“Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that it is the LORD your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the LORD has spoken to you.
Some of the most beautiful words God speaks to His people are found in Deuteronomy from chapter 7 through chapter 12. Moses prepares the people of Israel before crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. And he prepares them by refreshing their memory of how God has rescued them from slavery in Egypt, displayed wonderful miracles in and out of that land, has guided them with lovingkindness in giving them food, water and protection, and preventing their clothes from wearing out these forty years. And this in spite of their stiff necked ways and disobedience and rebellion throughout the journey! But ever faithful He has brought them to the banks of the Jordan to fulfill His promises to them and their fathers.
The beauty that lies in these chapters is the great detail in which God expresses the blessings promised to them if only they follow all the words of His commandments. He basically promises them a second Eden, in that there will be no sickness, they will be fruitful, they will have plenty of food, their wives will not miscarry and neither will their cattle. Their enemies will flee from them on every side, they won’t have to build cities, and plant fields and vineyards. All those things will be there for the taking, there will be great riches that they won’t have to earn, just waiting for them. All they had to do is be obedient. Which is something they had great trouble with since they left Egypt.
With promises like these, and with a greatly detailed description of the curses that awaited them if they rebel, how indeed could they fail to enter the land and enjoy such abundant gifts and grace? They merely had to obey the Lord their God, whose awesome power and glory they witnessed and experienced on a daily basis for forty years. With such an example, how could they fail? Wouldn’t it be great for us today to hear in such an audible manner how God will lead us into this kind of grand, safe and secure paradise? It all seems a slam dunk as they assemble at the river listening to this pep-talk of Moses.
It should be mentioned that for all the glorious and uplifting talk of how overwhelmingly blessed God was going to make His people, it would first start with an equally awesome and phenomenal judgement on the existing nations currently dwelling in Canaan. And make no mistake, this repossession of the land not going to be pretty. God Himself was going to exterminate the current residents of the land. Israel was ordered to make no covenant with any of the inhabitants. The life of every man, woman and child was to be extinguished.
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.” “You shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.” Deuteronomy 7:1,2,16
“Know therefore today that it is the LORD your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the LORD has spoken to you. Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you.” Deuteronomy 9:3,4
To prepare for the new life in Canaan the land was to be purged by blood. The existing peoples were to be exterminated because all the disgusting evil that they practiced had run its course and it was time for their judgement, and that judgement was to be severe, there was to be no quarter offered. Otherwise if people were allowed to remain the contamination of their society would infect Israel and the resulting disease would soon cost the life of God’s conquering people. (Deut. 7:4)
Without having the perspective of God’s point of view, without understanding just how awfully His creatures have profaned all His gifts, just how degraded the nations of the earth have desecrated themselves, we would cringe at the barbarity of these instructions. But it is easy to forget how just how awful rebellion against God truly is. Like Lot in dwelling in Sodom amidst the profanity of their society, living in, participating with, embracing a pagan world will numb our conscience to the holiness and righteousness of our great God. And how great is His love for us and His desire for our return to the fabulous fellowship He made possible through Christ. But being used to years of doing our own thing, focusing on our own lives, wants, needs, and desires, caring less for His way of looking at life and creation, we shrink in horror at the judgement that is inevitable of all that stands in His stead. That is until our eyes are truly opened to see from His eyes. Then it all makes sense. “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6) We need to open our eyes and see that He has chosen us, and live more in that grace and less in the world.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]