In the past, I have made several observations that worship is holy war for a Christian. Our primary way of taking a battle to culture is not through guns but through covenant renewal worship. That is not to say that I reject Augustine’s just war theory. However, when God declares, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” we look primarily to Him for His leading. We look to Him to lead a civil magistrate to execute the just war. We worship.
But that raises the question, how do we prosecute this idea before God. How do we incite Him to take action? Again, it is through covenant renew worship. The best example of this is found in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35. Both passages tell the same story. Each story provides different sequences of events and highlights different specifics. But they both tell of King Josiah’s implementing covenant renewal worship into the temple. For purposes of my point here, the high priest discovered the book of the Law (interpreted as Deuteronomy) and sent it to King Josiah. King Josiah read the book of the Law, humbled himself, sought Gods guidance and reformed the worship in the temple by removing the idolatrous elements. He made a covenant with God that the whole nation ratified. The progression of the story moves from there to Josiah implementing the Passover and violently cleansing the entire nation of idolatry. The entire story has a tone of holy war to it.
But I would like to focus for a moment on the institution of the Passover alone and its particular character of holy war. The Passover, as most know, was a celebration arising out of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. The Israelites were commanded to kill a spotless lamb and spread its blood over the top and sides of the door to the house. By doing this, the death angel that killed all the first born in Egypt would “pass over” the marked house. In commemoration of this event, Israel was commanded to celebrate the event once a year for the rest of time. It was to be a week-long celebration, during which time the people were to remember the mighty act of God. This ultimately did not happen. Scripture records that there were very few times when the nation actually did celebrate the Passover, including once prior to the actual exodus, once at Mount Sinai, once upon entering the promised land, once during Solomon’s construction of the temple and once each during the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah.
When we turn to the Passover as portrayed in all of Scripture, Passover itself takes on a mantle of holy war. The original ceremony called for the death of a lamb to protect the participant in the sacrament from the coming death executed on the first born of all Egypt by the death angel. God was prosecuting death of His enemy in the original events. But he was also protecting his people through the death of a substitute. Upon the entry into the promised land, death was going to be prosecuted through God’s appointed steward Joshua. The Passover was a precursor to that campaign. And with Josiah, the Passover commemorated the death of the nation of Judah. 2 Chronicles is particularly striking in that Josiah died immediately after the celebration of the Passover and Babylon invaded Judah immediately after that. Death is not highlighted in each celebratory event. As a matter of fact, its celebration in the time of Solomon commemorated the building of the temple. However, it is clear that each event was a commemoration of a significant covenantal transition. During the reign of Solomon, God moved from His temporary home in the tabernacle to His permanent home on Zion.
The things that make the aspect of holy war so striking in the Josiah account is that Josiah is portrayed as a new Joshua, both passages use much of the language that described Joshua in Joshua 1. Joshua 1 narrates Joshua’s marching orders in attacking the nations inhabiting the promised land. And Josiah did ultimately take on the same role in cleansing the nation of the idolatrous influences left by the other nations.
This brings us to the New Testament and Jesus’ celebration of the Passover. All of the Gospel writers consciously portray Jesus Last Supper as a celebration of the Passover. This has been the accepted doctrine of orthodoxy for two thousand year. The apostle Paul reminded his readers in Corinth:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The death motif is striking. With each celebration of the Lord’s Supper, believers are proclaiming death, the Lord’s death. But it is not a hidden death; it is a publicly visible proclamation. There is nothing to be covered up; it is to be declared openly. It calls for vengeance. This is holy war language and it is transitional language. Just as the Passover declared a transition to a new covenantal paradigm with each celebration, we Christians should expect a transition now and in the future with each celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The death has occurred. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We see transitions with changed hearts and minds. We see transitions with new disciples. This is what we want to see, culture changed to bend the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. And by His grace, He will do it through His Supper. We raise our challis to you this Sunday, Lord Jesus.