My father died in 2001 after a 21-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was in a nursing home for the last 12 of those years. It was like a long funeral. I remember my mother remarking frequently during those years, "There are worse fates than death for a Christian . . "
I was recalling that this morning during my reading-through-the-Bible reading, which just progressed out of the book of Joshua. Yes, more annihilations at the command of God: " . . totally destroyed everyone in it . . he left no survivors there . . they totally destroyed it and everyone in it . . until no survivors were left . . "
I've heard people rant about these passages who are upset about the righteous people who they assume were probably killed in those divinely-ordered rampages -- particularly, the innocent women and children. But there were righteous people who were spared . . Rahab and her family, and I read of a few others. God promised Abraham he wouldn't destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if 10 righteous people were found there (he found less, but he still spared those few). If I take on faith that my God is just, I have to believe that he found a way to save any truly innocent folks in those communities before the Israelite killing machine came.
And about the "innocent women", let's be honest: if the men were not innocent, the women likely weren't either. In fact, that was God's problem with the first round of these annihilations when they spared the Midianite women -- these were the women who had specifically set out to seduce and conquer the Israelite men. No innocence there.
Now, the children ... sigh. Yeah, they are a tougher case to account for.
Someone once told me a story about her pastor. The man and his wife had lost a young child, very suddenly, and the whole faith community was grieving with them. When the pastor returned to the pulpit, now childless, he told the congregation how God had given him peace about it all. He said, he and his wife had prayed unceasingly since the son was born for him to come to know Christ, for him to be protected from falling away from the faith as they had seen in so many others. And it occurred to him that, perhaps God had answered that prayer. Perhaps God, in his infinite wisdom, knew the direction that child's life would take as he grew older and chose to bring him home before he had a chance to fall away.
It was certainly an interesting thought.
As a general rule, I think we believers have a bad attitude about death. Not that we should seek it out, but we certainly shouldn't be afraid of it. And while it's understandable to grieve over the holes in our lives left by our loved ones, we don't have to see their deaths as tragic events. Wasn't it Paul that said, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain"?
Life is a precious gift -- don't get me wrong. But I think God has even more precious gifts in store for us. And while we shouldn't be so "heavenly-minded" that we miss out on all God has for us here, we also shouldn't be so "earthly-minded" that we begrudge the end of one party for the beginning of another. Especially when we don't know how this earthly party was really going to work out for us if it kept going.
"So, Gwen, are you saying that God was being good to those innocent Canaanite children who got murdered by the Israelites? That their early deaths were maybe a better fate than their growing up and coming to participate in the sins and guilt of their fathers?"
I don't know. Maybe I am. There are worse fates than death for the one whom God declares as righteous . .