The objection has been raised in regards to the Book of Joshua and the occupation of the land of Canaan by the children of Israel, that it doesn’t quite seem fair to the people who already inhabited the land. How can God be considered good and just, it has been asked, when it seems that He ordered the arbitrary genocide of an entire race of people?
In the Book of Leviticus, we catch a glimpse of just how horrific and appalling the sins of this people had become by the time the Israelites began to take possession of the land. Their depravity had reached such a point that the land itself is said to have become defiled, and that this land vomited them out, as it were (Lev. 18:24-28). But the question remains, Did they have ample opportunity to turn from their sin before judgment came upon them?
Almost a footnote in God’s prophecy to Abraham concerning the coming captivity of the Jewish people to the Egyptians, the Lord mentions in Genesis 15:16, “…For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” How profound are the implications of this simple statement! We see that God is concerned with the fate of the people who already occupy the land of Canaan. These are real people whom God loves and wants to turn to Him. There is no question that it was not God’s desire that these people be utterly wiped out by the nation of Israel. No, He wanted them to repent of their sins. Their iniquity was “not yet full”, in other words, they were being given time to come around. What if they had repented and come to God, would they have been destroyed anyway? Since God had already decreed it, was there no hope for them?
“At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” (Jeremiah 18:7-8)
The people already in the land of Canaan were afforded more than 400 years to repent of their wickedness and turn to God. If four centuries was insufficient time for them to change, then how much time was necessary? Secular humanists say that mankind, left to his own devices, will become a better and more responsible moral agent over time. Human morality, they say, is “evolving” just as our physical bodies are “evolving.” The suggestion is that man becomes nobler as time goes by, and his actions more benevolent. But this certainly was not the case for the Amorites. God gave them more than 400 years to turn from their sins and all they did during that time was become worse and worse.
“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5 ESV)
God gave a space of time to the Canaanites that they might turn from their sin and turn to Him. He graciously gave them 400 years to come to Him. But all that they did during this time was become bolder in their sinfulness and more blatant in their wickedness. The problem was not that they did not have enough time to come to God, but that they chose not to. The problem also was not that they were ignorant of Who God was nor of His glory (Joshua 2:9-11). The problem was that they loved their sin and despised God, rejecting His gracious offer of repentance and exhausting His long-suffering patience. With each passing day they became more emboldened in their rebellion, thinking that God’s judgment would never come. Yet they succeeded not in preventing the inevitable, only in storing up the wrath of God against themselves.
If you have not yet come to Christ, turning from your own sins, then may I ask you: How much time is enough? Are you waiting for another day, preferring to enjoy the temporary and fleeting pleasures of your own sinfulness a little longer? Are you supposing that there will be time enough later to come to God and make things right with Him? God is patient and He allows all of us a period of time to repent and turn to Him, but the time comes when we have exhausted His patience, repudiated His Grace, and waited too long. The Amorites had 400 years, but we can be assured that we have nowhere near so long. Like them, we know not how long we do have before all that remains for us is certain judgment. Won’t you come to Him today?