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9 — 15 July 2007

Issue No. 25

Biblical GRADUATE school of theology

BGST This Week

Professor Alan Millard, currently visiting BGST as guest lecturer, spoke to us at Chapel for the second week running. His text was Joshua 5:13–6:5, part of the narrative of the capture of Jericho.

 

The Situation

Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest consisted of numerous independent city states, who had in the past fought against each other as often as they had been allies. The Israelites, therefore, entered a land whose inhabitants were somewhat divided among themselves. We may see divine providence in this. Joshua 5:13 begins with Joshua standing near Jericho, very likely looking at the city and wondering how the Israelites, who had just entered Canaan after 40 years wandering, and who had no battering rams or other equipment suitable for storming a walled city, were going to attack Jericho. They had no choice but to do this, for Jericho lay directly across their route from the plains of the Jordan into the central hill country, but how should they set about the task? In this situation God sends a guide to Joshua, in the person of an armed figure who quickly turns out to be more than merely human.

 

The Battle Plan

Joshua’s first question to the divine messenger shows his preoccupation  with the battle to come: ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ The answer he receives suggests that he is asking the wrong question: ‘Neither [literally, ‘No’], but as commander of the army of the LORD I have come.’ The battle against Jericho will not simply be a matter of Israelites against Jericho, but of God against Jericho. The divine messenger then tells Joshua how he is to set about the attack.

 

The Victory

Strange tactics these must have seemed to the Israelites: for six days, they simply marched once around Jericho and then returned to their camp, having made no attempt to attack the city. Doubtless they wondered what the point of these tactics was. The Canaanites must also have found the Israelites’ tactics puzzling, frustrating and finally unnerving: were the Israelites going to attack or not? The answer came on the seventh day, when the Israelites marched not once, but seven times around Jericho. The trumpets were blown, the Israelites shouted, the walls collapsed and at that point the Israelites finally launched their attack, with devastating effect. They destroyed every living thing in the city, including all the human inhabitants apart from Rahab and her family. All of Jericho was to be devoted to God, for Jericho was a kind of ‘first fruits’ of the conquest, to be offered back to God. But everything else in the land of Canaan would be for the Israelites to enjoy, everything which had previously belonged to the Canaanites. The only things they would have to destroy were shrines and images associated with Canaanite religion.

 

Some Issues

The killing of Jericho’s inhabitants naturally raises questions: how can we Christians believe in a God who commands what appears to be cruel destruction and ethnic cleansing? Is not the God of Joshua 5–6 far removed from the loving and accepting Jesus we find in the pages of the New Testament?

 

Later books of the Old Testament tell us that in fact the Israelites never did fully carry out the command to destroy the Canaanites, and that Israel’s worship was as a result contaminated with the worship of Canaanite gods such as Baal and Astarte. This led to their disobeying God’s laws, and to their eventual exile from the land of promise. Israelite leniency to the Canaanites did not in the long term benefit them or the nations to whom they were to bring God’s blessings (see Genesis 12). Rahab and her family were an exception. In Joshua 6:22–25 we read how they were spared amidst the slaughter. To start with, they remained outside the Israelite camp, until it should become plain that they were loyal to the faith and values of Israel. But later they became fully part of Israel, to the extent that Rahab was ancestor of not only David but Jesus as well (Matthew 1).

 

The reason for the separate treatment of Rahab’s family was that Rahab had helped the Israelite spies and confessed the power of Israel’s God (see Joshua 2). Not many in the book of Joshua are described as siding with Israel in this way (the curious episode of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9 is the only other example). But Rahab and her family stand in Scripture as a striking illustration of the truth that God will accept anyone who acknowledges his saving power, no matter what their background, and no matter what the character of their previous life.

 

(Dr Philip Satterthwaite)

Text Box: The far-reaching implications of the fall of Jericho

Dakum Yawsep (Joseph) studied at BGST between 1992 and 1995, returning home to Yangon, Myannmar,  with an MDiv.

 

He returned to start and pastor a church. After three years he began a bible school because with the closure of universities in the country at that time young people found it difficult to continue with their education. That was in 1998. He felt that it was also the best time to reach out to these young people with the gospel.

 

He is now back with us at BGST to work for an MTh. He hopes to complete this in two and a half years.

Jospeh spoke about the difficulties facing the Christian church in Myanmar. About 90% of the population of around 50 million is Buddhist, and while there is no open persecution of Christians there is also little social support or acceptance given either. For this reason it is difficult to gain new converts. Poor as they already are, people will lose out more by becoming Christians. At least as Buddhists they receive official sanction and, at a pinch, can get  help from the temples. So leaving Buddhism for Christ is not an easy decision and one that not many in Myanmar are prepared to take.

 

Most of us are aware of Myanmar’s economic difficulties and the situation is becoming increasingly worse. Although the country has relaxed entry and exit opportunities for both visitors and citizens in recent years, the economy continues to be stagnant. There are few employment opportunities and inflation is uncontrolled. More and more people are leaving to seek employment outside the country.

 

Most pastors receive less than US$10 per month as support from their small congregations. They, therefore, need to supplement their incomes by working at other things. Christians find it difficult to work in the wider social arena because it is ethically challenging. Since the country is ruled by a military government an unquestioning  subservience to its ways is inevitably demanded. So Christians tend to keep to their own circles and do their best to maintain a balance between their faith and the needs of daily life.

 

Jospeh says that the reality for Christian work in Myanmar is that it operates on a maintenance mode. Conversions are hard to come by. People do not see any advantage in becoming Christians and even if they are spiritually convicted they often have to keep it hidden. Christian activities, if carried out  too conspicuously, tend to attract opposition from Buddhist neighbours. Should they complain to the authorities, the result is often a demand that they stop or there will be trouble.

 

Christians can help Myanmar by praying for a better government which will rule properly. As for the people, pray that more will be brave enough to come out of Buddhism and that Christians there may be faithful in evangelism.

 

Since he will be here for the next couple of years, Joseph would like to return during term breaks to teach and conduct church camps. He hopes to find sponsors for such trips. His goal after graduation is to return to improve the caliber of his school, and also to work on raising funds for its needs. He believes in the BGST model of training the laity and wants to bring it back to Myanmar as his contribution to the church there.

 

Jospeh’s wife “Soe Soe” remains behind in Myanmar looking after his  younger daughter, Hnin Oo Kin (15) and son, Dee Ram (10). His eldest daughter, Htet Htet Hnin (19) is with him in Singapore at the moment. She hopes to find employment and acquire some useful work experience. If anyone is able to help, I’m sure Joseph would appreciate it very much.

 

(Pauline Koe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gentle smile from Myanmar ...

Weekly Highlights

BGST STUDENTS, please note:

· Academic Writing Orientation; Dr Philip Satterthwaite/

      Dr Augustine Pagolu; Jul 20; 7.30-9.30pm

· Thesis Writing Orientation; Dr Philip Satterthwaite/

       Dr Augustine Pagolu; Jul 27; 7.30-9.30pm

 

Change in TENT Programme:

Theology of Work scheduled to start on 17 July is now postponed to a later date to be notified. In its place is Tentmakers and Ethical Issues.  This course will run from  July 17, 24, 31, time: 7.20-10pm. The venue is at 31 Tg Pagar Rd, 4th floor. We apologize for this short notice.

 

Chapel:

Speaker for 11 July will be Dr David Ravinder. He is our guest lecturer for the counseling courses previously announced. We welcome you to join us on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             

 

 

Prof. Alan Millard and his wife,  Margaret, will soon take their leave of us. Just to let you know that archaeologists are NOT as dry as dust, here’s a little momento to remember them by:  “What note did the trumpets play that fateful day in Jericho?”  If you simply can’t figure it out, grab a student who was there (no, not at Jericho), or maybe the nice editor will give the answer next week if you ask.