Sunday Message – The Awe Inspiring Love of God

evil bug
evil bug (Photo credit: acidpix)
I was told by someone that the God of the Old Testament is neither kind nor patient, so I wrote as good a response as I could.

Getting into the OT would probably kill this conversation. Still, if you ask my opinion, I’ll tell you what I’ve seen from my reading so far.

I learned first of all, that God is kind. He created a whole beautiful world, created a man and a woman and told them “This is yours. Inhabit it, use it, fill it with lots of people”. But his people did more than that. They abused his gifts and kindness, killed each other, dishonored him, and committed the injustice of giving what rightly belongs to him to someone else.

Given all that, he could have killed them all. That’s where I learned the second- God is patient. Centuries of people passed through the earth, committing the same evils as their parents. instead of getting rid of everyone once and for all, he would warn them. Promise them wonderful things if they changed their ways, threaten to punish them if they continued down that path. He waited and waited. He didn’t destroy the people of Canaan for 400 years. He waited even longer with Israel and Judah. He sent prophets and whatever was available to get their attention.

In the end, he punished those who never turned – the people of Israel, Judah, Canaan, Sodom with their cruelty, child sacrifice and all round evil.

He is merciful. The people of Niniveh, an example of those who were intelligent enough to heed wornings, he spared. Still humans in general have not learned. We might no longer have alters on which we burn infants, the evil has not disappeared.

So, what does he do then? Wipe us out? No. He sends his son. Those who wish to turn from their evil ways can turn to him. He will take their guilt and and save them. That is love. And it’s love of the most overwhelming kind. It’s not killed by repeated rejections. It reaches out even to those who would hit and spit on him and nail him on a cross to die.

We’re reading the same Bible, but we’re obviously not seeing the same thing. When I read it, I see a story of one who keeps calling to those he loves even though they have repeatedly abandoning him, doing whatever he can to provide them with the gifts that will satisfy them.

Judges 4 – Reading Note – Deborah the Judge

Deborah is an interesting character for me because she was (a) a woman and (b) a judge of Israel (the highest political position at the time). She was also a Prophetess and married. I take note of these things in case someone begins talking about the status of women in the ANE.

  • As is the story all through Judges, the people of Israel sinned against God and he let Jabin, the king of Canaan, oppress them.
  • Eventually, God had mercy on the and decided to save them. he sent a message to Barak through the Judge Deborah that he was to attack Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army.
  • Balak refused to go unless Deborah went with him, the scaredy cat.
  • Deborah consents to accompany him, but informs him that the glory for killing Sisera would go to a woman instead of him as a result.
  • The battle goes well and Sisera flees, so Barak pursues him.
  • Then comes the star of the whole show. Jael, whose husband was pals with Jabin, welcomes Sisera to her home, put him to sleep, and drives a tent peg through his head.
  • This victory led to future ones until the Israelites were free of Jabin.

Once again, God showed mercy and came to his people’s resucue using two women but he didn’t do it at once. It took some time.

The Conquest of Canaan: The Data from Joshua & Judges

This article is part of a series on the conquest of Canaan
  • The book of Joshua and the first few chapters of Judges detail the actual conquest of Canaan.
  • There are specific battles detailed in the first few chapters, the most famous of which are Jericho and Ai.
  • One tribe – the Gibeonites – have the foresight and intelligence to trick the Israelites into making a peace treaty with them.

Two important issues are noteworthy

  • The first part of Joshua details his conquests and ends by saying that “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.  Then the land had rest from war” (Joshua 11:16-23).
  • Yet the second part says that a lot of the land was still unconquered when Joshua was old and Joshua had to divide the land between the Israelites and let them fight to clear it. (Joshua 13).  Similarly,the first chapter of Judges has the Israaelites struggling to drive out the Canaanites after Joshua’s death.
  • Secondly, certain lands are listed as conquered in the first part of Joshua and all the inhabitants killed, but the second half and the first chapter of Judges designates them as yet to be conquered. Examples are Hebron (Josh. 10:40), Debir (Josh. 10:38), the hill country and the Negev and the western foothills (Josh. 10:40). Judges (1: 9 – 11) details the conquest of those lands after Joshua’s death.

Other points:

  • While the first part of Joshua emphasizes that the land was conquered and every living thing in it killed, the second part and the first chapter of Judges emphasize driving out the Canaanites. In Judges 1, certain cities were listed in which the Israelites had trouble driving out the Canaanites, but it makes no mention of killing them. This is relevant to the previous note that God’s command to the Israelites was to drive out the Canaanites and to destroy them.
  • When the Israelites finally became strong enough, they did not drive out the Canaanites (Judges 1: 27 – 36), (Josh 16:10), (Joshua 17:12-13). Instead, they lived with them and subjected them to forced labor.
  • So, the Israelites disobeyed God and God responded as he had promised. He punished them.

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” – (Judges 2: 1- 3)

  • This was fair. Remember Numbers 33:55-56
    But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.
  • Stubborn Israelites

Judges 1&2 – Reading Note – Blossoming Disobedience

  • Israel did not drive the Canaanites out of the land like they were supposed to. They let them stay.
  • As a result God refuses to drive out the Canaanites and punishes the people by letting the Canaanites ensnare them.
  • Eventually, when all the people who had seen God’s miracles were dead, their  children began to worship other gods.
  • So, God let the Canaanites oppress them. A deal is a deal, after all. “Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.” (2:15)
  • God is kind, so he sent Judges to lead the people back to him. By those judges, he defeated his people’s oppressors. The people stayed on the right path until the Judge died, and then returned to their evil ways.

Joshua 24 – Reading Note

  • While the whole journey from Egypt has been riddled with stories of the Israelites sinning against God, they seem changed at the end of Joshua. When Joshua gives them a choice, they promise to worship only God, citing his care for them in rescuing them from Egypt and giving them a home. Joshua 24: 14 – 21

Joshua 16 – 20 – Reading Note

  • The people of Ephraim could not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer so they just lived among them. But the Canaanites were required to do forced labor. (16:10)
  • As God had commanded Moses, the daughters of Zelophehad received shares of land because their father had no sons. (17: 3 – 6)
  • The Mannasites were not able to occupy some of their lands because the Canaanites were determined to live there. However, when they grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor and did not drive them out completely. (17: 12, 13)
  • The descendants of Joseph complained that the land they were given was too small for them (numerous as they were) so Joshua told them to clear some of the forested hill country, drive out the Canaanites there and take it. (17: 14 – 18)
  • After all the division that had gone on, 7 tribes still needed land, but there was no conquered land for them. So Joshua told them to spy out the rest of the land. Then he would divide it among them and they could conquer it. (18: 1 – 10)
  • After all the division was done, Joshua was given land from the Territory of the Ephraimites. He built a town and settled there. (19: 49, 50)
  • They set apart the cities of Refuge so that any one (Israelite or Foreigner) who killed someone accidentally could escape there. (20: 1 – 9)

Joshua 11 – Reading Note

  • Important to note is that in all of his conquests, when God told Joshua that he was going to give him victory, he didn’t just wait for the victory to fall from heaven. He executed brilliant strategies to bring about the outcome. e.g. in 11:5, he took the Canaanites by surprise although God had already assured him of victory.