God Gives Israel the Land
Open Your Bible
Joshua 10:16-43, Romans 1:18-20, Ephesians 1:20-21
BY Patti Sauls
Should we cheer or should we grieve? I certainly cheer as I read about the nation of Israel finally entering the promised land of Canaan. What a celebration and relief for God’s people! Their forty-year-long desert detour was over! Now, these men, women, and children were free to settle down in the abundant land God had promised Abraham so long ago.
I also cheer for Joshua, Moses’s protégé and successor. As God’s chosen man, he led the people into Canaan. However, all was not smooth sailing. After crossing the Jordan River, Israel was met with resistance. Canaan was not an empty, unsettled territory. City after city fortified itself against Joshua and his advancing Israelite army. King after king dispatched troops to fight for land and dominance. From the city of Makkedah, to Libnah, to Lachish, to Eglon, to Hebron, to Debir, our reading follows Joshua and his soldiers as they march to victory across the southern region of Canaan.
I can almost hear Israel’s victorious battle cry, but if I’m being honest, my cheers give way to heaviness. As United States Army General Sherman soberly stated, “War is hell.” We may grieve as we recognize that Israel’s long-awaited entrance into the promised land was an invasion. We may be troubled as we remember that Joshua was not only Israel’s strong and courageous national leader; he was also its top military general. He obeyed direct orders from God to mobilize troops and strategically conquer Canaanite strongholds.
Are you wrestling with this account of God declaring war? Let’s press into ancient texts to get a better glimpse of God as a righteous warrior. For hundreds of years, the Canaanites had been increasingly sinful (Genesis 15:16). The root of their sin was idolatry: worshiping false gods instead of the one, true God. The fruit of their idolatry included brutal child sacrifice and witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:9–12). Any person settling in Canaan would suffer from this way of life. Worse yet, all future generations would be twisted and dehumanized by such deeply entrenched sin patterns and spiritual darkness long at work in the land.
We see that God declared war against this deadly system, but do we know what He was fighting for? Joshua experienced victory “because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:42). By demolishing Canaanite strongholds, God uprooted destructive wickedness and prepared the land for faithful, flourishing life. He fought to protect and preserve His people.
We reflect on Israel’s conquest of Canaan with both grief and gratefulness. We grieve over the deadly seriousness of rejecting God and over the destructive powers of sin and darkness. Yet, we also gratefully rejoice as we see God declaring love for His people by declaring war on sin, both in the promised land and in our own hearts today. To Him, the fight against sin and death is worthy of the shed blood of His own Son, Jesus. Thanks be to God.