The Destruction of Paganism
Deuteronomy 7 contains Moses’ instructions to the Israelites concerning their relationship to the other nations in Canaan, described as “seven nations greater and stronger than you” (7:1). These nations posed a spiritual and moral threat to the Israelites. The Israelites were forbidden from making any covenant or alliance with these foreign nations (7:2). The making of a covenant or contract would have required that each party take an oath in the name of their respective deity. Included in the prohibition against covenant making with the inhabitants of Canaan was the marriage covenant. The Israelites were prohibited from intermarrying with their pagan neighbors (7:3). The reason for this prohibition is given in verse 4: “For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods.” The danger of apostasy was a real threat. The consequences of Solomon’s intermarriage with foreign women in 1 Kings 11:1-13 proves the necessity and importance of this policy. John Maxwell comments, “If a child of God marries a child of the devil, the child of God is going to have trouble with the father-in-law!” Moses also instructed the Israelites to utterly destroy everything associated with idolatry (7:5). They were to destroy every appearance of evil. God would tolerate no rival or anything that would perpetuate idolatry.
Practical Consideration: We must not tolerate evil. The Israelites were instructed by Moses to utterly destroy the inhabitants and idols of the Canaanites. They were to “show no favor to them” (7:1). James Wolfendale comments, “What we tolerate we begin to pity and love. Evils most repulsive at first become attractive afterwards.” The Israelites were to utterly destroy every idolatrous item (7:5) that nothing remain to rouse their curiosity and lead them astray.
God’s Choice of Israel
Moses warned the Israelites against fraternizing with the pagan nations in Canaan (7:1-5) because Israel had been chosen by God to be a holy people (7:6). The Israelites were to live lives distinctively different than that of their pagan neighbors. God chose Israel not because of her strength of numbers or greatness (7:7) but because of His love for them and to honor His promise to Abraham (7:8). That love was expressed in their redemption from Egypt (7:8). Verses 9 and 10 address both the privilege and price of being a chosen people. The privilege of being a chosen people in faithful relationship to God would extend to generations (7:9). The price of being a chosen people characterized by unfaithfulness also was great, including severe judgment (7:10). Better to obey God and remain faithful to Him (7:11).
Practical Consideration: God’s people are to live holy lives. God demands and expects His people to live holy lives. Those who belong to God should live lives that affirm and testify to their relationship to God. There must be a significant line of demarcation between the lives of believers and unbelievers.
The Blessings of Obedience
Moses spoke to the people concerning the blessings of obedience. Verse 12 contains a simple three-step manner in which to please God: “listen … keep … do.” Those who listen to and observe God’s word will experience God’s love (7:13), God’s blessings (7:13-14, evidenced in the multiplication of human, animal, and plant life), God’s healing (7:15a) and protection from diseases (7:15b), and military victory (7:16).
These verses are a speech of encouragement to warriors. Moses understood the things that concern people who are going into battle. The first battle a warrior must fight is in his heart and mind … it is the battle against fear. Moses told the people to not be afraid (7:18) as they faced nations greater than them (7:17) on the battlefield. Moses told the Israelites that understanding several things would calm their fears.
First, by remembering the way in which God miraculously delivered them from Egypt (7:18-19). Their deliverance was secured by God’s “mighty hand and … outstretched arm” (7:19). God would employ that same mighty arm in their defense in battle (7:19). James Wolfendale notes, “What God has done He can do again. He can never change. Omnipotence is never exhausted.”
Practical Consideration: Remembering past victories can give us the confidence to face future battles. Memory can be one of the most powerful weapons we can employ in the face of present difficulties and future challenges. It can dispel fear and drive away doubt. It can inspire confidence and ignite action. Remembering past victories over difficulties and challenges can remind us of God’s ability to help us deal with anything that touches our lives. The writer of Hebrews stated, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We can be certain that the same God who helped us meet the challenges of yesterday will help us today and tomorrow.
Second, by being aware that God would go before them in battle and deliver the enemy into their hand (7:20-24). John Maxwell comments that the “hornet” (7:20) that God sent against the Israelite’s enemies was the emotion of fear which brings with it the companions of panic, depression, and discouragement.
Practical Consideration: God never intended for us to face life’s battles alone. God did not lead the people to the threshold of the Promised Land only to send them in to fight the inhabitants on their own. God did not say, “Good luck, I hope you can beat those guys in Canaan.” God promised to go before His people and with His people.
Third, by maintaining a proper understanding of God (7:21). Moses referred to God as “a great and awesome God” (7:21). God was certainly greater and stronger than their enemies. The Israelites needed to focus on God’s power rather than that of their enemies. James Wolfendale comments, “When we look at self and forget God we magnify dangers.”
Practical Consideration: Problems are big only when our God is small. Moses referred to God as “a great and awesome God” (5:21). It is not possible to keep difficulties and challenges in perspective when our view of God is puny. There is absolutely nothing we will ever face in life that is bigger than God. He is bigger than anything we will ever face. He is better equipped than we are to deal with the things that touch our lives. He is able to bring beauty out of the things that touch our lives.
Fourth, by not growing weary in the face of their problems. Moses told the people that their enemies would be dealt with “little by little” (7:22). There were numerous battles to fight in the Promised Land. Someone has said that problems are like cows, noting that the most difficult thing about milking cows is that they never stay milked. The conquest of Canaan would not happen overnight.
Practical Consideration: Life by the inch is a cinch! Someone has noted that life by the inch is a cinch, but life by the yard is hard. Moses reminded the people that the conquest of Canaan would not happen overnight. They would fight and then settle on the land secured by their victory … and then fight and settle again until the land was conquered. Every small victory would contribute to the larger objective of conquering the land. Canaan would be conquered by the inch.
Fifth, by not tolerating anything that had the potential to turn their hearts away from God (7:25-26). The Israelites were to thoroughly destroy every idol they encountered in their conquest of the Promised Land.