Holy War in the Old Testament

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Question
How should Christians interpret Old Testament passages describing God's commands for Israel to engage in holy war?
Answer
When Christians look back on the Old Testament, especially looking at things like Joshua and the conquest of the land and God's call to actually go and conquer, we can do one of two things very badly with that passage. One is that we can try to just explain it away and ignore it altogether and say, "Oh, well, that was then and that's really not anything to do with us on any level," or we can become very nationalistic with it and become almost militaristic in our demeanor with people. And I think what we need to really look at with Joshua and the conquest of the land is to understand that was a specific time and place for the nation of Israel to occupy the land at that time. And since the new covenant and the coming of Christ, God's kingdom goes beyond national geographic borders, it goes beyond people groups, and it's a kingdom as Jesus himself said is not "of this world," and we're not wrestling with flesh and blood, but it's a spiritual battle. And so, the weapons of human warfare are just not appropriate for Christians to use on any level when it comes to expanding God's kingdom. And I think we need to expand that, not just to the actual weapons of warfare, but even our demeanor of us against them, and we're going to conquer them in some other way. It's really about the expansion of God's kingdom through the gospel, through the good news of what Christ has done for us, as opposed to us conquering someone else.

Answer by Dr. Dan Lacich

Dr. Dan Lacich serves on the pastoral team of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Orlando FL.