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Joshua has received the call of God. If he’s to be a good leader he needs to show courage. But he also needs to show wisdom. They’re still on the east side of the Jordan, not yet in the Promised land and he’s working out what to do first. So before embarking on a campaign of war he decides to find out the lay of the land. So he sends a pair of spies to check it out.
But before we look at this little spy adventure let’s just stop to think about what they’re about to do and why. In Deut 31 God tells them, through Moses: “3The LORD your God himself will cross over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. ... 4The LORD will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them.”
At first glance this seems like a terrible thing the Israelites are about to embark on. Their mission is to drive out the inhabitants of the land; to utterly destroy them. Yet as we see in that passage it’s actually God who’s doing the destroying. It’s God who’s going before them to dispossess that people of the land.
Still, we need to understand why God is doing this. And we’re actually given two reasons why it’s necessary. The first is back in Genesis 15:16. There God is speaking to Abraham, promising that he’ll bring his people back to the land of Canaan to take possession of the land that God has promised will be Abraham’s descendants’ forever: “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” The Amorites, the people of the land were guilty of a variety of practices that God describes as wicked. There was sexual depravity and there was gross idolatry, including the sacrifice of children to the god Molech. In Deut 9 God tells them: “5It is ... because of the wickedness of these nations [that] the LORD your God is dispossessing them before you.” God’s holiness can’t allow them to remain in this land that’s to become his special possession.
You know, we see the wickedness of these people in miniature in the story of the destruction of Sodom. Do you remember how God told Abraham he was going to destroy that great city and Abraham was horrified, just as some of us are. So Abraham says “What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? You wouldn’t destroy it then would you?” And God says “No, for 50 righteous people I’ll spare it.” Then Abraham proceeds to haggle until he gets the number down to 10. But there aren’t even that many. In the end Lot leaves with his wife and his 2 daughters. His sons-in-law stay behind because they don’t believe him. And even his wife dies because she turns back to look, perhaps with regret, and dies. So in the end there are only three righteous enough to escape God’s judgement.
And now the time has come for God to judge all the people of Canaan for their wickedness.
But there’s a second reason why the Canaanites need to be driven out. Joshua explains it perhaps most clearly at the end of his life as he’s instructing those who will take over the leadership in his place: “23:13If you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among
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