August 18, 2012

God so Loved the World

Joshua 11:16-23

The Israelites … took them all in battle … exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
—Joshua 11:19-20


We want our God to be loving and merciful. And he is. But some Bible stories can make us wonder about that.

As we noted (see Aug. 2), the Lord had been patient with the peoples of Canaan for generations, but they had never turned back to God. He knew they would not stop rebelling, and the time had come to bring justice. As God had described it to Abraham, their sin had now “reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16). As God had said to Moses, their sins were so detestable that even the land was defiled and was ready to vomit them out (Leviticus 18:25). They were not innocent. They were like the king of Egypt, who hardened his heart in defying God even as God hardened the king’s heart (see Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:12, 34). Sadly, they had all gone too far, and God knew they would not turn back, so he gave them up to go the way of destruction (see Romans 1:18-32). And we can be sure that this grieved him deeply (see Ezek. 33:11).

The Bible does not avoid the difficult matters of life, or the reasons why people die. Death came into the world because of sin; death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). As a result, all of us will die.

But God is merciful, and there is hope: God sent his Son, truly innocent, to die in our place so that if we believe in him, we won’t perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16). Do you believe it?

Father, may we experience your love in life and in death. In Christ, Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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