A time to kill: Putting the Old Testament in context

Week 3 –
Day One: A time to kill: Putting the Old Testament in Context
Day Two: The healing touch
Day Three: A time to break down
Day Four: A time to build up
Day Five: Laying foundations one home at a time

Heart verse:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
Ecclesiastes 3:1,3

Photo by http://www.melissasphoto.com/

Day One – A time to kill: Putting the Old Testament in context

Yikes! Now there’s a Bible study title!

Killing is not something we chat about around the dinner table. It’s a horrific word that has a hard time rolling off my tongue. I do well in my current cultural context, where war is not my daily reality, and I can avoid the homicide report on the 11 o’clock news by going to bed early. (Thank you, Eastern Standard Time.)

The Old Testament makes us uncomfortable. It is full of killing, that almost always relates to battle or sacrifices. It can be a hard pill to swallow. 

We are commanded “Do not kill” in the 5th commandment. Yet, it’s a huge part of our history as the people of God on this earth. How do we reconcile it? The answer may be easy for you, but don’t forget your neighbor. It may not be as simple for them and part of the reason that we study and grow and learn in the Scriptures is to bring the Word to those dear ones around us. Most of us don’t open an evangelism message with “You see there were all these killings and sacrifices that lead up to Jesus…”

Let’s look at that Old Testament context:
Leviticus 14:24-27 – First, the killing of sacrifice…
And the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. And he shall kill the lamb of the guilt offering. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. And the priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord.” 

Keep in mind that the lamb always points to Jesus, the Sacrifice for all of us, but reading the Old Testament ritual…intense.

Judges 3:26-30 – Second, the killing of battle…
Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond the idols and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim. Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader. And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over. And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.”

10,000 people killed. Israel rejoicing. Granted at the end of this passage we have a glimpse into the seasonal aspects of war, but when you read the Old Testament these are the stories you cannot help but see.

Again, as New Testament believers we can embrace that the Sacrifice is paid and we can understand the sacrificial system as a giant red blinking light pointing the way to Jesus.

Ephesians 2:14-16 tells us
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

We have peace! Our life as Christ followers looks so much different from the Old Testament, that it becomes hard to wrap our heads around.

Look carefully back at verse 16 “…thereby killing the hostility.”

In the New Testament context, God talks about killing in His Word, surrounding whatever divides us from God. The death toll, the turmoil, the killings of the Old Testament, all necessary for us to understand that

We don’t live that way anymore!

Praise the Lord!
Glance back up to the Ephesians 2 passage. Dividing wall, gone. Hostility between us and God, killed. All that stuff that kept Israel separated from God, longing for His temple and sacrifices to appease Him, destroyed, and lifted up in the death of Christ Jesus on the cross.

Deuteronomy 32:39 below, says it so beautifully. We cannot take God in pieces that we like, that are pretty. We may not fully understand Him, but we take Him at His Word, for Who He is. I’m so thankful that I don’t live in the context of the Old Testament, sister. But I am thankful, for a God who does things in fullness and gives even killing beauty in His work.

“‘See now that I, even I, am he,    
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;

I wound and I heal;    
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand."

He is in charge, but He is also a God that broke down every wall, killed every bit of hostility within us and between us for our benefit. Praise Him today for the parts of Him you have yet to quite understand, thanking Him for simply being God.

Discussion questions:
What stories of the Old Testament are harder for you to hear?
Do you ever remember being sacred of something in the Bible when you were a child?
What kinds of hostility have you seen God kill, in your life or in the lives of others?

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