The "God of the Old Testament" receives a great deal of criticism from some quarters because, allegedly, He makes statements that contradict New Testament teaching, and He also seems cruel, especially toward non-Israelites. Examining a question that brings both of these criticisms into play, David Grabbe argues that God's command for Israel to execute total war on the Canaanites has a rational—and yes, Christian—explanation.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing on the civil government's sword or power to impel or inflict hurt, reads a poem by Marine Chaplain Dennis O'Brien, which claims that the soldier is the source of democracy and liberties. Our culture is obsessed with war (political wars, economic wars, drug wars, etc.) relying on conflict, strife, and brute force as the ultimate way to resolve all conflicts, with the spoils going to the victor.
Richard Ritenbaugh focuses upon the memorial aspect of the Day of Trumpets, especially the blowing of trumpets and shouting. One major incident involving the blowing of trumpets, occurring at the outset of Israel's incursion into Canaan, was the fall of the city of Jericho, when Joshua (a type of Christ) meets the Commander of the Armies of the Lord, whose sword is drawn in a posture of judgment. Jericho, undoubtedly the most invulnerable fortress in all of Canaan, nevertheless was delivered (as an inheritance) into the hands of God's chosen people through the blowing of trumpets or rams' horns (announcing the presence of God). The battles of Jericho and Armageddon provide the opening salvos establishing God's chosen people in occupied territory, driving out the abominable influence of the previous occupants.
Of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the red horse may be the most easily interpreted. Richard Ritenbaugh shows, however, that while war is predominantly contemplated, the rider of the red horse is also responsible for the escalating violence on the homefront.
We live in a day of increasing knowledge—to the point that we are increasingly overloaded with information. Richard Ritenbaugh argues that these and other modern factors lend themselves to deception, yet this is one of the primary end-time trends that Jesus warns us against!
Many Christians today believe that killing in self-defense is sanctioned by the Bible. David Grabbe explains that this is a terrible misunderstanding of Christ's teaching.
Martin Collins asserts that presumptuous self-justification is one of mankind's most deceptive or blinding sins. Glibly stating, "God will understand," we practice a dangerous and foolish form of situation ethics. God pays close attention to the small or insignificant things we may overlook or excuse in ourselves, sins we commit in weakness. God's patience does not constitute approval of our sin. God's truth penetrates and exposes our secret sins. Nothing can be concealed from Almighty God. The reverence and fear of God leads to hating evil and obeying God in both public and private contexts. Regarding our presumptuous thoughts and behaviors, God will certainly understand (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that disciples of Christ should expect persecution, often from people we normally would feel comfort and protection from, such as members from our own family. The two-edged sword (the Word of God) divides families because receptivity of this word is not a given- especially if one has not yet been called. Many more people ridicule God's Word than keep it. God's called out ones have to love God's Word more than family. Service in the work of God will inevitably bring persecution, but it will also bring reward. Chapter 11 focuses upon the ruminations of John the Baptist, who even though he was close to Christ, may have misunderstood the nature of Christ's true mission. John the Baptist, labeled as "none greater" never performed a miracle. It will take a great deal of expended energy to make it into the Kingdom of God. We cannot afford to be negligent or complacent about our calling, or our willingness to yield to His teachings, letting it dissipate like the ancient Israelites, the people of Bethsaida or Chorazin - or the Laodiceans . We must be teachable and adaptable, willing to take Christ's yoke, not tripped up in intellectual vanity or pride. [NB: This series of Bible Studies from 1981-82 is incomplete.]
Receive Biblical truth in your inbox—spam-free! This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 145,000 subscribers are already receiving.