Thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them.1 Corinthians 5:11). We need not actually refuse to eat with those whose lives are evil; but woe to us if we do not shrink from any closer intimacy with them; if their society, when we must partake of it, be not painfully endured by us, rather than enjoyed. We may put away from among ourselves that wicked person; put him away, that is, from our confidence, put him away from our esteem; put him altogether away from our sympathy. We are on services wholly different; our masters are God and Mammon; and we cannot be united closely with those to whom our dearest hopes are their worst fears, and to whom that resurrection which, to the true servant of Christ, will be his perfect consummation of bliss, will be but the first dawning of an eternity of shame and misery.
(T. Arnold, D. D.)
1. In the first place, it behoves us to understand that this destruction was not a punishment for idolatry. The war of Israel in Canaan did not resemble a crusade. The Canaanites perished, not because they had bowed down to false gods, or refused to worship the true God, but because they had made themselves utterly abominable. This is clear from Leviticus 18:24. The Canaanites perished because the earth could no longer bear them: the safety of the whole demanded their extirpation.
2. We observe, further, that they did not perish without warning. The sites of Sodom and Gomorrah, once like the garden of Eden in loveliness, withered and burnt up by fire from heaven, and at length turned into a bituminous lake, showed the end of those sins by which the land was defiled. It was a memorial not to be forgotten. The Dead Sea was a phenomenon which forced the inquiry, "Wherefore hath God done this?" The forty years' sojourn in the wilderness was not only fraught with blessing to Israel and instruction to the Church, but it gave to the Canaanites time to consider and repent. It produced this effect on Rahab and on the Gibeonites, who humbled themselves under the hand of God and were spared. The rest of the nations of Canaan heard and feared, but repented not. We may not, then, marvel that the cup of wrath which such habitual and audacious wickedness had filled was deep and deadly. Yet the destruction is not without its parallels. Many modern campaigns have produced a greater loss of life and far intenser misery. The sword appalls us by its fierceness; but it is more merciful than the famine and the pestilence, which in our own days have ravaged large portions of the globe. It cuts short the suspense which is more grievous than death; it inflicts no lingering pain. Besides, this was the only judgment in which idolaters would have seen the hand of the God of Israel. Had they perished in thousands by want or disease they would have attributed this to the displeasure of Moloch or Baal. But they ever regarded battle as the trial of deities. So, when the iron chariots had been broken in the valleys, and the rocky fastness and fenced city had failed to protect the Anakim, all who felt the sword of Israel and all to whom the tidings came were forced to confess that Jehovah was to be feared above all gods. Hence we may see what Israel and all other nations were to learn from these wars in Canaan.
1. They learnt, first, God's absolute sovereignty, His right and property, in the life of man, and therefore ill everything by and for which man lives. If, then, the Canaanite had no property in his life, nor power to retain it when God demanded it, we dare not claim more than stewardship of anything that we call ours. The largest possessions, the richest intellectual gifts, are less than the life. These, then, are at the disposal of Him who is the Lord of life. If we use them as God's servants they will secure to us everlasting possessions; but from the unfaithful steward shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.
2. Again, God manifested that man hath something better than life. Our hearts may be harrowed or sickened at the thought that the sword of Israel struck down not only the boastful warrior, but the feeble woman and the blooming child and the infant at the breast. But the same suffering and death of the weak and the graceful and the pure is continually forcing itself on our attention in every epidemic, in public calamities, and in the more frequent casualties of private life, in Indian and Syrian massacres, and even at the birth of Christ Himself, when Rachel was weeping for her children. All this piercing and cutting down of the young and the tender and the promising would be inexplicable if we had not the revelation of a higher life, for which suffering and the contact with suffering are the preparation.
(M. Biggs, M. A.)
Them that love Him and keep His commandments.
(T. Townson, D. D.)
Thou shalt consume all the people.I. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS IN CONFORMITY WITH THE ORDINARY PROCEDURE OF GOD IN THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. If He choose, in punishing sinners, to visit at one time with a flood of waters, at another with fire from heaven, at another with a deadly epidemic, at another with the scourge of war, who shall dare to question the propriety of His choice in the weapons of destruction?
II. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS IN PUNISHMENT OF SIN AND AS SUCH WAS JUST TOWARDS THEMSELVES. The vilest practices were rife among the people. Their very religion was a system of sorcery, sensuality, and depravity. The traces of ancient Syrian worship exhibit the vilest features of pagan idolatry. Their very gods were demons (Psalm 106:37). Human sacrifices were offered at their shrines. The grossest abominations were practised in their orgies. If such, then, was the light, what would the darkness be? In other words, if this was the religion of the country, what would the vices of the people be?
III. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS A SPIRITUAL SAFEGUARD TO THE ISRAELITES. We are tempted to ask whether it was well that the Israelites should be made the executioners of God's wrath upon their brother man. Would they not be tempted to lose sight of their subordination to God's purpose, and to take up the cause with feelings of proper fanaticism? Again, would not the part to which they were called tend to foster in them cruelty and recklessness of human life? On the contrary, we find that the snare of the Israelites lay in the opposite direction, and that they were ever more ready to spare than to slay. No token appears of any tendency to rapacity or violence having been impressed upon the national mind, while the salutary lessons that were thus taught them are apparent. In no way could the Israelites have been so forcibly convinced of the hatefulness of idolatry and impurity as when they themselves were made God's ministers of vengeance against the crying evils. They were thus made witnesses against themselves should they ever adopt like abominations.
IV. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS NECESSARY FOR THE MORAL PRESERVATION OF THE WORLD. Clearly it was an act of mercy to the little children of the Canaanites, who were cut off before they knew between good and evil. To the Israelites the extirpation of these nations was an act of mercy. Even crippled and curtailed as the Canaanites were, their influence for evil was too strong; but had they remained in larger bodies, and especially had the women been spared, piety would soon have become unknown among the people of God. But if the destruction of the Canaanites was an act of mercy to Israel, and necessary for their spiritual safely, it follows that it was not less a mercy to the whole world, and necessary for the preservation of the spiritual life of the entire family of mankind. The Church of the present day is but the continuation of the Church of the wilderness. Had that been destroyed, the materials of which the Saviour at His coming built the Church of the New Testament would not have been in existence. The impediments in the way of the Gospel would have been tenfold. To the present day the early ruin of the faith of God's people which would have resulted from the general toleration of the Canaanites would have borne its bitter fruits.
V. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES HAS A DEEP SYMBOLICAL AND PRACTICAL LESSON FOR US ALL. God changes not; the same principles direct His dealings now as then. The flesh must be mortified and subdued. See Jesus, our Joshua, stretches forth the spear. He commands the conflict; onward, then, and conquer.
(G. W. Butler, M. A.)
Homiletic Review.Though the Israelites have passed out of Egypt and beyond the Red Sea and through the wilderness, they have not passed beyond the domain of struggle and duty; they must go on to possess the land. In its southeastern border dwell the Moabites; north of them are the Amorites, strongly intrenched; above them the Hittites; on the west side, beyond the Jordan, are the Anakim; above these, a mighty nation, the Canaanites; near them the Perizzites, etc.
I. THE THING TO BE DONE. Too much is our Christianity over-anxious about its beginnings and too careless about its subsequent growth and reach. We are all the time seeking just to get people out of Egypt, we are all the time too unconcerned as to whether these people go on to conquer Canaan for the Lord. Having "come to Jesus," the reign of Jesus is to be extended inwardly over the entire soul, outwardly over the entire life. Canaan reached was not Canaan conquered. The converted man is not yet a sanctified man. Evil pride, vanity, jealousy, covetousness, passionateness, discontent, bad habits, etc. — Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites enough are yet resident in even the converted soul.
II. THE FORCE BY WHICH THIS CONQUEST IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. "And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee." The soul and God — these are the forces of conflict.
III. SOME REASONS FOR THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE.
1. Ceasing of battle. After a while some of the Israelites stopped struggling against the aliens.
2. Fear. These Israelites would not struggle against certain of the aliens, because they had chariots of iron. So some bad habit frightens a Christian from struggle.
3. Success of a sort. "And it came to pass when Israel was strong they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out." Many a man, professedly Christian, dares not attempt to be the Christian he knows he ought to be because, successful in worldly affairs, his worldly interests will not let him. So he salves his conscience by putting his questionable gain "under tribute"; gives it, or a portion of it, in charity, etc.
IV. RESULT. "Will be a snare unto thee." Was their failure not a snare? Call to mind the history of the Israelites, the destruction of the ten tribes. The only proof of a real Christianity is a continually advancing self-conquest.
Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh.
I. THE SPIRITUAL STATE HERE REPRESENTED. The Jewish Church in the wilderness may be here regarded as a type or figure of the Church of Christ in the world, and the case of each member of the one as prefiguring in some particulars the condition of each believer in the other. But like as Israel, though free from Egypt and from all fear of being carried thither again, notwithstanding, had not overcome all enemies, but was to fight his way against them and never give them quarter, but fight on till they were utterly destroyed; so now is the believer in Christ called to fight the good "fight of faith, and lay hold upon eternal life." We may perceive, then, that the situation of Israel when Moses addressed them in the words of the text, represents to us the present state of the follower of Christ, and the warfare which he has to war under Christ as his captain against the enemies of his salvation.
II. THE FEARS WHICH COMMONLY ATTEND THIS STATE. The strength and number of the enemies whom Israel had to fight was well known to that people; but the Lord Himself had repeatedly put them in mind of it, saying continually, after He had numbered them over, that they were "seven nations greater and mightier than Israel." But why did God say so? Was it to make them afraid of these nations? No; but to enliven their faith and exercise their dependence upon God. It was quite true, and a notorious truth, that those nations were in point of strength and number quite an overmatch for Israel; so that it was impossible for him in his own strength to dispossess them. It was also true that, till they were dispossessed, the land of promise could not be enjoyed; so that these two considerations, the strength end number of the enemies of Israel and his own weakness, were the more immediate causes of his fears. The fears often felt by the Christian are much of the same kind. His enemies are of three kinds — the world, the flesh, and the devil: mighty all of them, and many; for the world and the flesh and the devil have marshalled under them whole hosts of enemies, of whom anyone, encountered by the Christian in his own strength, would be too strong. And oh I should he compare himself with them, what painful cause has he for the acknowledgment, "These are more than I!" It is in such a ease too natural for him to look within himself, and, pausing upon what he finds there, ask, almost in despair, "How can I dispossess them?" But mark how graciously the Lord anticipates, prevents such fears: "If thou shalt say in thine heart (He too well knows His people will say so), These nations am more than I: how can I dispossess them?" — this is their —
III. ENCOURAGEMENT. "Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember," etc. What God had done to Egypt and her king, Israel had seen and knew: it was because of this that they were then where they were, and that they were not in Egypt now; and God calls upon them to remember, for encouragement, what they had been in time past, "Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt"; and what had been done for their deliverance, and who had been the doer of it, Himself, the Lord their God: thus every word appears to have an emphasis intended to encourage them against their fears. Now, this encouragement, which God addressed to them, may serve as a figure of that which forms the encouragement of every Christian; for it is now the privilege of every Christian to look, for his encouragement, at the redemption wrought for him by Christ. Under all his fears he should remember what a wretched, lost condition Christ redeemed His people from, and how and why He did it. That state is thus described in Ephesians 2:1. This was the state of every one of us by nature. And how were they set free from it? By no less an act of love than the death of God's own Son in His dead people's stead (Romans 5:6). We see, then, that the encouragement of a true Christian, under all his fears and against all the enemies of his soul, is in that sure covenant and rich provision of all things his soul can need, through that redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Does he find the world too strong for him; does he dread the rage and malice of its children who are set against him, or the snares and perils which the God of this world sets about his path? Or does he tremble at that overwhelming crowd of cares which comes upon him daily with his first waking thought? Let him not be afraid of these things, but let him well remember what Christ did for him when he was dead in trespasses and sins; and thus strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, let him cast all his care on God. Does he dread the power of his own corruptions, and ask, "How can I dispossess them? Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Let him faithfully remember the encouragement suggested by the text, and he shall soon say also with the apostle, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Or lastly, is he troubled by the fear of death, "the last enemy that shall be destroyed"? Christ, his Redeemer, through His own death, hath abolished death by destroying him that had the power of death — that is, the devil. In short, the Christian's "life is hid," and so kept safe from every enemy, "with Christ in God."
(F. F. Clark, B. A.)
The Lord thy God will send the hornet.I. SINS WHICH ARE LEFT AND HIDDEN. John Bunyan very wisely describes the town of Mansoul after it had been taken by Prince Immanuel. The Prince rode to the Castle called the Heart and took possession of it, and the whole city became his; but there were certain Diabolonians, followers of Diabolus, who never quitted the town. They could not be seen in the streets, could not be heard in the markets, never dared to occupy a house, but lurked about in certain old dens and eaves. Some of them got impudent enough even to hire themselves out for servants to the men of Mansoul under other names. There was Mr. Covetousness, who was called Mr. Prudent Thrifty, and there was Mr. Lasciviousness, who was called Mr. Harmless Mirth. They took other names, and still lived here, much to the annoyance of the town of Mansoul, skulking about in holes and corners, and only coming out on dark days, when they could do mischief and serve the Black Prince. Now, in all of us, however watchful we may be, though we may set Mr. Pry Well to listen at the door, and he may watch, and my Lord Mayor, Mr. Understanding, be very careful to search all these out, yet there will remain much hidden sin. I think we ought always to pray to God to forgive us sins that we do not know anything about. "Thine unknown agonies," says the old Greek liturgy; and there are unknown sins for which those agonies make atonement. Perhaps the sins which you and I confess are not the tithe of what we really do commit. There are, no doubt, in all of us Canaanites still dwelling in the land, that will be thorns in our side.
II. A SINGULAR MEANS FOR THEIR DESTRUCTION — "THY GOD WILL SEND THE HORNET AMONG THEM." These fellows resorted to caves and dens. God employed the very best means for their destruction. I suppose these hornets were large wasps; two or three times, perhaps, as large as a wasp, with very terrible stings. It is not an unusual historical fact to find districts depopulated by means of stinging insects. In connection with the journey of Dr. Livingstone we can never forget that strange kind of guest which is such a pest to the cattle in any district, that the moment it appeared they had either to fly before it or to die. The hornet must have been a very terrible creature; but it is not at all extraordinary that there should have been hornets capable of driving out a nation. The hornet was a very simple means; it was no sound of trumpet, nor even the glitter of miracles, it was a simple, natural means of fetching these people out of their holes. It is well known that insects in some countries will sting one race of people and not another. Sometimes the inhabitants of a country are not at all careful about mosquitoes or such creatures, when strangers are greatly pestered with them. God could therefore bring hornets which would sting the Hivites and the Jebusites but not molest the Israelites, and in this way the Canaanites were driven out of their holes; some died by the stings of hornets, and others were put in the way of the sharp swords of the men of Israel, and thus they died. The spiritual analogy to this is, the daily trouble which God sends to every one of us. I suppose you have all got your hornets. Some have hornets in the family; your child may be a hornet to you — your wife, your husband, your brother, the dearest friend you haves may be a daffy cross to you; and, though a dead cross is very heavy, a living cross is heavier far. To bury a child is a great grief, but to have that child live and sin against you is ten times worse. You may have hornets that shall follow you to your bed chamber — some of you may know what that means — so that even where you ought to find your rest and your sweetest solace, it is there that you receive your bitterest sting of trouble. The hornet will sometimes come in the shape of business. You are perplexed — you cannot prosper — one thing comes after another. You seem to be born to trouble more than other people. You have ventured on the right hand, but it was a failure; you pushed out on the left, but that was a break. down. Almost everybody you trust fails immediately, and those you do not trust are the people you might have safely relied upon. Others have hornets in their bodies. Some have constant headaches; aches and pains pass and shoot along the nerves of others. If you could but be quit of it, you think, how happy you would be; but you have got your hornet, and that hornet is always with you. But if I tried to get through the whole list of hornets I should want all the morning, for there is a particular grief to every man. Each man has his own form of obnoxious sting which he has to feel. There is one point I want you to notice in the text, and that is, we are expressly told the hornets came from God. He sent them. "The Lord thy God will send the hornet." This will help you, perhaps, to bear their stings another time. God weighs your troubles in scales, and measures out your afflictions, every drachm and scruple of them; and since they come, therefore, directly from a loving Father's hand, accept them with grateful cheerfulness, and pray that the result which Divine Wisdom has ordained to flow from them may be abundantly realised in your sanctification, in being made like unto Christ.
III. A VERY SUGGESTIVE LESSON TO OURSELVES. It is this. What is my particular besetting sin? Have I been careful in self-examination? If not, I must expect to have the hornet. God never punishes His children for sin penally, but He chastens them for it paternally. You may often discover what your sin is by the punishment, for you can see the face of the sin in the punishment — the one is so like the other.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. I remark, in the first place, that these small stinging annoyances may come in the shape of a sensitive nervous organisation. People who are prostrated under typhoid fevers or with broken bones get plenty of sympathy; but who pities anybody that is nervous?
2. Again, these small insect annoyances may come to us in the shape of friends and acquaintances who are always saying disagreeable things. There are some people you cannot be with for half an hour but you feel cheered and comforted. Then there are other people you cannot be with for five minutes before you feel miserable. They do not mean to disturb you, but they sting you to the bone. They gather up all the yarn which the gossips spin, and peddle it. They gather up all the adverse criticisms about your person, about your business, about your home, about your church, and they make your ear the funnel into which they pour it. These people of whom I speak, reap and bind in the great harvest field of discouragement. Some days you greet them with a hilarious "good morning," and they come buzzing at you with some depressing information. "The Lord sent the hornet."
3. Perhaps these small insect annoyances will come in the shape of a domestic irritation. The parlour and the kitchen do not always harmonise. To get good service and to keep it is one of the great questions of the country.
4. These small insect disturbances may also come in the shape of business irritations. It is not the panics that kill the merchants. Panics come only once in ten or twenty years. It is the constant din of these every day annoyances which is sending so many of our best merchants into nervous dyspepsia and paralysis and the grave.
5. I have noticed in the history of some of my congregation that their annoyances are multiplying, and that they have a hundred where they used to have ten. The naturalist tells us that a wasp sometimes has a family of twenty thousand wasps, and it does seem as if every annoyance of your life brooded a million. By the help of God today I want to set in a counter current. The hornet is of no use? Oh yes! The naturalists tell us they are very important in the world's economy; they kill spiders and they clear the atmosphere; and I really believe God sends the annoyances of our lives upon us to kill the spiders of the soul and to clear the atmosphere into the skies. These annoyances are sent on us, I think, to wake us up from our lethargy. If we had a bed of everything that was attractive and easy, what would we want of heaven? We think that the hollow tree sends the hornet. You think the devil sends the hornet. I want to correct your theology. "The Lord sent the hornet." Then I think these annoyances come on us to culture our patience. When you stand chin-deep in annoyances is the time for you to swim out towards the great headlands of Christian attainment, and when your life is loaded to the muzzle with repulsive annoyances — that is the time to draw the bead. Nothing but the furnace will ever burn out of us the clinker and the slag. Now, would you not rather have these small drafts of annoyance on your bank of faith than some all-staggering demand upon your endurance? I want to make my people strong in the faith that they will not surrender to small annoyances. In the village of Hamelin, tradition says, there was an invasion of rats, and these small creatures almost devoured the town and threatened the lives of the population, and the story is that a piper came out one day and played a very sweet tune, and all the vermin followed him — followed him to the banks of the Weser, and then he blew a blast and they dropped in and disappeared forever. Of course this is a fable, but I wish I could, on the sweet flute of the Gospel, draw forth all the nibbling and burrowing annoyances of your life, and play them down into the depths forever. How many touches did Mr. Church give to his picture of "Cotopaxi" or his "Heart of the Andes"? I suppose about fifty thousand touches. I hear the canvas saying, "Why do you keep me trembling with that pencil so long? Why don't you put it on in one dash?" "No," said Mr. Church, "I know how to make a painting. It will take fifty thousand of these touches." And I want you to understand that it is these ten thousand annoyances which, under God, are making up the picture of your life, to be hung at last in the galleries of heaven, fit for angels to look at. God knows how to make a picture. God meant this world to be only the vestibule of heaven, and that is the great gallery of the universe towards which we are aspiring. We must not have it too good in this world, or we would want no heaven. You are surprised that aged people are so willing to go out of this world. I will tell you the reason. It is not only because of the bright prospects in heaven, but it is because they feel that seventy years of nettlesomeness is enough. They would lie down in the soft meadows of this world forever, but "God sent the hornet."
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the Lord thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.I. The complaint has been made often THAT THE QUALITIES WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE ESPECIALLY ENCOURAGED TO CULTIVATE ARE NOT MANLINESS AND COURAGE; that, so far as the Christian ideal is set continually before the mind of a nation or a man, that mind is likely to become submissive, not energetic. I believe that the courage, which is only another way of expressing the heart, of a nation is liable to a continual weakening and decay; that left to itself it will certainly wither; that some religions may hasten its death; but that by doing so such religion will prove that it does not come from God, that it is not His religion, not His instrument for reforming and regenerating the world.
II. A RETURN TO THE OLD FAITH THAT COURAGE AND HUMANITY ARE NOT ENEMIES, BUT INSEPARABLE COMPANIONS, HAS CERTAINLY COMMENCED AMONG US. The misfortune is that Christianity is supposed to be not identical with humanity, but a substitution for it. And this opinion is closely connected with another: that courage is a heathen, or perhaps the heathen, virtue, and that we have cherished it by giving our children a semi-heathen education. Consider this opinion under different aspects.
III. By a heathen we mean one who is not a Jew. That is the simplest, most accurate use of the name. Taking it in this sense, our text is decisive THAT A HIGH ESTIMATE OF COURAGE WAS NOT CONFINED TO HEATHENS; that if to form such an estimate is ungodly, the chosen people were as ungodly as any. The Bible tells us that idolatry is the great destroyer of courage, reverence for the true God and an abiding sense of His presence and protection the upholder of it. Now is this doctrine compatible with the fact that the most illustrious of the heathen nations were singularly brave nations, and that our forefathers sought to kindle English courage at their fires? It is incompatible if we regard a heathen merely as an idolater. It is perfectly compatible if we trace through the history of the great nations that worshipped idols a continual witness against it. Their belief in courage, as a quality which raised them above the animals, was the greatest of all the protests which the conscience of heathens was bearing against idolatry, against the worship of visible things, which is directly connected with our animal instincts, which is always lowering the human being to the level of that which he should rule.
IV. THE COURAGE OF THE HEBREW WAS DERIVED FROM HIS TRUST IN THE BEING WHO HAD CHOSEN HIM TO DO HIS WORK IN THE WORLD, WHO WOULD ACCOMPLISH THAT WORK, LET WHAT POWERS WOULD UNITE TO DEFEAT IT. Christianity is not a denial of Judaism or a denial of heathenism, a tertium quid which excludes all that is strongest and most vital in both, but the harmony and concentration of both, the discovery of Him in whom the meaning of both is realised and raised to its highest power; but out of the union and reconciliation of apparent opposites in the faith of a Father and a Son, of a Spirit proceeding from both, to quicken men and make them the voluntary, cheerful servants, because the sons, of God, there must come forth a courage diviner than the Hebrew, more human than the Greek, more pledged to a continual battle with disorder than the Roman.
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
I. THE FEARS WHICH THEY WERE IN DANGER OF INDULGING.
1. The superior strength of their enemies.
2. The consequent difficulty of dispossessing them. A few, comparatively, against many; the weak against the strong. How can I dispossess them? Is not the case very similar now? The Christian cannot be blind to the fact that his enemies are greater and mightier than he; the hosts of hell are marshalled against him. Legion is their name, implying unity, order, zeal, and perseverance. The enemies are mighty, and have overcome their thousands. There are few who have not been tempted to consider the contest hopeless, and to say, "Surely I shall one day perish." Now if there be one here saying this in his heart, let him attend —
II. TO THE ENCOURAGEMENTS PROVIDED AGAINST THOSE FEARS.
1. A recollection of God's past dealings. Thou shalt remember well what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt. The difficulties there were as great as they could be; — Pharaoh had chariots and horsemen; the Israelites were despised slaves; he had power, and was determined to use it in retaining them; yet the Lord brought them out, and therefore they need not fear now.
2. They were instructed as to the Lord's future methods. So shall the Lord do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid: He had ten thousand ways of weakening the power of the enemy; the whole kingdom of nature was at His command; He could send the hornet among them; even the insect tribe shall be made subservient to the accomplishment of God's design towards them. Joshua records the fulfilment of this promise (Deuteronomy 24:12). But this conquest was to be gradual. The Lord thy God will put out those nations by little and little. Immediate and entire victory would have been attended with undesirable consequences; God therefore gave them as much as in their circumstances was good for them.
3. Assurance was given of final victory. And are there not equal encouragements now, to everyone anxious to attain the heavenly Canaan? There is, however, this happy difference in the two cases: that when once the Christian has passed over the Jordan of death, every difficulty will be over, every enemy conquered, he will have the land in possession.In conclusion, I would say —
1. Let no one expect the victor, who fights in his own strength.
2. Let no one despair of victory who fights in the Lord's strength.
(George Breay, B. A.)
I. THE ENEMIES OF GOD'S PEOPLE. We know that the inhabitants of Canaan were emphatically idolaters. This was their special characteristic. Now it is idolatry, in some shape or other, that draws men away from the service of God. Some make pleasure their idol; some make wealth their idol. But their enemies are many in number. There is a special danger in the present day arising from those false doctrines which have arisen in the household of faith and caused hostile parties in the Church. In connection with this I may mention a contrary error — latitudinarianism. Again, the world is very dangerous; the example of those who live in it is most seductive. Again, we meet with those who are men of learning and great talent, and we are exposed to danger even from them. We hear them maintaining opinions which are not scriptural, but we think it is scarcely possible for those who are so learned to be wrong; we are thus left to ask in perplexity, "Who is in the right?" We forget that men must "become fools that they may be wise" as respects spiritual knowledge. But there are enemies within. And here I must not omit to place in the forefront self, in all its varied forms (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Then, again, we have to contend against the whole army of lusts — "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." All these are of the world, and all these lust against the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would.
II. Now let us inquire what are the WEAPONS with which we must fight? Scripture teaches us (2 Corinthians 10:4) that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal." Amongst our defensive weapons I may mention, as the first and chiefest, prayer. With this we must join faith in the promises. And, also, we must remember that throughout our whole life we shall have need of active watchfulness. There are also offensive weapons which we are bound to use. The first of these which I will mention is consistency. Outward consistency of character deters many from attempting their proposed assaults. Nor must we forget the Word of God. Here, indeed, is our great weapon; and so powerful is it, that it is the great desire of Satan to keep it out of our reach.
III. But I own there are great DIFFICULTIES in the way. The first to which I will allude is that which arises from our peculiar position in the world. We must be in the world, and the difficulty at the same time is to take care that we are not of the world. To have a wise discerning judgment; to distinguish between the fulfilment of our duty in that station of life in which God has placed us, and the yielding to the secret subtle snares of Satan, is often a work of great difficulty for the Christian. Again, the Christian's difficulties and afflictions are not all at once removed. Like the enemies of the Jews they are put down, as it were, "little by little." It is a gradual and a progressive work. But assuredly it does progress towards final victory. But numerous as are our enemies, great as are our difficulties, blessed be God, we have —
IV. OUR ENCOURAGEMENTS also. And first among these we know we shall have the victory. The promise of victory has been given, and it is as sure as if it were accomplished. We know that we are on the conquering side. The numbers of our enemies, then, need not terrify us. "Greater is He that is for us than all they that are against us." The past mercies we have received are all pledges of future mercies. If we had but received that one pledge of God's love which He afforded us in the gift of His Son for us, this would of itself be sufficient to encourage the assurance of hope. For (Romans 8:32) we have nothing to fear from present weakness. The Lord has laid help upon One that is mighty to save. Though our gracious Saviour is not Himself personally present He has told us the reason (John 16:7). Still He is spiritually present with us. His Spirit still abides with His Church — and therefore with us, if we be indeed members of that Church — comforting us, assisting us, strengthening us, and ensuring us victory at the last. Furthermore, the Lord is on our side. "The Lord thy God will do this"
(H. M. Villiers, M. A.)
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 Mace 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 he 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 thy God will put out those nations.
By little and little.
Genesis 3, we read that "the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field," and surely in nothing has he manifested his cunning more than in the cruel way wherewith he has imitated God in dealing with men's souls. I see that in saving souls, he would seem to say, "Jehovah takes not the sinner out of his sin so as at once to transform him into a perfect saint. I see that in winning souls to glory He woos them gradually away from earth, and by little and little makes them meet to be forever with the Lord. I will go and do likewise. In seeking the eternal ruin of souls, my principle of action shall be the same. I will not try to make a man a tenant meet for hell at once, but step by step I will lead him down. I will first coax him till he gives up some one good habit; I will then tempt him till he indulges in some one sin, and again I will blunt his conscience by tempting him to repeat that sin, until by little and little I shall be able to sap the very foundations of his character, and gradually make him fit for the abode of the lost." I adjure you, then, as you value your happiness in time and in eternity, beware of the very first little tendency to sin. It is here the danger lies. This is the rule of hews attack.
(D. P. Morgan, M. A.)
1. Every day a little knowledge. One fact in a day. How small is one fact! Only one. Ten years pass by. Three thousand six hundred and fifty facts are not a small thing.
2. Every day a little self-denial. The thing that is difficult to do today will be an easy thing to do three hundred and sixty days hence, if each day it shall have been repeated. What power of self-mastery shall he enjoy who, looking to God for grace, seeks every day to practise the grace he prays for!
3. Every day a little helpfulness. We live for the good of others, if our living be in any sense a true living. It is not in great deeds of kindness only that the blessing is found. In "little deeds of kindness," repeated every day, we find true happiness.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Christian Age.Young men in beginning life are apt to be impatient of the first little steps that apparently make no advance, forgetting that seeming "trifles make up the sum of life," just as in building, the little bricks, laid carefully one at a time, side by side, and securely cemented together, make at last the great, strong structure. A young man, having exhausted his patrimony in obtaining a professional education, settled himself in a town already filled with successful lawyers, to practise law. One day one of these older lawyers asked him how, under such circumstances, he expected to make a living. "I hope I may get a little practice," was the modest reply. "It will be very little," said the lawyer. "Then I will do that little well, answered the young mall decidedly. He carried out his determination. The little things well done brought larger ones, and ill time he became one of the most distinguished jurists of his State. Again, a certain old bishop, who was fond of finding odd characters in out-of-the-wayplaces, was visiting in a quiet neighbourhood. One day, in a walk with a friend, he came across a crossroads settlement of a few houses. Among them was a snug little shoe shop, kept by an old man, which showed signs of prosperity. Interested in the old cobbler, the bishop stopped for a chat. "My friend," he said, "I would not think so small a business as mending shoes would pay so well." "Ah," said the gentleman with him, "old Cato has the monopoly of shoe mending in this region. No one else gets a job." "How is that, Cato?" asked the bishop. "Just so, master," replied Cato. "It is only little patches put on with little stitches or tiny pegs. But when I takes a stitch it is a stitch, and when I drive a peg it holds. Little things well done! The good bishop used that reply as a text for many a sermon afterwards.
Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold.
(J. Parker, D. D.).