WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 20
BY: Josh Boles
Much like yesterday, Deuteronomy chapter 20 is one of those chapters that is hard to read and understand. This entire chapter is devoted to showing the guidelines for first, war inside the Promise land, and also war outside the promise land. A simple theological truth is that God desires to show grace and mercy to all people. This is a fact, but it is also what makes text like this hard to interpret. If you have already read the chapter, you will remember that even if the Israelites did not completely annihilate their enemies, they were to force them into labor.
So we have to ask ourselves, how does this fit into God’s plan of redemption and grace? Sometimes in order to understand things you have to zoom out a little bit. This is where we run into problems sometimes when we wrestle with these hard text, and I can assure you that there are harder text than this concerning war to deal with. Even through we read of noting but war in this chapter, the statement that God desires to give grace and mercy to all still stands.
When we read passages like this, we have to read them in context of the larger story. If we go back to Genesis 17, God enters into a covenant relationship with Abraham. This, essentially is the beginning of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen nation. Even Genesis 17 is surrounded by the continuous cycle of God’s grace followed by mankind’s rebellion, followed by more grace, and then more rebellion. This cycle of rebellion is what has lead us to this point in chapter 20. If we read this story as a stand alone context, then God is nothing but vengeful and just. God is just, but God also has abundant grace to give, and has given it every so abundantly all throughout the Old Testament thus far.
Another principle that we have learned several times in our journey through Deuteronomy is that the Lord is always fighting for His people. This is another truth statement that helps us to understand Deuteronomy 20, and really, the entire Old Testament. The sad reality in the Old Testament is that there are a lot of nations that have rebelled against God and His people, and that sin must be met with judgement. Sin must be atoned, that is always true, even today. The difference is that we have Jesus to stand in the gap for us, and what a beautiful promise that is! If it were not true, and we still lived in pre-resurrection times, we would likely be the ones rebelling against God and his people. We are gentiles after all.
One more thing that we can learn from this is that we will always have an enemy, and our enemy is always closer than we think. The Israelites always had an enemy. There is not a time that I can recall that the nation was not in direct conflict with another people. They often faced great nations, just like Moses was preparing them for in Deuteronomy 20. The fact of the matter is that it did not matter how great the enemy was, the Lord was with them. Moses did not minimize the size of the Canna army. He mentions that they had horses and chariots, but what Moses emphasizes more than anything else, along with Priest’s encouragement we see here, is that the Lord’s “fear not,” is what every believer needs to hear when confronting an enemy.
We need to know that we have an enemy, and he is constantly prowling around looking to devour us. Just go read 1 Peter 5:8. We also need to know that we should fear not, because God is fighting for us. Just as we have already learned, if God is fighting for us, victory is a certain thing. God has given us abundant grace. We must give him love and devotion in return.