“God is mean!” those were the words adamantly spoken to me by a young boy after i finished sharing the story of achan from joshua 7.
let me refresh your memory because when i taught this lesson five years ago, it was the first time i had ever taught it to children. after the israelites destroyed jericho they were instructed by God, through joshua, to burn everything that belonged to the people of jericho except silver, gold, brass and iron. those objects were to be brought to the house of the Lord. fast forward to their next battle with the city ai. even though God had promised the israelites the land, they were defeated badly and lost 36 men. joshua sought the Lord and the next morning found out that achan had taken a garment, silver and gold for his tent. achan’s punishment was that he, along with all that belonged to him, were to be burned. so not only achan, but his family, and belongings were killed.
i know, i know, it isn’t the story of creation, but God included it in his Word and what an honor it was to teach it to a group of children that day. the “God is mean” statement threw me off for a second, but through the help of the Holy Spirit, we were able to turn class time into a transparent discussion about God. we talked about the love of God and how He loved us enough to send Jesus to rescue us from our sins, but we also addressed the holiness of God. a Holy God must punish sin, and achan’ sinned against the direct commands of God.
this will definitely not go down as the easiest lesson i have ever taught, but even with its gruesome ending, it may be one of my favorites. you see we had church that day in that classroom. Bible-belt, church kids drop their pretenses and asked the hard questions while seeking to understand the nature of God more. this time was not filled with the easy “Jesus love me” answers, but with the same truths found with the honest seeking of God’s Word.
i love grappling with the tough, weird, boring, and gross passages with kids (at an age-appropriate level) because they require us all to think. there aren’t always easy answers in the tragic and mundane passages, but there is truth there just the same. i believe when we skip passages because they are boring or difficult, we miss an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to meet us in our weakness and bring real discovery we couldn’t find on our own.