Today’s passage is a difficult one to grasp and accept for the natural mind of the world, or for those who have a view of God that He is just all love, love, love. He is a God of love, but the fact remains that He is also a God of justice.
This Scripture details the directives of Moses to the Israelites to completely defeat the nations possessing the land – down to the last person. They were not to let any escape, nor were they to intermarry, as this would surely lead to a declension of commitment to the Lord and an inevitable drift toward idolatry. As it would play out over time, the Israelites obeyed this completely on many occasions, though not thoroughly … and sure enough, as time went by, the very things Moses warned against did indeed eventuate in Israel.
Why would the God of love and mercy be so … so … unmerciful? God was using the nation of Israel on these occasions to execute His judgment on peoples who had long before rejected God and rebelled against Him. God’s mercy was actually evident in the centuries of delayed judgment. Beyond that, it is not like the Israelites had an especially better deal, as they too were told that they would likewise face judgment for turning against the Lord.
God had chosen the nation of Israel among all the nations of the earth. This dates back to Genesis 11 and 12, and to the calling of Abraham and God’s covenant promises with him. God simply chose them, and as this passage reveals, there was nothing in them as a nation to distinguish them from anyone else as better or more worthy. God is God, and He does what He wants to do. He did not need to choose anyone, but in love He chose them. That should engender a response of love in return. That is fair; that is reasonable.
The Bible says that God has chosen us unto salvation. This is a very hairy, deep weeds, highly-debated piece of the theological world. The issue is not if God chose; the Bible says He did. The controversy is centered upon what is the basis of God’s choosing. If you disagree with me on this, I’ll just smile at you and say, “I love you my friend.” But as I read it and believe it, our choosing in Christ was just like it says here about the Israelites, not because of anything in us, but rather because of His loving mercy according to the good pleasure of His will.
Whatever it is, it is grace, mercy, and love at work; and the more we understand it, the more we find that it revives our lives and our service for Him.
7 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.
11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.