Monday, June 7

The Right & Wrong in Conquering Giants

Even a cursory reading of the Bible surfaces how often the process is of vastly greater concern to God than the procurement. In other words, it's not ARRIVING in the Promised Land, but HOW they arrived that God points out. Our interest in God is more often than not bound up in the getting than it is in the method by which we receive. Yet it is precisely right here where our faith goes on trial. What means more to us, the getting of what we want from God--regardless--or the way in which we go about it? I would suggest to you that in Deuteronomy 9:1–5, we witness one among many examples of precisely this test. If we listen well, we'll be way ahead in the life of faith. 

First, God Reveals the Impossible Odds Which We Are Up Against 
Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ (vv. 1-2)
It's as if God were saying, "See Israel? You're going in to the land I promised to you. OK. But, know this, you're facing humanly impossible odds. The enemy are nations "mightier" than you, with walled cities you're not able to topple. And these guys you're fighting? They're giants! (You ARE going in, like I said. I promised you. And I always fulfill my promise! Do you believe that?) But they are really big and strong. (Are you intimidated yet?)"

Second, God Reveals His Indomitable Weapon of Choice--HIMSELF!
What's God doing? He's setting the table for a feast of faith. When we know the impossibilities, what vain hope it is to trust in ourselves, then we're prepared to watch God go to work. Now, after the table has been set, in verse 3, God is ready to serve up an amazing meal, a dinner prepared by His own great power:
Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.
You're going in, but it is I, the LORD your God, who go before you. How? As a consuming fire! I will destroy them. I will subdue them. Make no mistake about who's bringing about this victory. I'M DOING IT!  

Third, God Warns of a Presumptuous Heart.
Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (vv. 4-5)
This is a very common malady among men and women of faith. We see God work. It is marvelous and we are thankful . . . initially. But then, something begins to happen with the passing of time. We begin to assume a role not properly ours--one of the deserving chosen. We think to ourselves, "I guess we did it, at least to some degree." Or, "There must have been something in us which God found worthy enough to give us this victory!" Thus, we handily divert the glory away from our Conquering Hero, locating it pretentiously upon ourselves! Oh, the insidious nature of the human heart, even the regenerated one! 

Let us learn to be better at crediting God for victories gained than we are even in asking FOR that victory! Thankfulness, in this case, becomes a sort of litmus test of the genuineness of our faith. See God in the process, glorify him in His providence.


David Nelson Jr said...

Dad, this is such a great point you're making. It all boils down to faith or rebellion when following God. In fact, the LORD makes this clear to Joshua in preparation of entering the promised land to cleanse the land of the giants.

He says in Joshua 1:6-9, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

It's as if the period of 40 years in the wilderness were meant to breed and train an entire generation in the precepts of GOD and his law, so that they would be single minded in their attempt, against all odds, to destroy the Anakim. Remember the 12 spies? Only Joshua and Caleb were not only willing, but INSISTING they go in and conquer the land. They were duly rewarded for their faith, while the 10 spies and their generation, who thought GOD intended to kill them, and also wanted to stone Moses and Aaron, were allowed to rot and die in the wilderness.

Thus, the generation that was raised in the wilderness, who hoped for manna for food, and hoped in the future to go into the promised land, were well trained to conquer the land. This is ironic, considering it was their fathers who witnessed the red sea part in their exodus, among other wonders, yet they didn't believe. It was the sons of that generation who believed, growing up under the laws set up by Moses and Aaron. Isn't this similar to the generation that lived in the time of Jesus? They saw all of his miracles and the indisputable proof that he was God, yet did not believe for one second.

David R. Nelson said...

Your assessment of faith/rebellion is quite astute. And you site great examples, perhaps standards by which we determine our own adherence to the law of God. It certainly is not the opposition which determines our victory, is it? And you put your finger on the great truth that it has in fact been God's M.O. to put His people into tight places in order to prepare them for faithful living. Great response!