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August 30, 2007 / Daniel

Is God Unjust? 5

Here’s some more on God’s command to destroy the Canaanites. 

Chosen to Worship

So God command Israel to quarantine this area by setting it apart for destruction and for His judgment. The area was contaminated by this wicked, sexually immoral culture. The Israelites were to make no treaties, to show no mercy, to not intermarry, and to destroy all Canaanite idols. God did not want them to have anything to do with pagan culture. He knew that if they did not quarantine this wicked religion, it would contaminate them. That is why Moses tells Israel:

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him (Deut. 7:6-10).

The Israelites were God’s chosen people. They were special. They were to set apart to be holy, to worship and have a relationship with the living God. They were God’s treasured possession. And since they were God’s special people, they were made to worship God and to delight in Him. Although this quarantine called for extreme measures, Israel needed to do this in order to avoid contamination. The area had been polluted, spiritually speaking, by the sinful practices of the Canaanites. Therefore, God was righteous in pouring out His justice against the Canaanites in order to purify the land.

Sorrow over the Death of the Wicked

When I was about ten years old, one day my dad checked out the book Old Yeller from the Gering Public Library. It was one of his favorite stories. Every time we watch a movie with my parents, my dad will tell us that he likes movies could really happen. Movies like Old Yeller or It’s a Wonderful Life. Well, one Saturday, my dad spent the whole day reading Old Yeller to my siblings and me. We just loved the story. What I remember most from the story is the discovery that Old Yeller has rabies and has to die. Travis, the teenage boy in the story, ends up having to shoot his beloved dog and burn his body so that rabies does not spread throughout the area. Although it deeply grieved Travis’ heart to destroy his dog, he knew that if they did not destroy the dog, the rabies would endanger the family.

In the same way, I’m sure that God felt the same sort of sorrow in His decision to judge the Canaanites. He created these people. He made them for the purpose of worshiping Him and delighting in Him. However, instead having a relationship with the one true God, they turned to idols and gross sinful sexual behavior. As God says in Ezekiel, “’Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares the Sovereign LORD. ‘Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?’” (Ez. 18:23). However, now God had to judge the Canaanites. They had consistently rejected God. And their godless religion and wicked culture were hazardous and dangerous to anyone else. Although it must have grieved God’s heart to do so, He had put a ban on them—they needed to be completely destroyed.

We can see this at the very beginning when God first promises this land to Abraham in Genesis 15. In this crucial chapter, God promises Abraham that He is going to make him a great nation and that He’s going to give him the land of Canaan and that He’s going to bless the entire world through his descendants. Look at v. 13-16:

Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure (Gen. 15:13-16).

This is very important. Here God tells Abraham that before he receives the Promised Land of Canaan some things must happen first. His family must first be held captive in Egypt for hundred years. After that, they would come back to possess the land of Canaan. Now God does not just give Abraham the land right then. And one of the reasons that God gives Abraham for this is that “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” Throughout the Old Testament, the word “Amorites” is synonymous with the word “Canaanites.” In other words, God is still giving the Canaanites time. He could have destroyed them right then, but their sin was not full measure yet. They deserved judgment right and there, but instead He gives them four generations.

God in the Dock

This makes me wonder how much time God has given us. Are we taking advantage of the opportunities that God has extended to us to repent and change our ways? Often when we read stories in the Bible about God judging people for their sins, we think, “Wow! That is really harsh. God is so mean.” Instead, we should think, “Wow! God is really holy. Sin is such an insult to the character of God.” Stories of God’s judgment should prompt us to repent. They should drive us to our knees before a holy God. However, some people would rather think of themselves as being the judge of God. God is on trial. Listen to this brilliant quote by C.S. Lewis.

The ancient man approached God…as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock. 

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