Joshua: God with a vengeance!

Cover to Cover

Reading: Joshua 10:16-13:33

Focus: Joshua 11:20

One of the greatest difficulties that people have wrestled with in regards to the character of God is his wrath. In hope to reconcile this God of wrath and judgment, many people have attempted to reject or re-interpret these actions recorded, particularly, in the book of Joshua. Some have attempted to separate the Old Testament God from the New Testament God, to separate the God of wrath and the God of love. Yet, then you begin to move into the realm of dualism, which is completely contradictory to the position of Scripture.

How do we understand this God, a supposedly God of love, yet commanded Joshua to “destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy…” What happened to the God of love, grace and mercy? In fact, how do we reconcile the entire act of conquest in the Old Testament? Driving out and destroying entire people groups… What makes this all the more difficult is there in only one reference as to why these God is on this campaign to wipe out these people. The reason for this conquest campaign is found in a prophecy given to Abraham regarding the future of his descendants: “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:16)

The Flood of Noah’s day, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and now, the conquest of Canaan (the Promised Land), all of these things are tied up in the sin of the people. As the floodwaters and the fires of heaven were God’s agent in wiping out wickedness upon the face of the earth, so are the people of Israel God’s agents for wiping out the sins of the people of Canaan. If the conquest of Canaan is unreasonable, so then were the Flood and the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah.

God’s love is only so great in contrast to the extent of His wrath. Unless we appreciate his disposition towards sin and evil, we will never appreciate His love. The desire for people to focus on the New Testament display of God’s love displayed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sin of the world is only so great because of the contrast to God’s vengeance against sin in this world. God, in His righteousness and justice, must act against sin and here in Joshua, we find it displayed in the conquest of a sinful and evil people.

We may not understand God’s ways. We may not like God’s ways. We may not agree with God’s ways. However, God’s ways are just and perfect, and we should be quick to remember that God has not failed in His character, it is we who have fallen short of His standard. We are worthy of utter destruction, such as that recorded in Joshua, but rather God chose to redeem us by the blood sacrifice of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.

Next Reading: Joshua 14:1-17:18