The Bible stopped me in my tracks today. You know how it works. You’re reading a familiar passage and then…wham! The Lord allows you to see something that never caught your attention before. And it changes your life.

I’ve always struggled with Israel’s invasion of Canaan. Not that I doubted God’s character, but sometimes it’s hard to wrap our minds around God ordained genocide. Oh, we can get all theological and explain why it was necessary, etc, etc.

But the actual doing of it.

Would you be able to obey God if the sword was in your hand?

Enter Joshua 11:18-20. After cataloging Joshua’s complete victory over the Canaanite nations, it mentions that Israel didn’t wipe out everyone they came across. They made peace with the Gibeonites. God very clearly instructed Israel in Deuteronomy 20:16 not to offer peace to any of the Canaanites nations. So, why did He allow them to do so with the Gibeonites? Joshua 11:20 holds the key.

Concerning all those other nations, God said, “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

That word harden means “to strengthen or make firm”. There are two Hebrew words for harden. When we harden our hearts it means “to make oneself unresponsive or dull”. According to Genesis 15:16, God reached out to the Canaanite people for 400 years. But the majority of them pushed away that conviction and refused to respond. When the last hour struck, only one group finally responded. The Gibeonites. While all the other kings formed an alliance against Israel after Jericho fell, Gibeon threw themselves on God’s mercy.

And God showed them mercy. See, God never intended all the Canaanites to be destroyed. God was reaching out one last time through judgement. And to those who threw themselves on God’s mercy, He forgave. If you think I’m off the wall, Just ask Rahab the harlot, another Canaanite who’s in heaven today.

Ezekiel 22:30 says, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it ... ” God is looking for an excuse to show mercy because judgement is His “strange work” (Isaiah 28:21), not His heart. If we make ourselves unresponsive to Him, then He’ll come alongside and confirm that decision. But if we throw ourselves on His mercy, He is ready to forgive.

I’m so thankful my God loves to show mercy! That when I cry with Isaiah, “Woe is me! I am undone”, His heart is to cleanse and restore me to Himself.

Have you thanked the Lord lately for His merciful nature? Don’t harden your heart toward Him! You’ll only be hurting yourself.