W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 10-06-2021
Read: Joshua 6 (PLEASE BE SURE TO READ THIS!)
Herem or cherem is a very difficult concept to accept; the hardest in the Bible. Herem involves total destruction. Everything is destroyed. All men, women, children and babies are killed. All livestock, all buildings, all possessions are to be destroyed. In addition to total destruction” herem also involves total “devotion to God”. The idea is that there will be NO SPOILS of war, no profiting from it, no slaves or concubines taken, no pillaging or plunder. God seems to forbid the people from profiting from the defeat of an enemy. If there is a redeeming point to herem, that is it. Valuables went to the “treasury of the Lord’s house”; those were the “devoted things”. The people of God won’t inhabit Jericho; it will lay in waste as a testament to the power of the one true God.
This is the point in the Bible where many Christians struggle. The practice of herem: of completely destroying an enemy and killing everyone and destroying everything seems incompatible with the teachings and the way of Jesus Christ, and frankly it is. Christians struggle as they read that the God of the Old Testament ordered the people of God to enter the promised land and massacre its inhabitants. I struggle with that too. In my next W.I.S.H. post we will explore more possibilities and implications, but for now, we wrestle with the literal words of scripture.
The person in the Bible who comes closest to faithfully doing all that the LORD commands is Joshua. And yet, what he carries out is at times nightmarish. Preachers tout Joshua’s faith conviction: “choose this day whom you will serve…” and the strength of his faith overcoming any fears and doubts to “claim the land”. It is Joshua as the leader of God’s people that God instructs to completely destroy, herem, the Canaanites. Jericho is only the first of several Canaanite cities that will be completely destroyed in the book of Joshua.
Is this really God’s word or only human perception of God’s word? Does herem really reflect God’s will? How do we reconcile herem with Jesus’ teachings of loving our enemy? Is this actual history or is it faith narrative? Those are good questions to ponder. In upcoming W.I.S.H. posts we’ll explore these questions and others.As always, keep your eyes on Jesus.
Pastor Rob Nystrom