Old Testament Violence (2) Sub-optimal
God had to behave differently in the Old Testament age, because he was fighting against ruthless spiritual enemies with limited authority to act freely. In this constrained situation, he often had to use violence to keep the spiritual powers of evil from getting out of hand. The cross changed the nature of this battle. Once the powers of evil were defeated by Jesus, God no longer needed to use violence to deal with spiritual evil. His people could defeat the powers of evil by preaching the gospel in the power of the spirit and forces them to retreat in his name.
Until Jesus came and died on the cross and defeated the spiritual powers of evil, God was constrained in how he could deal with evil and restrain its harm. He often had to use violence to restrain evil from getting out of hand. He used his authority in the spiritual realms to release his angels to manipulate the struggles between the evil spiritual powers to accomplish his purposes. That sometimes resulted in violence. After Jesus, that violence was less necessary, because his people could defeat the spiritual powers of evil by the power of his blood and his word.
Before the flood, humans had wrecked the earth, but they were not alone. The spiritual powers of evil were working through them to wreck it because they hated God’s creation. During their fall, Adam and Eve unwittingly surrendered the authority on earth that God had given them to the spiritual powers of evil. The evil powers had gone to work to lead humans astray and wreck God’s good earth.
By the time of Noah, the spiritual powers of evil were so strong that the earth was in danger of being totally destroyed. The only way to prevent this from happening was to destroy life on earth. The flood limited the ability of the powers of evil to work evil on earth, and many were locked up where they could do no harm. (See Rainbow covenant.)
Prior to the cross, the only way for people following God to deal with evil spirits was to keep separate from the people and things carrying them. People who chose to follow God did not have the blood of Jesus to protect them, so they were vulnerable to attack by the evil powers. The best form of protection was to remain separate from people carrying evil spirits. This is why God told the Israelites to drive the Canaanites out of the land. They would carry the evil spirits out with them. Allowing the Canaanites to remain in the land would leave the land full of evil spirits.
During the time when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, a host of evil spirits flooded the land of Canaan, because they knew God had promised it to Abraham, and they wanted to get there first. God did not want to start a war with the Canaanites, but he had to drive the evil spirits out of the land. The only way to do this was to drive out the Canaanites possessed and controlled by them.
God’s plan was to send his angels to stir up natural events that would fill the Canaanites with fear and terror, collapsing city wall and massive hailstones from the sky, dangerous hornets (Joshua 6:20; 10:11; Deut 7:20). The people living in the land would be filled with such fear and terror, that they would flee the land, carrying their evil spirits with them.
I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run (Ex 23:27).
This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you (Deut 2:25).
You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God (Deut 7:19-21).
No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go (Deut 11:25).
Unfortunately, Joshua did not understand God’s plan and started a war against the Canaanite kings. This tight contact allowed the evil spirits to stay in the land by jumping across to the victorious invading armies (see Violence and the Old Testament).
Prior to the cross, the people of Israel had to keep away from people with skin diseases. The disease was a sign that they might have been attacked by an evil spirit. Remaining separate reduced the risk that the evil spirit would attack them. Many of the instructions in Leviticus were designed to keep people separate.
Jesus began his ministry by reaching out and embracing a person with skin disease. He told his followers to lay hands on them and pray for them. His ministry changed the method for dealing with evil spirits. (More at Clean/Unclean)
God sometimes used wars to accomplish his purposes, but does not start wars. He manipulates the outcomes of the wars that have been started by evil spiritual powers to achieve his purposes. Political-spirits and government-spirits used military empires to control the world. The only way that God could constrain them was to stir up other military power against them.
The powers of evil are not united. They often fight against each other to get better positions in the hierarchy of evil. The Prince of Persia and his followers fought against the Assyrian Spirit and his cohorts. God used his authority in the spiritual realms to release his angels to manipulate these struggles between the evil spiritual powers to accomplish his purposes.
God mostly accomplished his purposes by sending his angels to fight against the political-spirits and government-spirits (principalities and powers) and not letting a different one win. He fought against the spiritual power of Babylon, which allowed the spiritual Prince of Persia to defeat it. This allowed the Persian armies to conquer and destroy Babylon.
Since the ministry of Jesus, God does not want his people on earth using war to accomplish his purposes. He wants his followers on earth to be people of peace. Preaching the gospel in the Spirit is a more effective tool for defeating evil. More at God and War).
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