As you approach a town to attack it, you must first offer its people terms for peace. – Deuteronomy 20:10
Moses instructed the people of Israel that when they would go on future military campaigns against foreign cities far away from Israel, they were to offer terms of peace with the city before engaging it in battle. If the people agreed to peace, then they could be forced into labor. However, if the people refused peace terms, then Israel was to destroy all the men in it and could keep the rest as spoils of war. Those cities and nations within the land of Canaan were to be annihilated and not to receive any mercy.
This story spoke of violence and war and death against people who were not of the people of God. Despite the gruesome thoughts that accompany this passage, I do see the mercy and grace of God being offered through the Hebrews. The Canaanites had come under God’s judgment and would be annihilated for their detestable sins and practices; however, for those outside Canaan, God had other ideas in mind in that day. He allowed the Hebrews to extend peace terms to their enemies and allow them to be a part of Hebrew society, albeit as slaves and forced labor, but God commanded his people not to mistreat the foreigner among them, as they had been strangers in Egypt. What I learn from this passage is that we should always extend God’s peace, mercy, and grace to everyone we encounter. To those whom God has judged, they will receive their just reward for their deeds. It is not my place to be judge, but I am commanded to love my neighbor as myself. Thus, I will do my best to extend God’s love, mercy, grace, and peace to all.
Father, please help me to be a man of peace, as was Jesus. I want to have the fortitude to extend grace and mercy to all whom I encounter in this life, for you’ve commanded me to love my neighbor as myself. Thus, if I really want to show my love for you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, then I need to love everyone as you do. To do so means that I have learned to see people through your eyes and to not judge them and condemn them but to love them and offer myself for them. We, all, will stand before you at one time or another to answer for our choices in this life. Help me to bring as many people as possible into your family and kingdom. Your will be done, Father, not mine. In Jesus’ name, Amen.