A day to remember
Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you. Deuteronomy 20.17
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world acknowledges the extermination of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazi regime. While survivors express concern that their own death will allow the rest of us to forget, efforts are being made to ensure that we do not. God forbid. The physical descendants of Abraham have suffered disproportionately through the ages and that deserves recognition - and shame on those who have perpetrated the atrocities. And, to an extent, that suffering and the injustice behind it is emblematic of other outrages: slavery, the Highland Clearances, the abuse of indigenous inhabitants of the Americas and Australasia, apartheid in South Africa, what Vladimir Putin is trying in Ukraine...
The uncomfortable truth is that the principle of racial annihilation also features in the Bible, in the order God issues to the Israelites before their occupation of the Promised Land under Joshua. The difference here is that this is an act of judgement, which is delivered on a group of kingdoms which have defied God and embraced abominable practices such as sacrificing their own children. That God required Abraham to do likewise with his son, Isaac, is also a challenging fact whose justification - the foreshadowing of God's provision of his own son Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice for sin - will be too much of a stretch for many. Suffice to say that things are not always what they seem.
It all goes to show how broken the world is, how partial our understanding, how prone the human race is to evil and the depth of our need for a Saviour. It would be easy to give up hope, to grow cynical, to bury one's head in the sand. Christians insist that there is an answer to life's mysteries, that there is such a thing as justice and that another day is dawning when everything will be revealed for what it is and all that is wrong will be put right and that there is a place for us in that New Order. Yet we also believe that no-one can take any of it for granted; that we are accountable, both for our past and the path we choose to take into the future. If we are not sure, then we need to ask God to send the Holy Spirit to show us the way... (Luke 11.13)