TODAY’S READING: DEUTERONOMY 20-22
War. Enemies. Purge. Evil.
War against your enemies. Purge the evil from your midst.
These three chapters of Deuteronomy repeatedly talk about how Israel should go to war against their enemies, the nations in the promised land, and purge evil, any abominable act that displeases God, from their midst.
MOSES’ METHOD OF WAR
Moses’ instruction for warfare against our enemies and purging the evil in our midst included:
- “you shall put all its males to the sword”
- “you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction”
- “stone him to death with stones”
- “hang him on a tree”
- “take the man and whip him”
- “stone her death with stones”
- “stone them to death with stones”
Have you paused to truly consider what Moses was advocating?
This is nothing short of genocide for the enemies of Israel and torture for anyone who has done wrong. Moses’ method of war was completely carnal and fleshly. It sounds exactly like the kind of wars that are waged today, except that are weapons are more destructive. And, Moses proclaimed this to be God’s will, God’s doing.
When Moses waged war:
There was no mercy, just cruelty.
There was no forgiveness, just condemnation.
There was no light, just darkness.
There was no love, just fear.
There was no life, just death.
MOSES’S VIEW OF WAR: IT WAS LIMITED AND VEILED
Yet, the majority of Christians throw their hands up in the air and say, “Nobody can explain God. His ways are beyond our ways. He’s funny that way. I don’t know what to tell you. God was cruel back then. He condemned people, even children, all the time. I don’t know why God would do such a thing when I would never do that. God was dark and mysterious. He was trying to show people they need to walk in fear before him. If you don’t, then he just might kill you. It’s best to just accept this and not ask to many questions.”
Really? That’s the best we can do?
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
So, let’s ask God for wisdom. Let’s reason together and consider Moses for a second.
In Exodus 33:18, Moses said to God, “Please show me your glory.” God responded in Exodus 33:21-23, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take my away my hand, and you shall see my back, but may face shall not be seen.”
If you only saw someone’s back, then would you be able to identify them clearly? Does someone’s back provide much insight about them? No, we learn about a person by looking at their face, seeing its expression. We learn the most by seeing someone’s eyes. This tells us that Moses lacked a clear view of who God is.
Exodus 34:35-35 says, “Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”
Moses may have heard from God directly, but he did not communicate what he heard clearly to the people of Israel. Israel got a veiled view of who God was. You cannot know what someone looks like if they go around with a veil on their face all the time.
In 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul writes extensively about this veiled view of Moses. He says that Moses was a minister of the old covenant. It was a covenant “of the letter” and “the letter kills.” Paul called Moses’ ministry the “ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” and “the ministry of condemnation.” These are just what we see from Moses’ instructions for war in Deuteronomy 20-22.
In 2 Corinthians 3:12-15, Paul says, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.”
Paul is saying that if you still see Moses’ ministry of death and condemnation as the correct way to wage war, to achieve glory, then your mind is hardened. Your mind is hardened is because you are still reading Moses, you are still seeing God, through a veil. Your heart has not received who God truly is.
Paul continues by saying that if the gospel is veiled to you then you are perishing. For those with a veiled view of the gospel that are perishing, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
Because Moses saw God through a veil, his ministry of death and condemnation was perishing, coming to an end. The veil represented the blinding of the minds by Satan. Therefore, when Moses talked about war, he proclaimed himself, which is in contrast to Paul who does not proclaim himself but Jesus Christ as Lord.
WHEN IT COMES TO WAR, DON’T BELIEVE THE TESTIMONY OF MEN
In 1 John 5:9, John says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater.” While all scripture is inspired, many Christians refuse to acknowledge or accept that the Old Testament is the testimony of men. Jesus came to show us the testimony of God and how to find it in the Old Testament.
In Matthew 11:11, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” John the baptist was the greatest person of the old covenant. He was greater than Moses, who’s testimony of war many Christians accept and agree with.
Jesus says in John 5:32-34, “There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony I receive is from man.” John’s witness was that of a man, the greatest man of the old covenant. His witness was greater than that of Moses. But, Jesus did not receive the testimony of men.
Jesus continued in John 5:36-38, “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Fathers has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he sent.”
Do you hear what Jesus is saying?
He is the son of God. Therefore his testimony is greater than that of men. Even God, his Father, is testifying of him. Certainly, God’s testimony is greater than that of men. You have never heard God’s voice or seen his form.
But, Paul said Jesus is “the image of God.” Jesus is what God looks like and sounds like. Therefore, Jesus says even if you haven’t heard God’s voice or seen his form, then look at the works he is doing.
What were the works that Jesus was and is doing?
Just the opposite of the works that Moses did in his waging of war.
Moses was cruel, but “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 1:5)
Moses condemned to death, but in death Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Moses walked in darkness, but Jesus said, “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19) “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
Moses walked in fear of the enemy and the evil present among Israel so he wanted to destroy the enemy and punish the people who had evil in them. But, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) And, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Moses’ ministry was one of death and condemnation. But, “whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not life. (1 John 5:12)
The Jews went to the scriptures, Moses’ writings, Moses’ ministry of death and condemnation, to get life. But, in John 5:39-40, Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
As Paul said, we have to turn to the Lord for the veil to be removed. If we want to know the kind of war that Jesus wages we have to turn to the Lord so that the veil over Moses can be removed. Then we can see God clearly. Having turned, we can go to Jesus for life.
This is the testimony of God that is greater than the testimony men.
1 John 5:9-12 says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has this testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. Whoever has the Son has life, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God, does not have life.”
Further 1 John 5:20 says, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Paul completely understand this testimony. We know this from 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 and how he compared Moses’ ministry of death and condemnation to the ministry of Jesus and the Spirit. The new covenant is “of the Spirit” and “the Spirit gives life.”This ministry of the new covenant through the Spirit was permanent and would have much more glory.
JESUS’ METHOD OF WAR
It seems almost silly to write Jesus’ method of war. Every Christian knows the words. Even non-Christians know how Jesus wages war.
- “Love your enemies.” – Matthew 5:44
- “Do good to those who hate you.” – Luke 6:27
- “Bless those who curse you.” – Luke 6:28
- “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” – Luke 6:35
And he gave example after example after example of this in his life and ministry.
Isn’t it obvious that Jesus’ testimony is completely different than Moses’ testimony about God?
PAUL BELIEVED THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS AND WAGED WAR HIS WAY
Paul condoned murder of the followers of Jesus and thereby persecuted Jesus. In this way, Paul said, “I was a blasphemer.” (1 Timothy 1:13). That means Paul took the Lord’s name in vain by saying it was right to kill for God. Paul believed the testimony of Moses, of men, and made God a liar.
While Paul once believed the testimony of Moses, he was converted by the testimony of Jesus, the testimony of God, that God is life and not death. Paul learned that God does not seek to kill but to give life.
He learned what Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
I could go on and talk about how Paul came to know that Jesus and God don’t wage physical, carnal warfare and that neither are we to wage war after the flesh in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. And, I could go on to quote that Paul said we don’t wage war against flesh and blood but in the Spirit just like Jesus and God in Ephesians 6:10-18. But, almost every single person that reads this will know that already.
Therefore, I have just two questions.
First, will the testimony of God and Jesus remain just empty words and nice things to say while you continue to believe the testimony of Moses and of men to justify your violent tendencies and desire for war to satisfy your passions and desires?
If you answer yes and ascribe your violence and your war to God and Jesus, then you are making God a liar and a blasphemer like Paul was.
Second, will you repent and turn to the Lord so the veil over Moses can be removed so that you can hear what God and Jesus are virtually screaming at you through the life and words of Jesus, which is the testimony of God? Will you repent and turn to the Lord so that you can see God for who he truly is – a God of light in whom is no darkness, a God of love in whom is no fear, and God of life in whom is no death?
Just remember, truly fighting a spiritual war looks like dying on a cross not nailing someone to it.