Reflections: July 29, 2020
Wednesday of the Seventh Week after Trinity
By Joel Shaltanis
"Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them…" (1 Samuel 15:3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Today's reading (1 Samuel 15) is a hard text. Samuel commands King Saul to destroy the Amalekites, to kill "both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." There are other places, too, in which God commands the Israelites to do the same to the Canaanites. How are we to make sense of this?
Atheists and critics wonder about these things, too, and use these passages as attacks, claiming the God of the Bible commanded genocide or ethnic cleansing. It's easy to just turn the page when you read something like this, and I think a lot of people do. But while we cannot possibly comprehend the mind of God, there are some things that can help us think this through.
These commands are limited to a specific time and place. They are not open-ended directions to destroy people of certain tribes or races. In fact, when the Israelites tried to act out against their enemies without God's blessing, they were defeated (1 Samuel 4). Only God can sanction this kind of action and only He can understand why it is necessary.
We know that God curbs evil. The Lord even sent other nations to attack and destroy the people of Israel when their wickedness rose to a certain level. We are talking true wickedness—even child sacrifice! In other words, had you lived in the midst of such evil, you would have prayed for God to stop it.
That doesn't answer every question, but perhaps it helps answer some. Some things in Scripture which we cannot understand, but there are many things we cannot misunderstand Chief among them is God's love for us in Christ. God is a God of justice who metes out punishment on the wicked, but He also takes punishment on Himself even though He doesn't deserve it. That, too, is a great mystery. He loves us that much. Incredible! Who can understand the mind of God? In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence - Faith sees a smiling face. Blind unbelief is sure to err - And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain. ("God Moves in a Mysterious Way" LSB 765. st.2, 4)
-Rev. Joel Shaltanis is pastor of Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Plano, TX.
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