19. Hold to God

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 19 :  Hold to God

(Focus: Deut 7:1-6)

Deut 7:1,2 When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations — the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you– and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally

Because we so often have the tendency to miss the main point, I think it is worth reiterating what I said in the previous meditation, that this book is all about Israel’s relationship with the Lord.  Indeed EVERYTHING in this book flows out of that. Perhaps we need to spell it out even more simply, for many of the questions that I receive about Israel’s activities, especially about their taking the Promised Land, would never need be asked if we only understood something of the significance of this and the incredible importance that is attached to it.

Let’s look at the ‘big picture’ – which post-moderns don’t like doing – for therein is actually the truth about life. God created this whole world, the whole universe and indeed everything that is, as an expression of His love and His desire to express His love to sentient beings. He made us in His own image and He gave us free will, the ability to choose. His design was perfect. His assessment of what He had made was “very good”. Yet, nevertheless, the first true man and woman fell from innocence and sinned – they acted godlessly and in a self-centred way. Their experience of this Sin was the experience of every single human being since.

Yet, we said, God had made us to be people who lived in relationship with Him and in accordance with His design for mankind. Thus eventually He chooses Israel to demonstrate the possibility of living in relationship with God, revealing God for who He truly is. To do that, they have been given God’s ‘design-rules’ for them as a nation (the Law), through which they will reveal His wisdom. In addition, when they live in close relationship with Him, He will be able to guide them and help them and generally bless them. If they fail to live in close relationship with Him, none of these things will be possible. That is how crucial these things are.

Thus now Moses comes to speak about the time immediately ahead of them when they enter the Promised Land. Note, first of all, the reference to the Lord ‘driving out’ the inhabitants of the Land. People so often focus on Israel destroying the inhabitants, but God’s first intention, which is repeated MANY times, is to drive the inhabitants out of the land. They do NOT have to die! It is their choice if they do. If they do resist and oppose Israel, THEN, and only then, Israel are to utterly destroy them.

Now consider this for a moment. The present occupants of the Land are pagan, occultic, idol worshippers who even sacrifice their children to their idols. If these people, hearing about God (because the word DID spread ahead of Israel) and knowing Israel’s intent (which became very clear) then go on to resist and refuse to leave the land, what you then have is a people utterly committed to occultic, idol worship living in the midst of Israel and being a constant temptation to them to forsake the Lord. Everything about The Plan for Israel will be threatened if this is allowed to happen. It is for this reason that the command to utterly destroy them is here. Their entire future hangs on this. (In retrospect, we see that they failed to do this and that idolatry was the downfall of Israel, revealing that even a people drawn into relationship with God cannot simply keep the rules; sin is too strong!)

To reinforce this command to destroy, Moses then covers a variety of other possibilities which might have come into the minds of the people:

Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. (7:2-4). There is to be no alternative. No treaties, no marrying their girls. There is a very clear reason why you are not to do this: they will lead you astray from the Lord! It is as simple as that. The Lord knows the weakness of human beings and so seeks to keep us from that which will harm and destroy us.

Even more than this, when Israel go in to the Land, they are to clear out of it all remnants of the occultic idol worship that has continued there for so long: This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (7:5,6)  Nothing of this terrible and superstitious and occult-based religion that is there at the present is to remain, for Israel are to be holy – unique among the peoples of the earth. Remember, they are supposed to be showing the rest of the earth a viable and good alternative. THAT is the objective behind these commands and Israel fail to heed them at their cost.