence and bloody destruction. He intended them to gain victory in a better way, but they did not have enough faith to trust him for it.

When God called Moses to lead Israel, this is what he said.

I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3:7,8).
God promised to come down and do it all. He did not promise to deliver them from Egypt, but leave them to fight for the good land.

In Exodus 23, when God was speaking to Israel directly, he told them that he would drive the Canaanites out of the land. He explained it would happen.
Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared… I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out…
I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you (Ex 23, 20:22,23,27,28).

God promised to do the job himself. He would send his angel before them to drive out their enemies. The enemy hearts would be filled with confusion and fear. The angel would strike the Canaanites with discomfit and fear. Hornets would come and frighten them. They would turn their backs and flee.

At the same time, God told Israel that they should not mix with the Canaanites or have anything to do with the people who lived in the land. When they had fled, the Israelites should break down and destroy the Canaanite’s idols.
You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars… For if you serve their gods… (Ex 23:24,33).
God gave the Israelites very clear instructions, but he did not tell them to destroy the Canaanites. He said three times that he would “drive them out”.
Little by little I will drive them out before you (Ex 23:30)
This shows that God wanted the Canaanites to be expelled from the land.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Old Testament Violence (4) - Who Judges

When God led Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land the people of Canaan were under judgment. They had been treading a dangerous course for 400 years. God promised Canaan to Abraham, but he said that he would not receive it until the existing inhabitants faced judgment.

Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure (Gen 15:13-16).
God was merciful towards the people of Canaan, giving them four hundred years to repent or change. He would not remove them until they were beyond redemption, with hearts totally hardened in sin. By the time of Moses, the Amorites’ sin had reached its full measure. They had moved under the judgment of God, so they had lost their right to live in Canaan.

This raises an important question. How did God intend to bring about this judgement? Most Christians believe that God told the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites. They see Joshua as carrying out the judgment of God. The problem with this view is that it is inconsistent with the scriptures.

Jesus told us not take matters into our own hands. Paul said that we should leave judgment to God (Rom 12:17-21). Christians are to preach a gospel of peace. We support the gospel by demonstrating the love of God in the way we live. When Christians have used violence and war to advance the gospel, the result has been disaster, even if the victims deserved God’s judgment.

Prophetic people may sometimes be called upon to announce God’s judgment upon a nation in advance. These warnings are an expression of God’s mercy, as they give the wicked nation an opportunity to repent. Prophets must not attempt to fulfil their prophecies by inflicting judgement. That is God’s job.

In the past, I thought that God used the children of Israel to inflict judgment on the inhabitants of Canaan. I assumed that their violence was justified because God had told Moses to destroy the Canaanites. However, when I did some serious study of this issue, I found something quite different. God actually reserved responsibility for administering this judgement to himself.

The truth is that the Israelites disobeyed God and were over-zealous in pursuing the Canaanites. God responded to the excessive violence of Israel by allowing some Canaanites to survive and live on in the land. These people escaped God’s judgement and became a thorn in the flesh for the Israelites.

Housing Rescue

Bill Bonner writes well and has a delightful sense of humour. His style is blunt, but his insights into human nature are very good. Here is what he said about the housing rescue.

Yesterday, George W. Bush signed the housing bill - in which up to $300 billion is to be spent bailing out naïve homeowners, caddish mortgage lenders and Wall Street geniuses. It is packaged as a reserve against catastrophe.

If everything is hunky dory from here on, only a few billion here and there will be spent. If housing continues to sink, on the other hand, the bill starts toting up. The Congressional Budget Office gave the odds at only 1-in-20 that $100 billion of this money would be spent propping up mortgages.

We're happy to see the federal government taking some dramatic action. It reaffirms our faith in our fellow man - he's an idiot; as we knew all along. And it confirms our opinion of the political class - they're grifters, chiselers and opportunists.

Here is a case where many, many people did dumb things. Homeowners bought houses they couldn't afford. Lenders lent them the money to do it. And then investors bought the loans as if they were good investments. Naturally, the whole thing blew up.

The smartest thing to do would be to let it happen. As quickly as possible. Get it over with.

But "change" is the one thing people most don't want - not when it involves paying for past mistakes. The homeowners don't want to give up their houses. The lenders don't want to go out of business. Investors don't want to lose money. And so they all hope for a miracle. And along comes the miracle worker himself - Uncle Sam.

What makes it possible for the federal government to perform miracles..? They have to create it - out of thin air. Otherwise, they are just taking money from people who didn't make mistakes in order to keep people who did make mistakes from being forced to own up to them.

As we said yesterday, we haven't seen any real estate agents offering to return the commissions they made by selling houses to people who couldn't afford them. Nor have we seen any Wall Street slicks returning their bonuses - much of it earned by sinking people so deep in debt they could never get out. This $300 billion spending bill helps us all forgive and forget the whole thing - by making someone else pay for it.