Understanding War in God’s Eyes
I was sitting on the couch, reading the Bible two mornings ago when God spoke to me and revealed things about his character that I never understood in the past. I was reading in the Old Testament about the time when God was directing Israel to go to war against other nations- something than never sat right with me. “How could God, a god of peace, instigate war?” I would think. But this time, the Holy Spirit connected all the dots for me and I wrote FOUR journal pages about just war in an hour!
The theme of this year for me is listening, and God is already at work teaching me in big ways. I was amazed at how I didn’t need any other books or commentary to understand it- only the Bible (and my past knowledge of it) and the Holy Spirit speaking. I wonder if this is a little bit how the writers of the Bible felt when God was empowering them to write by the leading of his Spirit. I’m in awe and humbled by the experience. This is what He said to me:
God never wanted war when he created mankind. He wanted love and perfect relationship with his creation, like in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world. The wars of the Old Testament are a sign of God’s justice toward people who do not follow Him but chose to live life their own way, a life in sin. Rebellion against God is the most fundamental definition of sin. God is a God of justice AND of grace, which is the bigger mystery- not the justice, but the grace. All of us deserve punishment and death for our sins, but in God’s grace, He chooses some of us to restore relationship with him.
God instructed Israel to go to war against certain ungodly nations to clear the Promised Land for their occupation. This was both a sign of God’s justice AND his grace. Israel had also turned from God many times, and each time, God punished Israel to teach them as a loving father would. He also waited in perfect patience until his children turned back to Him to follow once more.
Yes, God instigated war in the Bible, but it was consistent with his character of justice and grace. Even though the Israelites, God’s own people, made many mistakes, God showed them grace because of the covenant God made with their ancestors who responded in faith and godliness. It was by Noah, Abraham and Moses’ good faith and heart that Israel was still shown grace upon grace when they turned from God as a nation. God is also a God who keeps his promises, even though we are undeserving.
Thinking back to Noah and the flood, Noah and his family were the only people saved on earth. Noah was saved for his righteousness (Genesis 6:9)- ALL others died in just punishment for their sinful rebellion against God. The flood was not a war fought through man, but it was still a war of good versus evil. Why do we not question God’s character in the flood, wiping out all people on earth, but we do when he uses people to fight, to bring justice and teach faith and obedience to his followers at the same time? Is it because of the imperfections of his followers? Let’s dig a little deeper to get to the bottom of this.
God does not show partiality in his justice. God only allowed victory in war when his people were obediently following his leading and instruction. Victory was always on God’s terms alone. When Israel wasn’t listening to God, He instigated war within Israel itself. When Moses came down from Mount Sanai with the Ten Commandments, only two months after God so faithfully delivered them from slavery in Egypt, He found Israel worshiping an idol they had created! God didn’t ignore this, of course. He instructed all those who were with God to come to him and to kill all those who were not, to cleanse Israel, God’s chosen holy nation, from the corruption within (Exodus 32: 26-27). The punishment and justice did not stop there, as the entire nation was at fault, so God also struck his own people with a plague so they would understand the severity of their actions (Exodus 32: 33-35). Another example of God’s just punishment toward Israel was oppression by their enemies. “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites” (Judges 6:1). This is just one of many example of Israel turning away and God punishing them until they learned and turned back to God. Those receiving God’s favour must be obediently following him. As a father punishes his child for the child’s benefit, so God does with his children. An obedient child brings honour to their father.
In God’s patience, wisdom and GRACE, He did not completely destroy all of Israel as he did other nations because he had made a covenant with Abraham, and as mentioned before, it is also part of God’s character not to break his promises. God chose Israel, in his perfect grace, to bring him honour and make His name known throughout the earth. The grace God gives is undeserved, but it is part of his greater salvation plan. Both JUSTICE and GRACE bring HONOUR to God. And no, grace does not contradict justice because JESUS paid the price, once and for all, for the sins of all those who accept this gift of salvation.
Additionally, even though God directed war, He is still a God of PEACE. God promises peace to those who follow him (Isaiah 26:3). During this time in Israel’s history, the war against ungodly nations by the strength of God’s hand, restored peace to Israel, God’s people. It is very important to note that peace is NOT promised to those who do not follow God.
Just war is consistent with God’s character and God’s GRACE and JUSTICE do not contradict each other.
War is just when GOOD is fighting EVIL to bring PEACE to the land.
Sometimes PEACE can only be achieved through just war.
For true justice and peace to be achieved, all war must be on God’s terms. War that is not on God’s terms is not just war.