As I read these three chapters, I noticed a couple of themes that stood out to me. The first is the connection between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Notice that in Joshua 10:8-9, God tells Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands, Not a man of them shall stand before you.” So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal.” A similar exchange takes place in chapter 11. God tells Joshua in v. 6, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.” Then we see in v. 7 that Joshua and his army attack the enemy suddenly. In both cases God promised to fight for Israel and to give them victory. However, in both cases, Joshua and the people had to actually engage in the battle. They could not sit back and watch the Lord work. They had to participate. According to Dale Davis, divine assurance does not stifle human action but actually motivates creativity (the night attack) and action.
Second, for me, it has been a bit unsettling to see entire people groups annihilated by Israel. God commanded this action to Moses and Joshua is carrying it out to perfection. Men, women, children, and animals are all slaughtered by the army of Israel. In fact, Joshua 11:20 tells us, 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.” Wow! Hard words! What is going on?
In my last post, I made mention of an often-overlooked passage, Genesis 15:16, which shows that one reason for Israel’s 400 years of captivity in Egypt was so that the sins of the Amorites (a general reference to the pagans living in the Promised Land) would be complete, or come to their full fruition. This was a wicked people, engaged in wicked practices, including sexual perversion and child sacrifice. To allow them to survive and remain in the land would infect Israel with sinful practices and false religion that would corrupt and destroy them.The day of grace for the Canaanite people had now passed and they were suffering a judicial hardening by God. This is an example of Paul’s teaching in Romans 1:18-32 where God continues to give them up to their own sinful passions. We should not try to evade this passage by explaining away the terror of God’s judgment. Hebrews 3:12 puts it well: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Does this make us uncomfortable? Good! It should!
However, true Christians need not fear, for God has brought the judgment we deserve and poured out his wrath on Jesus. This doesn’t mean we should sit back and take our position for granted. As our church recently studied in Ephesians 2:8-10, we have been saved by grace through faith for a purpose, namely, to do the good that God has already planned and purposed for us. Unlike the people of Canaan, our sin and guilt has already been punished. Now, we trust God to fight on our behalf as we stand as God’s people without condemnation.