“Love’s Covenant Implications” – Deuteronomy 7:1-26

July 23rd, 2017

Dt. 7:1-26

“Love’s Covenant Implications”

Aux Text: 2 Cor 6:14-18

Call to Worship: Selected verses from Psalm 106

 

Service OrientationGod adores His covenant people.  He will protect them at all costs.  And their faith, obedience, and affection for Him, in light of His love; will serve to bring inconceivable blessings to their lives.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. — 2 Corinthians 6:17-18

 

Background Information:

  • God allowed the people of Israel to remain in bondage in Egypt until the lives of the people of the Promised Land deteriorated so much into sin and depravity that they were no longer able to be redeemed.
  • God freed the Israelites from Egypt so they could be a nation of priests to show the rest of the world Who God is and instruct them in His ways. They were to keep themselves pure, holy and righteous to fulfill this mission.  Anyone, from any nation could join them in this mission provided they were willing to forsake their old ways and follow Yahweh.
  • God commanded the Israelites to destroy all the inhabitants of the Promised Land who were irredeemably evil. Any survivors would become a snare to the people of Israel in future generations.   Israel failed to follow God’s commands and destroy everyone and future generations paid a horrible price because of the evil influence those evil survivors had on the Israelites.
  • The reason why God is so urgent, harsh and demanding in His executing judgment against those who refused to conform to the Laws and worship of God is because the consequences are so urgent, harsh and demanding.
  • Deuteronomy 7 presents one of the most problematic, if not offensive, texts in all of Scripture. While early church fathers tended to interpret Yahweh’s charge to eliminate the Canaanites allegorically, today many treat the policies prescribed here and in chapter 20 as textual fossils from a primitive time, when ethical and religious ideals had not risen to the level of later prophets and were certainly inferior to the ethic espoused in the NT by Jesus (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27, 35).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 205)
  • Deuteronomy 6 stresses the importance of a proper relationship with God. Deuteronomy 7 gives instructions concerning Israel’s relationship to the other nations in Canaan.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 127)
  • Because the herem wars are unique, never-to-be-repeated events, we need to exercise extra caution when applying this chapter to daily life. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 295)
  • The heart of this chapter is verses 1-11. Here Israel is told strongly, in various ways, to have nothing to do with the peoples of the land and their customs (vv. 1-5) because they are a people set apart to the Lord (v. 6).  That rationale, however, opens up the possibility of all sorts of chauvinistic arrogant misunderstandings; so verses 7-11 clarify the meaning of that election, giving both the reasons for and the implications of Israel’s special place.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 111)
  • He highlights the strength of the enemy with five expressions: (1) the nations are many, (2) they are the same nations that had faced their ancestors; (3) they are seven nations (a literary figure representing the totality of the population); (4) they are more numerous; (5) and they are stronger than Israel.  This is a frank assessment of the challenge facing his people (cf. V. 17).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 207)
  • (v. 1) Deuteronomy emphasizes that the nations to be dispossessed are “more numerous/greater and mightier” than Israel (v. 17; 4:38; 9:1; 11:23). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 332)
  • (v. 1) God’s original promise to Abraham specified that his descendants would in time possess the land of Canaan, a term that in general use describes the land west of the Jordan River. However, because the Amorites had resisted the progress of Israel, God had determined to add their territory to the original land grant to the patriarchs.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 42)
  • (vss. 1-2) The Hittites are described in the table of nations as descendants of Canaan (Gn 10:15), and at the beginning of Joshua’s career the Lord promised to give Israel “all the Hittite country” (Josh 1:4). The great Hittite empire reached its peak about 1900 B.C. at a location considerably north of Palestine, but it’s possible that Hittites later migrated south to Canaan, or that the term “Hittite” is a broad, loosely defined term.  Egyptian texts mention the Girgashites as allies of the Hittites.  Gn 10:16 names them as descendants of Canaan and Josh 24:11 locates them west of the Jordan river.  The OT uses the names Amorites and Canaanites in a general way as a broad designation for ancient Near Eastern peoples.  The Perizzites seem to have lived in unwalled villages on both sides of the Jordan river, and Josh 17:15 says they lived in forest land.  The Hivites seem to have lived mostly in the north.  According to Josh 9:7, 17 they lived in four confederate cities, one of which was Gibeon.  The Jebusites were a warlike people who occupied the hill country near Jerusalem.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 74-5)
  • (v. 2) The Lord will accomplish what he says he will, but he uses the means he chooses. In the conquest of Canaan, the Israelite army is the usual instrument.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 70)
  • (v. 2) C.H.W. Brekelmans, in an extended study of this phenomenon (herem), has made a good case for the conclusion that historically the ban was imposed in only three cases of offensive wars–Nm 21:1-4; Josh 6-7; and 1 Sm 15. (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 41)
  • (v. 2) The idea was not confined to Israel, but is found, for example, in the inscription on the Moabite Stone, in which King Mesha boasts that he subjected the city of Nebo to the herem, in that case a “devotion,” or sacrifice, to the god Chemosh. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 88)
  • (v. 3) This prohibition was not on ethnic grounds alone; mixed marriages were not in themselves out of bounds for Israelites. Moses himself had a Cushite wife (Nm 12:1), and a later law in Deuteronomy allowed an Israelite to take a wife from among captives of war (21:10-14).  What was ruled out here was the kind of intermarrying that involved the social bonding of families and joint religious rituals (something that the circumstances of 21:12f. clearly did not include).  Since the prohibition in verse 3 follows so closely after verse 2b it might also be forbidding intermarriage as an adjunct to the making of treaties, a practice for which Solomon was later condemned (1 Kgs 11; cf. Neh 13:26).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 110)
  • (v. 4) What He says, however, as to taking vengeance without delay, does not seem to accord with other passages of Scripture, in which He declares Himself to be slow to anger, kind, and long-suffering. Besides, it seems also to be contradicted by experience, since He does not immediately hasten to inflict punishment, but proceeds slowly, so as to compensate by His severity for the slowness with which He acts.  But we must remember what He says in Ps 40:4, that a thousand years in His sight are but as a single day; and consequently, when we think that He delays, He is, in His infinite wisdom, hastening as much as is necessary.  He seems, indeed, to take no notice for a time, that He may thus invite men to repent; but still He declares that He will not delay, but that He will come suddenly, like a whirlwind, to hasten His judgments, lest the ungodly should grow drowsy from their security.  Let us, therefore, learn quietly and patiently to wait for the fit season of His vengeance.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 226-7)
  • (v. 5) From about 750 B.C. and 800 B.C. respectively we have references to “Asherah of YHWH” from Kuntillet Ajrud (ca. Forty miles south of Kadesh Barnea) and from Khirbet el-Qom, nine miles west of Hebron. This plethora of cultic female imagery and goddesses, along with potentially sexually charged sacred stones, drove the need for the biblical authors and Israel to contend against seductive and tempting religious objects.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 462)
  • (v. 5) Canaanite worship included the most demoralizing practices of the time, such as sacred prostitution, child sacrifice, and snake worship. The “sacred stones” Moses mentioned were probably a representation of Baal, the male fertility god the Canaanites worshiped.  The “Asherah poles” symbolized the female fertility goddess Asherah.  Archaeologists at Megiddo, for example, have uncovered a large altar, built about 1900 B.C., six feet high and 29 feet in diameter, with stone steps leading to the top of it.  Beside it stood a stone pillar (perhaps the symbol for Baal) and nearby was a post-hole in which archaeologists suggest an Asherah pole was fixed.

Because Baal worship joined the desire to control the forces of nature with unbridled sexual sins, it offered an uncommonly seductive temptation to Israel.  The urge to “do as the locals did” must have been powerful for God’s people.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 75-6)

  • (v. 5) Upright stone pillars were masculine fertility symbols, and Asherim were feminine fertility symbols, either trees or wooden poles. Once Israel became settled in the land, people were not to erect pillars or place Asherim beside Yahweh’s altar (16:21-22).  An Asherah next to Yahweh’s altar would make the Canaanite goddess Yahweh’s consort.  This indignity appears to have occurred during the monarchy.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 335)
  • (v. 5) The antecedent of “them” (v. 5) is the “many nations” of v. 1. “Destroy them totally” and “show them no mercy” (v. 2) are explicated more fully by “break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire” (v. 5).  These objects of Canaanite religious worship were to be destroyed by means proper to their structure.  The altars of earth and stone were to be broken down; the sacred stones smashed (broken to pieces); the Asherah poles, whether live trees or wooden poles, cut down; and the idols burned up.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 70)
  • (v. 7) Normally it would be the most numerous people that would be assigned directly to the ruler: “A numerous people is the glory of a king” (Prv 14:28); he would assign the other peoples to be various army commanders.  But the lord chose you even though you are the smallest.  (The Rubin JPS Miqra’ot Gedolot, Commentators’ Bible: Dt, 53)
  • (vss. 9-10) As this text speaks about the faithfulness of God with the language and expressions of the second commandment in verses 9-10, it brings one up against the hard fact that this faithfulness means both the Lord’s keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who keep covenant in return and a requiting of those who hate God–that is, who do not keep the commandments. (In Deuteronomy love and hatred of God are both expressed by one’s decisions and actions viz. the commandments.)  God is reliable and faithful, not simply to Israel but to the Lord’s purpose with Israel and to the relationship.  The disobedience-hatred of any within Israel thwarts the intention of God to create a faithful community and a righteous way in the world.  So in this relationship there is a negative (judgment) dimension as well as a positive dimension.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 113-4)
  • (v. 10) Verse 10 uses startling language to describe those Israelites who were, or would be in the future, disobedient to God’s will; they are said to “hate him.” Here, as often, the Bible puts things in stark black-and-white terms; if one does not love, one hates–the matter is as simple as that.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 56)
  • (v. 13) The underlying point is, once again, that Yahweh alone is the true God. The issue for Israelites in the land of Canaan was precisely this:  who is the God who has power to “give” in this place?  And the answer in practice for many Israelites was Baal, and the other gods known by the Canaanites.  Baal, who was the true giver of “the grain, wine and oil” (the same trio as here, standing for fertility in general; Hos 2:7-9 [9-11]).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 160)
  • (vss. 16-17) Verse 16 is transitional, bringing the preceding conversation to a conclusion with a plea for decisive action against the Canaanites and setting the stage for the response expressed in verse 17. Employing vocabulary different from verses 1-5, Moses calls on his people to destroy (lit., “to consume, eat”) all the peoples whom Yahweh delivers into their hands.  Again he warns against letting sentimentality interfere with the grim resolve to execute the divine mandate:  “your eyes shall not pity them” (pers. Trans.).  The concluding command, “do not serve their gods,” recognizes the seductive pull of the entire system of fertility worship, which promises life but will deliver death (cf. 12:30).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 214)
  • (v. 18) Significantly, the premise of the present speech is that, even as they stand in Moab, and with the example of Egypt as well as of the defeat of the Transjordanian kings behind them (2:26-3:7), they continue to fear the nations (19b). The folly of such fear, and thus of the failure to trust in God, is brought out with ironic force in v. 21, which shows that the reason not to fear enemies is that it is Yahweh himself who is “terrible,” or to be feared.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 161)
  • (vss. 18-20) In verses 18b-20 Moses encourages his audience with two principal points: remember what Yahweh has done for you in the past (vv. 18b-19), and recognize that Yahweh is with you in the present (v. 20).  In reminding the Israelites of Yahweh’s past actions, Moses echoes what we have heard before in 4:34 and 6:22.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 215)
  • (v. 22) However, to prevent his hearers from imagining that all they need to do is stand passively by and watch (Ex 14-15), Moses adds a series of caveats to his promises of divine involvement. (1) Although Yahweh will clear away the Canaanites, he will not do so in a single moment, but “little by little” (v. 22).  He recognizes that the Israelites presently lack both the resources to eliminate them quickly and the population to occupy all the land that has been promised (cf. Ex 23:30).  The elimination of the population all at once would create a vacuum leading to a dangerous increase in the number of wild animals–presumably involving both scavenging creatures like jackals and more aggressive wolves and lions that actually threaten the Israelites (cf. 2 Kgs 17:24-26).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 216)

 

Please consult the HFM sermon outline from 2-26-17 on-line for more information on the moral, ethical and theological considerations for this doctrine of herem.

 

The questions to be answered are . . . Why is God, Whose essential attribute is love, apparently so out of character here?   What is He trying to communicate to Moses, ancient Israel and ultimately to us His people?

 

Answers: God loves us far too much to allow us to be less than He ordained for us to be.  God desires to protect us His beloved so we can be all He ordained for us to be.  If we will reciprocate His love and concern for us, He will allow us to enjoy inconceivable blessings.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Blessings

 

What are we to learn from Deuteronomy chapter 7?:

I-  God really, really, really, really, really loves His people; with a holy unique love so they can become all He created and designed them to be.  (Dt 7:6-9, 22-23 see also: Dt 4:37; 14:2; 23:5; Ps 103:13; Jer 31:3; Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8-10; 8:28-39; Eph 2:4-5; Col 3:12; Ti 3:4; 1 Jn chps 3-5)

 

To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God:  because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labor to make us lovable.  (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 41)

 

This connotation of love as exclusive loyalty no doubt lies behind the metaphor of marriage used in Hosea to express the covenant relationship.  Yet neither in Hosea nor in Deuteronomy can love be evacuated of its emotive aspect.  Hos 11:1-4, 8-9 powerfully conveys Yahweh’s deep attachment to his people, so strong that it will not let him execute his rightful anger on account of sin.  In the present context that emotional bond finds voice in the first term used, translated “took delight in”, which is used in Dt 21:11 of sexual attraction (cf. Gn 34:8), and in Ps 91:14 of the worshiper’s close relationship with God.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 156-7)

 

When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy.  Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted.  (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 46)

 

We are bidden to “put on Christ,” to become like God.  That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.  Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.  (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 47)

 

A god who loves everyone and everything, no matter what they do, is a god without values, morals, virtue, justice and love.   An all accepting god must, by definition, be a god who doesn’t care or doesn’t even exist.

A God who loves, who values right over wrong, good over evil, justice over injustice; a God Who loves instead of showing indifference, must be a God who hates what is contrary to His values and is angry when that which He values is violated, compromised or ignored. Otherwise, he is a god who doesn’t care about that which he said he values.  —Pastor Keith 11-28-16

 

Undoubtedly it appears from many passages that gold, silver, pearls, and the like, are designated by this word; but substantially it is agreed that this title is given to the elect people, because God delights Himself in them; and herein His incomparable goodness shines forth, that He so highly esteems such miserable and worthless creatures.  Hence, too, it appears that by His holy calling He, as it were, creates out of nothing “things which are not,” that they may excel every earthly being.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 355-6)

 

The whole world would benefit from the revelation of the Law culminating in the appearing of the Messiah himself through Israel.  Therefore, this nation needed to be protected.  This is like one of those situations where a surgeon needs to take away a cancerous organ in order to prevent the destruction of the whole body.

Though our passage seems to suggest that God loves Israel and hates the nations–that there is an unfair favoritism of Israel–his concern for the nations is not abandoned here.  So that all the nations could meditate the revelation that God was going to give to the whole world.  Thus God needed to purge Canaan of the wicked people who lived there who could have ensnared Israel and led them astray.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 290)

 

Any notion of inherent character, beauty, or merit leading to the Lord’s desire and choice of Israel is explicitly rejected.  The love of God, however, is intensely manifest toward this people which is why one may properly speak of grace when talking about this divine election.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 113)

 

“God loves you just the way you are.   God loves you too much to allow you to stay there.” —  Buddy Greene

 

Moses takes it for granted, that there was nothing naturally distinguished; and hence infers, that there was no other reason why God should choose them, except His mere choice of them.  We have elsewhere observed, that by this His love, whatever men would bring of their own is excluded or annihilated.  It follows, therefore, that the Israelites could never be sufficiently grateful to God, since they had been thus liberally dealt with by Him, without any desert of their own.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 356)

 

Israel’s status is grounded in the action of God in such a way as to remove any possible claims on Israel’s part that their chosen status reflected their own superiority.  Three times, in fact, Moses sets out to prick any self-inflated bubbles of Israelite pride.  Numerical superiority is rejected as even a remotely possible reason why God should have loved them; they were a minnow among the nations.  Economic arrogance is targeted in 8:17; they owed everything to the gift of God.  Finally, moral self-righteousness is trounced most heavily of all in 9:4-6; the Israelites were a congenitally stiff-necked people.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 115)

 

It is not loving to allow evil to corrupt, pervert and destroy good.   (Ex 34:10-16; Lv 18:29; 20:22-23; Nm 33:51-56; Dt 7:2, 16-26; 18:9-14; Josh 23:6-13; Ps 5:4; 34:16; 37:9, 28, 34, 38; 75:10; Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 5:1-13; 15:33)

 

According to the biblical picture of the Canaanites, these peoples were extremely wicked, and their annihilation represented God’s judgment for their sin.  The destruction of the Canaanites was neither the first nor the last time God would do this.  The differences between the Canaanites’ fate and the fate of humanity (except for Noah’s family) as described in Genesis 6-9 involve scale and agency.  With the Canaanites, as with many others in history, Yahweh used human beings rather than natural disasters or plagues and sickness (Lv 26; Dt 28).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 98)

 

God shows his interest in the whole world by showing it in the case of one people.  On this view, God’s history with Israel becomes a “paradigm” for his dealing with any or every nation.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 163)

 

Perhaps more than any other chapter of Scripture, Deuteronomy 7 flies in the face of the modern passion for political correctness.  In this chapter Israel is given property at the expense of a group of resident ethnic groups and told to eradicate them from the land.  It was not because of their moral superiority, however, that they were chosen for such elevation.  Israel was simply regarded as a people holy or separate by virtue of their relationship with God.  It was God’s choice, and not their superior behavior, that made them special in his sight, his treasured possession.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 97)

 

In verses 6-8 Moses contemplates the question, “Why does God love Israel?”  He does not actually answer the question, except to suggest that God loves Israel because God loves Israel.  Driven by fidelity to their descendants, through a miraculous act of grace, Yahweh secured Israel’s freedom and called this nation from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his marvelous light (cf. 1 Pt 2:9).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 211)

 

He begins by declaring the end of their election, viz., that God had deigned to bestow this peculiar honor upon them that He might acquire unto Himself a holy people, pure from all pollutions, and then, by adding the circumstance I have adverted to, he magnifies the excellence of the benefit.  From his argument drawn from their dignity, that they ought therefore to labor after holiness, we gather, that in proportion to the abundance of grace with which any one is endued, he is solemnly bound to live piously and justly.  For God does not wish the gifts He bestows upon us to lie idle, but to produce their appropriate fruits; and we must especially remember that when He adopts us, and gathers us into His Church, we are not “called to uncleanness,” but to purity of life, and to shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Thes 4:7, 1 Pt 2:9).  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 355)

 

The Deuteronomistic History in Joshua through Second Kings is a story of constant or recurring apostasy.  The tension between the Israelites and their neighbors was fundamentally a religious conflict, a struggle for the soul of Israel.  Would it belong to the Lord, the God of Israel, or to Baal of Canaan?  The latter often seems to have won out, at least temporarily.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 42)

 

The stress is again on Israel’s distinctiveness in the midst of many other nations.  They were to be “holy to Yahweh,” i.e., set apart, different, belonging exclusively to him, but with the warm coloring of the last word, segullâ.  This word was used for the private treasure of a king, who owned everything else as well, but valued his personal possessions particularly (cf. 1 Chr 29:3; Eccl 2:8).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 111)

 

The “outer skin” of the chapter, as we have said, is the command to exterminate the Canaanites and destroy all physical evidence of their religion.  That skin is stretched over a structural “skeleton” of a nation that must be distinct and exclusive.  Yet when we finally arrive at the “heart” of the chapter, we find it beating with the passionate love of God, expressed with poetic repetition and variety.  Divine love and grace stand at the core of a chapter commanding total destruction!  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 108)

 

Why God loved them is not stated in the Pentateuch, but the focus of thought is obvious–it is the character of God rather then any excellence in the people that accounts for the choice.  This is more evident by the reiterated assertion that the Lord their God was God, was faithful and true in himself and true to his covenant-treaty, and would be true in his covenant love toward his people into the distant future–“to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (v. 9).  But those who hate him, who do not love and obey him, he will repay with destruction “to their face” –viz., individually (v. 10).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 71)

 

II-  God desires to protect His beloved and their faith in Him at all costs.  (Dt 7:1-5, 16, 25-26 see also: Ex 23:20-33; 34:12-16; Lv 18:29; 20:22-24; Nm 35:55; Dt 13:5; 17:7, 12; 12:1-10, 30-31; 13:15-16; 19:19; 20:17-18; 21:21; 22:21-22, 24; 24:7; Josh 23:12-13; Jdg 2:3; 3:5-8; 1 Kgs 11:1-8; 2 Kgs 18:4-6; Neh 13:26; Ps 101:4; 106:36; Prv 24:19-20; Isa 13:9; Mt 5:29-30; 18:8-9; 1 Cor 5:9-10; 2 Cor 6:14-18; 10:1-7; Eph 5:7-11; 6:10-18; 1 Thes 5:22; 1 Tm 1:19-20; 2 Tm 2:22; Ti 3:10-11; 1 Pt 2:9; 2 Jn 1:10-11)

 

If Israelites violated the restrictions of verse 25, they would put themselves at risk.  Instead of the idols, they themselves would be set apart for destruction.  God wanted Israel, as he wants Christians, to learn to utterly abhor and detest anything that had the potential of coming between them and their God.  The believer’s enemies are typically internal rather than external, and they pose a powerful threat to spiritual health and progress.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 100)

 

Today we should learn from this command that we must be as ruthless with sin in our own lives as Israel was commanded to be against the Canaanites.  Also remember that Israel had lost an entire generation of soldiers in the wilderness because of their sin.  God is no respecter of persons.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 128)

 

The Church of our day is sadly lacking in that separation from the world.  The intense attachment and obedience to Christ, the fellowship with His suffering and conformity to His death, and the devotion to Christ on the throne seem almost forgotten.  Where is our confident expectation of the never-ceasing flow of living water from the throne of grace which gives the assurance that the fullness of the Spirit will not be withheld?  No wonder the mighty power of God is seldom known and felt in our churches!  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 73)

 

We must give no space to things that could ensnare us and lead us to sin.  We are sent into the world by Christ (Jn 17:15-18) to be like salt and light (Mt 5:13-16).  Therefore we are going to be geographically close to some things in society that can lure us into sin.  Some of these things are very appealing and even addictive.  Therefore we have to deal with such things with severe revulsion and get no satisfaction from them.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 287)

 

Because Israel refused to exterminate that hard core of survivors, God’s people became infected with idolatry so deeply that they themselves eventually had to be driven from the land.  Israel exhibited an incomplete dedication to an important task.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 103)

 

In our modern world, where there are so many insidious dangers to the Christian faith, and where tolerance is often preached as a supreme virtue, we are often inclined to take no measures at all to protect our faith.  But we must never forget that our weapons are to be spiritual ones (cf. Eph 6:10-18).  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 53)

 

In his farewell address Joshua expressly warns the Israelites not to intermarry with the Canaanites, because Yahweh will use them as a “snare” (Josh 23:13; cf. Dt 7:16), and they will perish from the good land Yahweh is giving them.  Beginning with the accounts in the book of Judges, the history of Israel is a story of compromise with pagan ideologies, and in the end the nation is destroyed because of the seductive power of idolatry.  Later royal sponsorship of idolatry makes matters worse.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 219)

 

*   It was merciful for God to protect the Israelites from idolatry. In Deuteronomy 20:18, God gave Israel an explicit reason why it was necessary to wipe out the Canaanites:  “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.”

*   It was merciful for God to limit the scope of the herem laws to only those pagan nations within the borders of the promised land, rather than extending to all nations, including Israel. All mankind is equally guilty in God’s eyes. We are only alive due to God’s grace, and every breath we take is a merciful gift from him.

*    It was merciful for God to allow the Canaanites to remain in the land as long as they did. In Gn 15:16, God told Abraham that his descendants would have to remain slaves in Egypt for 400 years before taking possession of Canaan, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” So God was patient in dealing with the Canaanite nations, waiting until they reached the point of no return.

*   It was merciful for God to allow individual Canaanites to repent and join the people of God. The classic example is Rahab, the prostitute who helped the Israelite spies in Jericho and swore allegiance to the Lord (Josh 2).  Rahab was later held up as an example of faithful obedience in the NT (Heb 11:31; Jam 2:25) and even included in the genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:5).  (Kyle Dillon (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/gods-justice-in-the-land-of-canaan)

 

We can have no fellowship with the enemies of God within us or around us, but to our hurt; therefore our only wisdom is to maintain unceasing war against them. —  Matthew Henry

 

To mortify our indwelling sin is constantly to weaken it.  We can do this in three ways:  starve it out, cut it out or crowd it out.  The world today offers plenty to feed a person’s sinful nature, such as periodicals, books, movies, television programs and even conversations.  We have to remember that indwelling sin is nourished in the mind with its thoughts and imagination.  It is there that our jealousies, resentments, lust and selfishness are fostered.  We can begin mortifying sin in us by depriving the mind—starving it out—of the foods that feed its cancer.  If there are pleasures, relationships or environments which add to our temptations, we shall wherever possible avoid them.”  (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 158-9)

 

This is why a continual desire for worldly pleasures often signifies that all is not well.  Some of this world’s pleasures, even in moderation, will undermine a Christian’s spiritual life.  If a married man want to flirt with other girls, even in moderation, one assumes that there is something wrong with his marriage—or if not, that there soon will be!  So it is when a Christian flirts with worldliness.  The command is clear and uncompromising:

Come out from them,

and be separate from them, says the Lord,

and touch not nothing unclean;

then I will welcome you.  (2 Cor 6:17)

We are to abstain from every form of evil (2 Thess 5:22).  (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 144)

 

This command has often been thought of as unethical for a loving God.  However, it must be remembered that the Canaanites constituted a moral cancer (Dt 20:17-18; Nm 35:55; Josh 23:12-13).  Their presence represented an infectious threat to Israel’s spiritual (and eventually physical) well-being.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 128)

 

You may be tempted to surrender just a token sin or some minor fault, while allowing your most serious iniquity to remain entrenched and well-hidden.  Let us realize, therefore, that the energies we expend in keeping our sins secret are the actual “materials” of which a stronghold is made.  The demon you are fighting is actually using your thoughts to protect his access to your life.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 32)

 

God never intended for the Israelites to make the policy of hērem as a general policy toward outsiders.  Dt 7:1 expressly identifies and thereby delimits the target peoples.  The Israelites were not to follow these policies against Aramaeans or Edomites or Egyptians, or anyone else (cf. Dt 20:10-18).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 98)

 

Many passages in both Testaments do teach that war is a horror, to be finally eliminated–in God’s good time (e.g. Isa 11:6-9; Rv 21:22-22:5).  On the other hand, evil is something that has to be fought, with whatever weapons which may be appropriate; often the problem is to identify and to isolate evil.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 52)

 

All the old Mosaic regulations were to make Israel a separate people and to prevent their intermingling with the pagans who surrounded them.  They all served to preserve Israel and its treasured promises lest these later be dissipated and lost.  This was done, of course, in the interest of Israel but equally in the interest of the Gentile world, for the preservation was made for the sake of the human race.  After the fulfillment had been wrought through Christ, its blessings were to go out to all nations.  Israel’s separation had served it’s purpose.  The veil of the temple was rent.  “The middle wall of partition” had been broken down, Eph 2:14; now there was “neither Jew nor Greek,” Gal 3:28; the old had decayed and vanished, the new had come in Christ, Heb 8:13.  (R. C. H. Lenski; The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, 404)

 

Idolatry is not only seductive (“a snare”) and an abomination to Yahweh; the “abomination” is contagious.  Contact with abominable objects neutralizes the Israelites’ status as a holy people and reduces them to being simply one among the nations, but it also renders the Israelites absolutely defiled and fundamentally degraded.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 217-8)

 

Believers can make a similar mistake.  We are to have no mercy on the sins that lie resident within us.  We are persistently and without hesitation to drive them out of our lives, or they will become causes for spiritual stumbling.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 103)

 

The point here at the beginning of the present discourse is that while these peoples are more numerous and mightier than the Israelites, Yahweh will clear them away.  The promise is repeated in vv. 17-24.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 329)

 

There could be no compromise, no easy tolerance, of such idolatry.  It was a question of destroying or being destroyed, of keeping separate or being contaminated and consumed.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 76)

 

Now, if any of the old inhabitants had survived, they would soon have endeavored to revive their corruptions, and since the Israelites were otherwise more disposed than enough to superstition, they would easily have been attracted to the worship of idols.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 397)

 

Should we destroy the idols that we see in our societies today?  Here the difference between Israel, a theocracy, and a multi-religious society like what we have today must be borne in mind.  When Paul went to the city of Athens, “he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16, NIV).  But he did not destroy the idols.  Instead, he argued against them and pointed to their futility (Acts 17:22-31). . . . However, if people start idol worship in the church, we must adopt a more insistent tone because the church is by its “constitution” governed by God’s specific guidelines in the Scriptures, just like ancient Israel.  This is why when Paul found out about false teaching in Galatia, he did not adopt the irenic approach that he adopted in Athens.  He thundered angrily against the false teaching and the false teachers.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 288)

 

He now commands them to consume their graven images with fire, for since the people were prone to superstition, such snares might easily have alienated them from God’s pure worship.  Nor does he command them merely to melt the gold and silver so as to alter its shape, but he altogether interdicts its use, since it would be a contagious plague; for he shows how greatly God abominates idols, inasmuch as whosoever should touch the materials of which they were molten, would contract pollution and become accursed.  This great severity might indeed seem to condemn the metals which were created for man’s use, as if they were impure, and as if the perfectness of natural things was liable to be corrupted by man.  But in this way idolaters would contaminate the sun and moon, when falsely regarding them as objects of corrupt worship; and it must be answered that the gold and silver itself was by no means polluted by this impious abuse; but that, although free from all stain in itself, it was polluted in respect to the people.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 399)

 

He had two primary purposes in bringing Israel into Canaan.  First, he wanted to give the land to Israel and fulfill his promises to the patriarchs.  Second, he desired to provide Israel a homeland that was free of the temptations to moral depravity that were part of Canaanite religion.  As a result, the culture had to be destroyed–an action as easily accomplished by expulsion as by extermination.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 103)

 

An object that was herem was forbidden not because it was holy, i.e., devoted to one’s own deity, but because, belonging to the enemy deity, it must be rooted out.  To war itself religion thus gave a strange sanctification.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol II, 346)

 

From this stems the practice of destroying whoever or whatever is devoted, for then it goes to God and cannot be used by the giver.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 35)

 

Israel’s slow approach over a period of forty years was closely observed by the native peoples (cp. Josh 2:9-11).  Many of them must have left voluntarily as Israel drew near, particularly after the dramatic and early victory at Jericho.  Those who held out and remained behind the walls of Canaanite cities would have been the people who had the most to lose by leaving:  the civic and religious leaders most committed to the blasphemous and degraded Canaanite cult.  God knew that if they survived they would prove enthusiastic evangelists for the twisted cult–and so they did.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 103)

 

The relevance of this text for contemporary Christians is obvious.  Like Israel, we are called to fight against the kingdom of darkness.  Admittedly “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12); but this demands the same vigilance and the same reliance on divine resources as were required of the Israelites.  In this battle, alliances with the kingdom of darkness remain a particular problem.  In our culture the intermarriage of believers with unbelievers is widespread.  Paul’s response to such alliances in 2 Cor 6:14-16, particularly his rooting of his instructions in our status as the holy covenant people of God, sounds remarkably Mosaic.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 222)

 

As the NIV footnote informs us, the Hebrew word translated here “totally” had a technical sense.  The common explanation that it meant “devoting” things or people to Yahweh is probably not the best.  A better explanation seems to be that it is an absolute and irrevocable renouncing of things or persons, a refusal to take any gain or profit from them.  Thus, in obedience to this command, things or persons could be renounced without necessarily being destroyed.  This explanation provides a context in which the instruction prohibiting treaties or intermarriage with the inhabitants of the land would make sense.  If the local people needed to be destroyed, then verse 3 would be rather unnecessary, since everyone should have been exterminated.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 109)

 

The covenant between Yahweh as “great king” and Israel as his “vassal” required, as did all such vassal-type treaties, the total exclusion of any other alliance or treaty made unilaterally by the vassal.  For Israel to enter into treaties with Canaanite nations would therefore prima facie be an act of disloyalty to their own covenant commitment to Yahweh.  This suspicion of disloyalty to Yahweh remained a potent theme in the later interaction between prophets and those kings of Judah and Israel who joined in the alliance-hunting politics of the ancient Near Eastern international power games.  Treaties with other nations would also require some recognition of the gods of those nations, which would likewise be intolerable for Yahweh.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 110)

 

The destruction of the Canaanite idols was to be complete.  Every part of the images (including the tempting silver and gold on them) was detestable to the Lord and therefore was to be detested by the Israelites (v. 25).  No detestable thing was ever to be taken into an Israelite house (v. 26).  Two strong words for disapprobation–“Utterly abhor and detest it”–indicate the abhorrence the people were to hold toward the idols.  The idols were to be set apart for destruction.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 73)

 

When you have received lawful authority, do all this.  Where authority has not been given to us, we don’t do it; where it has been given, we don’t fail to do it.  Many pagans have these abominations on their estates.  Do we march in and smash them?  The first thing we try to do is to break the idols in their hearts.  When they too become Christians, they either invite us in to perform this good work or else they get in first with it before us.  The thing we have to do now is pray for them, not get angry with them.  (Augustine, Sermon 62:17)

 

If an Israelite soldier disobeyed the Lord’s command by keeping anyone or anything as his personal property, the battle was no longer the Lord’s holy war.  If the Israelites failed to obey this condition as they conquered Canaan, they could no longer expect the Lord’s supernatural help as they fought.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 38-9)

 

Satan uses the weaknesses and limitations of men to entice them to sin (1 Cor 7:5).  He also employs the allurements of the world (1 Jn 2:15-17; 4:4).  He commonly tempts men to evil by the falsehood that they can attain a desired good through the doing of wrong.  His mode of operation is vividly demonstrated in the account of the Fall in Genesis 3.  Deception is a universal feature of his activities, justifying his description as “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rv 12:9).  He constantly lays “snares” for men to make them his captives (1 Tm 3:7; 2 Tm 2:26).  A fundamental temptation employed is pride (1 Tm 3:6).  (The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible Q-Z, 283)

 

Apart from the Lord’s intention to provide a home and land for God’s people, there are two criteria for the destruction of inhabitants of the land:  (1) those who oppose God’s purpose and promise to Israel–that is, Sihon and Og; and (2) those who seem to pose in a special way the problem of religious contamination and syncretism–that is, the Canaanites and Amorites.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 40)

 

God wants believers to face their inner enemies courageously and to eliminate them one by one.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 100)

 

Kindness that allows barriers to one’s relationship with God to spring up is self-destructive.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 101)

 

Here lies the crux of the matter.  The moral justification for the destruction of the Canaanites will be expressed later, in terms of the wickedness of their society.  But in the context of the last three chapters, in which the demands of the first and second commandments have been laid bare so thoroughly, the primary object of Israel in Canaan must be the eradication of Canaan’s idolatry.  The polytheism of many altars and idols cannot coexist with the God of the Shema.  The sacred stones were standing stone pillars (a number of which have been discovered on various archaeological sites) that probably had phallic symbolism (as they still do in fertility cults in other parts of the world).  The Asherah poles were probably made of wood, since they could be chopped down and burnt, and may have been carved images of the Canaanite goddess Ahserah, female consort of Baal (1 Kgs 18:19).  Together the stone pillar and wooden image would have represented the male and female element in the fertility cult (note how Jeremiah sarcastically inverted them, Jer 2:27!).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 110-1)

 

Now, in the NT it is clear that the Messiah Jesus abolishes the distinction between Jews and Gentiles and that believers from both communities together constitute Israel, redefined and extended in Christ.  This is the reason why, for Christians, the distinction between clean and unclean food is no longer relevant.  Its basis in the national separation of Jews from the nations is gone (cf. Mk 7:1-23, followed by the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman; and Acts 10-11).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 114)

 

Marriage within Israel serves to strengthen the fabric of the covenant people; marriage outside it serves to weaken that fabric, because it compromises the allegiance of the people to Yahweh.  Solomon and Ahab furnish the outstanding examples of this in the OT (1 Kgs 11:3; 16:30-33).  The idea of a holy people is therefore hedged around in these verses, with an insistence on the need to keep separate from adherents of false religion.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 153)

 

The three causes for the total destruction of the Canaanites were 1) judgment for their gross unrighteousness, 2) the need to give Israel their land, and 3) the need to prevent God’s people from being ensnared by the sins of the Canaanites.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 295)

 

God will provide the victory if his people refuse to be intimidated by their enemies.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 99)

 

As it turned out, these nations were not entirely expelled from the land (Jdg 1:21-36; 3:5-6).  Those still around in Solomon’s time were made slaves (1 Kgs 9:20-21; 2 Chr 8:7-8).  Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Amorites were still present in the postexilic period, at which time people were intermarrying with them (Ez 9:1).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 329)

 

The Hittites were never completely driven out of Palestine by the Israelites (Jdg 3:5-6).  David found a comrade in Ahimelech the Hittitie when being pursued by Saul (1 Sm 26:6) and later was well served by Uriah the Hittite, although he failed to reward this man’s loyalty in one of the most shameful incidents in the king’s career (2 Sm 11-12).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 330)

 

III-  The beloved’s faith, obedience, and love for God brings inconceivable blessings.  Rebellion brings curses.  (Dt 7:12-15 see also: Isa 64:4; 2 Cor 2:9; Eph 1:1-14; 3:14-21)

 

When Israel so responds, the opportunities for life are abundant beyond all expectations (7:12-16; see the discussion of 10:12-11:32).  The powerful link between covenant and blessing cannot be dissolved.  In it lay all the possibilities for either life or death (30:15-20).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 114)

 

Yahweh is long on steadfast love to those who love him and keep his commandments but short with those who hate him, where hatred is expressed most pointedly in disobedience to the covenant demands (cf. Ex 20:5-6; Dt 5:9-10; Nm 14:18; Jer 32:18-19).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 338)

 

If the Israelites followed the Lord’s stipulations (v. 11), he would keep his “covenant of love” with them (v. 12).  The keeping of his covenant of love is explicated in vv. 13-15.  He would love and bless them and increase their number.  In particular he would bless them with many children and with productivity in crops and animal husbandry.  These blessings were of things close to the soil and natural productivity (v. 13):  grain from the field, not bread prepared from it; fresh grape juice, not fermented wine; and fresh olive oil, not products prepared from it.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 73)

 

God waited patiently while the Amorites and other peoples in Palestine filled their cups of destruction to the brim by their sinful behavior.  God didn’t act recklessly.  He gave them lots of time to repent and turn from their sinful worship.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 75)

 

The war that Christians must fight bears many similarities to the divine design for occupying the Holy Land.  Christians must go to war every day, putting to death the deeds of the body so they can live victorious lives (cp. Rom 6:13; 8:13; Col 3:5; 1 Pt 2:11).  Although the greatest victory is already won (Rom 6:6; Gal 5:24), a life still waits to be carved out for each soldier, and progress generally comes little by little.  Come it will, however, to the one who fights, just as it would for Israel.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 99-100)

 

For all his wisdom, Solomon turns out to be the ultimate fool.  He loved many foreign women, who turned his heart away from Yahweh to go after other gods.  Departing from the commitment of his father David, his heart was not fully devoted to Yahweh, he went after foreign gods, and he did evil in the sight of Yahweh (1 Kgs 11:1-8).  Whereas in the days of the judges the problem seems to have involved the general population, with Solomon for the first time idolatry was sponsored by the court.  Just as Moses had predicted, loving foreign women led to loving foreign gods.  Because of Israel’s persistent spiritual rebellion, eventually first the northern kingdom (2 Kgs 17:1-18) and then the kingdom of Judah (2 Kgs 24-25) were declared abominable in the sight of Yahweh and suffered the fate of the Canaanites.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 220)

 

The conquest of Canaan was not a case of some innocent people being destroyed in order to give a favored people a land. The people in Canaan were grossly unrighteous.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 292)

 

The question whether Israel can lose its privileged status can be answered only with a “yes.”  And in fact there is an echo of both v. 10 and v. 12 in 8:20.  There, a destruction of Israel is hypothesized, like that of the nations Yahweh once drove out in their favor (7:10); and this is “because” (‘ēqeb) they did not obey Yahweh.  The whole discourse of Dt 7-8, therefore, both asserts the truth of Yahweh’s election of Israel and problematizes it; that is, it shows that a wrong concept of election will have disastrous results.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 159)

 

The last verse of Deuteronomy 7 serves as a stern reminder to us not to limit the recognition of Yahweh as our God to creedal affirmations and luxuriating in one’s sense of privilege.  Spiritual commitment must be expressed in actions that accord with the will of God, who has so graciously revealed himself to his people.  To be governed by that which is right in one’s own eyes rather than what is right in the sight of Yahweh is to prove oneself in effect a Canaanite and to bring on oneself the judgment to which the Canaanites were sentenced.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 222)

 

This people who are here being instructed to have no mercy on the nations in Canaan are the very people through whom, we were told, God intends to bless the nations!  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 109)

 

His promise is for a thousand generations, that is, indefinitely.  But Israel is put on notice that the Horeb covenant remains conditional and requires obedience on Israel’s part to be kept intact.  Yahweh will repay all who openly hate him, and their destruction will come about quickly.  Moses therefore reminds Israel to keep all the statutes and ordinances he is commanding them this day.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 343)

 

The people of Yahweh will not merely enjoy the blessings necessary to life, but will do so in a qualitatively different way from other nations.  The picture of a people free from childlessness and disease is idealized, as is the concept of the total destruction of the nations (see on vv. 2b-4).  The latter theme is now returned to (16), to emphasize the indissoluble connection between faithfulness to Yahweh and the possibility of life itself.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 160)

 

In these verses “holiness” and “chosenness” are put in a quite new light, so that the theology of holiness that emerges from the chapter as a whole is complex.  Indeed there is a pointer here to the prophetic controversy with an ideology of holiness and chosenness that presumes upon such status.  This is because the moral issue lies between God and human beings as such.  The distinction between Israelites and Canaanites, though prominent initially, has receded here, and the way lies open to those reinterpretations of election that occupied the prophets.  Ultimately, the issue is not about being Israelite, but about being righteous before God (cf. Amos 5:24; Isa 51:4-6; Prv 11:5).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 158-9)

 

And if you do obey.  Literally, “if you obey the heel.”  If you obey the trivial commandments, which a man is tempted to dash under his heels.  The LORD your God will maintain faithfully.  Literally, He will “keep” (OJPS)–His promise to you.  (The Rubin JPS Miqra’ot Gedolot, Commentators’ Bible: Dt, 56)

 

First, even the Abrahamic covenant had its sharp edge, its negative side.  It included not only the promise of blessing but also the declaration of curse upon those who would despise Israel.  From that point of view, as the book of Deuteronomy has already shown in the cases of Sihon and Og and as Exodus showed in the case of Pharaoh, resistance to God’s people is self-destructive and brings God’s judgment. . . . Secondly, the eschatological promise that all the nations of the earth would ultimately be blessed did not mean that particular nations in history would not be judged.  For example, in the lifetime of Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah suffered God’s judgment.  The fact that God would ultimately use the Israelites as the vehicle of God’s blessing for the nations did not disqualify them from also being the agent of God’s judgment on wicked and idolatrous nations.  As a matter of fact, God even used the Assyrians and Babylonians in later centuries as the agents of judgment upon Israel itself.  The fact that Israel’s possessing the promised land involved the proximate destructions of its former inhabitants does not neutralize or contradict the fact that Israel would be the vehicle by which God would ultimately bless the nations. . . Thirdly, from a missiological perspective, what was at stake was not merely the survival of the Israelites, but the preservation of the truth of the revelation of God entrusted to them and so majestically articulated in chapters 4-6.  For Israel to have syncretized that revelation with Canaanite idolatry and fertility polytheism would have been no favor to the Canaanites or any other nation, but a fundamental betrayal of Israel’s vocation.  The progress of salvation-history included judgment, but its goal was still salvation, based on the revelation of the true God.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 112-113)

 

The veneration of Ishtar/Astarte, the goddess of fertility, was among the most widespread of any divinity in the ancient Near East.  Moses’ preference for these rare expressions seems a deliberate stab at the jugular of Canaanite religion.  In the land that Yahweh promised on oath to the ancestors, he alone guarantees the fertility of crops and herds.  The pastor of Israel ends this promise of blessing in verse 14a with a final comprehensive promise:  Israel will be blessed more than all the peoples.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 213)

 

What Yahweh finds most detestable are idols (7:25-26; 27:15; cf. Jer 16:18) and people leading others in idolatrous ways (13:13-15 [12-14]; 17:2-4).  The latter include diviners, soothsayers, and other practitioners of the secret arts (18:9-12).  Pagan magic is an abomination to Yahweh.  Practices associated with idolatrous worship are also abominations (20:18), the most odious being child sacrifice (12:31; 18:9-10; cf. Jer 7:30-31; 32:35).  Offerings to Yahweh emanating from cultic prostitutes–both men and women–are abominations as well (23:18-19 [17-18]).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 342)

 

But what of the problem noted earlier–the doctrine of mechanical rewards and punishments in this life?  Probably this is unfairly stated to begin with.  The word “mechanical” is our word, not Deuteronomy’s; Deuteronomy would prefer to say that God’s rewards or punishments are certain, which is not quite the same thing.  Also, while it is true that Deuteronomy’s perspective is this life, it in no way sets out to deny the reality of life after death.  Given that perspective (which is elaborated chiefly in the NT ), the doctrine appears somewhat different.  It states that ultimately God is bound to punish evil and to reward good; and this doctrine seems essential to a belief in the justice of God.  How God will deal with evil, and how far justice may be tempered with mercy and forgiveness, are matters which lie in his hands.  He is the God of both justice and compassion.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 56-7)

 

Seeds are present for an extreme form of nationalism.  Yet the Moabites did it.  And the biblical witness makes it clear that people within Israel suffered a fate no less severe if they did evil, particularly in worshiping other gods.  And the day came, too, when the entire nation of Israel came under holy war judgment from Yahweh, resulting in its destruction.  When Achan defied the ban by taking devoted things for himself, he and everything belonging to him–sons, daughters, oxen, asses, and sheep–were destroyed (Josh 7:24-25).  If an entire Israelite city fell victim to idolatry, it would be devoted to destruction (13:13-19 [12-18]).  Isaiah and Jeremiah tell us that Yahweh, in announcing utter destruction upon the nations, included what remained of Israel (Isa 34:1-15; Jer 25:9).  Jeremiah, above all, had the unpleasant task of informing Judah and the northern Israel remnant that Yahweh had declared holy war on it for breach of covenant; no one would be exempt (Jer 5:17; 6:21; 9:20 [21]; 16:3-4, and passim).  Even the beasts would be destroyed (Jer 7:20; 21:6; 36:29).  Judgment on such a grand scale did occur, and the complaint heard often in the book of Jeremiah is that Yahweh’s destruction left the land without “human or beast” (Jer 32:43; 33:10 [2x], 12).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 333)

 

By the time of Moses the unrighteousness had peaked, and the time was ripe for judgment.  So part of the reason for their total destruction is that this was God’s judgment for their gross unrighteousness.  Two reasons, then, dovetailed so as to make the destruction of these nations a righteous act:  Israel needed this land, and those living in it were grossly wicked and ripe for judgment.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 292)

 

The OT times were special revelatory eras when God clearly showed his principles to the people.  One of those principles is that sin will be punished.  Right at the beginning of the life of the church, God acted to judge Ananias and Sapphira so that the Christians would know that God has not changed his attitude of antipathy toward sin (Acts 5:1-11).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 292)

 

Worship Point:  God is offering you blessings that are literally “out of this world” and you need to be encouraged to worship?   Get a grip!?!

 

Gospel Application:  God makes faith possible for us by the faithfulness of Jesus.  God makes love possible for us by the love of Jesus.  God makes the assistance of the Holy Spirit possible for us by the work of Jesus.  God makes righteousness possible through the perfection of Jesus.  God makes the abundant life possible for us by the life of Jesus.  (Eph 2:8-9; 1 Jn chps 3-5; Acts 2:38; Eph 1:13; 2 Cor 5:21; Jn 10:10)

 

If you do not believe in a God of wrath, but only in a god of love; then what did it cost for your god of love to really love you?   When you understand the wrath of God, you better understand the love of God because you understand what God was willing to do for you because of Your Sin.  — Tim Keller

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Ask yourself:  “What is preventing me from having 100% total trust in, obedience to, and love for God?”  Then spare no expense, no sacrifice, no fear of reprisals or reputation to prevent you from giving yourself to the Lord so He can bless the socks off of you.

 

What is temptation?  It is always, in one way or another, the deception that something is more to be desired than God and his ways.  Therefore, the prayer for deliverance is that we would not fall for that deception but always taste and know that God and his ways are to be desired above all others.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 147)

 

If you have any conditions to your obedience to Jesus then Jesus is not your King and you are not in the Kingdom.  Because the thing that is the basis of your “if” or “when” of your salvation is your salvation and King.  You cannot say “I’ll follow you Jesus if . . . or “I’ll follow you Jesus when . . .” because the thing that is the “if” or “when” is your king and Lord . . . not Jesus.  —paraphrase of Tim Keller

 

While Moses had been listening to God, his brother Aaron, high priest of all the people, had been listening to the people.  The input the two received was decidedly different.  When Moses listened, he received God’s revelation of the law of righteousness.  When Aaron listened, he heard complaints, wishes, and demands.  Moses brought with him uncompromised standards of heaven; Aaron caved in to the whims of men.  It was all in the listening.  (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World, 130)

 

You cannot be enticed or tempted nearly as much with that which is inferior to that which you find most beautiful, desirous, magnificent and the object of your affections. That is one of the reasons why Jesus was able to withstand the full on assault of the Devil’s temptations.  — Pastor Keith

 

When it is required of believers that they should love God before they keep His Commandments, we are thus taught that the source and cause of obedience is the love wherewith we embrace God as our Father.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 225)

 

So What?:  If you ask this question, you have not been paying attention.  God is offering you more than you can dream or imagine and you ask, “So what?”

 

Memory of God’s grace and knowledge of his character should motivate his people to do anything he asks (vv. 11-12a).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 212)

 

Until and unless Christians recover a sense of the incredible privilege of being a holy people belonging to God, the objects of his gracious election, his treasured people, and targets of his affection, and until they recover the missional significance of this calling, the Western church will remain pathetic and powerless in the face of the challenges of our age.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 222)

 

BENEDICTION : Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. — Ephesians 3:20-21

 

JESUS:

COVENANT PROTECTOR

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