Destroy High Places and Offer True Worship

 

Totem Pole

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Lord commanded them to destroy the High Places (altars and poles) of foreign Gods and to offer Him true worship in the place He commanded.

Deuteronomy 12:1-4 clearly explains:  “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.”  NKJV

In this day and age I’m afraid if we tore down the kinds of physical high places outside our homes as described in the Bible, we’d be accused and imprisoned for hate crimes.  You must remember that God had commanded His people to first drive out the inhabitants of the Promised Land before removing their high places so the redeemed would not be led into idolatry.  Since they did not fully accomplish their assignment, the Lord allowed these nations to remain in the land in order to test the nation of Israel to see if they would live according to the commands of the Lord or not (Judges 2:22-23).  The Scriptures tell us that the Israelites failed this test and were not faithful to the Lord. 

During the period of the divided kingdom, every king in the northern kingdom (Israel, Ephraim) was evil and practiced idolatry.  The southern kingdom (Judah) had some good kings and some bad kings.  The kings who were loyal to the Lord opposed idolatry but didn’t always remove the high places from the land.

Most of us live do not live in the Promised Land and we must learn to be faithful to the Lord in the midst of the other religions of the world that surround us.  When a person decides to trust in Jesus, he needs to remove all high places, idols, or inappropriate objects from his property, body, and soul.  These objects can take a variety of forms.  They can be obviously pagan or even seemingly ordinary.  They don’t even have to be worshiped or venerated. 

Do you have a carved statue from a vacation that you may need to get rid of?  When you bought it, did the vendor tell you it would bring prosperity or fertility into your home?  This is a clue that it is really an idol and not simply a decoration.  Occasionally, souvenirs or figurines can be familiar objects.  For example, figurines of dragons are inappropriate because they can represent the beast of Revelation.  Certain kinds of pictures may not be appropriate in your home either.  I once met a Jewish cantor who had a picture of King Tut on her wall.  You would think a Jewish person would know that the Pharaohs of Egypt considered themselves to be gods and for that reason it wasn’t appropriate to have such a picture on the wall.  Religious icons are another object that should be removed (Deut. 12:4).  It doesn’t matter if you worship or venerate these things or not.  By giving it a place on your walls, you’ve given it a place of honor in your home.  Occultic jewelry such as talisman should also be discarded too.

Objectionable things for the soul can be things we take into our hearts and minds through our senses.  Pornographic material obviously stimulates the lust of the flesh and should be discarded.    Visual images we’ve seen in the past are especially hard to remove and require us to reprogram our minds.  The lyrics of music with themes of Satanic worship, blood, gore, and death penetrates our ears and goes straight to the heart and mind and should never be listened to.  Discard those kinds of CDs, DVDs, and delete them from your computers and MP3 players.  These kinds of things we’ve seen and heard need to be removed to a “audio and visual virus vault” in our mind and never accessed because they can cause considerable spiritual harm.  The reason we need to do all of this is because what goes on in our physical lives always impacts our spiritual lives whether we realize it or not.  These things need to be replaced with things are holy and acceptable.

Paul suggests, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things (Phil 4:8-9).” NKJV

After Moses commanded the Israelites to tear down the High Places, he said, “But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. 6 There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you (Deuteronomy 12:5-7).”  NKJV

God wants us to seek His kingdom and righteousness first.  While the Israelite wandered in the wilderness, they sought the Lord by bringing their offerings to the Lord at the Tabernacle where the Lord dwelled among His people and tried to obey His commandments.  Offerings are the method of approaching God and are the means of restoring broken fellowship with the Lord and others as well as worshiping the Lord and fellowshipping in peace with others. 

After the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Lord eventually chose Jerusalem to be the place where His name would dwell.  From that point on, Jerusalem was the proper place where offerings were to be made and where the people would come to celebrate the three major feasts of the Lord.

Many years later, the united kingdom of Israel became divided after Solomon’s reign.  In 1 Kings 12:28-29, Jereboam did not want the people of Israel to worship in Jerusalem because he didn’t want the people to return to Rehoboam, the king of Judah.  He made two calves of gold and told the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 29 And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.” NKJV

This sounds vaguely familiar to the sin of the golden calf that was committed at Mount Sinai.  If you recall, the priests at that time were still the firstborn sons and after the golden calf had been raised up so it could be worshiped, a feast was declared for the Lord. 

First Kings 13 explains that Jereboam made shrines on the high places and made priests of non-Levites.  Jereboam also made sacrifices to the calves and burned incense to them.  He ordained his own feast on the 15th of the eighth month.  This was really a counterfeit of the feast of Succot (Tabernacles) which the Lord had commanded His people to celebrate in Jerusalem in Judah.  Today, many believers would not consider this to be a bad thing because Jereboam made the worship of God more convenient but this is not how God saw it.  By making these commands, Jereboam was attempting to elevate himself to the same level as God.  This was so wicked that the Lord sent a man of God from Judah to Bethel (which means “house of God”) to say that one day a child named Josiah would be born to the house of David that would sacrifice the priests of the high places on that altar (1 Kings 13:2).  This was fulfilled in 2 Kings 23:16-20. 

Now let’s fast forward in time to John 4.  This is where Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’ well and asked her for some water to drink.  After a while, Jesus offered her living water.  The woman told Jesus to give her this water because she thought it would keep from having to come to Jacob’s well to draw water.  Jesus responded by pointing out her sinfulness by asking her to go and bring back her husband.  She recognized Jesus as a prophet and in John 4:20 she said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Many think the Samaritan woman was simply trying to divert Jesus attention away from her sinfulness but if this woman really wanted to properly deal with her sin so she could have living water, she would have to know which was the proper place to offer her sin offerings and worship the Lord.

Jesus responded by saying an amazing thing.  He said, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21-24)”  NKJV

By attempting to worship God in the wrong place, the Samaritans were essentially worshiping someone/something else because He’s wasn’t thereYou see, the Lord has always wanted us to worship Him in the place where He dwelled.  He dwelled wherever the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  If you recall, the ark was in the wilderness, in Shiloh, among the Philistines, and a few other places before it was finally brought to Jerusalem.  Because the people defiled the temple, the Spirit left it (Ezekiel 10:18).  As a result of Christ’s obedience to the Father, the Holy Spirit now dwells within the heart of believers.  This makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to go wherever the believer goes and for believers to worship the Lord wherever they go. 

We can learn several things from the passages we’ve covered today. 

  • We shouldn’t worship or serve the gods of the nations of the world which surround us.
  • High places should not be permitted in our lives or homes.
  • We should offer true worship to the Lord in the place where He dwells by worshiping in spirit and in truth.
  • We should avoid trying to worship God through counterfeit feasts of the Lord.

Before we end our time together today, let’s see how the command from Deuteronomy 12:1-4 impacted Gideon and how that was a pattern for the future.

In Judges 6, Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep the Midianites from stealing it when the Angel of the Lord appeared to him.  The Angel of the Lord wanted him to rescue Israel from the Midianites but Gideon saw himself as weak and not strong.  After giving Gideon a sign of his identity, the Angel of the Lord instructed Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and the Asherah pole next to it using his father’s bull and a seven year old bull.  He also told Gideon to build an altar to the Lord and commanded him to take the second bull which was 7 years old and offer it to the Lord on the altar.  Since Gideon was afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city, he did this in the middle of the night with the help of ten of his servants.  As you can imagine, the men of the city were so furious when they saw what had happened that they wanted to kill Gideon.  Fortunately, his father interceded and Gideon’s life was spared.  Later, the Midianites were defeated by Gideon and his army of 300 men.

Not only is this a historical account, it is a picture of what will happen in the future.  A temple or house of God will be built in the future.   The False Prophet will erect an abomination of desolation (high place) in the temple—an image of the Beast who may possibly be a descendant of the tribe of Dan.  This will happen in the middle of the last seven year period prior to Christ’s return.  The Father’s bull, Jesus who is alive in heaven, will come and tear down and destroy this abomination along with the Beast, False Prophet, and all of Israel’s enemies.  No one will be able to defeat the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Instead, everyone will worship the true King who will reign in Jerusalem!      

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Preserving New Wine in New Wineskins

In Matthew 9:14-17, John’s disciples asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.  16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.  17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” NKJV

To understand what Jesus said, we can go back to Ecclesiastes 3 where Solomon explained that there is a season for everything.  A few examples are:  a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to tear and a time to sew, and a time to plant and a time to reap.  In Matthew 9, Jesus was saying basically the same thing to John’s disciples.  In other words, there is a time to mourn which is symbolized by fasting and there is a time not to mourn or fast.  Jesus told them it was not appropriate for His disciples to fast because He (the bridegroom) was with them.  I think we can assume it is never appropriate to fast during celebrations like weddings when we should be eating, drinking, and fellowshipping with others.

Jesus indicated a time would come when His disciples would fast.  He was referring to the time when His disciples would mourn His death.  When Jesus was arrested and taken away from His disciples, it seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen.  Eventually, Jesus was crucified but His body did not decay.  Instead, He was raised to life after three days.  Everything that took place happened for a purpose– the salvation and preservation of God’s people.  This method of transferring Jesus from humanity to immortality (His own preservation) would be what would cause His disciples to fast.

We need to understand that not only is there a time for everything but there is a manner in which everything should be done in order to properly preserve something.

Why do people put patches on torn garments anyway?  To make them last longer.  If you don’t do it correctly the goal of extending the life of the garment will not be accomplished.  If you use fabric that has not been preshrunk and sew it to an old garment, the patch will shrink when it’s washed, not lay right on the garment, and possibly tear the garment more.

Why do you need to put new wine in new wineskins?  So when the wine ferments, the bags made of skin can stretch and not burst.  In other words, new wineskins are necessary to preserve the new wine.  Old wineskins that had already been stretched to their maximum would burst if new wine fermented in them. 

Why do you need to sterilize jars and lids before canning something?  To prevent bacterial or fungal growth in the food that could be poisonous or deadly to eat and to preserve something that will sustain your life.

Jesus revealed Himself to His people in order to preserve them for eternity.  He knew there was only one way to accomplish this.  He had to die and rise from the dead.  In other words, He who was the Manna from Heaven had to be preserved.  This was symbolized by the jar of manna that was kept in the Ark of the Covenant long after the day it was collected and long after the manna from heaven ceased falling in the wilderness.

Jesus is the living Torah.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  Salvation is found in no one else.  Those who trust in Him have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who abides within all believers and preserves them for the Day of the Lord.

Besides the Holy Spirit, God put His law in our hearts.  This is the same law that was on the first and second set of tablets God originally gave His people at Mount Sinai.  It was their task to keep it and instruct future generations to do so as well.  Over time, traditions were added to the law that God originally gave them.  Their traditions were like the worms that contaminated the manna in the wilderness.  The scribes and Pharisees were highly educated men who taught the law of God and traditions of men to the people.  They were old wineskins.  They couldn’t recognize Yeshua, the Living Torah who was in their midst.  They could not accept what Jesus taught unless their hearts of stone were removed and replaced with a heart of flesh. 

Before our generation could choose to put its faith in Jesus, He chose 12 uneducated men who had expandable hearts of flesh to be His disciples.  He began to properly educate them in the original law that God gave to those who came out of Egypt.  They were like new flexible wineskins in which Jesus was pouring new wine.  Jesus’ wine would spread, nourish, and preserve those throughout the world who came long after He returned to heaven. 

Many Christians believe the old wine is the teachings of the Old Testament and the new wine is that of the New Testament.  This is very far from the truth.  Just as the source of both old and new wine is grapes, the terms of both the old and new marriage covenants are the original law–just like the second set of tablets contained the same laws as the first).   The difference between the two is that the original was written on stone tablets and now the law resides with in those who believe; it is written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).  In addition, the Holy Spirit who lives within the hearts of believers is their Counselor and teaches them the law of God.

We must be new wineskins.  We must not be old wineskins that add burdensome rules, traditions, or improper applications of Scripture to our faith that God never intended.  We must learn and obey God’s original commandments and not take away from them.  For those of us who were raised to follow various traditions that come from pagan forms, we may find it difficult to cast them aside but we must.  We have to continually renew our minds and be like new wineskins so we can always receive new wine.  All of these things encompass working out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Many years have gone by since Jesus poured new wine into His disciples.  It’s been almost 2000 years since His death and resurrection.  Our bridegroom is in heaven and we are waiting for His return.  It is a time when it is occasionally appropriate for us to fast on earth.   We may choose to fast today because we:

  • Are mourning a past tragedy or dealing with a current one.  Just think, these may be part of God’s method to purify or preserve us!
  • Are mourning the sinfulness of our nation.  This shows we have a heart like His!
  • Are mourning His absence and long for His return.
  • Want to draw close to Him because we love Him.
  • Want to be heard by Him to rescue us in our greatest hour of need.
  • Want to be taught by Him so we will not be deceived or be part of the great apostasy.
  • Want to be comforted by Him to experience His love and tenderness.

Whether you fast or not, praise the Lord because He is sustaining and preserving us for eternity!

 

Grace and Mercy in Both Covenants

Today we will see that grace and mercy were both part of the Old Covenant just as it is in the New Covenant.  In addition, we will see that the New Covenant was foreshadowed in the Old. 

In Deuteronomy 9 and 10, Moses reminds the second generation of what happened long ago when he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of stone that had been inscribed with the covenant of God.  These were the words the Lord actually spoke to the children of Israel.  These stone tablets were inscribed by the finger of God and were given to Moses by the Lord after he had been on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights.

About that time, the people said concerning the golden calf they had made, “Israel! Here is your god, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Ex. 32:4)  The people proclaimed that the next day would be a feast for the Lord.  The next day they began offering sacrifices to this metal image as if it were the Lord.  The Lord told Moses to hurry and return to the people because they had already turned away from the terms of the marriage covenant by making a metal image.

Some would think there was nothing wrong with what the people had done because they were worshipping the Lord the best way they knew how.  The metal image made to represent him was still wrong even though it wasn’t an idol meant to represent another god.  Normally, we assume that God has only forbidden the worship of His creation or images of created things but Deuteronomy 4:15-19 tells us that the Lord did not reveal His form to the Israelites because He didn’t want them to worship an image of Him or worship something that represented His attributes either.  This is why many religious icons are idols.    

Creating a golden calf and referring to it as the Lord had clearly broken their covenant with Him.  When Moses saw this with his own eyes, he took the tablets of the covenant, threw them down, and broke them in the sight of the people so they would understand that they had broken their covenant with the Lord.  Moses knew they had lost God’s grace and needed His mercy.

Moses took their sin, the calf they had made, and burned it up in the fire.  He beat it to pieces and then into fine dust.  He then took the dust and threw it into the stream of water that was coming down the mountain.  According to Exodus 32:20, Moses made the people of Israel drink it.  After Moses scolded Aaron for being part of the whole mess, Moses saw the people were clearly out of control so he called all those who were for the Lord to come to him.   The Levites gathered around him and Moses commanded them to kill their kinsman, friends, and neighbor.  Certainly the ones who died participated in the worship of the golden calf.  The three thousand people who died that day were not shown any mercy.  Moses interceded for the people and asked the Lord to blot him out of His book but the Lord said he would only blot out the names of those who sinned against Him.  The Lord assured Moses the time for the punishment of their sin would come.  Because of the sin with the golden calf, the Lord struck the people with a plague.  There doesn’t seem to be any grace or mercy here but let’s not forget what happened next.

Moses returned to Mount Sinai with two new stone tablets which were like the first ones.  While Moses was on the mountain, the Lord inscribed the same words which were on the first tablets on the second ones.  The Lord proclaimed that He would show both grace and mercy to the people–even during the time period of the Old Covenant!  He promised to forgive their sin, lawlessness, and iniquities but He would always be just.  He wouldn’t cleanse the liable but said their lawlessness would be brought upon their children to the 3rd and 4th generation (Exodus 34:6-7).

The Lord also commanded Moses to take the second set of tablets and place them inside the Ark of the Covenant.  Please don’t miss this.  The second set of tablets which were inscribed with the same covenant and placed inside the Ark of the Covenant foreshadowed the coming of the New Covenant.  This is a picture of what Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-33:  “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah —  32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  (NKJV)  

Verse 32 is referring to the first set of tablets which were physically broken whereas verse 33 is a picture of the second set of tablets.  Even though the Lord showed the people mercy and grace after giving them the second set of tablets, they later broke their covenant with the Lord by committing idolatry/spiritual adultery.  The only way, this could be remedied was by ending the Old Covenant and by making a new one; both steps were accomplished by Jesus’ death (Matt. 26:28; Romans 7:1-6). 

Remember, by grace men are saved.  The body of each believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit as a result of the new covenant.  When a person trusts the Lord, the original terms of the marriage covenant are placed in their hearts and minds just as the second set of tablets were placed in the Ark of the Covenant!  This is the location of the throne of God in the life of a believer.  This person experiences the grace and mercy of God in their lives as they express their love and devotion to God by living according to the terms of the covenant.

Now the next time someone tells you there was no mercy or grace under the Old Covenant, be sure to tell them, “Oh, yes there was!  Grace and mercy are part of both covenants.”

Weeping and Grinding of Teeth

In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  (NKJV)

People often want to know and do God’s will in their lives but they fail to understand that obedience to God’s commandments is His will for their lives.  Everything we plan to get involved in should be evaluated through the net of God’s commandments first.  If we’ll be tempted or expected to disobey God, we shouldn’t follow that path for our life.

Right before Jesus made this statement in Matthew 7, Jesus said we would know false prophets by their fruits.  Basically, a good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit.  Those who bring forth bad fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  Jesus was teaching that those who don’t live according to the law of God (those who practice lawlessness) are bearing bad fruit.  Good fruit is obedience to God’s commands; it’s not necessarily prophesying in the name of the Lord, casting out demons, doing wonders in His name, etc.  It’s simply obedience.

In Matthew 8, Jesus healed and cleansed a man with leprosy.  This is not really Hanson’s Disease which is caused by Mycobacterium leprae.[i]  What is translated as leprosy in the Bible is tzara’at; it is a discoloration of the skin[ii] and is believed by the Jews to be a result of slander or other sins.  It is not caused by bacteria as many have been led to believe.  After all, a person could be totally covered with tzara’at and be clean (Lev. 13:13).

Only God can heal a person of tzara’at.  Once a leper (metzora) was healed, he had to present himself to the priest in order to be cleansed via the purification ritual for those healed of tzara’at (Lev. 14:1-32).  What’s interesting to note here in Matthew 8 is the fact Jesus “cleansed” the metzora.  The Greek word for cleanse is katharizo while the Greek word for heal is iaomai.  Katharizo is the Greek word used in Matthew 8:3.  Even though Jesus had healed and cleansed him of tzara’at, Jesus told him to present himself to the priest to offer the ritual of purification as commanded in the law as a testimony of what Jesus had done for him.  In other words, Jesus told him to let his obedience to the law be his testimony to the people!  Prior to this man’s cleansing, he was ritually and spiritually unclean.  Slander demonstrated the condition of his heart because out of the mouth, the heart speaks.  Remember, Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth defiles a man (Matt. 15:18).  This metzora was a picture of the living walking dead.  This is the condition of all unbelievers.

As Matthew 8 continues, a Roman officer came to Jesus and requested healing for his servant.  He said he was unfit to have Jesus come to his home.  He told Jesus to give the command and his servant would be healed by the authority and word of Christ.  This man had amazing trust in Jesus!  Before Jesus told him to go for he had healed his servant at that very moment, Jesus said that many will come from the east and west to take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven with the patriarchs but they’ll be thrown outside in the dark where people will wail and grind/gnash their teeth. 

We need to ask ourselves why this statement is placed here in this passage.  For some people, it doesn’t make sense.  I think it is a bookend that goes back to what Jesus had said before He came back down from the mountain in Matthew 7.

As mentioned before, non-believers are a snapshot of those who are spiritually dead.  They are ritually unclean.  Only Jesus can heal and cleanse people of such a condition.  They must come to Jesus like the Roman soldier who sought healing for his servant.  They must say, “I’m unworthy for you to come into my house (heart)” even though they know they desperately need healing, cleansing, and forgiveness for their sins.  They must trust that Jesus has the ability and authority to do this simply by His word.  When Jesus returns to earth, His people will be gathered from the four corners of the earth and brought to Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:12; Ps. 107:1-3; Jer. 3:17).  Those who trusted Jesus are the true sons of Abraham (Gal. 3:7); only they will be welcome at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Those who practice lawlessness and assume they have the right to come to this table by merit of their birth or the nice things they’ve done will have to stay outside the camp where the lepers—those who are ritually and spiritually dead must be.  Their place will be one of darkness.  Their place is the lake of fire where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth (Matt. 13:42, 50; Matt. 22:13). 

Seven Canaanite Nations

In Deuteronomy 7:1-5, Moses told the Israelites who survived the plague of Baal of Peor, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out 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 mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. 3 Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. 5 But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.”  (NKJV)

The Amalekites dwelled in the land of the South, the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites dwelled in the mountains.  These seven people groups descended from Ham’s son, Canaan who was cursed by Noah (Gen. 9:25-27).  They represent a seven-headed beast that God wanted His people to destroy completely because He knew they would lead His people into idolatry and spiritual adultery.

Unfortunately, the Israelites did not fully follow the Lord’s instructions regarding these 7 nations.  In Joshua 9, the Hivites are the ones who made a covenant with the Israelites after they deceived God’s people.   Specifically, these were the Gibeonites but the Hivites were also from Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath Jearim.  The Israelites failed to consult the Lord and ended up allowing the Hivites to live among them as woodcutters and water carriers.  These who were destined for death were essentially given their lives back but they became servants of the Israelites.  

Although the Israelites waged war against the Canaanite peoples, they were not totally eliminated from the land.  Judges 3:1-6 explains that the Lord allowed them to remain in order to test Israel to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord or not.  As we read Scripture, it becomes clear that the Israelites failed this test miserably because they intermarried with the Canaanites and served their gods.  This cycle of sinfulness resulted in judges being raised up to rescue God’s people from the nations He sent to discipline them.  Many years later, attempts were made by several of the kings of Judah to put a stop to idolatry but wickedness continued.  Eventually God’s people were sent into exile for their disobedience. 

We have a parallel here that I don’t want you to miss.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Gentiles who repented of their sins and placed their trust in Jesus were grafted into the olive tree of Israel.  Within a few centuries after the apostles’ death, syncretism took place; Christianity became mixed with paganism and many forsook the law of God.  Although the Reformation later took place, doctrinal reform was not complete.  Even though both Jews and Gentiles are servants of the Lord, it has primarily been the Gentile believers who have been carrying the gospel of the Water of Life throughout the world.  Currently, God is using Israel’s enemies to discipline the Jews and bring them to repentance so they can be grafted back into the olive tree of Israel through faith in Christ (Jer. 46:28; Rom. 11:23). 

Today, churches are fitness centers and places of entertainment.  They often tolerate various sins and abominations in order to be seeker friendly instead of being places that foster true worship, in depth Bible study, and godly living.  It is the time for Christians to return to the Hebrew roots of their faith and focus on obedience to God’s word because eventually, further deception will result in a great apostasy and those destined for life will be cut off from their people.  This will happen as a distorted doctrine of love and tolerance for sexual and idolatrous abominations continue to invade the church.

There is another parallel here for us.  We, as believers live in the world but the Lord expects us not to be conformed to this world.  We are to be holy and righteous in the midst of a perverse and sinful generation.  We must remain focused on the Lord so we don’t fail this test.  We must understand the Bible in detail and as a whole so we will not allow ourselves to be destroyed due to a lack of knowledge or an unbalanced focus on a single commandment.  Our lives should be a testimony of our love and commitment to the Lord. 

There is something else for us to see.  In Joshua 10, five Amorite kings — the kings of Jerusalem (Adoni-Zedek), Hebron (Hoham), Jarmuth (Piram), Lachish (Japhia), and Eglon (Debir) made war against Gibeon so the Gibeonites sent a request to Joshua for help.  Joshua and his men came from Gilgal and slaughtered the Amorites at Gibeon and continued to chase them down and kill them as far as Azekah and Makkedah.  The Lord cast down large hailstones on them as far as Azekah and killed more that way than the Israelites had killed with the sword.

The historical account of the Amorites armies attacking Gibeon is similar to the prophecy of the 10 kings who will join the beast to wage war against Israel and the Lamb of God in the latter days.  At that time, the Jews and Christians who support them will be crying out to the Lord for deliverance.  Jesus will bring His army to defeat the enemies of the Jews.  The seventh trumpet and the seventh plague mentioned in Revelation will include lightening, noises, thundering, an earthquake, and great hail.  This earthquake will cause Babylon the Great to be divided into 3 parts.  The cities of the nations will fall and men will curse and blaspheme God because of the great hail (Rev. 11:19; 16:21).

Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17 prophesied that a seven-headed beast is coming in the future.  This beast compares with the 7 Canaanite people groups—one of which is the Amorites.  Some say its seven heads represent the past empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Ancient Greece, and Eastern and Western Rome.  I had come to accept this but this week, the Lord revealed to me that the seven heads really come from a conglomerate of four beasts, one of which had 4 heads (Dan. 7:6).

  • Lion >> Babylon
  • Bear  >> Medo-Persia
  • Leopard with a total of 4 heads >> Alexander the Great’s 4 generals
  • 10-horned Beast >> Eastern and Western Rome

Either way you look at the seven heads, the beast covers the same land mass of these past empires.  In Daniel 7, the four animals were kingdoms but the heads of each one represented people who were either political and/or military leaders.  As for the fourth beast, ten kings (horns) will arise out of that kingdom; and yet another king will arise after them in a manner similar to how Adolf Hitler rose up among 10 countries in Europe.  This king will be a person known as the Antichrist.  He will put down, exterminate, and/or root out three other kings (Dan. 7:24).  We don’t know exactly how or when this will happen.  Perhaps 3 of these kings will be replaced with others who are more loyal to the beast because according to Revelation 17:12-14, a total of 10 kings will come against the Lamb.  In the end, the beast will hate and destroy the adulterous, apostate church.  The Lord will come and destroy this beast and save those who are faithful to Him. 

As we close today, I have several questions for you to consider which may affect where you will spend eternity:

  • Will you come out of Babylon the Great religiously, economically, and politically? 
  • Do you have the testimony of Christ?  In other words, is Jesus your Lord and Savior?
  • Will you remain obedient to God’s commandments in the face of possible or intense persecution?
  • Are you willing to die for your beliefs?  If not, maybe you need to reconsider the previous question.  Don’t fear those who can kill the body.  You will be immediately with the Lord and your Kinsman Redeemer will avenge your murderer at the appropriate time.