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Making Sense of Divine Violence

Dr. Tim Mackie
There’s a lot of violence in the Old Testament. But isn’t God loving? How do we make sense of all this?

How do we make sense of the violence in the book of Joshua? In this week’s Bible study, we explore a few key issues to keep in mind when reading about violence in the Bible. Join in! Listen to the message, watch the video, open your Bible, and interact with the questions below.

Note to parents: You may want to listen to the message before inviting your kids to listen with you.


Listen to a short message from Tim on the book of Joshua. You can listen to this on your own or with a group. If you are leading a small group or family, feel free to listen to the message and contextualize it for your needs.
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Tim's Message on Divine Violence
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Listen to the whole audio on the Reflections Podcast

Read and Discuss


Video Question
What image stood out to you in the video and why?

Message Question
How did Tim’s message challenge or encourage you today?

How do we make sense of the violence in the book of Joshua? Most readers imagine that God commanded his people to vengefully wipe out an entire nation. But a deeper reading reveals that the reasons for the conquest were more complex, the scope of the battles were smaller, and God’s justice and mercy remained present throughout every detail.

There are many key issues to keep in mind as we approach this difficult topic. While we can’t address all of them in this episode, one key takeaway is that even this story leads us to Jesus. Similar to Joshua, Jesus came to drive corruption out of his creation. But unlike Joshua, Jesus’ weapons were acts of sacrificial love. Joshua’s victory was at the expense of his enemy’s blood, but Jesus’ victory was for his enemies and gained through the shedding of his own blood. In Jesus, the God of Israel himself suffered violence to put an end to violence and death.

Reflection 1:

Divine violence is a complex topic that we’ve only begun to unpack in this brief study. What feelings does it bring up for you? What is one specific question that you have as you consider what we’ve reflected on so far?

Reflection 2:

Joshua points to Jesus, the true conqueror of evil, who announces an alternate Kingdom in the midst of ruling powers of evil. When you read today’s passage with Jesus in mind, what do you observe?

Reflection 3:

The apostle Paul uses the idea of opposing strongholds as a metaphor to describe thoughts that conflict with what we know of God’s character. With this in mind, compare and contrast today’s passage in Joshua with 2 Corinthians 10:1-5. What similarities and differences do you notice?

Reflection 4:

Compare and contrast today’s passage in Joshua with Romans 8:31-39. What similarities and differences do you notice?

Reflection 5:

According to Romans 8:31-39, what does it mean to be a “more than a conqueror,” and what do we need to believe in order to live in the boldness of that identity?

Reflection 6:

How do you see violence corrupting your community? Consider God’s justice and mercy toward your community. How does he want to restore peace? What is one step you can take this week to join him?

Reflection 7:

Turn your reflections into a prayer. Be honest about your feelings and questions about this topic. He hears you. Express your gratitude for how God conquered violence and death through the power of his love. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what it means to reflect his sacrificial love this week.

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