The possession of the land of Canaan demanded great courage from the Israelites because it involved the removal of seven dangerous nations that stood in their way. It was actually God’s intention that they should “utterly destroy” them (Deut. 7:1-2), causing some people to question this harsh command. After all, how do we explain a loving and merciful God having His people to obliterate several nations from the earth (even including their children and little ones)? As we ponder the answer to that question, there are at least three things that must be kept in mind.
(1) The destruction of these nations was not just to make a place for Israel, but it was actually God’s judgment upon them. Deut. 9:4 makes that plain by containing the following statement: “But for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee.” The peoples of Canaan were in a very degraded condition morally, having progressed so far in sin that they needed to be removed from the possession of the land. (2) The Canaanites were hardened idolaters and the pollution of heathen worship threatened to weaken the resolve of God’s people in their devotion to Jehovah. Since God knew that this evil would be a constant source of temptation to His people (Deut. 20:17-18), the destruction of these nations was for the self-preservation of Israel. (3) The deaths of the children and little ones can actually be viewed as a merciful act on God’s part toward them. As adults they would have also given themselves to idolatry, so the Lord simply took them out of a bad situation and rescued them from eternal damnation.
I believe that there is a spiritual principle in all of this that we need to understand today! As “spiritual Israel” (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 2:29), the church, our warfare also involves enemies that must be opposed if we expect to possess our heavenly Canaan (Heb. 4:1). Our warfare, however, is not a carnal one (we don’t seek to harm anyone in a physical sense), but it is spiritual in nature (John 18:36). Yes, there is a sense in which the church is facing some dangerous “nations” that we need to be opposing. If we are not careful, these “nations” will invade the borders of Zion and create havoc in our lives, destroying the church from within. Let’s notice a few of them . . .
Here is something that we must guard against because it is the very opposite of what God demands of us. [The following definitions demonstrate why this “nation” is so destructive: Stagnate- “To be or become stagnant; to fail to progress or develop”/ Stagnant- “Not moving or flowing; motionless; foul from standing still; stale; lacking liveliness; sluggish”] When we take a really good look at our spiritual lives, can we honestly say that we are on the move, growing in faith and character, and pressing toward our heavenly goal (Phil. 3:13-14)? Or is it actually the case that we have reached a point of stagnation in our service to God?
It is said that one time Jack the Frog got stuck in a rut while he was playing with a friend. After jumping and jumping and trying to get himself out, his friend finally went to get some help. When the friend returned, he was shocked to find Jack sunning himself on a log. “Jack,” his friend inquired, “who helped you out of the rut?” “No one,” said Jack. When he was asked how such was possible, Jack responded, “A car was coming and I had to get out!” Likewise, when we find ourselves in a spiritual rut, we will not have the incentive to repent and start moving in a different direction unless we first see our need to do so. That need becomes obvious when we realize that it is our spiritual survival that is at stake (Rev. 2:4-5).
This “nation” often occupies territory in our lives because of apathy– a lack of interest and not being zealous of the things of God (Tit. 2:14). It can also be the result of resigning ourselves to failure, so we simply accept mediocrity as our fate. Wasn’t that the problem with the one talent man in Matt. 25:14-30? His real problem was not only slothfulness, but a lack of courage and faith to face up to his duty. If we have a problem with lukewarmness, the Lord tells us what we need to do . . . “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19).
Since the church is only as pure as those who make it up, each member has the responsibility to keep himself “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Sometimes it is through contamination that impurities find their way into our lives and even spreads among brethren. This suggests an influencing for evil that comes through contact with something that possesses a polluting effect. Remember that we are warned that “evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33/ASV).
Also, when it comes to contamination, don’t underestimate what we might view as “little things.” Simply a bad attitude, for example, can contaminate us like radioactive material, causing the problem to spread into other areas of life. Did you know that the famous Cuckoo bird never builds its own nest? When it finds another nest with eggs in it and no mother bird around, it quickly lands, lays its eggs and flies away. The Thrush, whose nest has been invaded, comes back and hatches the eggs. What happens then? Among four little thrushes, one large cuckoo hatches and a battle begins. As the cuckoo grows even larger, he eventually throws the smaller birds out of their nest. That is a perfect picture of how sin often works! It enters into our lives, deceiving us into thinking that it is a small and insignificant matter, but then it grows like a cancer until it consumes us. Indeed, it is a dangerous thing to ever “give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27) because all he needs is a foothold to bring hurtful things into our lives.
When the church is viewed as just another denomination, people fail to appreciate it for being the divine institution that it is. That is exactly what is taking place, as we see the efforts of some to “denominationalize” the church. However, if we truly view it as the Lord’s church (Matt. 16:18), we will understand the need of following the divine pattern in all things pertaining to it (1 Cor. 11:2). Indeed, when we borrow from denominations their unscriptural practices, the church is robbed of its distinctiveness and other glorious features that make it the unique organization that it is. How sad!
Some have drifted so far from the truth into ultra- liberalism that they have no legitimate claim to any connection to the Lord’s church. For one thing, they really don’t believe that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). One such man is on record stating that baptism is essential to salvation “if a person knows that God wants him to be baptized.” What a pitiful position! I could just as well argue that repentance is essential to salvation if a person knows that God wants him to repent. No, repentance is necessary because God has commanded it of all men (Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3). Likewise, baptism is essential because the Lord has commanded it as a condition of salvation in His gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:48). Just as God demanded that Israel separate themselves from those idolatrous nations (Deut. 7:5-6), that same principle of peculiarity applies to the church (1 Pet. 2:9).
Let us beware of these dangerous “nations” facing the church today!
Article by: Billy Dickinson