Force the Other Nations
1 People of Israel, the Lord your God will help you take the land of the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. These seven nations have more people and are stronger than Israel, but when you attack them, 2the Lord will force them out of the land. Then you must destroy them without mercy. Don't make any peace treaties with them, 3and don't let your sons and daughters marry any of them. 4If you do, those people will lead your descendants to worship other gods and to turn their backs on the Lord. That will make him very angry, and he will quickly destroy Israel.
5 So when you conquer these nations, tear down the altars where they worship their gods. Break up their sacred stones, cut down the poles that they use in worshiping the goddess Asherah, and throw their idols in the fire.
The Lord's Chosen People
6 Israel, you are the chosen people of the Lord your God. There are many nations on this earth, but he chose only Israel to be his very own. 7You were the weakest of all nations, 8but the Lord chose you because he loves you and because he had made a promise to your ancestors. Then with his mighty arm, he rescued you from the king of Egypt, who had made you his slaves.
9 You know that the Lord your God is the only true God. So love him and obey his commands, and he will faithfully keep his agreement with you and your descendants for a thousand generations. 10But if you turn against the Lord, he will quickly destroy you. 11So be sure to obey his laws and teachings I am giving you today.
The Lord Will Bless You
(Deuteronomy 28.1-14; Leviticus 26.3-13)
Moses said to Israel:
12 If you completely obey these laws, the Lord your God will be loyal and keep the agreement he made with you, just as he promised our ancestors. 13The Lord will love you and bless you by giving you many children and plenty of food, wine, and olive oil. Your herds of cattle will have many calves, and your flocks of sheep will have many lambs. 14God will bless you more than any other nation—your families will grow and your livestock increase. 15You will no longer suffer with the same horrible diseases that you sometimes had in Egypt. You will be healthy, but the Lord will make your enemies suffer from those diseases.
Destroy the Nations
Moses said to Israel:
16When the Lord helps you defeat your enemies, you must destroy them without pity! And don't get trapped into worshiping their gods.
17You may be thinking, “How can we destroy these nations? They are more powerful than we are.” 18But stop worrying! Just remember what the Lord your God did to Egypt and its king. 19You saw how the Lord used his tremendous power to work great miracles and bring you out of Egypt. And he will again work miracles for you when you face these enemies you fear so much. 20Some of them may try to survive by hiding from you, but the Lord will make them panic, and soon they will be dead. 21So don't be frightened when you meet them in battle. The Lord your God is great and fearsome, and he will fight at your side.
22As you attack these nations, the Lord will force them out little by little. He won't let you get rid of them all at once—if he did, there wouldn't be enough people living in the land to keep down the number of wild animals. 23-24But when you attack your enemies, the Lord will make them panic, and you will easily destroy them. You will defeat their kings one after another until they are gone, and no one will remember they ever lived.
25After you conquer a nation, burn their idols. Don't get trapped into wanting the silver or gold on an idol. Even the metal on an idol is disgusting to the Lord, 26so destroy it. If you bring it home with you, both you and your house will be destroyed. Stay away from those disgusting idols!
Moses had his game face on. Imagine standing at the Jordan River, preparing to take the field spreading out before you. The time of testing has come. Strength, skill and courage will all be tested. Faith is not only a contemplative matter. It is made visible in the place where testing occurs. Moses knew something of fear in his own life experience. He had once been on the run but God called him back to face down those fears. So now he knows how to give encouragement. In Latin and Old French “encourage” means to put in and to add courage. So in order to make them strong he tells them to add a bit of heat and daring. Overcoming his fears made Moses a great mentor and coach.
Facing fear is also not a spectator sport. It takes effort, initiative and drive. Life confronts us, individually and corporately with many challenges. Past experience is not always a faithful guide. And anxieties can overwhelm. Somehow we must summon the fortitude to pass the test. Here we are counselled to stop the worry. It will do us no good, it saps our creative energy. We must stop worrying, Moses says, and act faithfully. The emphasis is on action.
Deuteronomy, Walter Brueggemann says, serves the Israelites as a long reflective pause before they launch their journey(1). It is the chance to see the future through the eye of faith. But what gives Moses such an optimistic and courageous outlook? It is not personal strength, nor the power of the Israelites. Over and over he says,“The Lord will [provide for you], just has he has done in the past. It is not your strength, but the Lord’s.” He will “work”, “force”, “make”, “keep”, “help” and “bless” you.
(1). Brueggemann, Walter,The Land: Placeas Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith, Second Edition, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN, (2002) p 44.
Father your ear is always tuned to us. And Moses, your humble servant reminds us to turn our hearts to you. We sense your spirit eagerly seeking us, ready to ease our deepest fears. Help us listen in loyalty, learn in humility, and speak in courage. In Jesus’ name we pray.