Joshua 11:18-19 – There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.
This is a truth that is very difficult for us to grasp, but it speaks to the sovereign power and glory of God. Joshua and the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan just as God had promised them they would. No nation stood before them. God was absolutely faithful to keep his word.
Earlier today, I was wondering to myself why it is that none of the nations, other than the Gibeonites, came out to make peace with Israel. I believe that, if I saw some nations sweeping across my land and taking every city in sight, I would have been quick to ask for an amiable peace agreement. I do not think I would have wanted to oppose a nation that had taken down so many strong cities. Yet, none of the nations other than Gibeon did that. Why?
The reason why none of the peoples came out to make peace with Israel is that God put it into their hearts not to. That’s right, God actually exercised control over the hearts of “free” people in order to bring them to destruction. I do not see any other way to read those verses than this one. God put it into the hearts of these nations, evil pagan nations that were doing abominable things before God, to fight instead of flee. God put it in their hearts to stand, instead of try to make peace. He put it in their hearts to do the very thing that would lead them into his judgment. Now, the passage does not say anything about God putting sin in their hearts. He did not force them to do what was wrong. But he did make sure that their hearts were so hard that they would willingly fight, even though they should have learned from those who fell before them that they would not win.
While I can not take the time to point out all of the implications of this passage, I think one thing must be made clear: God is sovereign. Not even the hearts of sinful men are beyond the power of God. God may harden people’s hearts, and he may soften people’s hearts at his will. No one can put a stop to this. He is in control, and no one can thwart his plan. This concept is very hopeful to me. It helps me to see that there is no human heart that is beyond God’s reach. There is no soul so lost that God can not reach into it and change it. There is no heart so dead that God can not give it life. But, when anyone comes to life in Christ, it also reminds me that all praise for that work belongs to God, for only God has such power over human hearts.
Lord, I worship you, for you are a sovereign God. I confess that I do not fully understand your sovereignty or all its implications. I do not pretend to be able to understand your ways, for they are great and far beyond my comprehension. I do, however, give you praise, because I know that your will is always done. You can reach into any heart. I ask, even now, that you would reach into the hearts of my family and friends, and draw them to yourself. Help them to come to love you and desire to serve you with all their hearts. I know that I can have hope, because you have the power over all human hearts. Help me to trust in you more, and to share my faith more, because I know that you are in control.