FROM THE CONQUEST TO JUDGES
WHAT IF GOD…
…had saved Jephthah’s daugher’s life?
…had not allowed Samson to be taken by the Philistines?
…had sent lions against the Philistines instead of Samson?
…had not allowed the death of Naomi’s husband, and her two sons?
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT ALLOWED ISRAEL’S DEFEAT AT AI?
All along the way to the Promised Land, God had proven to Israel that He would provide for their needs as long as they submitted to His will and obeyed his laws. Soon after they entered the land of Canaan, the mighty city of Jericho stood in their way. God would allow a miraculous entrance into the city by making its walls crumble and by making the defeat of its inhabitants certain. What God required of them was that they were not to take and keep any thing found in the city. “And you, by all means keep yourselves from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it”(Joshua 6:18).
Unfortunately, one Israelite did not heed the warning and went against God’s injunction thus attracting God’s wrath. “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel”(Joshua 7:1).
The consequence of this secret action was that God pulled back His protection. When Ai, a small city, was later to be taken, even though two to three thousand men were sent to conquer it, they were resisted mightily by the inhabitants, and ‘They fled before the men of AI.” As a result “The hearts of the people melted and became like water” (Joshua 7: 5).
Joshua was shocked by the turn of events and turned to God for clarifications and help. God’s answer was: “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff…Therefore…they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you” (Joshua 7: 11-12).
As punishment, Achan was to be taken and to be stoned to death, for having done, “a disgraceful thing in Israel”(Joshua 7: 15).
What if God had totally disregarded Achan’s sin and had not punished the whole nation of Israel? What if He had just stricken him dead “privately” instead of turning the situation into something “national”?
Some scoffers might point to this situation as incomprehensible and excessive. But was it really?
The covenant made between God and Israel included all the people. They had promised to do “all” that God commanded. In return God would march before them and give them total victory. There were to be no exceptions.
If God had bypassed Achan’s sin, He would have missed the opportunity to remind the new generation of Israelites what the Covenant was all about. The old generation had tasted the bitter fruits of rebellion and had been kept from entering the Promised Land. The new generation had not witnessed God’s response to disobedience yet. God took the opportunity to enlighten them.
The primary lesson to be learned by the Israelites was that God saw all things, even the secret actions of men. Achan thought that his secret action would have gone unseen by God. He lived to see otherwise.
They also had to understand that God expects total righteousness from His people. The command “Be you holy for I am holy,” stood untouched. God does not compromise with righteousness and obedience. His people are to totally submit to Him.
Furthermore, they had to learn that God is very stern toward rebellious, sinful people; that He will intervene very strongly against such sinners and that He would show no mercy toward them. Those who know the truth and rebel “willfully” against God will pay severely. This is an eternal truth.
Lastly, they were to never forget that sin affects not just the sinner but the whole group. When sin entered the family of Israel, the whole family paid the consequences. God’s blessings would be pulled back and a curse would follow the nation. All were responsible to make sure the whole body of Israel was healthy and sin free so as to allow the blessings to fall upon the nation.
If God had not intervened dramatically, we Christians would not have had the opportunity to see reinforced theses same lessons as they apply to Christians as well.
Christians, too, must never forget that God sees all things and that no sin is hidden from His view. We must never forget that to God willful, arrogant sins as very serious transgressions, and that severe punishments will always ensue (Hebrews 10:27-31). Sin affects the many, not just the sinner. By withdrawing His blessings from a family member the whole family will suffer and this applies to church bodies as well.
If God had not punished Achan, His hatred for rebellious sin would not have been spotlighted before a new generation that was to learn this lesson before all others. By punishing Achan, God made clear to them and to generations to come that God detests rebellion and that if it takes place the consequences will be severe. This was true for Israel as it is true today for Christians as well.
WHAT IF GOD…
…had allowed the destruction of the Gibeonites? (Joshua 9)
…had not made the sun stand still? (Joshua 10)
…had not allowed the destruction of the Amorite Kings? (Joshua 10)
…had not established the cities of refuge? (Joshua 20)
WHAT IF GOD HAD SAVED JEPHTHAH’S DAUGHER’S LIFE?
One of the most heart-rending and perplexing stories in the Bible is the story of Jepthah and his daughter. Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a harlot. His brothers, sons of Gilead’s wife, drove Jephtha out so as not to share their inheritance with him. “Then Jephthah fled with from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him” (Judges 11: 3).
Some time after, the children of Ammon made war against Israel, and so the elders of Israel went to seek out Jephthah to convince him to come back and lead the army against the Ammonites. Jephthah accepted the offer and became the leader of the army. Before the confrontation between the two armies took place, Jephtha made the now infamous vow: “ If you will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:31).
God delivered Israel and gave them a great victory and “the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel” (Judges 11:33). Ecstatic Jephthah returned home “with timbrel and dancing” but, unfortunately, the first one to welcome him was his only child. Jephthah was devastated by what he saw and “tore his clothes” and said to his daughter, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it” (Judges 11: 35).
Jephtha’s daughter reacted with a total spirit of submission. She simply asked her father that she be allowed to wander on the mountains for two months to “bewail her virginity” (Judges 11:38). At the end of the two months, “she returned to her father and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed” (Judges 11:39).
God watched the whole story and did not intervene—a totally perplexing decision. After all, had He not intervened with Abraham and Isaac? Is God not averse to human sacrifices? Did God not cleanse the land of Canaan of its inhabitants because, in large part, they “passed their children through the fire” (That is, they sacrificed their children to their gods). How could that same God allow Jephtha to kill his own daughter?
Let’s go back to Jephtha’s original mistake. Jephtha promised that he would sacrifice “anything” that would come out to welcome him upon his return. By that he also included humans—most probably his servants. Could it be that that was the reason God allowed him to go through his excruciating experience? Jephtha’s callousness may have deserved a sobering consequence. His callousness and cruelty toward others ended up rebounding onto himself.
What if God had intervened? What if God had sent an angel to stop him from his horrific act like He did with Abraham?
If He had intervened, we would have been reassured as to God’s seeming kindness and forgiveness, but what would have happened to Jephtha? What would have happened within Israel? What effect would it have had on the multitudes that would have read or heard about it in Israel?
We can speculate that if Jephtha would not have been consequenced, he might have remained hasty and foolish. Israel would have had a written record that God is somewhat weak and that He forgives foolishness all too easily. God had wanted Israel to “fear” Him. The carnal nation of Israel was not motivated by love and gratitude toward God but by fear. Oaths are promises made before God and they must not be made hastily. The book of Deuteronomy emphasizes the seriousness of making vows to God: “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God surely will require it of you, and it would be sin to you” (Deut. 23:21).
If God had intervened, the seriousness of the event would have been undermined. The fact that oaths must not be taken lightly would not have been emphasized nor would have the reality that foolishness has a way repaying us with disastrous consequences. Therefore, what appears to have been an incomprehensible act of callousness on God’s part once again shows much wisdom and justice as do all of His actions.
© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2004