Elon, North Carolina
We are studying the Book of Exodus. Last time, we looked at Exodus 23 and studied angels. We looked at three verses. God promised to send an angel ahead of the Jews to guard them on the way and to lead them into the Promise Land. Today, we will finish the chapter. There are also some incredible applications that come out of the last part of this chapter
I want to begin by looking at a difficult question that comes right out of this passage. I skipped over it last week but I want to say something about it today. Asking questions is often frowned up in church. It is something that is not encouraged. In fact, reason and logic are often discouraged in churches. We are just told to believe. Many Christians leave their brains at the door when they come to church. That is unbiblical.
The Bible says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your HEART and with all your SOUL and with all your MIND and with all your STRENGTH” (Mark 12:30 NIV). That is a command. This verse does not say that the mind is evil and that we are to just love God with our spirit. We are to love God with our spirit. We are to love God with our heart. We are also to love God with our minds.
Our mind is to be involved in worship. Our mind is to be involved in prayer. Paul said in I Corinthians 14:15, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (ESV). We are to use our mind when we sing to God. We are to use our mind when we pray.
If you have genuine questions, church is the place you should be able to come to find answers. God’s Word has the answer to every problem we face. The sad fact is that if you go to most churches, you will not find answers to the questions you have.
Socrates, who was one of the greatest philosophers of all time, made the statement, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It is a famous quote. He said it at his trial just before he was executed Many have revised that quote for the church. If the unexamined life is not worth living, then the unexamined faith is not worth having.
We want to look at one of the questions that skeptics love to bring up. It has to do with genocide. It doesn’t refer to murder but mass murder of a whole group of people. It is usually done within a country. One group in the country tries to wipe out another group. It is called “ethnic cleansing” but it is not cleansing but killing.
The JEWISH GENOCIDE took place in Nazi Germany. It began in the 1940s. It was called The Final Solution. Six million Jews were killed.
The RAWANDAN GENOCIDE, which took place in the 1990s. About 800,000 Tutsies were slaughtered by the majority group.
The DARFUR GENOCIDE took place in 2003. It was a genocide in the 21st century. Three hundred thousand men, women and children were slaughtered and raped in the Sudan.
In the Middle East right now there is a CHRISTIAN GENOCIDE in places like Iraq, Iran and Syria. Christians are the most persecuted people on the planet.
Exodus 23:23 says, “My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out” (NIV). God says in Exodus 23:28, “I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way” (NIV)
What does this all mean? Does God sanction genocide? Is God a moral monster? Is God a bloodthirsty tyrant who orders the killing of women and children?
How could a God of love order the massacre of the Canaanites? How could He order the slaughter of thousands? Is this an excuse to do this today? That would be the basis of religious terrorism. People use religion today to justify all kinds of atrocities. It was, after all, done in the Bible. How do we answer this objection as Christians? What do we say to skeptics? It is not an easy question.
The Conquest of Canaan in Perspective
1) God has the right to judge people at any time.
There is a big difference between human genocide and divine judgment. You have to make the distinction. We believe that we have the right to punish wrongdoing in this world and so does God. Murder is wrong. It is always wrong. It is murder for us to take life any time we feel like taking it.
It is wrong for Muslim terrorist to murder innocent people in cold blood. They think they are doing a good deed and will be rewarded. They are just committing cold blooded murder. God never told them to kill anyone. In fact, His word prohibits murder. That is one of His Top Ten rules.
On the other hand, it is not murder for God to take life. He created life and can take it at any time. God sent a worldwide flood that wiped everyone out. This is not genocide but capital punishment. He is the Creator.
2) God only judges people for sin.
He judges people. He judges nations. He judges them for one reason and one reason only. He judges people because of sin. It is sin, NOT ethnicity. He does not judge people based on race or skin color. What He does has nothing to do with genocide or ethnic cleansing.
He judges people in a number of different ways. Sometimes, He judges people directly (like the Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah). Sometimes, He uses other groups to judge people.
He uses the state the execute murderers. When the state executes a mass murderer, it is not committing murder. It acts on God’s behalf as his representative. Sometimes, he uses nations to judge other nations.
3) Even in judgment, God shows mercy.
The world was extremely wicked before the Flood but God waited a hundred and twenty years before sending a Flood on the earth. There are two ways that God showed mercy to the Canaanites. First, He waited a long time before he let the Jews conquer the Land of Canaan.
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.
14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:12-16 NIV)
God promised Abraham land. He took a long trip and arrived in Canaan but it was not his land. He died without possessing the land of Canaan. God was waiting for the Canaanites to get so evil that he would judge them. They were not ready for that in Abraham’s day
Four hundred years later, the Canaanites were so evil and so corrupt that God judged them. What made them so evil? They did not merely commit homosexuality; they committed incest. Incest was part of their religion. Baal has sex with his mother Asherah, his sister Anat, and his daughter Pidray. Their gods had sex with animals. Temple prostitution was part of their religion. The Canaanites killed their own children in child sacrifice to pagan gods. Child sacrifice was part of their religion.
Second, God promised to remove the Canaanites gradually. He said that He would do it “little by little.”
But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (23:29-30 NIV)
The Jews did not go in and wipe out all of the Canaanites. They did not slaughter everyone, like barbarians. Some were killed but many were driven out. It does not make any sense to drive them out if they were already killed. That shows that what God is talking about is primarily expulsion, not extermination (so Hamilton). This is not that much of a problem.
Applications for Today
This is an interesting passage in Exodus but what does it have to do with us today? Most of us are not Jews. We are not in the wilderness on our way to Canaan. How is a passage like this relevant to us today? It is relevant in a number of ways.
Principle One – Success Comes from God
I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. (23:22 NIV)
“I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. 28 I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. (23:27-28 NIV)
“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. (23:31 NIV)
They did not have the power to get out of Egypt and break out of slavery on their own. They did not have the power to defeat the Canaanites, this group of six nations, on their own. God had to do it for them. It mentions borders of a land. They did not have a land. They were in the wilderness.
God had to give them the land and establish the borders to the land. He had to fight their enemies. He used both angels (23:23) and hornets (23:28) to help them and protect them He will send His bees or wasps and His angel to help them. The message is clear and is taught in the NT as well as the OT.
Jesus said “apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He did not say that you can do the little stuff but you need me for the big stuff. He said, “Without me you can do NOTHING.” We cannot do anything without Jesus.
The OT way of saying, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late toiling for food to eat” (Psalm 127:1-2 NIV). C.H. Spurgeon called this a psalm for builders. It was written by Solomon. He knew about building. He had a big palace built for him and he built a Temple for God. It was called Solomon’s Temple.
It is important to work hard and not be lazy. The Book of Proverbs says all kind of things about sluggards. This verse says that some work is a big waste of time. We need God’s blessing on everything we do. This is the theme of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Solomon is writing from experience. The commentary on this passage is Ecclesiastes 2. It tells us many of the things that Solomon did.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.
I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
How many times have we labored in vain? We have done a lot of work and worked hard but it was a big waste of time because we did things in our own strength and in our own power and without God.
Principle Two – Victory comes Little by Little
This is very interesting. God says, “LITTLE BY LTTLE I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land” (23:30 NIV). They were not going to conquer all of the land overnight. They were going to conquer it little by little. We learn an important lesson here. It is called “The Little by Little Principle.” This principle can change your life.
Examples of this principle are endless. The little by little principle applies to losing weight. Lose a little at a time. It applies to exercise. If you have not been exercising and you want to begin, all of the experts say to do it gradually, little by little. You do not begin by jogging ten miles.
This principle applies to cleaning around the house. You can clean it ten or twenty minutes a day using the little by little principle. It applies to saving money. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow” (NIV).
It also applies to sanctification or holiness. The Jews had physical enemies, these six nations. We do not struggle with flesh and blood. We struggle with spiritual forces. We struggle with our own sin nature. We face a different enemy. We all struggle with sin and addiction. God does not give us instant perfection in this life.
There are some Christians who teach that you can achieve perfection in this life and become sinless but that is not biblical. Sanctification is gradual. It is a process. It is progressive. It involves growth in different areas of our life. We do not go from baby Christians to seasoned saints overnight.
Principle Three – Spiritual Compromise Must be Rejected
Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. (23:24 NIV)
Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” (23:32-33 NIV)
This is a big issue today. Compromise happens all the time today in church after church. Many Christians are guilty of this. It raises this question. How do Christians compromise their faith today? How do churches compromise today? How would we know if we are doing this? What are some signs?
We compromise our faith when we THINK like the world. We still claim to be Christians but we no longer believe certain things that are clearly taught in Scripture. Many churches become liberal. They think like the world. They think like the world on Scripture. They no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God or inspired by God, just a bunch of writings written by man.
They think like the world on abortion. They think like the world on gay marriage. They think like the world thinks on evolution. They believe what the world believes about miracles. They follow the teaching of science and reject literal miracles. They call themselves progressive churches but rejecting Scripture is not a form of progress. Churches compromise their faith when they water down their message to accommodate the world, so they do not offend anyone.
We also compromise our faith when we ACT like the world. Many professing Christians live no different than their unbelieving neighbors. They live in open sin. They not only sleep together before they are married; they live together.
They are unrepentant but are also religious. You will see many of them in church. Most churches do not practice any form of church discipline. In fact, many Christians do not even take a stand against sin. They even support and encourage their friends. They think that tolerance and love is the greatest virtue, which is another way of thinking like the world.
Principle Four – God gives us Commands, as well as Promises
Christians like promises. We like to hear all of the things God promises us. We are not too big on commands. Some preachers even say that we do not have any commands. The truth is that we have both. We have promises and we have commands. There are commands in the NT and in the OT.
In Exodus 23 we see both commands and promises. Right after one promise is a command. This is followed by another promise and another command. This continues until the end of the chapter.
See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. (PROMISE)
21 Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. 22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. (COMMAND)
23 My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. (PROMISE)
24 Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. 25 Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. (COMMAND)
I will take away sickness from among you,26 and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. 27 “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. 28 I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. 29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. 31 “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. (PROMISE)
32 Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” (COMMAND)
 Cf. Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27
 Plato, Apology 38a.