Home > Uncategorized > Homily for Wednesday Night, 3 July

Homily for Wednesday Night, 3 July

Note: The readings for tonight were Joshua 8:1-28 and Acts 11:1-18.  Sorry there was no audio recorded by me.

 

We have in the readings this evening what seems to be a great conflict.  In the Old Testament the Lord judges and condemns the unrighteous Canaanites from the city of Ai to utter destruction.  In the New Testament reading, Peter is told the unclean things have been made clean by the Lord and the Gentiles are part of the kingdom of God.  “What is the difference?  How we answer that question makes every difference for our understanding of the salvation of God brought in His Son Jesus Christ.

Is it a difference between Old Testament and New Testament?  That is, is there a difference in the fundamental face of God toward people in the Old versus the New Testament?  Some people think this way.  Some Christian teachers have even taught this way throughout the centuries.  But what does that way lead to?  Simplistically, that way leads to thinking the Old Testament is bad and quite frankly not worth reading unless we want to look back and see how good we have it now.  That way also presents a whole host of other problems too such as, if there is no good stuff, no Gospel in the OT, then were any of the Old Testament believers saved and if so, how?  This way leads to a great wall that separates the Testaments and otherwise calls into question even the teaching of the Lord Jesus Himself.  If the Old Testament is bad and Jesus taught from it in the synagogues, what was the kingdom of God He was proclaiming, something entirely of His own making?  When the two disciples walked along the road to Emmaus with Jesus and He opened up the Scriptures to them to teach them everything about the Christ, what was it that Jesus was opening up?  The Gospels had not yet been written and the letters of the apostles were still a couple decades off.  He opened up the Books of Moses, the prophets and the writings.  It’s there in the Old Testament where Christ is.  In fact, it’s there where Christ is first.

“But,” you may ask, “where is Christ here in the destruction of the people of Ai and the burning of their city?”  That doesn’t sound very, “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild;” it doesn’t sound very “Turn the other cheek.”  This other reading with Peter in Joppa, that sounds more like the Jesus we know, more like the Jesus we are comfortable with.  But is that the only side of Jesus?  Remember it was Jesus who took a whip of cords and flogged the money changers who were extorting the pilgrims to the temple?  Remember it was Jesus who cursed the fig tree that did not bear fruit?  Remember it was Jesus who told the parables of the unmerciful servant, Lazarus and the rich man, and promised the separation of the sheep from the goats on the Last day?  Jesus judged too in His earthly ministry and He didn’t merely judge religious hypocrisy; He judged apostasy, belief pointed at the wrong object.  The Epistle reading from Sunday should still be ringing in our ears.  “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19–21)  Even Jesus own words from the Gospel reading Sunday, “Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Lk 9:62)  So the difference is not Old Testament and New Testament, before Jesus and salvation and after Jesus and salvation.  But if that’s not the difference, then what is?  Where is Jesus in the judgment of the Canaanites of Ai?

The Scriptures teach not just that Jesus came to suffer but that Jesus will come again to judge the wicked and the unrighteous.  When we read this passage from Joshua let’s not shrink back from any of the details.  This is total war.  If we did not know that this was the Lord’s own will and doing, Israel’s mighty men of valor acting as agents for the Lord, we would call this action a war crime, even genocide.  It’s a hard passage to read and fit into a understanding of God that only has room for “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.”  There has to be room in our understand of God for Christ Jesus as coming judge, as victor on the field of battle against the Lord’s own enemies, against not just those demonic and diabolic powers but against even those humans who rise up against the will and order of the Lord.  This is the picture of the Lord Jesus in Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  Ask ye Who is this? / Jesus Christ it is, / Of Sabaoth Lord, / And there’s none other God; / He holds the field forever.”  (LSB 656:2)  Sabaoth Lord means in older English “the Lord of Hosts,” in more modern English, “the Lord of Armies.”  This is the Lord who goes to battle on behalf of His own people, to win them from oppression and slavery, to protect them from those who would take away access to their God, to secure for them a salvation and a peace that is ultimately eternal.  If we have to answer the question specifically where is Christ in this victory over Ai, we can say He is not only here in the protection of Israel in battle but here in the judgment to destruction of the Canaanites.

If anyone wants to press the war crimes charge on the Lord here, we can argue that the curse of death on those who are in open rebellion against God from Genesis chapter 3 remains in full effect.  The Lord is guilty of nothing but doling out His justice.  And if one wants to say that here should have been a case for mercy not judgment, we can appeal to an earlier story already in Joshua and the destruction of Jericho.  Rahab the prostitute came to know and fear the Lord and when the Lord’s spies turned up in her city, she knew which side to pick.  Her actions saved not only herself but her whole household and she is named in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew as the mother of Boaz who ended up marrying Ruth, who was a Moabite.  There is nothing in the destruction of the people of Ai that runs counter to our understanding of God as long as we make that picture wider in scope to include God’s condemnation of sin and those who wish to live in no other way than in open rebellion to His revealed will and the order of His creation.  The difference between Canaanite prostitute Rahab and the Canaanite people living in Ai, is the same difference between people today who are repentant and those who are not.  If we’re looking for any support for this way of reading Joshua 8, we need only go back to Joshua chapter 7 and read how Achan led the Israelites against the will of the Lord in their first battle against the Canaanites in the very same town, Ai and the Lord rebuked the Israelites, His very own people, rebuking them to the point of a loss in battle, to the point of Achan being stoned to death by the people for leading them against the will of the Lord.  The Lord is not guilty of any crimes here; the Lord is meeting out condemnation on those who are unrepentant.  In chapter 7, it was the Israelites.  Here in our reading tonight, it is the Canaanites of Ai and thus it remains on all those who refuse to repent of their sins.

If the challenge of these accounts of the conquest of Canaan weren’t challenging enough for us, causing us to look at a fuller portrait of the Lord Jesus than we might otherwise, they cause us to look inwardly too, at our own condition.  We might say that “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” but our actions speak louder than words.  Our attitudes toward those around us, those even very different from us, even our attitudes toward those who are unrepentant sinners, often give us away as, if not holier than thou, at least I’m holier than that guy.  We’re ready to admit we’re not perfect, but at least we’re not as bad as some people.  Israel’s selection by the Lord to be His people through Abraham was purely an act of His grace.  It was always meant to be so, to be an Israelite whether by birth or by being grafted in like Rahab or Ruth was always meant to be an act of God’s pure grace extended to all people of this world who repented of their sin and wished to live in the order that God himself established for His creation.  It took the apostle Peter an extra vision from the Lord to reinforce this understanding about God and His desire for the world.  All along God had granted to Gentiles like Canaanites and Moabites repentance unto faith and surely it was His desire still.  God has always been faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  He is still active today as He has always been to bring us to repentance and faith.  The repentance that the Holy Spirit works in us today is the truth that we are no better than anyone, even the Rahabs or worse of our day.  It is purely on account of Him who was judged guilty in our place that we are judged not guilty in the cross of Christ Jesus, Who on the Last Day will come to judge the living and dead.  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with [you] all. Amen.  (Rev 22:21)

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. SHARAT BABU
    July 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Dear Brother Smith, Thank you for the Blessed messages each time and is strengthening my soul and to share with our people in India, we have much idolatry here, please pray for INDIA. In Jesus Love, Evangelist Babu.

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