We are continuing our study of the book of Deuteronomy, as Moses is reviewing God's Law with the people of Israel.
God was going to clear away seven nations from the land of Canaan. Each of them individually was stronger than the Israelites, but God was going to "clear away" these nations. The Hebrew verb there is "naw-SHAL," a verb that describes such diverse things as olives dropping off branches (Deut. 28:40); shoes being removed (Josh. 5:15), and an axe head flying off its handle (Deut. 19:5).
In short, God was going to clear away, drop off, remove, and fling these mighty nations from before the smaller and weaker Israelites. These great peoples would be defeated and destroyed, regardless of Israel's inferior strength and ability.
Do you ever feel like you're facing insurmountable odds in the battle against your sin nature? There are certainly times in life when we feel like our enemies - the world, the flesh, and the devil - are greater than us. We begin to believe that our circumstances will overwhelm us.
But God is bigger than the enemies that are bigger than us. We simply need to learn from people like David, who said,
2Sam. 22:5-7 "For the waves of death encompassed me; The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me; The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, yes, I cried to my God; And from His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears."
God is bigger than every enemy. And yet, when He gives us the victory over sinful circumstances, we need to hold onto that victory in its entirety. God warned the Israelites not to show favor to their enemies, or to make a covenant with them.
How different that is from what we frequently see in believers' lives!
- When God defeats the addiction, you'd better take total victory - don't start again, saying, "It's only a little," or, "Just this once, because things are so stressful at work."
- When God gives you deliverance from debt, don't carry the credit cards around "just in case."
Whatever your enemy is in that sinful situation, when God clears away your enemy, don't give it any place again. Because we can be like the one who has an unclean spirit cast out but leaves room for it to come back. Jesus said,
Luke 11:26 "...the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."
God was driving out the immoral nations from before the Israelites. They were supposed to utterly destroy them. But inevitably, here came the parents saying, "But see how cute our teenagers look together," or the teenager saying, "I know he's not an Israelite, Mom, but I LOVE him!"
Parents, let me warn you yet again: Allowing your children to go out with unbelievers is washing your hands of their lives and telling them you don't care what happens to them. The end result is disastrous. Why did God forbid this?
Deut. 7:4 "For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods..."
I've seen it far too many times. A young person whose walk with God is strong commits the sin of compromise and begins to date a non-Christian. And sooner or later, everything falls apart. The Bible forbids it.
2Cor. 6:14-15 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
Parents, don't allow it. The cost of compromise is too great. Look at what happened when the Israelites neglected this command:
Judg. 3:5-7 The sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.
What a mess.
God's command regarding the idols is total destruction because He wants His peoples' total sanctification.
Notice: He doesn't say, "Christianize the idols so that they're acceptable," or "Sell the idols to the neighboring nations and tithe on the extra cash you get." No, they are to be destroyed, even though many of them were covered in precious metals.
Sometimes, when God has told us to get rid of something in our lives, it's a real temptation to say, "But my secular CD collection is worth hundreds of dollars. I can't just burn it!" or "Do you know how much these videos cost me? I can't just throw them in the fire pit!" But it is vital that we act on those convictions immediately. The temptation of saying, "It's worth too much," as well as the reason to resist that temptation are addressed down in verse 25:
Deut. 7:25 "The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it.."
If you don't destroy them now, you'll just be ensnared by them later. Yes, it will be difficult to do, it will involve loss. Remember, Jesus taught,
Matt. 18:7-9 "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell."
It is far less painful in the long run to obey God's conviction and rid yourself of idols and sinful stumbling blocks.
Now Moses addresses the issue of God's love and faithfulness.
A lot of people struggle, asking, "Why does God love me? What does He see in me? I feel like there's nothing about me that God could love, so I question whether He really does or not."
To be perfectly frank, the real source of that kind of thinking is pride. The honest truth is that God doesn't love us because of what's inside of us. He loves us because of what's inside of Him! If you keep looking for something that God can find lovable about you, you'll never find it. God loves you simply because He loves you, period.
He loved us when we were still in our sin, as the Scripture says,
Rom. 5:8 ...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
God loved us and saved us, not because of who we were or are. Paul reminded Titus that...
Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy...
A lot of Christians are trying to work out their "self-esteem" issues, to discover what is so lovable about themselves. But they're looking in the wrong place. They need to look at how loving God is, rather than how lovable they are.
And these verses tell us a lot about the loving nature of God. They tell us that:
- God is loving. He "set His love on you" (v. 7,8).
- God keeps His promises. He "kept the oath which He swore" (v. 8).
- God is faithful. "He is God, the faithful God" (v. 9).
- God is merciful. He keeps "His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation" (v. 9).
Because God is all these things...
Deut. 7:11 "Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments..."
Our response to God's attributes should be our obedience to God's Word.
You can see the cycle of relationship that takes place between God and man. God is merciful and faithful. Our response should be obedience to His Word. When we are obedient to His Word, God demonstrates more mercy and faithfulness, which causes us to be obedient to His Word.
And as we walk in this obedience, He blesses us abundantly. The Israelites were given the promise that if they, as a nation, were obedient to God's Word, they would receive blessings of material abundance and physical health. There are of course many televangelists today preaching that, with enough faith, you will also receive health and wealth. Their message is "just believe hard enough, and you'll make it happen." But God's statement here is that the blessings will come not from believing strongly and passionately, but obeying consistently and completely.
This is the consistent message throughout the Scriptures: obedience to the Word and commitment to righteousness brings blessings in life. The Psalmist wrote that the man who avoided sin was blessed,
Psa. 1:3 ...and in whatever he does, he prospers.
The doctrine of "prosperity" is not about believing hard enough to make blessings happen. It is about walking righteously enough to allow blessings to happen.
Three things could ensnare the Israelites: failing to consume the nations, pitying them, or serving their gods.
Another danger to them would be to fear the nations. It was true that the nations were stronger than they. Their numbers and weaponry were superior. But God was on their side. As Paul asked the Romans,
Rom. 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
The Israelites would enter into the land of Canaan, and see the military might of the Canaanites. They would come to Joshua and say,
Josh. 17:16 ...all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron...
Joshua would reassure them,
Josh. 17:18 "...you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong."
But they would walk in fear. The first chapter of Judges tells us,
Judg. 1:19 ...but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots.
God had warned them not to be afraid. Do you realize that fear is a choice? We are told "be not afraid" and to "take courage." These are choices we make. We choose to walk by sight, and fear the chariots of the nations, or we choose to walk by faith in God Who has proven Himself mighty.
Ps. 20:7(KJV) Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
The Lord was going to clear out the nations little by little, because they were not numerous enough to occupy the entire land yet. Even if God cleared out the enemy, the lack of human beings in the land would have allowed the wild animals to multiply and take over.
This is such a vital concept for Christians to comprehend. You know, when I got to Cheyenne, I was asking the Lord for a church of 4,000 people. The first Sunday there were 12, and more came each week. 45, 85, 150, 200... Now, after eight years, we're at about 500 people, and I'll tell you what: I don't pray for 4,000 anymore! Five hundred is a whole lot of people. If they'd all shown up in my living room that first Sunday, it would have been a disaster!
Here is the concept: it's okay to have big vision, but don't get discouraged when that vision takes years to come to fruition. Some people want to inherit all of the land immediately, not realizing that the beasts would quickly overtake them.
Remember what Solomon wrote:
Eccl. 3:11 He has made everything appropriate in its time...