In my favorite Everybody Loves Raymond episodes, Raymond's brother introduces the family to the woman who might be "the one." Everybody loves her. She's perfect. Then Raymond sees her kill and eat a fly. Of course, no one believes him until the truth comes out at the end of the episode. She does indeed eat flies.
This weekend's passage is one of those that really throws a lot of Christians, not to mention non-Christians. We are drawn to Jesus and the God who so loved the world that he gave his Son. We can live on that truth and that fuel for a long time.
We start reading the Bible and the God of the Bible is perfect in so many ways. Then we eventually get around to reading Joshua, and God eats a fly. God commands the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites and take no prisoners.
It's very disturbing. A game changer. A deal breaker for many. It raises questions about the character of God. Can we trust a God who does something like this? We may think that Jesus is different, but then we get to Jesus in Revelation, and it's no different really. The gospel's Jesus also eats a few flies as well.
If it disturbs you, I think that's a good thing. Seriously, think about it: what kind of person wouldn't be disturbed? If you question God's character, I think you're on the right track. You and I need to know the character of God and know it well.
But as you do question God's character, I'd like to remind you of one thing.
It is the biblical concept of morality and human value that causes you to even be disturbed.. I think you know that the idea of wiping out your enemies isn't a problem for most people around the world today and has definitely not been a problem throughout history. It's in countries influenced by Christianity that enemies lives have value.
Even in secularized countries that put a premium on human life, what you find is that that value comes from their roots, deeply influenced by Christian values. An evolutionary point of view doesn't produce an unflinching belief in human worth. Nor do other religions besides Judaism.
So, I would even say to a skeptic, "If the destruction of the Canaanites keeps you from trusting the God of the Bible, then you and I are closer together on this issue than you may realize. We’re both steeped in the moral vision of God as revealed in the Bible, even if you’re not aware of the historical roots of your own moral vision."
I actually think God wants us to be disturbed by it.
We'll be exploring other aspects of this issue in the sermon this weekend.