For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:20 ESV)
Joshua and the people of Israel are in the process of conquering the land. Their instructions are to kill every person in the cities and territories that they conquer: men, women, and children. I don’t think anyone can read the book of Joshua without having some sort of reaction. Some respond with disgust and decide that they want nothing to do with a God who would command such a thing. Others decide to accept God in Jesus and determine that the God of the New Testament is different from the God of the Old Testament. Others attempt to come up with some rational explanation to make them feel better about what is described here.
I am a part of this last group, but I’m not going to run through what I believe and what I’ve been taught about this series of events. Instead, what I’ve been thinking about is how easy it is for me to question God. This is the core of pride.
It is easy to say that God is good when we think of the grace that He shows us through the death of Jesus. It is much harder for most of us to say that God is good when we see suffering in the world or when we stop and think about what is really going on during the conquering of Canaan.
I think the issue is that at the fall in the Garden of Eden we became natural judges. We think we are right, that we are the standard against which everything should be evaluated. We presume to be smarter than God and better than God. What I forget when I begin thinking this way is that God is God. He is the standard, the definition of what is right and good. God isn’t just better; He is the definition of best. God grants me the free will to define right and good in my own way, but the truth is that there is only one who is right and good and that is God. I do not have to understand why God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to kill everyone in Canaan. I do not need to justify God’s commands. What I must do is accept that He is God and I am not.
I accept that we will have differences of opinion on what happened during the conquest of Canaan. The challenge for me is that when I begin to question God regarding historical events, I also begin to question Him regarding current events. When I set myself up as the judge, I begin to make decisions that go against what God desires, because I think I know better than God. I have determined to shrink God and enlarge myself. I have forgotten the most basic instruction in Proverbs:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)
For my grandchildren:
Never, ever, think you are smarter than God.