The novel I am currently working on comes from the perspective of a Canaanite woman who, to avenge family members killed by the Hebrew invaders, disguises herself as a man to go to battle against them.
Writing from the perspective of an enemy of the People of God is a challenge, especially as one who was steeped in those Bible stories from early childhood. But turning my experiences inside out and looking at the Biblical narrative through enemy eyes has given me new appreciation for His grace, His sovereignty, and His perfect plan throughout history to reveal both.
At one point we were all "enemies of God" (Romans 5:10), condemned by our sin to live apart from the goodness of God. Without Christ all of us were just like those Canaanites, living our lives stuck in our own idolatry and filth. We deserved death, just as they did, because sin, any sin is an affront to a Holy God.
The Canaanite religions and gods were some of the most heinous and abhorrent in history. Their worship consisted of regular child sacrifice, idol worship, and orgiastic temple prostitution - among other nasty things.
Now, we may look back at these Canaanites and say "How terrible, how disgusting, no wonder God destroyed them". But I would submit that the culture in which we live is just as depraved and just as heinous in many ways. Fifty million babies murdered in this country in the name of convenience is no different than Canaanite babies thrown onto the fire to beg favors of Molech.
We cannot turn on the television or the internet without being practically assaulted by the sexual sin that permeates our culture. And if we are honest with ourselves we, the People of God, are just as tempted and swayed, just as lured by the false pleasures of this world as the People of God were way back then.
But as He is now, God has always been a God of Grace and, as He was back then, He is always a God of Justice and Holiness. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
What grace did he show to the Canaanites? When he charged the Hebrews with destroying them?
There is a whole debate about why God commanded the death of all men, women, and children of certain Canaanite tribes (this article from the CRI is a great defense against the typical atheists "genocide" argument). But without digging into God's justification for doing so, let's look at his grace.
From Melchizedek in Abraham's time, to Balaam in Moses' time (foolish though he was), God was speaking to men in Canaan and warning them. Being removed from Noah and the judgement-by-flood by only a few hundred years, and since tales all over the world echo the Biblical account, they were more than aware of God's hatred of sin and idolatry. (Do not forget that Noah and Abraham's lives overlapped by over 100 years)
And when the Hebrews escaped Egypt and God bested Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world, the Canaanites heard it all. Forty years later in Jericho, Rahab tells the spies that everyone in Canaan knew the stories and were terrified (Joshua 2:8-11)
God always warns man of coming judgement. From Adam to Pharaoh to Revelations, the consequences have always been clear. It is our choice to disobey. His warnings to turn from sin are grace. His warnings to the Canaanites to repent or 'get out of Dodge' was grace.
As I research, time and time again, I read that although many of the towns in Ancient Israel were destroyed during the late Bronze Age (most probably by Joshua and the Hebrews), many were just deserted, as if the whole village just got up and left one day. Why? Well, I believe it's because some of the Canaanites heeded Yahweh's warnings from the Prophets and witnesses of the Exodus account, and fled.
The remnant who were left were the belligerent and rebellious ones who thought they would have no problem standing up to a bunch of slaves running around in the desert following a cloud. And we know how well that worked out for them...
And, as in the premise of my story, God provided a way for people, women especially, to escape the judgement. How? By marrying a Hebrew man, shaving her head and getting rid of the trappings of Canaan such as sensual clothing and long hennaed fingernails, and obeying the commandments or miztvot of Yahweh. Numerous other examples, such as Rahab and her family and others, highlight the mercy God gave to those who feared him.
Within the instructions given to Moses were provisions for the "foreigners" to be treated with kindness and to be allowed to become part of Israel if they chose to take part in the covenant--Just as we do now.
We have the choice to accept the grace of God, throw off the trappings of our depraved world, and become inheritors of the promises God gave to Abraham by being adopted into Israel, through partaking in the Covenant of Blood with Jesus.
As my protagonist, Elanah, comes to learn, Yahweh is a god of grace and if she will turn from her sin and repent, that grace is sufficient to change her entire identity - from a sinful, condemned Canaanite to a redeemed and forgiven Israelite.
Until we step foot into the eternal Promised Land we will always struggle, just as the ancient Israelites did because they did not finish the job to clear out all the Canaanites. Instead they invited many of those abhorrent pagan practices into their worship of Yahweh. We are fighting a culture that loves sin and works hard to either assimilate us, or destroy us, and we must continue to root out the idolatry in our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit.
So let's do it. Let's be ruthless and clear out the idols in our hearts, and make sure our worship is not tainted by the culture around us, so we can be free to enjoy the promises of our graceful Father and accept our identity as Sons of God.