Reports have come to me over the years of church people questioning parts of the Bible.
Especially under fire are those sections where God seems to deal harshly. A case in point is the slaughter of the Canaanites. They were liquidated and God's people the Hebrews took over the land.
This violent extermination of men, women and children seems even harder for some to understand in our day. The growing anti-war mood and the preachments against violence make these Bible passages stand out.
Now, the Scriptures also teach that God is love. The Bible is all His book. Yet when we read (see Joshua 11:10-23) of the battles led by Joshua in which the nations in Canaan were conquered, we might ask, Is this not severe?
Sharpen the matter even more by reading through Joshua 24. Plainly, God is here claiming that the events leading up to the conquest and the wars themselves were His doings. He tells Israel, "I destroyed them from before you," verse 8.
As we enter this study now, it is my prayer that insights gained will humble us before Jesus Christ as Lord.
I. SUMMARY SURVEY ON THE SUBJECT
Many slog through the bog of endless questions, simply because they haven't the full picture! Here are basic, often overlooked, considerations:
1. The Canaanites Were Terribly Wicked. The nations that Israel destroyed were utterly vile in their immorality. Baal and his "wife" Ashtoreth were the gods of these idolatrous people. The people murdered and sacrificed their own babies before the idols! Then as a form of worship they would give themselves to every form of immorality.
Little wonder God destroyed them. He grew tired of hearing little children scream. Only His mercy could have kept judgment from coming even earlier!
2. God Spared Them Hundreds of Years. Many who do not know Scripture well fail to see this. First, Abraham God's friend lived as a witness among the Canaanite peoples. Second, they were warned by the awesome destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. (See II Peter 2:6) Third, they heard of the judgments and plagues brought by the Lord against Egypt. Though God brought these warnings over hundreds of years, they would not repent. Still, God held off until their wickedness was intolerable. Notice Genesis 15:16.
Fourth, after all this, God readily forgave and spared the one Canaanite who did believe -- even though she was a prostitute - Rahab. God is good. Man is the sinner!
3. They Had to be Removed to Protect God's People. What if they had been allowed to live on? God had either to refine a place for Israel or let them be ruined contrary to His promise. As it was, Israel quickly began to slide into the ways of the numbers of Canaanites who were not slain. Study Judges 2:12. Also see how the ministry of Elijah was needed to stem the tide of Baal worship right among the Hebrews! Note I Kings 18.
Thus, the only trouble was that the extermination of the Canaanites was not thorough enough. In our day many of God's people are also yielding to wicked influences. Remember, "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment," 2 Peter 2:9. God will one day bring a final separation of all wicked from the righteous.
Which was of higher value - the physical lives of the immoral Canaanites or the spiritual
lives of the Hebrew people who were destined to bring salvation to the world?
4. God is God. He has absolute right over all creation. "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? Romans 9:21.
Sooner or later He as judge over all brings every secret, evil work into judgment. It was a long time coming to these enemies of all good, but it came with great certainty. It will be so with all men - if not in this life, in the great judgment to come. And eternity is long!
As for the death of all the babies, should the sovereign God be blamed for taking the little ones through the door of death early so as to spare them evil to come? They were the only ones who did not mature into horrible spiritual damnation! Praise God for His mercy!! (See Isaiah 57:1.)
II. INSIGHTS FROM THIS
1. Regarding God Himself.
1) He is JUST. The execution of this judgment was in perfect accord with the perfect righteousness of the holy God. 2) God is PATIENT WITH THE WICKED. Seeing all the facts, one is led to be amazed, not that God punished the Canaanites, but that he delayed so long! 3) He is MERCIFUL TOWARD HIS OWN. Israel, in their national infancy, was spared the overpowering pollution of the wicked. 4) He is SOVEREIGN. God has full right to handle His world as He decides. He is God. In Noah's day, the entire world outside the ark was destroyed.
2. Regarding Ourselves.
"But I am troubled by all this," one complains. Why are you troubled? Why are you not rather trusting? The tendency to mistrust is a dead giveaway. Why do you tend to hold God guilty until proven innocent? God is under no obligation to defend His holy name to you or to me.
BUT HERE IS THE REAL ISSUE: Why this questioning? This agitation? This calling God into account before ME?
Picture two different marriages. The first husband is unexpectedly delayed and very late home one night. His wife meets him at the door in a suspicious rage demanding and accusing. Whereas, across town another husband is also delayed. As he opens the door, a loving voice calls, "Welcome, honey! I have the coffee on. Come on in and tell me about it." There is complete love and trust.
You see, attitudes show what our relationships are like. People rage inwardly against God and dwell on questions in mistrust because they are not right with Him.
Lying behind it all is the feeling, "Unless God is approved by me, I will not believe and submit." This brand of unbelief is an expression of deep rebellion. Rebellion always leads men to question God, not to trust Him.
What is really bothering our questioning minds is not the violence in our text but the authority. On trial for his life, godly Stephen spread the whole Old Testament history
before his persecutors and rebuked them soundly, "You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" Acts 7:51.
IN CONCLUSION, here are the wondrous truths for us to carry with us: God is Almighty. What He does is right. He does not answer to us. We answer to Him.
Sin in us is so real, pernicious, malignant, permanent, incorrigible that the more we deserve punishment, the more we question God's right to punish.
But, oh, the mercy of God! How He mercifully keeps His own! Patiently, He prepared for the coming of our Savior. God Himself became that Savior.
Then Jesus Christ in His human body endured our punishment, our damnation that we might have hope of eternal life. He died as THE Canaanite that we might be true Israelites.
Submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. Tell Him so now in prayer. Don't be against God!