(this is another Bible study/devotional message from my memorizing/meditative efforts in Deuteronomy 4-10)
I have spoken before in these Deuteronomy devotions about the need to consider doing Bible study as you would think about a train, riding on two rails. To get from one destination to the other, trains needs to ride on two rails. So, as we look into the Scriptures, its important for us to view one rail as trying to understand the context of the events taking place in the Bible story. Who is being referred to? What was going on at that time? What was the immediate lesson for those mentioned in the Bible story, etc. The second rail has to do with application. So, what is the take away for me? How do I apply it in my life? We need to look at both rails in our reading of the Bible for it to have its full impact.
Today’s devotion (a little longer than usual) is about Israel’s claiming their rights to the Promised Land and fighting their enemies. Specifically, there were seven pagan nations, “greater and stronger” than the Israelites. They would be a formidable foe. To prepare the Israelites for what they would encounter, God gave them very clear instructions and expectations.
First of all, they would need to acknowledge reality: the nations they were going to be fighting were in fact, “greater and stronger” than them. They were intimidating to look at and most likely, the first reaction the Israelites would experience was that of fear and doubt.
But second of all, God went on to say that in their moment of realization that they were facing an opponent beyond their abilities to handle, they would come to a crisis point of fear. It was as this point, they were to REMEMBER. He said to them that it would be really important for them to pause and remember His faithfulness in their past. He reminded them of when He delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh in Egypt, another opponent more powerful than they. He told them to have confidence in Him because He had gotten them through other difficult situations and He would do it again.
Another example in the Bible where someone remembered their past to give them confidence in the future was when King Saul doubted that a young shepherd boy, David was really up to the task of fighting a giant, Goliath. David replied to the king in 1 Samuel 17:32-37 (NASB): “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
God told the Israelites that they should acknowledge their fears. They would have doubts and uncertainties about how they could possibly beat an opponent stronger than they were. God also said when those fears and doubts comes, they should “remember” His past faithfulness. He had gotten them through other tough circumstances. Lastly, God said to the Israelites that they should remember they were not fighting their future battles alone. He would be with them and fight for them. He conveyed to them that it was His Sovereign will for them to have the victory and take control of the land of Promise. The Israelites would be physically fighting the enemies of God, but it would actually be God working behind the scenes, who would be giving the victory to the Israelites.
Let’s make a connection now to our lives and look at that second rail. The application for us is that like the Israelites, we too are called to do battle. Once we come to a point where we understand that in our heart we have been rebellious and disobedient to a Holy God and that in His great mercy and grace, He has saved us by Jesus Christ dying on a cross taking upon Himself the punishment that we deserve, we are saved. We are reconciled to a Holy God who loves us and He gives us the Holy Spirit to come and live within us. We do not need to change before we seek to be reconciled to God. We can never “improve” enough to meet His standards of holiness. However, once we realized we bring nothing to the table and that we can only desperately appeal for His mercy and grace, it is then that we can be reconciled to Him. It is then out of a heart of gratefulness for what Jesus has accomplished for us that we will desire to live lives which will honor Him. It is God’s desire to work in us, and change us. He understands that all the manifestations of our selfishness will only end up hurting us in the long run, so He seeks to free us from them.
The place we will be fighting our battles will be in our mind. It is there that strongholds are formed and solidified. It is these mental mindsets and habits that are contrary to God that have to be conquered. Fortunately, God makes a provision for us in His “battle plan instructions” He gives us. He says in His Word, ”
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
2 Cor. 10:3-5 NASB)
I don’t want to venture too deeply into this, but I will summarize it like this: a person who is not walking with God will tend to make decisions in his brain by what appeals to his body (note: as humans, we are body, soul, and spirit) . He will act out on those things that appeal to his bodily desires, that is, his desire for physical appetites, sexual experiences, and things that excite his senses. A person who does not know God lives in the territory of three very powerful war lords who exert their dominion of power: Satan and his demons, a world culture that seeks to live independently of God, and a sinful nature (the flesh) that is an influence within us that seeks to elevate our selfish desires above all else.
However a person that is born again, is one who has had their spirit awakened to the knowledge of God. In the war room of the soul (where the battle decisions are made), rather than submitting to the impulses of the body ,and the influence of the three war lords (the Devil, the world, and our sinful nature), the mind, guided by the Spirit of God decides to submit to His instructions and promptings.
So, the battles we face are internal. They are really for control of our body and soul (our mind, will, and emotions). Ultimately, the question comes “which ruler (s) do we want (and trust) to be in charge over us: the three warlords (the Devil, the world system, and our sinful flesh), or the Sovereign God who has revealed His lovingkindness and holiness through His written Word (the Bible) and His living Word (Jesus Christ)?
This battle is clearly summarized in Galatians 5:16-26 (NLT). It says:
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
So, with all this in mind, I want to encourage you to do like I have been doing now for the past few years and read and meditate on these many verses from Deuteronomy 4-10. Look to do the 2 rail Bible study method by trying to better understand what is taking place in the Bible story, as well as then its application for today. I believe this will be a rich time for you as you do this study.
I have noted a few key passages from Deut. 4-10 that reference this “conquering the land” them and I would like to encourage you to do the “two rail” Bible study method as you study them. Please keep in mind, the idea is to spend time with these verses. Its not a “read them and move on” exercise. Spend the time with these passages and “hear with your soul (your emotions, will, and mind) what God is saying to the Israelites and to you.
For example, who are the tough enemies you face? What are your biggest temptations? what are those challenges you face that bring you fear because they are more than you can handle (the bold words below have been added by me):
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the [earth.
Deut. 7:16 You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
Deut. 7:17-26 – If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: 19 the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the Lord your God brought you out. So shall the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish. 21 You shall not dread them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will deliver their kings into your hand so that you will make their name perish from under heaven; no man will be able to stand before you until you have destroyed them. 25 The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. 26 You shall not bring an abomination into your house, and like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned.
8:1 “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.
9:1 -6 – “Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you.
“Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.
9:23-24 -When the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice. You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you.
10:11 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.’