(Join us on Sunday for more about the talking donkey!)
On Wednesday night I was able to draw back and stand in awe of the grace of God that we can see even in ancient stories like the ones we see in Numbers. All the while the people are rebelling and God is with them. They complain and curse in the midst of God's provision and blessings. Even many of the judgements that we traditinaly think of as painful and horifying are often just God giving the people what they have insisted upon based on thier own choices.
They say: Meat, more meat! -- God gives them so much meat they vomit it from their noses!
They say: No way we can go into that land, too scary! --- God says okay you're generation doesn't have to go. We will spend 40 years waiting so we can give the land to your kids.
I'm not suggesting that I understand or am excited by either of these events but at very least my brain can logically embrace them. God lets us choose and we reap the consequences of those choices.
But, dang it, chapter 31 just messes with all of that logic. Doesn't it?
(Btw, imo, God gave us logic, it's not an enemy, it's a resources when submited.)
Sure, the Midianite King did the Isralites wrong. He certainly sinned agaist them. He repeatedly enlisted Balaam to curse the Isralites--so, yeah, a bad guy.
But then the community goes to war, a war called for by God according to the text. The Isralites are victorious, many Midinite leaders are killed and Balaam finally gets the sword that his ass saved him from earlier. Tit for tat.
But, that's not really how it goes, is it? They take the plunder, they kill all the men. They capture all the women and children. Moses himself then seems angry that they let the women live (v.15). So then most of the women are all killed, with the exception of the virgins.
The virgins were taken as plunder. The isralites seem to enjoy this plunder? Moses accepts the gold, every soldier took home some plunder baby!
What do we think God thinks about all of this?
Do we, despite the overwheling and clear attrociteis that we see reported here, say...God said it, that settles it! Praise God for killing all those people! Look if that's where you are, I get it, there's a security there without question. But God seems to me to be AOK with my questions. So, I'll ask a few.
Is this just? Does our understanding of inspiration and authority require us to say that it is?
Could we see this as the "inspired testimony of the people who lived then?" In other words, if God made everything good and then subjected all of his very good creation to the dangers of human free will. By that I mean everything, everything that God has made is impacted and adjusted and interpreted by we humans. It's been that way from the start, it seems to be a pretty vital part of God's plan. If that is true, why do we have diffrent rules for the scripture? If God's earth, God's choosen ones, God's environment, God's atmosphere, God's church, God's doctrine, God's very plan of expansion and evenagelism are all left in the dangerous hands of humans. Everything, everything, everything...except the scriptures...God was a bit too scared to entrust us with the scrptures? God certainly made sure we couldn't screw those up...who decided that? Wasn't it the same spirit of God that hovered over the waters of creation that carried along the authors? Didn't that spirit in the beggining when everything was good leave room for human agency, would he not do that with the scriptures? Could it be that humans throughout history who win batles (even ones where they commit terrible crimes agaist humanity) then attribute that win to God. If they did, would God stop them from doing so? Would God say, whoa, hold on here. You're free will is so important that I'll let it fly everywhere, except in what you are about to write about me?
If this war were ligitimatly a clean act of judgement by God...why are the combatants who carried out God's holy justice considered unclean?
Does a woman who hasn't had sex really carry more value than one who has? Everything I know of Jesus would suggests that this idea is crazy...but everything we know about toxic masculinity seems to suppot that idea, weird, huh?
Does my calling that weird make me unfaithful, am I a heritic, or is it faithful to follow God as we struggle, as we wrestle, as we question?