Moses continued his discourse from the last chapter by giving the people a strict caution against all friendship and fellowship with idols and idolaters, with which the land of Canaan abounded. Those who are in communion with God must have no close relationship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Therefore, the Israelites were to thoroughly destroy the wicked Canaanites; they were not to make covenants of peace and mercy with them, nor were they to intermarry with them. In the same way, we must deal decisively with the lusts that war against our souls; we must mortify them and utterly destroy them. And we must not willingly choose to have a close relationship with the children of the world, especially in the realm of marriage. Thousands in the world have been undone by ungodly marriages; for there is more likelihood that the good will be perverted, than that the bad will be converted.
If we consider this sweet chapter spiritually, as we ought to do, then we will learn that the enemies which opposed our spiritual forefathers in their possession of Canaan were all pictures of the spiritual foes which war against us now in our pursuit of the heavenly Canaan. Therefore, we can do nothing less than vow an everlasting war against all the enemies of our salvation! The “seven nations” come out against us as swarms of vain thoughts, worldly cares, lustful affections, unbelief of the heart, rebellion of the mind, the forces of Satan, and the temptations of the world – all in league against us at once! And why would we make peace with those deadly foes, when we have our own eternal well-being in prospect before us? There can be no mercy shown to our lusts; nor to those enemies of our God who wish to rob us of our crown, and our Lord of His glory!
The caution against idolatry and fellowship with idolaters is repeated in the second section of this chapter, in verse 16. The Psalmist says, in Psalm 115:8, that “they that make [idols] are like unto them” – that is, the worshipers are just as foolish and senseless as their “gods” are.
The people of Israel were not to conclude that because the Almighty One had chosen them out of all the world as the people upon whom He had set His love, and whom He intended to bless and prosper in the most astonishing and unprecedented manner, that they were therefore at liberty to live as they pleased. No indeed! It was a part of the Covenant that “they should keep and do the judgments of the Lord.” And if this was disregarded, they would most assuredly be exposed to many awful evils. It is the same way with ourselves. The merciful Being Who has chosen us to salvation has also chosen us to sanctification, as the means that leads to that salvation. “Holy, holy, holy” is the Lord, and holy must every renewed and pardoned sinner be. He or she must be holy in the robes of the Savior’s righteousness – holy in affections, pure in heart, and righteous in life, through the all-pervading influence of the Divine Spirit – before being rendered fit to be an inhabitant of that heavenly city where “holiness unto the Lord” shall be stamped upon every brow, and where it will fully occupy every glorified and grateful heart throughout the years of eternity!
God promised to show His favor to His people if they were obedient to Him. If they sincerely endeavored to do their part of the Covenant, the Lord would certainly perform His part. If they loved and served Him, and devoted themselves and their families to Him; He promised that He would love and bless them, and multiply them greatly (verses 13, 14). If they kept themselves pure from the idolatries of Egypt, He promised to keep them clear from the diseases of Egypt (verse 15). If they obeyed His command to destroy the heathen nations that surrounded them, He promised that they would be able to certainly and utterly destroy them; none would be able to stand before them (verses 16 and 23). Similarly, we are commanded to not let sin reign within us, but to hate and strive against it; and God has promised that sin shall not have dominion over us (Rom. 6:12-14).
The Lord did not want His people to become disheartened by the number and strength of their enemies (verse 17), nor by the weakness and deficiency of their own forces. Moses reminded them of the Lord’s destruction of Pharaoh and his terrible army (verses 18, 19), and so it was no question that He could take down the Canaanites just as easily. The Lord Himself said that He would send His people help against their enemies, in the form of troops of hornets (verse 20) – probably larger than ordinary, which would terrify their enemies and perhaps even be the death of them. This would cause even the most numerous armies of the Canaanites to become an easy prey to Israel. But the Lord also did not want His people to be disheartened by their slow progress in the conquest of the land; it would not be a work that was completed in a year. Rather, the Lord would bring the Canaanites down by little and little, and not all at once (verse 22). Similarly, the work of sanctification in the heart – the purifying of it from its natural indwelling corruption – is also a gradual work. But God does His own work in His own method and time, and we may be sure that they are always the best. How sweet it is for the believer to experience Jesus’ love when he is faint, and yet still pursuing; for in the strength of his glorious Captain, he is going on, conquering and to conquer – and he is convinced that nothing shall separate him from the love of Christ! O for faith to believe what the Lord has promised! Take a moment to read the sweet assurance found in Isaiah 43:1-2.
Blessed Lord, never allow us to make peace with any of our spiritual enemies. Our whole reliance is on Your great salvation! We beseech You to carry us on through all opposition, until You bring us safely home. Amen.
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