For Part 1, click HERE.
Those who focus on the supposed “pacifism” of Jesus and condemn the violence of God’s judgments throughout the Old Testament overlook the ministry of sacrificial bloodshed as an alternative to human bloodshed. The sword bearing of the sacrificial system was introduced to avoid the slaying of human beings, and the first bearer of this priestly sword was God — in service of “kingly” Adam.
When the Priesthood of Seth was corrupted and disappeared, there was no more sacrifice for sins. Yet God still offered mercy in the ministry of Noah. The violence of the Great Flood occurred only when every other possible avenue of reconciliation had been exhausted. The blood that was shed could now be atoned for only by their own blood. So, when an unbeliever condemns the Bible for its violence and bloodshed, remind them that the Word of God is a mirror.
Noah was not only the first man to bear the sword on God’s behalf, but also the first to be permitted to eat the flesh of animals. Noah’s faithfulness contrasts him with the bloodthirsty hunters of the Bible. Nimrod and Esau (Edom, the red Adam) are presented as men like Cain. Yet faithful, blameless Jacob also ate meat but as a living sacrifice. Israel commemorated Jacob’s wound by not eating the sinew of the hip socket of clean animals (Genesis 32:32). Clearly, there are two ways to eat meat, just as there are two ways to bear the sword.
The priests of Israel ate of the sacrifices in a kingly act after the priestly offering. Submission preceded dominion. The unwillingness of many Westerners today to bear the sword (or the rifle) in any way corresponds to the growing prevalence of conscientious vegetarianism and veganism. The rejection of the Spirit of God has resulted in a lack of sound judgment not only in the legal system but also in the kitchen. Judges have teeth. Teeth and tongue are images of the elders in the gates of the city and their wise judgment. A rotten tooth — like a corrupt judge — is a curse to the entire body, and potentially deadly. Meat eating Adams are men who not only submit to God in the Garden but judge on His behalf as living sacrifices in the Land. That is why Solomon’s “great white throne” was made of ivory. Eye and tooth, as vision and prophecy, are to be instruments of wise “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” judgment according to God’s Law.((For more discussion, see “Horns of Moses” in Michael Bull, God’s Kitchen: Theology You Can Eat & Drink.))
In all cases, men are called by God to bear the sword, dividing between light and darkness with holy discernment as He does. The truth that pacifists (and vegetarians) must come to terms with is that due to the nature of the world that God has created, the choice is never between bearing the sword or not bearing the sword, but bearing the sword justly and with mercy, or unjustly and without mercy. God has given every one of us some level of authority in various domains — from waging just war right down to cooking and personal grooming — and he calls us to cut. If we do not, we ourselves will be cut off. According to Genesis 2-3, all dominion begins with self government. In a priestly sense, Adam was expected to begin the Day by “cleaning his room.” In a fundamental way, pacifism — like vegetarianism — fails to understand the nature of peace itself. It is the sword of an Adam on the Land that holds back the Sea. When Israel’s kings usurped Israel’s priesthood, the nations rushed in like a flood. We are what we eat, so it is troubling that Christians are fed milk when God calls us to meat and strong drink.
At the Lord’s table, His flesh and blood become our bread and wine, so we beat our swords into plowshares.
Can we say that the cross of Christ brought an end not only to sacrificial bloodshed but also to the “violent God” of the Old Testament? The fact that Lamech’s oath in Genesis 4:23-24 is the background for Jesus’ statements concerning turning the other cheek and forgiving a debtor 70 x 7 times (Matthew 5:39; 18:21-22) presents a problem for Christian pacifists because it brings with it the threat of a “flood.” Here is where preterism pulls the rug out from under a “cross only” understanding of the ministry of Christ. Jesus Himself warned that the destruction of Israel would be like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:36-39). All the existing rulers — the priesthood corrupted through intermarriage with Gentile kings — would be wiped from the face of the Land.
At His arrest, Jesus called Peter to lay down his sword. After His resurrection, Jesus called Peter to feed His sheep for the slaughter, a martyrdom in which Peter himself would partake. But in Revelation 19, Jesus and the saints are pictured riding on white war horses in heaven against Jerusalem. They were judging the tribes of Israel, just as He promised. On earth, Jesus summoned the Romans to “circumcise” the city as a “firstfruits” of the conquest of the World.
The fascinating thing is that not only does the offering of Christ (as sacrificial head) and the Apostolic Church (as sacrificial body) follow the pattern of Israel’s annual festal calendar, it also recapitulates the Creation Week, the qualification of Adam, and the history from Adam to Noah. In each case, the object of God’s attention is placed under the sword of God that it/he/them might then bear the sword on God’s behalf. At the end of each process, God’s rule rests upon the shoulders of His approved representative/s.
This means that the “violence of God” did not end at the cross. The heavenly sword came against those who had blasphemed the Spirit of God. Those who trampled under foot the blood of Christ were soon crushed under His feet. But this judgment only occurred once the martyred saints were united in death with their martyred “head.” The warnings of Christ and His Apostles (Word) were fulfilled in history (Image). This means that turning the other cheek is a two-edged sword: it is both a demonstration of the mercy of God and a divine taunt to “fill up your sins.” God sends rain upon the just and the unjust but that does not mean He will not come with a sickle and a fan to divide between the wheat and the tares, the grain and the chaff. The sunshine and the rain are reminders that God’s judgments still come like a flood. The Gospel is the sword in the hand of a loving God. For now. The exalted Jesus rules in the midst of His enemies (Psalm 110:2).
For those Christians who are challenged by pacifists, whether believers or unbelievers, the following allusion to what might be the most famous movie of all time is extremely helpful. The plot of Star Wars: A New Hope, follows Israel’s festal “covenant” calendar step by step, and it illustrates the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who, like Solomon, understood that for everything there is a season. There is a time for war, and a time for peace. For Ben, as for Jesus, there was a time to lay down the sword and a time to take it up again.
From beginning to end, the Bible contains both “strike me down” texts and also “destroy the Death Star” texts. The process of biblical covenants reveals them to be related steps in a ubiquitous pattern.
Genesis / Sabbath – The capture of Leia and the “call” to mission (Creation)
Exodus / Passover – Ben commissions Luke in the wilderness (Division)
ETHICS: Priesthood / Day 5: Land & Fruit Bearers – Priestly Head
Leviticus / Firstfruits – With Ben and Han, Luke establishes an itinerant base (Ascension)
ETHICS: Kingdom / Day 4: Governing Lights
Numbers / Pentecost – They journey to the Death Star and rescue Leia (Testing)
ETHICS: Prophecy / Day 5: Hosts – Prophetic Body
Deuteronomy / Trumpets – Ben offers himself to Vader. The rebel forces are mustered for battle (Maturity)
OATH / SANCTIONS / Day 6: Mediators
Joshua / Atonement – Ben’s advice results in the “all flesh” destruction of the Death Star (Conquest)
SUCCESSION / Day 7: Rest & Rule
Judges / Booths – The honors ceremony (Glorification)
Only by placing ourselves under the hand of God in submission to heaven can we receive the wisdom to bear the sword on earth in every domain — in justice and mercy. As priests and elders, we must exercise church discipline with reference to God in prayer. As fathers and mothers, we must not spare the rod. As kings and queens, we must execute justice and mercy in government at every level. As prophets and prophetesses, we must faithfully present the Word of God first to ourselves and then to those around us to expose the thoughts and intents of the heart. When we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, His government is upon our shoulders. And if God’s enemies strike us down, we become more powerful than they can possibly imagine.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. (1 Peter 5:6)
Mike Bull is a graphic designer in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in Australia, and author, most recently, of “Dark Sayings: Essays for the Eyes of the Heart.”
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