When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
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 and steadily 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 cf 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, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 145.
Deuteronomy 7:22-26I. There can be no doubt that these passages represent the Jewish nation as bound to a perpetual conflict with idolatry. The resistance was primarily an internal one. The members of the nation were never to bow down to natural or human symbols. But they were not merely to be tenacious of the true worship and watchful against the false; they were to go forth against the idolatrous people of Canaan, to break in pieces their gods, to destroy their altars and high places. And not only the idol or the idol temple was to be destroyed; the inhabitants of the idolatrous country, their wives, their children, their sheep, and their oxen, were to be put to death.
In explaining these facts, we must remember that the Jews were the one nation that might not go out to win prizes for themselves; they were simply the instruments of the righteous Lord against those who were polluting His earth and rendering it unfit for habitation.
II. We have surely not learned from the Sermon on the Mount that there is not a righteous Being, One whose will is to all good, One to whom injustice and wrong are opposed. Neither did our Lord say that men were not to be the instruments in doing God's work, in carrying out His purposes. The Gospel must be quite as assertive and intrusive as Judaism. Idolatry was more directly assaulted in its high places, received more deadly wounds, in the three centuries during which the Gospel of the Son of God was opposed by all the swords of the Roman empire, and when it had no earthly sword of its own, than by all the battles of the Israelites. The punishment of the idolater is not now the most effectual means of extinguishing idolatry. Our Lord shows us that the proclamation of Himself is a more perfect one.
III. These distinctions are deep and radical; they must affect all the relations between the magistrate and the herald of the Gospel, between the nation and the Church.
If we have learned to believe that the spirit of love is a consuming fire, which must destroy the idols and high places that we ourselves have set up and then all those which are withdrawing men anywhere from the living and true God, we shall find that the command to drive out the debased people of Canaan is an utterance of the same gracious will which bade the disciples go into all lands and preach the Gospel to every creature.
F. D. Maurice, The Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 256.
Reference: Deuteronomy 7:22-26.—Parker, vol. iv., p. 152.
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.
Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:
And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.
And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.
And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.
If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?
Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;
The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.
Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.
Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.
And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.
And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.
The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.
Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.