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CRITICAL NOTES.—Israel is forwarded against the idolatry of the people whose country they were about to enter (cf. Deuteronomy 6:14). The nations were more powerful than Israel, but God would deliver them.
Deuteronomy 7:2. They must be destroyed, devoted to destruction as accursed, put under the ban. Leviticus 27:28. No covenant must be made, nor alliances formed with them lest their children should be seduced.
Deuteronomy 7:4. From following, lit. from behind me (Jehovah) i.e., entice to other gods.
Deuteronomy 7:5. Deal. All appendages of idolatry to be destroyed. Exodus 34:13; Exodus 23:24. Groves, enclosures of trees. Ashtoreth. a wooden pillar, very high and firmly fixed in the ground (cf. Judges 6:25-27; Deuteronomy 16:21), a female god (Ashtarte) companion of Baal.
Deuteronomy 7:6. Holy consecrated to God and not to be lost through idolatry. Special, lit. a people of property to God, 1 Chronicles 29:3; Ecclesiastes 2:8; Titus 2:14. Above, out of all people.
Deuteronomy 7:7. This selection, not through numerical strength; but
Deuteronomy 7:8. Through the covenant of love (Deuteronomy 4:37). This led to deliverance from Egypt.
Deuteronomy 7:9-12. By this Israel were to know that God was faithful in showing mercy to those that love Him and repaying, i.e., punishing enemies to their face, i.e., whilst still living; in their presence, in their own sight; or perhaps in their proper persons, Exodus 33:14.
Deuteronomy 7:11. This display of God’s faithfulness should teach them to keep His statutes.
Deuteronomy 7:12. As a consequence of observance God’s favour would be seen in blessing the fruit of the womb, Increase of flocks and herds, cf. Exodus 23:25.
Deuteronomy 7:15. In preservation from virulent sickness of all kinds (Exodus 15:26) and especially all the evil diseases of Egpyt.
Deuteronomy 7:16. Consume, lit., devour as food, snare, i.e., Incentive to idolatry, Psalms 106:36.
Deuteronomy 7:17-18. If they felt unable to meet with these powerful nations, they must remember Egypt, with its temptations, signs, and wonders (cf. Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22). God would do the same to the Canaanites, and
Deuteronomy 7:20. Send hornets against them; for God was mighty and terrible to do this.
Deuteronomy 7:21-22. Gradually would they be put out (plucked off), lest beasts should increase if dead bodies were left on the ground (cf. Exodus 23:29-30).
Deuteronomy 7:24, To stand, lit., to put oneself in the face of a person, to withstand, Leviticus 14:43.
Deuteronomy 7:25-26. Idols to be destroyed, gold and silver which overlaid them, to be burned. Snared, cf. Judges 8:27, lest (they should fall under the curse, to which all idolatrous objects were devoted (Joshua 7:0).
FORBIDDEN INTERCOURSE.—Deuteronomy 7:1-5
Israel were about to possess Canaan, to go into danger and temptation. Moses forewarns them against toleration of idolatry. They must have no intercourse with these nations, be entirely separated from them, and by God’s help utterly exterminate them.
I. No toleration of them. “Nor show mercy unto them.” What we tolerate we begin to pity and love. Evils most repulsive at first become attractive after-wards. Hence we must avoid the very appearance of evil. In obedience to God, rid ourselves of every danger, though dear as a right hand or a right eye.
II. Entire separation from them. The command is stringent and oft repeated.
1. In social intercourse. “Thou shalt make no covenant with them,” (Deuteronomy 7:2). Treaties were forbidden with Canaanites so gross in idolatry and infamous in custom and lust. Marriages were forbidden. “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them.” If a covenant was made with the people they would participate in idolatrous feasts, intermarry, join in worship, and be seduced into idolatry. The examples of Solomon and others in subsequent history prove the necessity and importance of this policy. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Life’s dearest ties are to be regulated by God’s will. We are to marry in the Lord. In character, custom and life, be “not conformed to this world.”
2. In religious worship. They were not to bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works (Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13). At first Israel were commanded to “quite break down their images; “then after they had displayed idolatrous leanings they were to destroy “altars and groves,” which would lead to the worship of the gods if retained. The entire apparatus of idol worship must be destroyed and forgotten (Deuteronomy 7:5).
III. Complete extermination of them. “Thou shall smite them and utterly destroy them.” Nations, like individuals may become incorrigible and hopeless in their moral condition. Iniquities often call for Divine interposition. The Canaanites defiled the land with their abominations (Leviticus 18:6; Leviticus 18:23), and God as Sovereign Disposer employed what agency He pleased to dispossess them. Let us take warning, remove everything that offends God and perpetuates idolatry. “Pull down the nests, and the rooks will disappear” was the maxim of Knox, this is the wisest policy, the only security from God’s anger. Drive from the heart, uproot and destroy in the world, every sinful custom; that the worship of God may be established and every abomination stamped out, “lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee.”
DESIGN OF ISRAEL’S EXALTATION.—Deuteronomy 7:4-6
They were to destroy the nations, because their existence, character and position were concerned. They were selected by God to be a holy and special people. This great honour and high privilege they were to keep and not cast away. Hence they were chosen and blessed with inheritance.
I. To preserve religious worship. “For they will turn away thy son from following Me.” To preserve their national existence all corrupting influences must be put away; for “sin is a reproach (disgrace) to any people” (Proverbs 14:34.) To keep their national faith, idolatry with all its monuments must be utterly exterminated. The land must be purged, every trace of impurity swept away, and the place consecrated to God and pure worship. Christians are called out of the world, to maintain conflict with its evils, to win and keep it for the habitation of God and His Spirit.
II. To maintain a special character. Israel was chosen to take a special place, to be “a peculiar people,” historically and spiritually, among the nations of the earth. It was needful therefore to elevate and preserve them by moral law, wonderful providence, and special policy.
1. As a holy people. “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God.” Holy by special covenant, and should be holy in personal character and conduct, separation from the world involves watchful care and constant dedication to God. Israelites were to be near to God as priests of other nations thought themselves to be. Christians are entitled to draw nigh and offer to God their gifts and allegiance. “Ye shall be unto Me a Kingdom of priests and a Holy nation (Exodus 19:6.)
2. As special witnesses for God. “A special people unto himself, for His glory, truth, and use.” Their value was not in themselves, hut in their position, virtues, and design. A nation is not to be estimated according to its wealth and ascendancy, but according to its moral worth and righteous deeds. What Israel was designed to be, Christians are now. “Ye are My witnesses saith the Lord,” to testify to His existence, mercy, and purpose. “This people have I formed for Myself; they show forth My praise” (virtues) Isaiah 43:21; “the praises (virtues) of Him that hath so called you” (1 Peter 2:9).
THE CHOSEN PEOPLE.—Deuteronomy 7:6-8
Moses is here referring to the ground or motive from which the election of Israel was originally made. Though it might have seemed suitable that the God of the universe should choose to Himself the mightiest nation of any, yet God had not so acted. He chose to Himself Israel, when as yet but a single family, or rather a single person, Abraham; though there were already numerous nations and powerful kingdoms in the earth.—Sp. Com.
I. The reason for the choice. God has always reasons, though not always assigned for what He does. They are given here negatively and positively.
1. Not numerical strength. “For ye were the fewest of all people.” They were but a handful of people till after the death of Joseph. Nations of the East were great, and populations enormous; but God’s choice depends not on size or appearance.
2. Not moral worth. They were no better than other people though they prided themselves in virtue and calling., and were taught by rabbis that they were holy above all nations, they often pursued perverse and unworthy conduct. God derived no advantage from them. They were “a stiff-necked and rebellious people.” Christians are not chosen on the ground of merit, foreseen repentance and faith, but “because it hath pleased the Lord to make them his people.”
3. But from free grace. (a) Pure love. He loved them because He would love them. A simple, foolish reason in the opinion of men. We love when there is something loveable in the person loved. Our love depends upon excitement without. God’s love is free, sovereign, and in spite of everything unworthy. (b) Divine faithfulness. “He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers.” God was a debtor to them on account of His promise, not through their conduct—a promise which He would perform, notwithstanding their sinfulness. “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham.”
II. The manifestation of the choice. The purpose was formed, the choice made, but had to be carried out and manifest in Israel’s history.
1. In their wonderful deliverance. “From the hand of Pharaoh, King of Egypt.” “Let my people go” was the demand. They could not serve God in Egyptian bondage. Only when they were free was it seen that they were God’s inheritance and choice.
2. In their holy character. If holy, they were to evince it by holy life and make their calling and election sure by separation from idolatry and consecration to God.
3. By hearty co-operation with God. “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord” (Deuteronomy 7:6), therefore work with Him in destroying His enemies and fulfilling His purpose. God’s purpose does not interfere with our responsibility, duty, and use of means.
III. The design of the choice. The motives which led to the election and redemption of Israel were beneficial to themselves and illustrative of God’s wisdom and glory. They were chosen to be holy and could only fulfil their mission by obedience to God. External separation must lead to spiritual devotion. They were made the depositories of God’s will. In their sacred rites and institutions, in their selection and history, God displayed His grace and prepared the world for His truth. “Neither the Egyptians, with all their wisdom,” says Tholuck, “nor the imaginative Indians, nor the vain and speculative Greeks, nor the haughty Romans could have received a revelation, or have been employed in this work without marring it.” “The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure.”
LESSONS FROM THE PAST.—Deuteronomy 7:8-11
Israel were constantly reminded of the wonders of God in the past deeds to which they owed their national existence, and which were fitted as distinct manifestations of love to impress their minds and incite to obedience. Solemn are the lessons taught by their history. We may live in the past and not only discern the mind of the philosopher, historian, and politician, but the mind of God.
I. The Grace of God to distinguish men. Israel were distinguished and blessed above others by divine love. Privileges and personal gifts, honours and distinctions are to be traced to soverign grace and not human merit. “For who maketh thee to differ (distinguisheth thee) (1 Corinthians 4:7) “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
II. The Power of God to deliver men. “Redeemed you out of the house of bondmen.” Israel were set free, guided and settled in the land, by a strong hand. This hand is not shortened, but delivers in sickness, dangers and trouble. No enemy, bondage, or chains, can retain God’s people. “Who delivered us from so great a death and doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet deliver.”
III. The faithfulness of God to encourage men. “Because he would keep the oath which he had sworn.” God will never disregard or forget His word. The promise may be set at naught, fulfilment long delayed, and His people severely tried; but the oath is taken and will be verified. He is the God of Amen, and we may ever trust Him. His veracity is written in miracle, tender forbearance, and covenant mercy. “God is not a man that He should lie; neither the Son of Man that He should repent” (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Timothy 2:13.)
IV. The providence of God to warn men. Providence is the school of life in which we discern God and His purpose. Its relations to men are personal, and its lessons various. We have—
1. A lesson of mercy. “He keeps covenant and mercy with them that love Him.” God’s mercy infinitely transcends His righteous anger, and is shown to “a thousand generations.” To enjoy this mercy we must love God and “keep his commandments.”
2. A lesson of justice. “Repayeth them that hate Him.” There is repayment or retribution in the government of God. The sinner cannot escape justice and sin go unpunished. This repayment is (a) personal “to his face.” The sinner himself will see and feel that he is smitten of God (Job 34:11). “I am visited of God,” cried a dying man. (b) Open “to his face,” may mean openly, manifestly, discerned by others to warn them. (c) Sudden. “He will not be slack.” Delay is not forgetfulness or winking at sin, but given to induce repentance. (d) Severe “to destroy.” God’s patience may be provoked, the day of grace may be lost, and vengeance may fail upon men suddenly, and that without remedy.
3. A lesson of instruction. “Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments.” If God thus deals with men, rewards them according to their works, take heed, be warned against rebellion and apostacy, and keep “His statutes.” “Behold the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
“For human weal, heaven husbands all events.”—Young.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 7:1-2. Gaining the inheritance.
1. By Divine guidance. “The Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land.” All inheritance, honour and position through God’s blessing.
2. By earnest co-operation with God. Israel must follow, “thou goest;” must fight, “cast out.” Then God would deliver them, and “they would utterly destroy them.” We must work with God to enter any position and succeed in any pursuit.
Deuteronomy 7:2-5. Israel ministers of destruction.
1. The people destroyed; an act which can only be reconciled with the Divine character, except on the assumption, that the gross idolatry and enormous wickedness of the Canaanites left no hope of repentance and amendment.
2. The monuments of idolatry destroyed. The Gods were deemed to be vanquished with the people whom they could no longer defend. There must be no rival with God in the human heart, in the Christian church, or in the world. All must be consecrated to Him.
Deuteronomy 7:4-6. Divine reasons for severity.
1. Human wickedness. Canaanites had filled up the measure of their iniquity.
2. The good of His people. Preserving their existence, by keeping them from danger; maintaining their holy character and position by removing snares to evil.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8. A special people.
1. In the impress of their character. “Thou art an holy people.”
2. In the privileges which they possessed. To whom pertaineth the adoption,” etc. (Romans 9:4).
3. In the prodigies by which they were defended. What safeguards and helps from God?
Deuteronomy 7:9. The faithful God. The God of Amen (Psalms 31:6). “The Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14) that “will not suffer His faithfulness to fail, nor alter the thing that is gone out of His lips” (Psalms 89:33), all His precepts, predictions, promises, menaces, being the issue of a most faithful and righteous will, void of the least insincerity or falsehood (1 Kings 8:24). Neither could any day or age produce one instance to the contrary.—Trapp.
Deuteronomy 7:7-11. Important truths. Election (Deuteronomy 7:7). Redemption (Deuteronomy 7:8). Grace (Deuteronomy 7:9). Justice (Deuteronomy 7:11). Law (Deuteronomy 7:11). God revealed indeeds. Deeds of wonder (Deuteronomy 7:8). Deeds of love (Deuteronomy 7:7). Deeds of faithfulness and mercy (Deuteronomy 7:9), and deeds of righteousness (Deuteronomy 7:10).
THE BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE.—Deuteronomy 7:12-16
As there was retribution for disobedience, so there would be rewards for obedience. Israel was God’s servant, and must render to their Ruler His just rights. “If ye hearken to these judgments.” If they would observe and keep them, great would be their prosperity, temporally and spiritually.
I. The source of these blessings. “He will love thee and bless thee.” Love is first, and love is last. God begins in love to us, and we should return love and obedience to Him (1 John 4:10; John 14:21.). In mercy “He sware unto thy fathers,” and in mercy he kept the oath. Change is impossible with Him, and fail He never can. History testifies to God’s love. His purpose to bless in Christ, like a thread of gold, runs through all ages.
II. The extent of these blessings. Prosperity would abound in all departments of personal, domestic, and religious life.
1. Temporal prosperity would be abundant. This is an object of legitimate desire, and held out as the promise of loyal obedience. (a) Freedom from personal sickness. “The Lord will take away from thee all sickness” (Deuteronomy 7:15). Sickness often results from sin, and might be overcome or prevented by a sober, godly life. Plagues and pestilence are Divine scourges for neglect of natural and spiritual laws. If Israel would walk in God’s ways, He would miraculously preserve them. The special “diseases of Egypt,” which, notwithstanding its even temperature and mildness, are indigenous and malignant, would not touch them. Let us thank God for healthy climate, but remember that only regard for physical and moral law will give health and happiness. (b) Increase of womb. “He will also bless the fruit of thy womb” (Deuteronomy 7:13). God would remember His promise to multiply them as the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea. (c) Increase of cattle (Deuteronomy 7:13). Nothing should be barren among them (Deuteronomy 7:14). Abortions, untimely births and barrenness in excess were considered signs of God’s anger, and special sacrifices were offered to prevent them. (d) Increase of fruit. Land would yield its increase. Corn and wine would be plentiful (cf. Leviticus 26:3-5; Leviticus 26:9-10; Exodus 23:25-26; Psalms 107:38).
2. Spiritual prosperity would be great. “Thou shalt be blessed above all people” (Deuteronomy 7:14). The mercy of Deuteronomy 7:12 means special favour. Whatever results from natural laws is bestowed by the Lawgiver. The blessings of bodily health, family increase, fruitful lands, and productive flocks, are modes of displaying God’s goodness, and should prompt to faithful service. “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.
III. The conditions on which these blessings are given. “If ye hearken to these judgments” (Deuteronomy 7:12). What a frail, feeble, and uncertain condition 1 some would say. But such are the terms of an all-wise God. He is faithful—can we be? Not of ourselves, only by his grace and good spirit. If Canaan had depended on the merit and valour of Israel, they could not have entered it. They obeyed God and gained the land. We cannot secure heaven and Divine favour, only by faith in Christ and obedience to His word. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in as, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
ENCOURAGEMENT IN DUTY.—Deuteronomy 7:16-21
With the thought that Israel would be strong and vigorous, by obedience to God, “Moses reverts with emphasis to the command to root out the Canaanites without reserve, and not to serve their gods, because they would be a snare to them (cf. Exodus 10:7); and then in Deuteronomy 7:17-26 he carries out still further the promise in Exodus 23:27-30, of the successful subjugation of the people through the assistance of the Lord, and sweeps away all the objections that a weak faith might raise to the execution of the divine command.”—Keil.
I. The enforcement of duty. “Thou shalt consume all the people,” Deuteronomy 7:16. They were utterly to extirpate them from the land, without the least pity for their persons or regard to their religion. We are not to consult our feelings but our duty; not to wait for more knowledge but to act on what we have. “To wait for God’s performance,” says Bishop Hall, “and do nothing, is to abuse that Divine Providence which will always so work as not to allow us to remain in activity.”
II. Fear in undertaking duty. “Thou shalt not be afraid of them (Deuteronomy 7:18). When God commands we hesitate, excuse or delay. “Sloth in conclusion proves laborious,” says Bacon. Fear springs.—
1. From overpowering numbers. “These nations are more than I.” Seven nations to supplant. “How can I dispossess them?” When we look at self and forget God we magnify dangers. “The soldier wastes his strength who fights with shadows.” “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
2. From weakness of heart. “If thou say in thine heart.” If the heart gives way, all strength is gone physically and spiritually. Weapons and numbers avail not without heart. If we forget God we shall lose courage and be afraid. “I will send a faintness into their hearts, and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them” (Leviticus 26:27-36.)
3. From lack of faith in God. God will help and maintain the right; why fear?” Trust in Him, and His strength becomes yours. “All things are possible to him that believes.”
“Our doubts are traitors;
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt it.”—Shakespeare.
III. Reasons for encouragement in the performance of duty. The Bible seeks to impress the minds of God’s people most strongly with a sense of boldness, faith and courage. God prepares them for meeting and overcoming anticipated evils. Many are the motives to drive away fear.
1. The exploits of God in the past. Remember, and “well remember, what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh” (Deuteronomy 7:18). The sublime deeds of Jehovah, the grandeurs of history must never, whatever else may be forgotten. What God has done he can do again. He can never change. Omnipotence is never exhausted. It is no strange thing for God to do wonders. He has always done them, hence ground for confidence. “So shall the Lord thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.”
2. The help of God in the present. “The Lord thy God is among you.” Faith can discover an invisible helper more than a match for all against us. “How many do you count me to be?” said an ancient general to his soldiers, despondingly asking, “How many are coming against us?” “A mighty God and terrible.”
3. The providence of God in their favour. Napoleon said providence was with the strongest battalion, but “God and one man are in the majority” very often. Israel were the fewest, yet had to destroy the strongest peoples. (a.) God would be for Israel, but against their foes (Deuteronomy 7:15). Not one could stand their onslaught. The Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.” (b) The hornet was their ally. “Thy God will send the hornet among them” (Deuteronomy 7:20), God musters many forces for his work. Locusts, flies, and hornets, are no insignificant helpers in the ranks of Jehovah. Insects have swarmed and swept mighty armies before them. Thus does God encourage. Wonders in the past and promises for the present; creatures great and little prove divine power to conquer. This energy the Gospel contains to-day. Banish guilty fears, sloth and forgetfulness of God. “Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you.”
THE ALMIGHTY HELPER.—Deuteronomy 7:21
This description of God is a terror to sinners, but an encouragement to Christians. His mighty presence is—
1. Unmerited. The aid we get from earthly friends is often a reciprocity of kindness—a discharge of obligation. But our goodness extends not to God. We have done nothing to deserve help.
2. Unexpected. In most extreme danger and when most unlikely, comes deliverance. “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” The place of fear and sorrow, becomes one of joy and triumph.
3. Singular. God’s methods are peculiar to himself. Events which appear to combine to work our ruin, bring our salvation. In the deliverance from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan God was terrible to his enemies.
4. Timely. We think He has forgotten or forsaken us if He appears not when we wish. But He knows better than we do when it is time for Him to work. “Too late,” can never be said of His mercy “A very present help in trouble.”
5. All-sufficient. Earthly friends fail. God is always among us, “a mighty God and terrible.” He conquers most formidable foes, rescues from the greatest dangers.” “The Lord your God is a God of gods and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and terrible.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. The command. Judgments possessed, heard, and kept. The word must be known and practised. “If a scholar have his rules laid before him, and he forget them as fast as he read them, he will never learn,” says T. Watson.
2. The promise. “If” we do our part God will do His. Blessings seem to be suspended on our obedience. “Prove me herewith.”
Deuteronomy 7:13. Triple blessings. “Love thee, bless thee, and multiply thee.”
Deuteronomy 7:13-14. Religion and Material Prosperity.
1. An indication of its nature (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8.)
2. An argument for its reception (Deuteronomy 28:5-8.)
3. A proof of wisdom and goodness in its author.
Deuteronomy 7:16. Extirpation.
1. Commanded and can be done.
2. Needful and must be done, to secure their own safety, religion, and the favour of God.
3. If left undone, “that will be a snare to thee.”
Deuteronomy 7:17-19. Anticipated fears.
1. Natural. How apt to meet troubles before they come! What shall I do?” “How can I get through?” and “what will become of me?” are common questions.
2. Weakening. Nothing more disheartens than looking within ourselves, and measuring God by ourselves. “Wonderful is the case of boldness in civil business. What first? boldness. What second and third? boldness” (Bacon).
3. Groundless. “God sometimes seems to say to us,” says Cecil, “if within and without, you have ever so much cause for despondency, yet do not limit Me.” “With us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.”
Deuteronomy 7:18-19. Remember. A good memory is very helpful and useful.
1. It is a great means of knowledge, for what signifies your reading or hearing, if you remember nothing.
2. It is a means of faith (1 Corinthians 15:2.)
3. It is a means of comfort. If a poor Christian in distress could remember God’s promises they would inspire him with new life; but when they are forgotten, his spirits sink.
4. It is a means of thankfulness.
5. It is a means of hope; for “experience worketh hope” (Romans 5:4), and the memory is the storehouse of experience.
6. It is a means of repentance; for how can we repent or mourn for what we have forgotten?
7. It is a means of usefulness When one spark of grace is truly kindled in the heart, it will quickly endeavour to heat others also.—R. Steele.
Deuteronomy 7:21. Thy God. Jehovah, maker of worlds, but the God only of His people. Thy God by purpose, covenant, promise, and performance. Among you the centre of all knowledge, trust, devotion and help. He sees and sustains, defends and comforts. Let us extol his power by which He works deliverance! “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.” God’s presence and power,
1. A source of hope in fear.
2. Of help in weakness.
3. Of guidance in perplexity.
4. Of triumph in conflict.
THE CONQUEST OF CANAAN.—Deuteronomy 7:16-24
The land was to be taken and the kings utterly destroyed. But the specific aid and the specific method are described—
I. The conquest was most difficult. So difficult that Israel thought they could not accomplish it. They were few, their enemies many; they were strangers to the country; the Canaanites knew every field of it; they were unskilled in the art and without much experience in the practice of war. “These nations are mightier than I; how can I dispossess them?” We cannot, but God never sends us on warfare at our own charge. To be valourous soldiers we must banish distrust.
II. The conquest was supernaturally gained. God had helped them in every case and thus far brought them safely. He could yet display all mighty power and work “signs and wonders.” His presence and providence are with us, if we only obey and work with Him.” Thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction (Deuteronomy 7:23).
III. The conquest was gradual. “Little by little; thou mayest not consume them at once.”
1. This was an evidence of kindness to Israel. Wild animals might increase too much if the land was suddenly depopulated and become a source of danger and trouble to Israel “lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.”
2. This is a law of Divine grace. “Little by little” do we conquer sin and self, the world and its temptations. Little by little do we gain men for Christ and succeed in Christian effort.
3. This is a law of God’s providence. Great undertakings demand patient thought; are frequently interrupted and only succeed by gradual progress and successive order. Thus does God teach “line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.
GOD’S PEOPLE INVINCIBLE.—Deuteronomy 7:23-24
God had shown that Israel had no need to be afraid. He would help by His presence, power, and providence, until all left and hidden would be destroyed. To inspire them with courage, the promise is repeated and success is pledged. If they will only obey they will conquer. God’s people are invincible.
I. On account of the warfare in which they are engaged. Israel’s mission seemed cruel, but it was the cause of God and for the welfare of humanity. “A good cause gives a stout heart.” Christian warfare is a Divine cause. “Fight the good fight of faith.”
“Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.”—Shakespeare.
II. On account of the enthusiasm which inspires them. “There shall no man be able to stand before thee.” Cromwell’s Ironsides fought for liberty, truth, and God. God would inspire His people with wonderful courage, so that they would not only pursue but overcome. A handful would be more than a match for a regiment. Five of you shall chase an hundred,” etc. (Leviticus 27:7-8.)
III. On account of the leader who commands them. Great generals make good soldiers. Cӕsar often restored his rebellious army to obedience, made them attached to his person and devoted to his cause. Christ, “the Captain of our salvation” is merciful, mighty and victorious, never lost, and never will lose a battle. “If God be for us who can be against us” (Romans 8:31; Romans 8:37; Isaiah 41:11).
THE CURSED THING.—Deuteronomy 7:25-26
The idols of Canaan were devoted to destruction, under the curse of God and if preserved they might entice to sins, therefore Israel were to destroy them by fire with their ornaments and supports.
I. Idolatry is a cursed thing. The worship of gods and the worship of gold; all superstitions and sins are abominable things which the Lord hates.
II. This cursed thing may become a snare. “Lest thou be snared therein.”
1. By gratifying covetousness. “Thou shalt not desire the silver or the gold that is on them.” God may be served from motives of gain. Gold and silver may tempt and covetous lusts may endanger the soul.
2. By transforming character like itself. Man becomes like the object he loves. The love of the world will make us worldly; the love of money will make us avaricious. Sin in its gilded and attractive forms must be utterly detested, for loving begets likeness.
3. By bringing under the curse of God. Achan “took of the accursed thing; and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel” (Joshua 7:1-21; Joshua 6:17-18; Judges 8:27.) We cannot use for our good what God has put under anathema.
III. This snare it is our duty to remove. “Thou shalt utterly abhor it.” We are to hate what God hates and forsake what he forbids.
1. We are not to desire but to detest it.
2. Not to bring it into the house but burn it in the fire. Thus are we not only to oppose, but detest and destroy all idolatry and wickedness. The worship of man or reason, of art or mammon must find no place in our hearts and homes. We must avoid the very appearance of evil. Our service must be disinterested and holy. “There shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 7:23-24. Great reverses predicted. Delivered. Destroyed with a mighty destruction. Kings destroyed. Destruction severe and universal. Name destroyed. “Thou mayest choose,” says Bishop Pilkington, “whether thou wilt be remembered to thy praise or to thy shame.” “The name of the wicked shall rot” (Proverbs 10:7).
Deuteronomy 7:25. Snared. As the fowler catcheth birds, and the hunter wild beasts in their snares and traps, so shall these Canaanites catch you by their familiarity and commerce, and draw you to participate in their sins and plagues.—Trapp.
Deuteronomy 7:25-26. Images burned, and nothing kept.
1. To satisfy curiosity.
2. To excite pity.
3. To gratify lust.
4. To lead astray.
Idol gods. Made (images graven), adorned (gold and silver on them), upheld (in the house), cursed and uprooted. Feeling towards them. Utterly detest—utterly abhor—destroy and burn. Learn—
1. That God will not accept divided worship.
2. That in mixing with the world we are in danger of being estranged from God.
3. That when estranged from God, and brought under his curse, the punishment will be severe.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 7
Deuteronomy 7:1-5. No covenant with them. Court not the society of worldly persons, but “come out from among them and be separate.” If duty calls us there, be with them as physicians, not companions; as monitors, not friends; walk as among snares, and as Cecil advises, “transact business with them like a person in a shower of rain, staying no longer than is indispensably necessary.”
Deuteronomy 7:6-8. Chosen thee. That separation from other nations in which the holiness of the Jewish nation chiefly consisted (Exodus 19:5-6; Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 26:18-19) was not spiritual, resulting from rectitude of heart and a correspondent deportment, but merely external, derived from certain sacred rites and ceremonies, different from or opposite to those from other nations. The glory of the Divine wisdom, no less than of Divine goodness and grace, was manifested in the choice of the Israelites for the important purposes contemplated by their separation. (Jamieson). Judaism was amonst the idolatrous nations of antiquity like a oasis in a desert, clearly defined and isolated; separated and enclosed by a rigid moral and ceremonial law.—Schaff.
Deuteronomy 7:8-11. Covenant and mercy. The Jewish scheme proceeded on exactly the same principles as the general system of Divine government over the world, with this difference; that the Supreme Jehovah, the Immediate Sovereign as well as tutelary God of the Hebrew nation, undertook to dispense this as well as every other species of reward and punishment, by an immediate and extraordinary provision, in which justice should be tempered with abundant mercy, confining the providential and temporal punishment for the parent’s crimes (as in the captivity) to the third and fourth generation; while it encouraged virtue and piety, by the assurance of a reward, similar in kind, but infinitely superior in degree, and which under the common course of events could not be hoped for; promising to extend the blessings of parental faith and obedience (as in the case of Abraham), to the thousandth generation of those who loved God.—Graves on Pent).
Deuteronomy 7:12-16. Bless thee. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the new (Bacon). In the day of good be thou in good. When God gives thee prosperity, do thou enjoy it with a cheerful and thankful heart (Bp. Reynolds). God’s blessing upon our hearts, families and churches.
“My stock lies dead, and no increase
Doth my dull husbandry improve;
O let thy graces without cease
Drop from above.”
Deuteronomy 7:17-22. Afraid. Ills that never happened have mostly made men wetched, (Tupper.)
1. Most of our difficulties arise from discussing what belongs to God.
2. God does not reason with us, but replies to our suspicions reasoning by displaying anew the love of His heart and the power of His arm, (Bonar).
Deuteronomy 7:21. With thee. When the Crusaders encamped before Jerusalem, a terrible struggle ensued. The Saracens possessed the city, bore down upon them in countless numbers, and it seem as if the Christian army would lose the battle. All at once, we are told that a joyful cry rang through the ranks of the crusaders. “St. James is with us! He fights on our side.” “In the excitement of the conflict, some of them fancied they saw the apostle in the clouds advancing to help them. It gave them new courage. They rushed forward with energy which could not be withstood and the battle was won.
Deuteronomy 7:22. Little and little. Birds build nests straw by straw. “Euripides the Greek tragedian, was very slow in composing his excellent dramas. One day a poetaster met him and began to rally him on his tardiness, adding that he himself had written 100 verses in three days, while Euripides had only written three. “Ah (said Euripides) but there is this difference, your 300 verses perish in three days, while my three will survive 300 years.” (Brewer.)
Deuteronomy 7:23-24. No man able to stand before thee. Luther’s song of confidence “God is our refuge and strength.” Let God be thy love and thy fear, and He will be also thy refuge. “The firmest thing in this lower world is a believing soul.” (Leighton). When Luther was going into the presence of Cardinal Cajetan, to answer for his heretical opinions, one of the Cardinal’s underlings, insultingly asked him where he would find a shelter, if his patron, the Elector of Saxony, should desert him? “Under the shield of heaven,” was the bold reply.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20