“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” I Peter 1:15-16
The question on the street is, isn’t God supposed to be a god of love? What kind of a loving God would allow such a thing as war? How many times have I heard people ask these questions? I have heard them say that the wars and battles and all the killing as documented in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible was shameful and wrong and should never have happened. They submit that these despicable acts are intolerable in any form, then and now. War should not even be taught as understandable in any way whatsoever! Should it be? After all, society has advanced and evolved beyond these mentalities and are quite the opposite of what we are striving for today – “the global utopia of world peace”. If you followed that progression of thought, it could lead us to believe that the God of the Bible is a mean and vicious megalomaniac for allowing, “genocide”. That could mean that the Israelites were an evil people who made up every excuse so they could justify stealing other people’s land. Where have we heard that before? We find the prevailing global attitude through the socialist backed media that the Israelites are dead wrong in protecting their land such as they do. In 1948, Israel announced their independence with the backing of the United States under Harry S. Truman, but received back only 17% of their God-given land that flows with milk and honey. It is claimed by many in the U.N., most of the global media, and even by ‘Christian Palestinians’, that at present, what the Israelites are doing in building of walls and settlements and securing their borders can be equated with those “heinous” activities written about in the Old Testament. Some would go as far to say it is equal to apartheid suffered by South Africa at one time in history. Weighty claims, but is this really true?
I have heard some equate the ancient Bible accounts with those of the Qur’an. How about the Muslims who are descendents from that same general area and have an ideology equated to ‘holy war’ as well? Historically, Muhammad waged war under the banner of Allah and sacked much land at the cost of many people. In Arabic, they would term their holy struggle or war as, ‘jihad’. Associated words for you to look up would be, ‘mujahideen’, ‘al-qatlu’, ‘ad-darbu’, ‘dawa’, ‘fatwa’, among others. (You may want to look the meanings up here). However, many people would say these are extremists and barbarians and those of the Bible, including God Himself, are no different than them. Is that true? Can we equate the two accounts? Is it fair and right to say that God was mean and vicious because he killed people in war and took their land? Was there any justification for this action? Let’s be honest and look into this a bit further instead of making emotional snap judgments.
God commanded His people from Israel to be different. They were commanded by Levitical law and direct command not to have anything to do with the other nations. Those nations are gentiles or “heathen” and the Israelites are God’s people. God said, they were not to marry or give their children to marry people of other nations. They were to obey laws and commandments that did not pertain to the heathen, rules that included purification and cleanliness. They were to worship only their God, the only true and living God, in a very detailed and particular way. They were to be “sanctified”, again, cleansed, purified, and set apart. Very often their laws required a thorough washing and waiting for a specified time period before resuming their regular activities. So they were certainly different in every way from the other nations in that respect, because it was the law of the God of the Hebrews and no one else.
So, what about this word, “holy”? What does it mean? When we look at the context of the whole Bible we can see right from the beginning that God basically says: I am holy, be like me. So, right from the beginning we are commanded to be perfect like God our heavenly Father. How do we accomplish this? We must find out who He is, what He is like, and His character. What does He says about Himself? God is love, so be like Him.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”John 14:15
That is a good beginning. What else? How about being separate from the world?
“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;” Heb.7:26
Here is a spectacular definition right from scripture of what we ought to look like if we are holy, specifically, being separate. Different. Peculiar. Separate from sinners. So, “holy” is to be like God. If God did not draw near in close associations with the “heathen” and “sinners”, then what should our position be?
Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 20:7
But, Why War?
To understand what God meant when he told his people to go and take the land inhabited by others in various places in the Bible; to kill man, woman and child, and to spare nothing, even including, at times, all the livestock…etc., we need to understand God. We need to understand why a loving god would command such a thing. Furthermore, we need to try to understand ourselves as His audience, which is a much more difficult thing since God never changes and our hearts are utterly deceitful and ever changing. We need to understand that our priorities may not be the same as God’s. For instance, someone may value plants, animals, and trees on the same level as a human life and therefore, be brought to a quandary when asked which to save from drowning first, the dog or the human. But, to God, since His human creation have eternal souls, (as opposed to dogs and cats and other animals), and since humans are made in God’s image, then humans are of far greater value than animals to Him. (Therefore, we are not animals even though we act like them sometimes, which can cause some confusion at times.) In fact, the Bible teaches that the soul is of greater value than the whole world.
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matt. 16:26
We must try to understand that our own finite mind cannot grasp that doing away with something so dangerous that threatens an eternal soul is paramount. We must try to understand that God, being eternal, understands eternity and that there are only two places to end up for eternity, Heaven, in the His eternal presence, or forever separated in utter darkness in a burning lake of fire. My friend, eternity is a very long time! No one understands this more than God, because He created eternity. It was necessary. By the way, He did not create the everlasting fire for you, he prepared it for your greatest enemy, the devil and his angels.
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matt.25:41
So, why war? Because, God knows that separating yourself from danger, whether physical, emotional, mental, and especially spiritual influences, is key to your protection. In the case of the spiritual it is the most important, because if you are deceived, your soul could end up in this everlasting fire for all eternity. You see, Jesus came to save you from that and to give you eternal life. If the cost of one soul was so great and eternal, then you can begin to understand why the protection of separation in the temporal is so necessary. The means of protection by war and death may have seemed too much of a price in some people’s minds, but the cost of just one lost soul of one of God’s children was much higher, with far greater value than the whole world. This scriptural separation was made necessary for His children’s protection by our loving Father. Back then it was for His people, Israel, but now the protection is for all of us, “whosoever will”, provided through Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, available freely to you for the asking.
Separation is Protection
God is our heavenly Father and our creator. He does love us. We wants us to be protected, but particularly our eternal souls. What if something threatened your child’s wellbeing, would you not put up boundaries and make rules? Sure. We do all the time. Look both ways before you cross the street! Don’t talk to strangers! Stay in the yard! Our heavenly Father does that for us as well. Now, what if the consequence that threatened your child was the worst possible consequence and that punishment was never ending? That is much different merely by virtue of the punishment. Would you not want to protect your child from the imminent harm? Of course, you would!
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matt. 7:11
So, when God, The Father, who is all knowing and perfect in every way says, I know you need to do some things that will help Me to protect you, but you need to be obedient to Me, would you do it? Being holy is being separated away from danger and unto obedience by a perfect and Holy God.
So, I hope we have a better understanding of what holy war was in the Old Testament of the Bible. Rather than accusing God of being a selfish egocentric, or rather than accusing the Hebrews of only wanting to steal other people’s land, it was quite simply God’s remedy for His children’s protection. It may have seemed harsh through the moral lens of a modern global civilization, but it was necessary to kill those attackers who would never have changed their course or desire to see God’s dear children dead. As a parent, you would have done the same.
“For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.” Zech. 2:8
God knew what to do in His perfect knowledge. God knew there was no other choice, because the heathen had a will and desire to destroy His children. Our heavenly Father, God, being perfect and all-knowing, has a desire to keep us from harm even to the end of killing those around us who were a threat. I would not tolerate anyone who would threaten the life of one of my family and much less if I knew the punishment was eternal, would you? God didn’t tolerate it either. He did away with the threat and set up boundaries to protect his children, just as we would. Sadly, even despite all of that, His children still would not obey Him and removed themselves from His protection. You see, since we are all sinners, God had to send His pure and perfect, only begotten Son to save you. What else could a loving God do? How much more proof do we need? Sadly, wide is the road of the many of God’s eternal creation who will go their own way, because we have been given a choice. Gladly, God’s work was not in vain. There will be a some who will find eternal life. If you have not yet made that decision for Jesus, why not today? ~R.