Canaan - Indefensible

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An Indefensible Land

 

We have seen in the first three sections of this study, that God had many good reasons for giving the land of Canaan to Israel. First we noted that Canaan was strategic for Israel to carryout God call to evangelize the nations. Secondly we noticed the land provided a complete infrastructure that would allow Israel to move in and immediately function as a fully developed nation. Thirdly, we saw the land was a desirable land full of wonderful agricultural and commercial potential.

This week we want to consider the fourth reason God selected the land of Canaan for His chosen people: the land was indefensible. God selected Canaan because He knew that Israel would find it next to impossible to defend their land from invading enemies. This may seem a strange reason at first glance but a closer examination will reveal the wisdom of God’s decision.

An Indefensible land: There are some who make an argument that the land was selected by God because it was easily defendable. Though there are some elements about the land that may enhance security such as possessing the high ground, over all the land is not easily defended. If one studies the history of Canaan they will discover that this portion of land is treated much like a tennis ball during a tennis match. The land prior to Israel’s occupation is controlled first by the Hittites than by the Egyptians than by the Hittites and than by the Egyptians and on it goes. Before God could bring Israel into the land, He needed to neutralize these super powers to free the land for an Israelite invasion. He does this first through the Sea People movement which destroys the Hittite Empire and comes within one battle of destroying Egypt as well. Then at the time of the Exodus, God weakens Egypt’s ability to control Canaan through the 10 plagues and the disaster at the Red Sea crossing. By the time Israel is ready to enter the land, it is free from all external control and ripe for the taking.

However, even Israel’s occupation of the land does not stop the on going plague of one invader after another. Israel would have to contend with the Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Midianites, Edomites, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medo/Persians, Greeks, Romans, the Byzantines, Arab nations, the Crusades, and Britain. Why would God place Israel in such an indefensible land? What purpose could He have for doing so? God had three reasons for doing so.

A. Reason #1: To teach Israel about the source of their Salvation: In spite of the indefensibility of the land, Israel had no need to worry about invading armies because God had promised to defend them.

Ex 14:13-14, “And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." NKJV

Deut 20:4, “For the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.' NKJV

1 Sam 17:45-47, “Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand . . . Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord 's, and He will give you into our hands." NKJV

Ps 3:8, “Salvation belongs to the Lord .Your blessing is upon Your people.” NKJV

As long as Israel followed the Lord, whenever they asked Him for deliverance from their enemies, God would fight for Israel in marvelous and miraculous ways. An example of this promise in action is God’s deliverance of Israel from the Midianites through Gideon. Gideon was facing a well trained army of over 100,000 with only 300 soldiers. That meant there were 333 Midianites for every 1 Israelite which most would consider an impossible task. Gideon’s forces initiate the battle with the breaking of the pitchers which hid their torches, and then they remained where they stood while holding the torch in their left hand and using their right hand to blow a horn. While they are standing in place making a great noise, God is fighting in the Midianite camp inflicting a great loss of life among the enemy. 

Jdg 7:20-22, “Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers — they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing — and they cried, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the Lord set every man's sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath.” NKJV 


Example after example can be given of God’s intervention in the defense of His people. Each time He did so, God was driving home to Israel that they were not sufficient in and of themselves to defend against their enemies. Salvation from their enemies had to be totally the work of God. All Israel had to do to be delivered was to call upon God in faith and God would provide a deliverance. 

God’s promise to deliver Israel from its enemies was designed to teach the Israelites two important spiritual lessons. The first lesson was that God alone is the Jew’s only source of salvation from his spiritual enemies of sin, Satan and eternal destruction. In other words, each battle fought by God on behalf of Israel was a living illustration of the fact that their soul’s salvation was only possible through the complete and total work of God. Israel needed to learn that human effort and religious law keeping could never earn them freedom from their enemies and a place in God’s future Kingdom. This truth of salvation was understood by many in the Old Testament. 

Ps 18:46-47, “The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me;” NKJV

Isa 53:5-6, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” NKJV 

Too many have made the mistake of thinking that salvation for the Old Testament Israelite came through the keeping of the law and the offering of sacrifices. Though these were to be carried out in obedience to God, they had no saving merit. Apart from a personal relationship with God which begins in the heart, these outward religious activities of Israel meant nothing to God. This is illustrated in the words of Jesus and Amos when they spoke.

Matt 15:8-9, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” NKJV

Amos 5:21-23, “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.” NKJV 

The law and sacrificial system were not the means of grace but rather served only to point the OT Israelite to the One who would become the way of salvation. Paul puts this in proper perspective in Galatians.

Gal 3:23-25, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” NKJV 

The second lesson was that salvation came only by putting one’s complete trust or faith in God’s promises. As in the case of the Midianites and Gideon, God would often put Israel in a position where the only option she had was to turn to God. How many times God tried to drive this truth home to Israel and yet she refused to embrace it. We see an example of this failure at the time of David when Israel was facing the Philistines and their champion, Goliath. They waited days for the deliverance of God when all along God was there ready to act. It took a young shepherd boy, unskilled in warfare, to unleash the mighty power of an awesome God!

How unfortunate that the history of Israel is filled with one defeat after another when victory was just a prayer a way. It is a tragedy that so many Jews have needlessly perished eternally in hell because they could not put their faith in God alone to save them from their sins. Though Israel had God’s promises of protection and salvation, she chose to go it in her own might. The reason for this choice was a stubbornness of the people’s heart to trust in their God (Hosea 4:16). 

Stubbornness of the heart is not limited only to the Jews. It is found in the lives of many who call themselves Christians or religious. Instead of trusting in God for salvation they rely on their own good works and religious rituals to get them into heaven. From the time of Adam and Eve to the last day of history, Salvation will always come from man’s heart as he puts his complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. (Heb. 11; Eph. 2:8-10).

Israel’s weakness, its indefensibility, was one of God’s greatest blessings. It pointed many Israelites to salvation by faith in God. It should be noted it is this indefensibility that God is presently using to win the heart of the modern Jew living in a land surrounded by a hostile enemy. It will, likewise, be used at the end of the Tribulation one more time by God to finally bring Israel to the point of fully placing their trust in Him for their salvation.

B. Reason #2: To teach the Gentile nations about God: The Israelites would not the only ones to witness these great deliverances by God. Those Gentile nations who were unfortunate enough to end up in conflict with God, they too were witnesses of God’s special deliverance of His people. Therefore, as the Gentile nations watched God save His people in miraculous ways it was a testimony to them of the fact that God was the one and only true God. God’s defense of Israel was also a vivid living illustration of His power and ability.them.

Ex 15:14-16, “The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed;The mighty men of Moab,Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them;” NKJV

Josh 2:9-12, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” NKJV

Josh 4:24, “That all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever." NKJV

However, when God withheld His hand due to the sin of Israel and allowed a Gentile nation to invade the land, Israel became a vivid living illustration of God’s tolerance of sin and His chastening hand in dealing with that sin.

Deut 29:20-27, “so that the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, would say, when they see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses which the Lord has laid on it: 'The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.' All nations would say, 'Why has the Lord done so to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean?' Then people would say: 'Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them.” NKJV

C. Reason #3: To chastise Israel for its disobedience: God put Israel in an indefensible land so that she might learn to trust in Him and Him only for their salvation. However, we know from the record of Scripture that Israel had a hardand rebellious heart (Hos. 4:16). They chose to disobey God by turning to the idols and wicked ways of the Gentile nations. In doing so, they began to rely on their own abilities to defend themselves from Gentile invaders and eventually found themselves totally removed from the land they held so precious. God had foretold them through Moses that their peace and safety in the land would depend on their obedience to Him and their trust in Him to defend and keep them safe.

Deut 28:45-52, “Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever. "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you. "They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you.” NKJV 

Chastisement is most effective when something is taken away form the sinner that means a great deal to them. Nothing means more to the Israelite people than the possession of their land. This love for their land is clearly seen in the fact that though they have been removed from the land for over 2700 years, they have never assimilated into the peoples of the nations they inhabit. There is nothing like this anywhere else in the history of man. No people separated this long from their land have been committed to keeping themselves a separate entity waiting for the day in which they might return. God’s removal of Israel from their land has had a lasting impression upon His people and has been effective in bringing them to an eventual return to their God and Savior.