Meditations in Deuteronomy : 25 : God will do it
(Focus: Deut 9:1-3)
Deut 9:1-3 Hear, O Israel. You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. The people are strong and tall–Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
Moses, we have been saying, has been encouraging Israel to stick close to God and obey all His laws as they prepare to go in and take the Promised Land. He has used a variety of methods of encouraging them. He has looked back and reminded them of the wonderful things the Lord has done for them, taking them out of Egypt, meeting with them at Sinai, providing for them in the desert for forty years and recently defeating two opposing kings. That was all looking back. But he has also looked forward and spoken of the wonder of this land that they have been promised which, in comparison to the desert they have been wandering in for forty years, is going to be truly wonderful. The future looks good. Now that is all very well but there is a problem: before they can enjoy the land they have to get rid of its inhabitants, so Moses is going to eyeball this problem and, by confronting it, focus Israel well and truly on the Lord again.
Chapter 9 starts with another of these “Hear O Israel” passages. These aren’t just words, they are a strong call for Israel to pay attention – this is particularly important. Sometimes a preacher may ask a congregation to pay particular attention as he comes to a particular part of his sermon; he wants everyone to focus on a key point. What Moses is about to say is vital to Israel’s understanding.
He faces the problem full on: “You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. The people are strong and tall–Anakites!!” Yes, let’s face it, the nations in this land are bigger and stronger than you – and you know it! They have got some big cities with thick, high walls and there are people in the land known to be strong and tall. Yes, all of this is true and (implied) I wouldn’t try to mislead you over this. Yes, I know some of these people have a reputation – that is the truth.
Right, having got over that, let’s also face the bigger truth – and THIS is THE important bit! “be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you.” When you go into the Land you will only be following the Lord. He is going ahead of you and He is going to deal with the occupants before you. Please understand that – God will have gone ahead of you to prepare the way so all that will be left for you to do is drive them out and annihilate them quickly, Note there is a third reference to driving out the occupants. The role of Israel is to push the people out ahead of them.
When we see what happens in the book of Joshua, we see that it is the fear of the Lord that goes ahead of them, it is the fear of the Lord that takes all their strength away and subdues them. Some will have run and left the land before this terrible force that is coming (as they see it) and some come over to them (Rahab, her family [Josh 2 & 6] and the Gibeonites [Josh 9]). Others who opposed Israel, died in battle. Others remained in the Land despite the Lord’s original instructions.
The big issue here is who it is who is going to be responsible for dealing with the occupants of the Land: it is first the Lord and then the people of Israel. Remember David’s words to Saul before going out to confront Goliath: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam 17:37). David knew that it was going to be the Lord who was going to cause Goliath’s downfall, yet it was going to be David himself who threw the stone that killed him. When Jesus came to deal with and ‘destroy’ death in the case of Lazarus, he instructed the people to play a part: “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.” (Jn 11:38,39)
Again and again we find in Scripture this order: we do something at the Lord’s bidding and then He causes the change. He does what we cannot do but we have to do what He calls us to do. Paul referred to himself as God’s fellow worker, or co-worker (1 Cor 3:9). He knew his part; he worked alongside God. Jesus indicated the same thing: “Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working….. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn 5:17,19). THAT is how it works. The Father has the power and the wisdom; we are simply His instruments through which He wants His Holy Spirit to flow. Got the picture?