This happens every single year.
My chronological Bible takes me through the conquest of the Promised Land.
The destroying of one “ite” after another……………
Amorites, Hittites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivities, Jubusites…………
I find myself struggling with this whole story of the Israelite journey.
It makes me sick, really, to think of the justification they had for wiping out cities and people.
No matter how many times I read through the Old Testament, I don’t think I’ll ever end a day’s reading and say,
“Of course!! I get it now! This all makes sense to me.”
I don’t think I’ll ever feel good about words like “plunder and destroy.”
I’ll never get use to phrases like “not sparing anything.”
So what do I do?
What do I do with parts of the Bible that really get under my skin?
What do I do with Scriptures that sicken me?
I have two choices really.
I can either stop reading a book that raises the hair on my arms, causing me to feel both sad and uncomfortable;
or I can keep reading and ask God to show up in the middle of all of my questions, complaints, and feelings of disillusionment.
If I stop reading, I’m left hanging with lots of dead kings and villages along with a group of people who, not by their own choice, have been called out to be separate from the world.
I’m left with the beginning of a very twisted story of the history of mankind filled with messed-up people trying to stumble through the pages of a book that has somehow been a bestseller for years and has changed lives and brought hope to many generations even while it has carried so many pages of difficult-to-understand chapters and verses.
Looking back on my own life, my personal losses and pain, I just can’t stop reading here.
It’s not enough for me to close this book and call it “messed up and wrong” even though my face grimaces at the words I read and the reality of what these words convey.
The truth is –
this world is no less messed up today.
If the stories of our lives were captured in a book for generations ahead of us to read in perfect detail, I think they’d find a lot more “ites” being plundered and destroyed in the name of God.
Sometimes I wonder if our desire to be holy and separate somehow gets convoluted into a feeling of power, almost as if the name Christian gives us the right to “tear down and take” in order to claim His promises.
Or maybe the “ites” are the battles we face every single day in our own souls –
the self-esteem struggles,
the things that may rise up and try to defeat the very part of us that God has called out to be His and His alone.
I really don’t have answers this morning for anything I just read in the book of Joshua.
If I’m honest, I’ve closed this Book this morning with more questions than I’ve ever had in the last six years as I’ve plowed through the very same part of my “day-by-day” reading of the Bible as the last six March mornings.
Sometimes I feel like the closer I try to get to Him, the further away I feel.
But I’ve also found that in these very moments of struggling with “all that was and all that is” something happens.
I wake up a bit to the very moment I’m in, and suddenly everything around me looks a little different.
The pictures of my kids on the wall seem more vibrant, because I know that even in my short little life there’s been a story that has been and is very beautiful but at the very same time hasn’t always made a lot of sense.
There’s been pain.
There’s been heartache.
There’s been ugly and sad and regretful moments, but in the midst of all of it there’s been one constant strand of meaning, hope, and purpose………………
and like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness and finally crossed over into what they felt God had led them to possess, our family has tried to stay faithful and keep believing even when so much of what we’ve been called to face has not made sense.
And along the way, we’ve destroyed “ites” that may or may not have been ours to destroy, and we’ve messed up and fallen short and even claimed “in Jesus’ name” in moments that were really nothing more than moments “in our own name”…………..
yet God has been faithful to somehow carry us through it all and love us anyway.
And if you’re family is anything like our family, you’ll never be quite perfect and you’ll never feel all the way “there” while you’re “here;” and every time you think you have it all figured out, you’ll turn around and discover you have way more to learn than you’ll ever be able to grasp with your small little mind.
Pride is really the only thing that would keep me from stop reading His Word, because who am I to dare to question the plundering of “ites” when I plunder this world every single day with my very own words and thoughts?
I’m trying to reach the promised land, and I’m trying to be holy just like the Israelites long ago,
but I’m just as human and just as lost as they were.
Truth be told, I’m glad I don’t understand everything about the Bible, because if I did, I’d be a little more worried about not understanding everything about my own yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
It’s the mystery of it all that keeps me turning the pages every single day and waking up every single morning.
It’s the wondering “what’s next” and “why this or that” that holds me glued to His Word and this life.
I’ll never quite get it, but I’ve decided that’s okay………………
neither did Noah or Abraham or Moses or any other Bible character who felt God calling their name.
I believe there’s more to this story than my simple mind will ever be able to really “get,” and I believe there’s more to life than what I’ll ever be able to “see” while I’m here.
And this morning, that’s enough for me to know.