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THE ISRAELITES COMMANDED TO EXTIRPATE THE
CANAANITES, YET SOME OF THEM PROVIDENTIALLY PRESERVED TO PROVE ISRAEL. -Judges iii.
God commanded that the Canaanites should be expelled or destroyed without exception, yet he did not design that this should be accomplished universally. They were not eventually all expelled, yet Israel was guilty in not expelling them. Men may speculate on these points, and show their presumption in adjusting them, but they are a part of the ways of God which are past finding out. A child, in reading the history, may see this truth, but their adjustment is beyond the efforts of human intellect. “ And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice ; why have ye done this ? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you, but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you,” Judges ii. 2, 3. How awfully sovereign is this conduct! God keeps the Canaanites in the land, while in judgment he declares that they would be a snare unto his people! If he knew that they would be a snare to his people, why did he not, on that very account, drive them out ? Would not, should not, every human father do so ? God is a sovereign, of the measures of whose conduct we are not fit to judge; and we have no right to bring him to our law. In all things we are certain that he acts justly and wisely. But his justice and wisdom we are not able to comprehend. The idolatry of Israel might have been prevented or lessened by the total expulsion of the idolatrous nations, yet God does not expel them! Human rulers would not, should not, act after this example. The intention of this act of Divine sovereignty, God tells us, was to prove
Israel, By this means it was manifested that the Israelites were by nature no better than the rest of mankind. Had they been preserved free from idolatry and great crimes, they would have gloried in their own righteousness; and all nations would have considered that Israel was chosen by God to their high des tinies on account of their excellence. For a similar reason, Divine Providence left David, and others of his ancient people, to fall into grievous sins. In like manner, the gross immorality of the heathen world, and the sins even against nature, which were generally committed, were designed by God to prove the guilt and universal depravity of human nature.
There is another awful feature in the Providence that spared some of the Canaanites in the land, When God determined that any of them should remain, why did he give a universal command for extirpation? Why did he thus give occasion for the guilt of Israel in not executing his orders ? Here is sovereignty in its awful and incomprehensible majesty. And will the pride and petulance of human wisdom never cease its attempts to fathom the counsels of the incomprehensible God? Divine Sovereignty designed also that some of the Canaanites should be spared, “ that the generations
of the children of Israel might know to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof." Every spiritual Israelite is a soldier; and while he is in this world, he will never want ene. mies to exercise him in the spiritual warfare.
When Israel pleased the Lord, no nation dare invade them : all nations feared them. When they fell into idolatry and rebellion against God, they were constantly a prey to devourers. And we see that there was no need that God should expressly call foreign nations to invade them. He effected his purpose in a providential way, by the voluntary acts of their enemies. In one point of view, God excited and sent the enemies to destroy his people : in another, it was their own spontaneous action, without
known reference to the will of the God of Israel. Here is a sample of the incomprehensible ways
of Jehovah. God sent the invaders, yet the guilt of the invasion is all the invaders' own. As the swallow knows her season, so the Midianites, as if by a divine instinct, conceived and executed the
purpose of invading Israel, at the very moment that their conduct merited this punishment from the Lord. It was punishment from the Lord, yet the executioners of this punishment acted entirely from their own thoughts, resolves, and hopes. Wonderful are thy ways, O Lord God Almighty! They alone are wise who study thy character in thine own word and works, renouncing their own wisdom, and relying on the enlightening of thy Holy Spirit. The entrance of thy word gives light, and makes wise the simple.
DREAM OF THE MIDIANITISH SOLDIER.
Judges vii. 13.
This dream was providential, and shows us how God, in the ordinary course of his Providence, without any proper miracle, gives occasion to victory, or defeat, in armies. A dream, or an impression, or even a superstitious omen, may be the means which Providence employs to effect its purposes. It is amazing upon what trivial circumstances the most momentous events depend. God employs whatever means he pleases; and he can make his enemies predict the victory of his people. Here a Midianitish soldier was a prophet to Gideon, to encourage bim to the battle of the Lord against the mighty. “ And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of bar. ley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel : for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host."-Judges vii. 13, 14.
JEPHTHAH'S VOW.Judges xi. 31.
Whatever may be supposed to have been the nature of the vow of Jephthab, it was rash and sinful. It injured his daughter, and brought himself into trouble. From his own confession this is perfectly obvious. “ And it came to pass when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter, thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back." Divine Providence might have delivered her from the consequences of his rashness. His daughter might have been out of the way on his return, and something else might have been the first to meet him. He that so seasonably provided a ram caught by the horns in a thicket for the occasions of Abraham, could be at no loss to direct events so as to relieve Jephthah. But Providence did not so. It brought him into the very snare that he had set for himself. His daughter was the first to meet him. « Behold, his daughter came forth to meet him with timbrels and with dances; and she was his only child : besides her he had neither son nor daughter.” Human wisdom would have acted differently. Had we the direction of Providence on such an occasion, events would have been different, and all would have ended