When the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan they were given specific instructions regarding those who were inhabiting the land. God’s judgment was to be executed upon the Canaanites and the nation of Israel was the LORD’s instrument of choice. God could have used any means He wanted; He could have brought massive earthquakes upon the land; He could have brought famine; He could have simply decided not to extend another gracious breath to all those who had come under the righteous wrath; but instead, in this Old Testament context, He used the nation of Israel to be His instrument of choice.
Now to be clear, God was not bringing judgment on a righteous society that was minding their own business, loving Him with their hearts and raising their children to be upstanding followers of God who loved their neighbors as themselves. Furthermore, it appears at this point in time, there wasn’t even a shroud for the wickedness of these peoples. They practiced all different kinds of perversion and sexual immorality (incest, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality); they sacrificed their children to the false god Molech (Lev. 18:6-25); and they practiced all kinds of sorcery and witchcraft (Deut. 18:9-14). And even then, the nations could have placed their faith in the God of Israel, sought His mercy, and found grace like Rahab the harlot.
But they refused; they warred against God and their judgment was appointed.
Israel was given clear orders.
“16 But of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing remain alive, 17 but you shall destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the LORD your God has commanded you.” (Deut. 20:16-17)
“When the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them or show mercy to them.” (Deut. 7:2)
However, in the opening chapter of Judges, we see Israel’s failure to fulfill the mission God had given them. They chose co-existence over conquest.
In verse 21 we read that the tribe of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem. Rather than continue to fight and trust the LORD for victory, they chose the easier route of co-existence.
In verses 27 through 29 we see the tribe of Joseph put the Canaanites under tribute instead of driving them out. They were strong enough to drive them out, but maybe it was more work than they wanted to put in. Maybe they thought, “Rather than get rid of the Canaanites, let them serve us. You know how hard it will be to get rid of them all?”
In verse 30 we see Zebulun chose the same route.
In verses 31 and 32 we read of Asher’s compromise. Asher’s situation was even worse than the aforementioned tribes. It wasn’t that the Canaanites dwelt among them, they “dwelt among the Canaanites.”
In verse 33 we see that Naphtali also dwelt among the Canaanites.
And in verses 34 through 36 we see that the Amorites overwhelmed the tribe of Dan until the tribe of Joseph came to their aid. However, even with the aid of the tribe of Joseph, the Amorites were put under tribute and permitted to dwell in the land.
Thus, the children of Israel ignored the clear orders of the LORD and chose co-existence over conquest.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, this has tremendous implications for you and me.
You and I are not called to go into a land and put to death its inhabitants like the nation of Israel was at this point in redemptive history. Christ has come and we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are, however, called to put to death what is of our earthly nature and we are called to put to death the deeds of the flesh. In doing so, we must be careful not to make peace treaties with our sins, choosing to co-exist with them rather than conquering them.
There must be violence against all the impulses of indifference, laziness, lust, love of ease, greed, desiring the praise and approval of men, the pursuit of money, and serving of self.
As it is written,
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him (Col. 3:5-10)
We must not make a peace treaty with any of these things; rather, we must put them to death.
Romans 8:13 tells us,
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom. 8:13)
What does it mean to put sin to death by the Spirit?
Although there is much that can be said on this subject, let me summarize it by saying:
- We must wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17), and be sanctified by its truth (Jn. 17:17).
- We must walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). In other words, we must heed the leading of God’s Spirit. If the word of God says something we’re doing is wrong, we must repent and turn away from it. If God’s Word tells us there are things we have to change in our lives, we must be diligent to make those changes. We must not get used to co-existing with compromise; we must get used to conquering that which we are called to get rid of.
- We must receive God’s promises by faith. God has given exceedingly great and precious promises by which we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:3-4) and we must believe those promises. We must look to the perfect, finished work of Christ, and trust the Holy Spirit to conform us to His image, cause us to walk in His ways, and not allow any sin to have dominion over us.
May you be exhorted today to choose conquest over co-existence.