Our last post finished with our title statement from Zechariah 14:21.
Why this strange statement, seemingly out of harmony with the rest of the chapter?
The Canaanites were the original occupants of the land. Israel displaced them.
There’s a lot of angst over “the poor Canaanites.” However, Moses and Joshua didn’t just arbitrarily decide to invade Canaan on the spur of the moment. Almost from the beginning of Biblical history, the land of Canaan has been singled out for special attention, long before there was an Israel.
In Genesis 9:18 and 10:6, Canaan is listed as the son of Ham, one of Noah’s children. Ham is brought to our attention in Genesis 9:20-27 as a result of some indiscretion against Noah. We’re not told what that indiscretion was, only that it happened. Nor are we told why Noah “cursed” Canaan instead of Ham.
Genesis 10:6 lists the children of Canaan and the territory in which they settled. This is the only “nation” so described.
Genesis 15 is the famous chapter in which God promises Abraham a son and foretells something of the future of his descendants. Our post, “Look Now Toward Heaven,” gives more detail about this event. For now, we’re interested in the last part of v. 16, where, after telling Abraham of the sojourn in Egypt and that Israel will come out with great riches, God tells him that this will happen in the “fourth generation…, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
“The iniquity of the Amorites,” who stand as representatives of the Canaanites.
The Canaanites were not an innocent and childlike people. Archaeology has confirmed that. Scripture describes some of their depravity. Leviticus 18 gives a long list of the degenerate acts committed by the Canaanites which were not to be committed by Israel. God warns Israel in v. 18, “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things, for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity on it.” In v. 29, He warns of punishment for anyone who engages in these acts. Israel paid very little attention to this, and did indeed suffer much as the nations before them had suffered.
In addition to this, the Canaanites were idolaters, to the extent of burning their own children as sacrifices to their false gods. They engaged in witchcraft and spiritism. Israel really was no better fundamentally than these other nations and her dissolution by Nebuchadnezzar was because of all these very sins, cf. 2 Kings 21:1-16. But nobody worries about “the poor Israelites.” See also Exodus 34:11-16 and Deuteronomy 12:29-32.
The Canaanites were to be destroyed as a punishment for their sins. Many find this difficult to accept. We’ve so diluted the idea of “the love of God,” that we have totally dismissed the idea of His holiness and justice. It is true that the Christian has no such command or right. But the Canaanites were also to be destroyed as a protection for Israel and to prevent her from being tempted to follow their degenerate ways. The Old Testament bears sad testimony to how badly Israel failed at this.
The only reason Israel and the Jewish people have not completely disappeared from the pages of history like so many other nations and peoples is because God isn’t finished with her. Our last post dealt with that. Israel’s continued existence is inexplicable apart from that thought.
So then, how did Canaanites get into the house of the Lord?
Joshua 9 gives us the story. Realizing they were doomed, the Gibeonites sent men who pretended to be from a country a long way away and who wanted to make a treaty with Israel. Taking the men’s statements at face value and not consulting the LORD, cf. Numbers 27:21, Joshua made a treaty with them. It wasn’t until three days later that Israel discovered she had been fooled. There were those who wanted to destroy the Gibeonites, anyway. Joshua prevented this from happening, saying that the treaty must be honored, even though falsely obtained. King Saul got Israel into trouble many years later for violating this same treaty, 2 Samuel 21:1.
Let this be a lesson to us. We often get into trouble because we “take things at face value,” and don’t “inquire of the LORD” about what to do in a specific situation.
As a result of their deception, the Gibeonites were sentenced to a lifetime of serving the Tabernacle. They would be woodcutters and water carriers for the house of…God, Joshua 9:23, 27.
They got into the house of God, even unintentionally because they were idolaters, by deception. That’s not how we’re to enter God’s presence.
Our Lord addresses a somewhat similar situation in Matthew 7:22, “Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
These are solemn words. We live in a time when there are professing Christians who are all about the casting out of demons and the performing of signs and miracles. This isn’t to say that they’re not sincere in what they believe and do. The men in Matthew 7 were sincere, and were no doubt dumbfounded when the Lord rejected their works as “lawlessness.”
The Lord also predicted a time when “every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted,” Matthew 15:13. In a time of “tolerance,” this isn’t a message that people want to hear. But it’s important. Eternity is just around the corner for all of us, young or old, and what seems so great in this life might turn out to be not so great in the light of “forever.”
The message for us is that not everything in “church” is of God. Where there are sons of the kingdom, there are also sons of the wicked one, Matthew 13:37-39. Even the Lord had His “Judas.” Paul went so far as to say, in effect, that if you want to find the Devil, look for him behind the pulpit, 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15. After all, what is more important than what one believes about eternity? The Devil doesn’t care how “right” or how “orthodox” we are about anything else if he can get us to be wrong about eternity.
According to Matthew, four separate times our Lord predicted that there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30. “Weeping” because people have done what their preacher or priest or rabbi or imam or guru or whoever has told them to do, but they’ll find out when it’s too late that it’s not what God told them to do.
Everything we read or hear, including this blog, is to be measured according to the rule of Scripture, cf. Acts 17:11. It doesn’t matter if everybody in the entire world says, “A”, if God’s Word says, “B”. There is no greater responsibility than our hearing or ministering the Word of God.
Oh! to be students of the Word. To find it of more importance than anything else in the world. Way back in the early days of history, Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food,” Job 23:12(ESV). When we step on the scale, more than likely we see that we’ve had plenty of food. If we could weigh them, I wonder if our souls would say the same thing?