Pulpit Today Sermon
Robert D. Pace
As we discuss Driving out the Canaanites I want you to understand we’re using imagery from the Old Testament. The Canaanites were Israel’s archenemies that occupied the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants. Symbolically, the Canaanites represent the sin and evil that occupy our lives and hinder our ability to receive God’s promises.
There is something vitally important Christians must recognize about sin. Sin is not passive! It is not a wispy, ineffectual, languishing presence that only infects one when it’s touched. Sin is an aggressive, hostile evil that seeks to defile and destroy your relationship with God. That is why I am using the ancient Canaanites as a metaphor for sin. That’s why we must contend against it and expel it from our lives.
(Transition) It’s important to understand that when God commanded Joshua and Israel to claim the Promised Land the Canaanites, occupants of Abraham’s land, wouldn’t simply surrender and leave. Israel had to forcefully depose the Canaanites from the land. Let’s read our text in Deuteronomy 7:1-6.
For 400 years Israel had lived as strangers in Egypt. Now they were returning to reclaim their land of Promise. According to our text God commanded the Israelites to execute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ against the Canaanites that occupied their land.
- Every man, woman, and child was to be killed.
In verse two He told Israel to: “utterly destroy [the Canaanites] . . . and show them no favor.”
In verse sixteen He said: “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” (NASU).
For centuries, critics of the Bible have used this command to malign the character of God. They have insisted that a God of love, mercy, and compassion would never command such horrific retribution. At face value, God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites does seem contradictory of His nature. It would be terrifying if this were the only passage that recorded God’s dealings with His enemies, because it would indeed impugn His character. But you have to understand that God’s retribution can’t be defined from one passage any more than His goodness can be defined from one passage.
God is the fearful Judge of the earth, but He is also loving, merciful, compassionate, holy, and righteous. And these characteristics combined give us a clearer picture of God and why He deals with mankind as He does. And there is an explanation as to why the all-wise and holy God marked the Canaanites for destruction. That’s what I want to deal with for the next few minutes.
God’s Purpose for Destroying the Canaanites
A. First, we need to remember that God gave the Canaanites 400 years to repent as Israel was held bondage in Egypt and then an extra forty years to repent when Israel wandered through the wilderness. But the Canaanites remained stubborn and unrepentant. The Canaanites had ample opportunity to recognize that Israel was God’s chosen people, but they ignored what they knew to be true.
They heard how Egypt had withered under God’s terrifying acts of judgment.
They knew the drama of how the Red Sea opened and made a highway for Israel’s exodus.
They had stood from a distance and investigated the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that God created to shepherd Israel through the desert.
In all probability they drew near to sample the manna that fell around Israel’s camp.
The Canaanites saw the miracles God worked for His chosen people and knew the Israelites were coming for their land. But they ignored God’s warnings and remained stubborn.
God always deals patiently with man before issuing judgment. But His patience has limits! And God’s patience expires when His conviction can no longer prick our conscience or move the heart. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:1 that: “A man who remains stiff necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”
But there was another people-group living in the Promised Land known as the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites recognized God’s providence toward Israel and chose to make peace with them. Moreover, God spared the Gibeonites in the day of battle.
Now let me personalize this for us:
We live in the age of grace where God has given men 2000 years to hear the loving message of Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross for our sins.
We have the complete book of Scripture, filled with prophecies that have come to pass that show evidence of God’s power to predict the future with unfailing accuracy.
We have the witness of miracles and “signs and wonders” down through the ages that bear witness to God’s Word and ways.
We have the conviction of the Holy Spirit that moves our heart toward Christ.
But folks, time is running out and God’s patience is waning. The Holy Spirit is making His final appeal for people to accept Christ. I want to ask you: “Have you made Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?” If not, do so today.
(Transition) But there’s another reason God dealt harshly with the Canaanites.
B. The Canaanites were “utterly destroyed” because of the depth of their corporate perversion.
The Canaanites’ sins were so abominable they literally disqualified themselves from forgiveness. And what were the sins that forced God to disqualify them from His mercy? Both secular and Bible history agree that the Canaanites incorporated an unrivaled system of paganism.
They openly paraded sorcery and sensuality.
They held public orgies of homosexuality and bestiality.
The Canaanites took their children and slaughtered them before their demon gods.
It is also likely that many Canaanites were of the seed of the Nephilim.
Thus, their practices were so barbaric and inhumane that God could not let their actions go unpunished. Consequently, after years of depravity God’s patience expired and they reaped the sentence of being disqualified from God’s mercy. God is never passive concerning sin. At some point, sin will face its judgment. While God is good His justice will not let Him ignore sin and escape its sentence. (Leviticus 18:21-30 expounds on the sins that condemned the Canaanites.)
(Transition) So how should we deal with the Canaanites of sin that threaten our welfare? First, knowing that sin is not passive or neutral, we must rise up and purpose to hate sin! While we love sinners; we must hate the destructive, corrupt nature of sin.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself something: Can you say that you hate sin? Do you despise it? Or is sin but a “choice” that when engaged has no eternal consequences?
(Illustration) Billy Sunday was the boxer turned evangelist of the early 20th Century who won thousands to Christ. Billy preached in dramatic fashion and at times he choreographed fights with Satan onstage. Here is one of Billy Sunday’s famous quotes about sin: “I’m against sin . . . I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. When I’m old and fist-less and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition.” (7700 Illustrations, P.L. Tan, Assurance Publishers, # 5703.)
That’s how we should feel about sin! We should hate it with the fortitude of Christ, the Apostles, and Billy Sunday. But unfortunately, sin has an incredible magnetism and charm. Let’s face it, if sin wasn’t appealing it couldn’t tempt us. That’s why it’s so difficult to reject. It has a “political correctness” that encourages even seasoned Christians to spare it a place in society. But regardless of how it’s packaged, it’s ruinous! No sin is so innocent that it wouldn’t eventually devastate anyone!
(Illustration) Years ago a Methodist minister preached ardently against sin. When he referred to it, he would often call it “that abominable thing that God hates.” After using that phrase repeatedly a member of his church objected to his constant warning of sin. The member said: “Dr., we wish you would not speak so plainly about sin. Our young people . . . will be more likely to indulge in it. Call it something else, [such] as ‘inhibition’ or ‘error’ or a ‘mistake’ or even a ‘twist in our nature.’” The pastor opened his desk drawer, pulled out a bottle of strychnine and said to the member: “[This] red label here reads ‘Poison.’ Would you suggest that I change the label, and paste one on that says, ‘Wintergreen?’” (IBID, Tan.)
Now take a moment to understand what relabeling poison with the name, “Wintergreen” means: So long as we rename sin something delightful people will be indulged without caution! This is what Satan has masterminded! He’s handing people something that looks like a “cup of refreshment” that’s nothing less than a lethal dose of death. He’s suggested Biblically condemned lifestyles are but fanciful relationships. He has convinced society that DNA no longer determines our sex, but rather we determine whether we are male or female.
Folks, you can rename sin “Ice tea” but it will never quench your thirst and its sweetness will have eternal consequences! Hebrews 11:25 tells us that the pleasures of sin are for a season. But remember, the fires of hell are never quenched! Perhaps some here think I’m being too harsh on sin. But do you realize that Jesus never offered one positive statement about sin? But if you have ever watched sin destroy a loved-one you have no problem despising it. That’s why I’m encouraging you to hate sin even as Christ hated it!
(Transition) The best plan of action you and I can take against sin is this: Declare war on the Canaanites of sin!
Declare War on the Canaanites of Sin
As I stated at the outset, Israel’s claiming of the Promised Land was contingent upon them dispossessing the Canaanites. That command was non-negotiable! And the Lord used an interesting phrase to stress the necessity of Israel driving out the Canaanites. He told them: “though their chariots be made of iron,” they must be driven out—don’ cohabit with them! Now, if that passage were translated into modern vernacular it would read: “Though their arsenal includes laser-guided missiles, stealth aircraft, chemical weapons, and Special Ops Teams they must be driven out!”
(Quote) You see, God never listens to excuses for sin. He expects us to expel them all. In the 1800’s Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “Every sin has to be slaughtered. Not a single sin is to be tolerated. Off with their head! Drive the sword into their hearts! They are all to die. Not one of them may be spared. The whole race is to be exterminated and so buried that not a bone of them can be found.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Spurgeon, “Driving out the Canaanites And Their Iron Chariots,” Pilgrim Publications.)
Let’s read Romans 8:5-8. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
That’s a frightening passage for those who refuse to deal with the encroachment of sin, because notice what the Bible says about these people: (1) They’re on a road that leads to death; (2) their thoughts are hostile toward God; (3) they’re in rebellion with God; (4) they cannot conform to God’s will, and; (5) they have incurred the Lord’s displeasure! The sinful man is at total variance with God . . . and that is a frightful relationship to have with the Creator of the universe.
(Example) I know there is a teaching in America today that proposes God never gets mad at people. It suggests that regardless of what Christians and sinners do, don’t worry, “God is not mad at you”! Folks, that is patently, unquestionably, absolutely false! While God loves you no matter what, He also loves you too much to let you sin without reprimanding your actions.
Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:21, “The Lord was angry with me because of you, and He swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 9:20 says, “The Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him.”
Hebrews 3:10 says: “I was angry with this generation, and said, they always go astray in their heart.”
Psalm 85:4 says: “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your indignation toward us to cease. 5Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?”
Numbers 11:33 mentions the consequences of Israel’s grumbling about their food when it says, “While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague.”
There is no need to deceive ourselves because God does get angry with us. The Lord isn’t on His Throne smiling and adoring us when we’re ignoring His voice and breaking His commands. And how could He? God is not only our Savior and Lord, He is our Judge!
(Illustration) I read the story recently about a girl that accrued a handful of parking tickets. In a short time her tickets amounted to $700.00 and she was summoned to court. The Judge said, “Why did you ignore the officer’s tickets and warnings and continue breaking the law?” The girl responded: “Because I figured I’d eventually just come to court and pay the fine.” The judge said: “Well, you’ve misjudged this court. I’m going to discharge your $700.00 fine. You don’t have to pay. You’re going to jail!” That’s the way it will be for many people on Judgment Day. They have taken sin far too lightly.
(Transition) Do you know why people get trapped by sin? People get trapped by sin because they excuse it.
Make No Excuse For Sin
Listen to some excuses for sin:
“I just don’t see anything wrong with what I do. So if it seems right to me, then it has to be right”!
Others say: “My sin is hereditary. My father and grandfather practiced it (whatever “it” is!) and that’s why I do it. I’m Irish, so that’s why I have such a fiery temper.”
Or, we hear: “I was born this way, so that’s why I think it’s okay.”
Folks, Christians that recklessly indulge in sin give permission for others to imitate their actions regardless of what the excuses are! Yes, I understand sin’s power and appeal. I understand that we feel helpless in its presence. But I also understand that 1 John 4:4 says, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world”! 1 John 4:4 is what Christians should “take hold of” if they really want to live above the power of sin. Christ “in you” is greater than the sin that’s in the world. Sin doesn’t have to dominate you and determine your course. Christ “in you” can chart your course every day!
There’s something else Christians can do to overpower sin. We need to enter the dimension of “Resurrection living. What is “Resurrection Living”? Paul described it this way in Ephesians 2:1 when he said, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins [but now you have been] . . . made alive with Christ. . . (6) and raised up with Him and seated with Him in heavenly places.” In other words, “the heavenly places” you’re seated in with Christ are higher than the “powers and principalities of the air” that tempt you. Amen!
(Transition) I want to show you an interesting discovery I made about how God helps us conquer our sins. Turn to Deuteronomy 7. God gives an incredible promise here.
Deuteronomy 7:17-24 says: “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. 21 You shall not be in dread of 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 may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. 24 And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them.
Did you see that? It didn’t matter that the Canaanites were stronger or more crafty. “Though they have laser-guided missiles, stealth bombers, and infrared tracking systems,” when you have resisted with all your might and have exhausted your strength, then God will arise and supernaturally avenge! That’s what verse twenty says: “Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished.” It’s time for some people here to “Call for the hornets”!
(Transition) Thank God there is power over sin . . . all sin! Now for some final words concerning our discussion of sin.
I want to explain the difference between Christians that sin and sinners that sin: Christians that stumble and sin are grieved by their failures. Their intentions aren’t to pursue sin, they are trying to avert it. Sinners, however, enjoy their sin and even pursue it. For example, the difference between sheep and swine is while both may get muddy, sheep try to elude the mud while swine search for the mud and enjoy wallowing in it!
There is a difference between temptation and yielding to temptation. Being tempted does not mean you are unspiritual or you have committed a sin. The fact that you’re tempted proves your humanity. However, your spirituality is gauged by how you resist it: (1) “Give no place to the devil,” and remember to “Hate sin”; (2) Refuse to excuse it and cast out the Canaanites of sin; and (3) Declare war on sin!