One of the things you will have to wrestle with as a Bible reader is what to do with the conquest of Canaan.
Some progressive scholars suggest that we should understand the conquest as telling us a great deal about the theological understanding of the ancient Israelites but not much of value about the actual identity and character of God.
Basically, they argue that the Israelites ASSUMED that God wanted them to make war on the Canaanites, when in fact, God would never have ordered that.
Except that the Bible says that he did.
Way back in Exodus 34; right after God revealed the essence of his identity and character to Moses; God said:
“Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.” (Exodus 34:11–16 ESV)
Observe WHAT I COMMAND YOU THIS DAY.
The Bible states plainly that God commanded the conquest.
God commanded the slaughter and displacement of nations that he had judged and condemned.
He forbade peace.
He insisted upon Holy War.
And he even provided a reason: lest you build relationships with them and over time become like them.
Evil influences must be removed in order for righteousness to flourish.
Progressive scholars will say that we mustn’t believe this to be true because it does not accord with the character of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels.
Except that it does.
Jesus said in Matthew 13:
“Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:40–43 ESV)
Jesus says; IN THE GOSPELS; that at the end of the age God will send agents to remove out of the land all causes of sin and all law breakers. These wicked people will be killed by being thrown into the fiery furnace. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
It simply cannot be argued that what the Old Testament says about the conquest doesn’t square with what the Gospels say about the character of Jesus.
What we are left with then is the realization that in both the Old AND New Testaments God is portrayed as being capable of judgment upon people who persist in wickedness. God waited over 400 years before punishing the wicked nations of Canaan according to Genesis 15:16, so we mustn’t say that God is eager to judge, but neither can we say that he refuses to judge. What we must say, is that after a sufficient period of time; after a season of gracious delay; Old Testament and New, the evidence indicates that God will judge all those who persist in wickedness.
He does this because wickedness is incompatible with his character and because evil influences must be removed from the earth in order for righteousness to flourish.
That is what the Bible says – Old Testament and New; thanks be to God.
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see . You can also find it on iTunes.