What does the Church think of Israel?
Returning to our story we find that it was the children of Moses' doomed generation who eventually entered the land of Canaan, led by Joshua.
About 600 years since the time of Abraham, the Promised Land now started to become a reality. Before Moses died he drew up a map of the land to be conquered, in Numbers 34. This land was to be divided up and allocated to nine and a half of the tribes of the Israelites - the other two and a half tribes had already been allotted land on the east side of the River Jordan. He then coaxed his surprisingly strong 120 year old bones up Mount Nebo, where he died in full sight of the Land of Milk and Honey, with God's final words reminding him of His oath concerning this land.
So who were really living in the land at that time? Amorites, Midianites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Hivites, collectively known as Canaanites. The sins of the Amorites had reached its full measure and the Israelites were on their way to put things right. What the Children of Israel did to the Canaanites, as instructed by the Lord God, would have seriously upset many modern Christian liberals. Nothing short of complete annihilation was on the cards here. How could God be so brutal? is their cry. What could these people have done to reap such judgement?
We read about the ways of the Canaanites in Leviticus 18, where we find a whole list of forbidden relationships and unnatural sexual practices, most of which are currently in vogue in today's decadent society. Mention is also made of child sacrifice, another practice that has, in modern times, tragically returned to the land as the unseen tragedy of the rise of abortions.
God's instructions are given in Deuteronomy 20:16-18, 'only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, in order that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God'.
This episode has upset many Christians, who find it hard to reconcile this (they say) 'vengeful' God with the loving God of the New Testament. Some of them use it as another bludgeon against the Old Testament as an 'inferior' revelation of God (more of this in a later article). Others seek to diminish it in other ways. Colin Chapman, who sees Jesus as 'the lens through which everything in the Old Testament is seen and interpret'', says that Jesus would never have acted in the brutal ways that Joshua did, for the same reason that Joshua could never have understood the love of God as expressed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The reason, he says, is that God acts according to the culture and understanding of the day.
This may seem neat and tidy but does that mean that, nowadays, God has to remember to calm down in case he upsets Christians? According to them, the striking down of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 must have been an embarrassing mistake, to say nothing of the promises in store for our sinful world in the judgements promised by Jesus in Matthew 24 and how could David, the 'primitive' Old Testament king and psalmist have understood ideas of death and resurrection when he wrote the Psalms? Remember, whenever you hear a news report on some natural disaster or outrage that is 'of Biblical proportions', that this present age is just as brutal and ignorant as in the time of Joshua and the presence of the Christian message in the World makes not an iota of difference to the ignorant men and women who perpetrate deeds every bit as evil and debauched as the ancient Canaanites. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. So is human nature.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)