On one occasion of Jesus preaching to a crowd of followers John observes, “many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. who can accept it?’” (John 6:60, NIV). Certainly God’s command to Joshua and ancient Israel are “hard teaching.” Working through hard teachings is a part of a Christian's duty to study to show himself approved... In his book to fellow pastors, Brothers, We are Not Professionals, John Piper writes in his chapter, Brothers, Show Your People Why God Inspired Hard Texts,
And if God ordained for some of that precious, sacred, God-breathed book to be hard to understand, then God unleashed in the world not only an impulse to teach people how to read but also to think about what they read-- how to read hard things and understand them and how to use the mind in a rigorous way.
Here are a few additional thoughts to keep in mind and we teach through Judges:
1. God is sovereign over life and death. Job 1:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (KVJ)
2. God is a righteous Judge. Psalm 7:11 “God is a righteous judge…”
3. The ancient world was cruel, inhumane and brutal. In Joshua and Judges God uses ancient Israel as His instrument of judgment. Death, war, and hatred toward one another are all results of the fall, the entrance of sin into the human experience.
Remember, war and death were not a part of God’s original plan at creation. Following His creation God declared all that He had made, “very good.” It was Adam’s rebellion against God that brought death into the human experience, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” Romans 5:12, NIV.
4. Even in judgment there are glimpses of God’s mercy and grace.
Genesis 15:16 reads, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” One commentary observes of this scripture, “God would wait centuries giving opportunity for this people to repent! His grace and mercy waited to see if they would repent and turn from their headlong plummet into self destruction” (Hard Sayings of the Bible).
Read Timothy Keller’s excellent article The Issue of Holy War here.