Summary: 5th in long series on Joshua. After doing a recap of the events so far, this shows the little-spoken truth: Sometimes, in order for us to obey God, we must hurt other people.
Joshua 3:1-17 – Sometimes Our Obedience Hurts Others
It was testimony night in the church. A lady got up and said, "We are living in a wicked land where sin is on every hand. I have had a terrible fight with the old devil all week."
Then, her husband, who was sitting glumly by her side said, "It’s not all my fault, though; she’s tough to get along with, too."
I use this joke to point out that sometimes in our walk of faith, in which we wage war against the enemy of our souls, other people get involved too. I want to look at that thought for a few minutes today as we continue again in the book of Joshua. Let’s look at Joshua 3:1-17.
Back in January, we started through this book. The book tells the stories of the children of Israel ending their 40 years of wandering in the desert and finally taking possession of Canaan, the land God had promised they could and would have. In the 1st message, we looked at faith and courage, how God might just be leading you to a deeper commitment with Him, but it takes belief and bravery to get to it. In the 2nd message, we looked at the number 3, how the number often shows us how God specializes in raising dead things to usefulness again. In the 3rd message, we saw how the people were tempted to settle, to be content with less than what God wanted to give them, and so are we. And in the last message at the end of January, we looked at the prostitute Rahab, and how God often picks unlikely people because they’re the ones who get the most committed.
Today, we are looking at the land the Israelites will be invading, or rather, the people groups they will be displacing. Alright, let’s go back just a little. A few hundred years before, God promised that land west of the Jordan River to Abraham. It was good and fertile land. But God’s time was not yet complete. They had some of the land, a family parcel, but not the whole thing. Abraham had Isaac, who led a fairly inconsequential life. Except the fact that he had twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau was older, but Jacob was sneakier and smarter. And it was through Jacob, also known as Israel, that God would fulfill His promises to Abraham. Jacob had 12 boys, who became known as the children of Israel. Go figure.
The youngest one, Joseph, was sold into slavery by his older brothers, but eventually ended up in Egypt as the prime minister. Through God’s revelation, Joseph saved his family back in Canaan from starvation. They all moved to Egypt. In another generation’s time, they were all slaves to the Egyptians. They multiplied for 400 years, until God sent Moses to get them all out of there. Moses led them through the desert for 40 years, but now it is time to enter Canaan.
But there’s one problem – people live there. V10 of Joshua 3 says that there are Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, Jebusites, and more foreign people groups not mentioned here. So, this land promised to the Israelites already had inhabitants. They had local kings, leaders of the tribes. They had walled cities. They had families, women and children. This was not barren ground. This land was occupied.
And God wanted the Israelites to drive out these people. As we continue through the book, you’ll see that at times the Israelites were ruthless. They destroyed whole cities, killing all within them. The Israelites either scared the people away or killed them off.
Now, I must say, I struggle with this issue. In my so-called modern-day mind, I have a hard time with this idea. This mentality fueled the Crusades, when a millenium ago Christians thought it was horrible to have Muslims in the holy land of Israel. So they sent knights, soldiers and regular folk to drive out the infidels. It didn’t work. The word “crusade” comes from the word the same word as “cross” – it was done in the name of Jesus. Which is why Billy Graham changed the name of his rallies from crusades to celebrations. The word “crusade” brings up too many connotations of bad behavior by Christians.
So, for the Israelites to do this “ethnic cleansing” is hard for me to grasp. I’m not saying that I can’t see the consequences. If you read the very next book in the Bible, Judges, you can see the problems associated with not driving out the foreign nations. Because there were so many people worshipping false gods, the Israelites had a hard time sticking to the one and only true God. They were constantly being led astray. Tolerating the worship of things not worthy to be worshipped will lead to compromise in a believer’s life. Worshipping God plus anything else will eventually lead to not worshipping God at all. A person cannot serve more than one master.