Yesterday we engaged a tough topic in our Sunday morning worship at Christ Community. Specifically, I addressed the conquest of Canaan commanded in Deuteronomy 20 and recorded in the book of Joshua. With bestselling books written by popular atheists decrying the God of the Old Testament, it’s an issue the church can’t avoid.
Is the God of Joshua a Monster?
Understanding the Canaanite Conquest
- God was patient with the Canaanites. (Genesis 15.16) God held his own people in Egypt for over 400 hundred years allowing the Canaanites time to repent.
- The Canaanites weren’t innocent. Archaeological study of the inhabitants of Canaan reveal they were engaged in human sacrifice, temple prostitution etc.
- God didn’t fight for Israel. He fought for himself. And when Israel disobeyed, God used other nations to judge Israel in war. (Exile into Babylon)
- The commands in Deuteronomy and the record of the conquest in Joshua are hyperbolic. In ANE (ancient near east) writings we see the same language used of Israel. We see God speak the same words against Israel in Jeremiah 25.8-10. Another reason we know this is hyperbolic language is because Judges 1 tells us the conquest was never completed.
- God’s commands to destroy are primarily directed towards Canaanite idolatry, not Canaanite people. (Deuteronomy 20.16-18) Rahab is an example of someone who received mercy because she recognized Israel’s God and abandoned her idolatry.
- Israel had no blank check to wage warfare with whomever they chose. God severely punished Israel for warring against those God had not authorized. (1 Samuel 4-6)
- Yahweh War was specifically and exclusively for the people of Israel as both the people of God and a theocratic state. Yahweh War isn’t for NT church because the church isn’t a theocratic state. Jesus adamantly rejected physical violence as a means to advance his cause. (Matthew 26.52) This means any Christian using violence to spread Christianity in the name of God is in sin.
- The teaching of Jesus and the Apostles is that while Christians are heavenly citizens living in and looking forward to the Kingdom of God, they are also resident aliens who are called to enter into the culture of their earthly exile. This means we can serve and protect the culture in which we live. (Romans 13.1-4)
- God has declared a future time of final judgment when all evil will be destroyed from the earth. If the image of a God who commanded the killing of people in the Old Testament offends you, then you won’t like the Jesus of Revelation 19 (Revelation 19.11-21). This includes all those outside of Christ. For this reason, CCC will always be a missionary-sending church.
- Instead of asking, “Why did God destroy the Canaanites?” a better question is, “Why doesn’t God destroy all humanity?” (Romans 3.23)
- If God was willing to pour out wrath for sin on his Son, Jesus, who was innocent, what do you think he’s willing to do to guilty people?
I ended the sermon by calling the people to consider the patience of God, to profess Christ as savior, and to be witnesses of God’s mercy and patience.