Joshua 12 through 15 is an interesting section of Scripture. In it, we read of the inheritance that the Israelites receive, the people conquered by Moses, and the people conquered by Joshua. Things seem to be going according to all that God commanded except for a few small issues that eventually become incredibly serious for the people of Israel. These small issues were actually people groups that Israel failed to conquer, among them are the Jebusites, who are not conquered until King David’s time, and the Philistines.
In Joshua 13, God lists the Philistines among the people that have yet to be conquered, and if you know the history of Israel, they pose serious problems for Israel. They are the dominant enemy of the Israelites and their God from the time of the Judges until David’s day, hundreds of years later.
Why were they left alive?
Why did the people of Israel not succeed in driving them out of the land?
Why did God not deliver them over Himself?
These are serious questions to ponder, questions for which an answer is necessary but difficult to see. In one sense, we can say that God had plans to glorify Himself to even greater degrees by letting these people persist for so long. This is a true statement, but it’s not complete. The Israelites played a part in this, they are not free from responsibility. The reality is that they were disobedient. They did not follow God’s commands down to the last word and they paid the penalty for it for centuries.
This is evidence of the consequences of our sinfulness. When we are disobedient toward God, we face natural, and sometimes very serious consequences for that disobedience. But, the beauty of this passage is that they still inherit the land. They do not cease to become God’s people because of their sin. This is a reminder that God keeps His covenant with His people even when His people fail. This is one of the reasons why the atonement of Christ is so sweet. He is our Covenant Keeper. He lived and died as a sinless man in payment for our sins so that our covenant with God might be fulfilled. There is no condemnation for the sins of those who are in Christ. We have been washed clean and God choses to not remember our sins and count them against us. What a glorious reality!