Deuteronomy 7:1-11 -
Israel's iconoclastic mission.
Material idolatry is the great peril of humanity. To what corruption and misery such idolatry leads, we in Christianized England can scarcely conceive. What the history of our world would have been if that hotbed of Canaanite corruption had continued, it would be difficult to imagine. Many methods were open to God by which he might arrest that plague of vice; out of them all, his wisdom selected this , viz. to employ the Hebrews as his ministers of destruction.
I. CONSIDER MEN AS ELECTED BY GOD TO OFFICE AND TO SERVICE . We may safely suppose that every nation fulfils some propose foreseen by God—perhaps appointed thereto by him. Possibly every man, though he may not rise to the realization of God's highest ideal, yet may fulfill some inferior purpose of God. The Hebrews had a very special honor conferred on them. They were chosen unto holiness, chosen to be the ministers of God's righteousness. The glory was eminent, and the Jews failed to reach it. The Most High God condescended to enter into closest alliance with Israel, deigned to be called their God, and took their interests into his care. So long as they kept his commandments, lie kept his covenant. His faithfulness was an infinite quantity, but it was conditioned by Israel's obedience. No evidence was lacking to Israel touching the friendly protection and help of Jehovah. Their loyalty as subjects was met cordially by his favor as Sovereign . Their admitted weakness was met by the Divine strength, Their poor, shallow love was met and recompensed by his rich affection.
II. THE GROUNDS OF GOD 'S CHOICE .
1. This is declared negatively . It was not on the ground of their numbers or their strength. That strength and magnitude of the nation were the effect of God's choice, not its cause. They were not chosen because of superior holiness, but with a view to make them holy, some reason there is for God's choice, but that reason is not often revealed. Possibly it is too recondite for man's understanding, or the further pursuit of the inquiry might divert him from practical obedience.
2. It is stated positively that this choice was the outcome of love . There must have been the potency, perhaps the promise, of good in the Hebrews, in order to attract the love of God. If there was no positive wickedness, God would delight in them as the product of his own skill. His gracious dealings hitherto had been in respect of the oath made to their fathers . God's great love to Abraham had perpetuated itself in his seed. Who can measure what a life of blessing each one of us may communicate to generations yet unborn? Divine grace in us is not terminal.
III. THE DESIGN OF GOD 'S CHOICE — GENERAL AND SPECIAL . The general design was Holy character . Choice to office and to honor depended on attainment of character. Holiness is the highest perfection of man, therefore the highest design of God. Holiness is a far higher acquisition than wisdom or strength. The seven nations of Canaan were greater and mightier than Israel, yet those nations fell before the holy people. Purity shall eventually displace power. Right is genuine might. Holiness has, by Divine appointment, an everlasting tenure. The design of God ' s choice of Israel was also special , viz. to overturn idolatry . The general vocation included the special . To be holy would necessitate conflict with sin. Light must contend with darkness. Opposite principles must contend for the mastery. The holier we become, the more resolute will be our battle with idolatry. We shall feel towards it, and act towards it, as God does. For us to live (if we be God's consecrated sons), and for us to oppose idolatry , is identical. "No peace with sin" is our loyal motto.
IV. THE REALIZED RESULTS OF THE DIVINE CHOICE . Already the Hebrews had obtained a signal triumph over the Egyptians, as the proof of God's gracious intentions towards them. That triumph was singular, surprising, and complete, he, who could secure such a triumph for Israel, could give them easy conquest over any adversary. They knew how to touch the secret springs of success. The pathway to renown was open. There was scarcely room for a doubtful issue, for from a greater foe God had already delivered them.
V. THE HONOR CONVEYED IN THIS CHOICE , VIZ . TO BE CO - WORKERS WITH GOD . God would cast out the seven nations of Canaanites, therefore the Hebrews must smite them. God would deliver them up, therefore Israel was to destroy them. In every step they were to be coadjutors with God. We are not to suppose that the Canaanites were passively slaughtered. In every case they provoked severity of treatment. So completely had the idolaters identified themselves with idolatry, that, to destroy the latter, Israel had to destroy the former. When God, the Great Proprietor of all, imposes a command upon us, however repulsive to our own feeling, it would be flagrant disloyalty on our part, yea, gross sin, to disobey. Punishment by the sword cannot be a more unrighteous act than punishment by cholera or by plague; and if men admit the justice of the one, they should also of the other. Human pity must sometimes be kept in abeyance.
VI. GOD 'S DESIGNS , IF NOT FOLLOWED , VISIT MEN WITH DESTRUCTION . The alternative of not executing God's high commission was appalling. If any false sentiments of pity diverted them from the plain path of duty, the Hebrews would have become partakers of idolaters' sins. Any concession or compromise with the Canaanites would be (and in fact was ) fatal to themselves. Can one touch pitch and not be defiled? The slightest connivance with the abomination would be a moral poison. They too would be accursed. For God will not endure to be trifled with. To his friends he is infinitely gracious, and blesses, for their sakes, their posterity; but his foes he repayeth to their face. We have to make our choice between complete devotement to God's cause and complete destruction.—D.
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