When Israel had killed all the inhabitants of Ai who had pursued them into the open wilderness, and all of them, to the last man, had fallen by the sword, all the Israelites turned back to Ai and put it to the sword.
The total of those who fell that day, men and women, the entire population of Ai, came to twelve thousand.
Joshua 8:24-25 (TANAKH)
In the last few weeks we have been hearing much about violence, inflammatory rhetoric, and its repercussions. Many in the Christian tradition have been at the forefront of calling our nation to reflect on the effect that violence has in our society and how we can prevent the rise of violence in our communities.
At times we have called other religious traditions on what we perceive as their “culture of violence.”
As I read the scripture for today I was reminded of our own.
The conquest narratives in Joshua are some of the most difficult to hear. God’s voice is at the forefront of the conquest calling the nation of Israel to annihilate the enemy for they are the chosen ones, God’s people, and God will guide them to be victorious.
Often we find ourselves so convinced of our position, of our righteousness, that we can begin to believe that God is calling us to defeat our enemies in God’s name. Why wouldn’t God want us, those of us who follow, who are right, (tongue firmly planted in cheek) to defeat the enemy?
Because that so called enemy is God’s own creation also . . . Why would God tell anyone to destroy that which God made, the creation that God loves, no matter how off the mark that creation may be?
I believe that the Israelites thought that God had called them to be about this conquest. I do not believe that God told them to annihilate whole populations so that they could settle the land.
May we all learn to look into ourselves and discern God’s voice in every decision. Making sure that it aligns with God’s creative, reconciling, and redemptive mission in the world.