“And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
“I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
“By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.” – Exodus 23:28-30
We were created solely for one purpose: that we may be of service to others, thus serving the Lord and preparing ourselves for heaven.
The worldly man is wholly occupied with the affairs of this world. He, in his short-sighted vision, thinks that this world is all there is, that he lives here as animals do and then dies. His short life of vexation and joy, of failure and success is then over, and that is the end. Almost everyone, if taxed with this notion in these terms, would deny that it is a true concept of his views; and yet, in the general run of life, the great majority of people – perhaps ninety-nine out of a hundred – are very accurately measured by this description. How few there really are who act from the knowledge and living conviction that every day on earth is given us to prepare for eternal life in heaven.
It is not so with children. Their minds are disposed to heavenly things, and when they are told they will live forever, they believe it. This is because of the “remains” sown in the mind by the Lord to begin with so that the child listens and loves to hear about the wonders and blessedness of heaven. “Their angels do always behold the face of my Father, which is in heaven.” The child-mind is not clouded with doubts, nor has his natural reason developed. But as the child grows and increases in stature, heaven withdraws into the inmosts of the soul, and earthly interests develop more and more, until his mind may become disordered and he may come to imagine that to get on in this world is all that he wants in order to satisfy all his desires and needs. For great numbers of people this continues for the larger part of life. They toil and struggle. They indeed live so that they do not call down upon themselves the condemnation of their neighbors and friends and society, but the greatest aim of their lives is to secure all the advantages they can in this world. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” and although all experience testifies against this folly, there are many who find disillusionment and anxiety, little happiness and much disappointment and misery, and when their life comes to its end, people say of them, “It is all over now.”
But this is not so. Death is but the gate to real life. If one has gone on from year to year acting from the same selfish principles, having no interests beyond his worldly wants, until he has become a burden both to himself and to others, is death the end of it all? No. He has taken himself with him wherever he has gone. This is the eternal law for both the good and the evil, the religious and the irreligious.
And then there is the fallacy of the religious man. This is a deeper and more stubborn one to overcome than the fallacy of the worldly man. There are many who do not want to be wholly indifferent to the religious life, yet their evils are too much loved to be thoroughly given up. Their religion is only skin deep. There must be a make-believe of something being done. Hence there are also superficial teachers who meet the demand and say that one is saved by a belief or by a ceremony. They tell us that if we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for us, all our religious obligations are satisfied and when we die, we shall be taken up into heaven. This type of religious person is very sure of heaven, but his religion makes scarcely any alteration in his character. He attends religious services, uses religious terms in his speech, and does nothing which is not respectable amongst religious people. Yet he may be just as greedy and as unpleasant to live with, and just as anxious about his worldly success and afraid of death as any of those who have never professed to believe.
Such men suppose themselves to be entirely in possession of the means of salvation and happiness, yet they are perpetually fearing and struggling to cling to their assurance that they will enter heaven. They ignore the fact that the kingdom of heaven must be within or it will never be around us.
In the Bible story the Israelites, because they had been given the Word, represent those who know what the Lord requires of them, and the Holy Land represents the truly heavenly life. Canaan, as it first appears in the Bible story, was inhabited by a people so corrupt that it was a mercy to them to exterminate them. So the Israelites were commanded to advance and take possession of the land. The driving out of its inhabitants little by little is representative of the only way in which evils can be extirpated and heaven descend into the human heart and character. The three peoples who are named in our text are the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite. The Hivites were a nation or tribe dwelling in the immediate neighborhood of Jericho and Ai. They were not the worst of the people of the land. Their weakness was that they were disposed to do as other people did. When Joshua came upon them, they were perfectly willing to do as Joshua required, and entered into a covenant with him and were ordered to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, and to be protected as long as they conformed to the manners of the Israelites. They are, therefore, representative of that disposition to outward religious conformity which is the result of imitation – not of conviction, not of the feeling of the necessity of being born again if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. This disposition to do as other people do is found in a large number of people. When it is the fashion to be religious, they will be religious too, particularly if it is the profitable thing to do. These are the spiritual Hivites. They never have the peace or delights of real religion. Actually they are religious nobodies.
It is said that hornets would be sent upon them. In the Word the hornet with its sting is representative of the stings and pains of the soul which come from feeling obliged to lead an orderly life without being really devoted to what is good and true. Such people are at war with themselves. They are in a continual fret. There is with them no solid happiness. They live in conflict with their consciences.
The Canaanites are next mentioned. By them is meant the downright disposition to sin. In the time of Joshua Adonibezek headed the five kings of the Canaanites who went forth to oppose the Israelites. Adonibezek, whose name means “lord of fetters,” is said to have had seventy-two kings captive under his table, with hands and feet mutilated. This bad king with his people, the Canaanites, are representative of self-love, which is opposed to heavenly principles; and when they were blotted out from the face of the land, it is said, “There shall no more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” There is “no more the Canaanite” when there is no more in the soul selfish opposition to heavenly influences.
The Hittites, or the children of Heth, were the old inhabitants of the country. From them Abraham bought the ground in which the body of Sarah was buried. They once constituted an ancient church whose doctrines had been pure but were now perverted. The names of places in their country – Debir, “the Word,” and many others – all indicate that true religion once flourished there. Now all had become perverted, and they represent religion perverted. Religion to such is a mere cover and pretense. They love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Therefore they love dark and mysterious dogmas. They claim them to be true because of their antiquity. Their fathers believed them; therefore they must be true. They do not trouble themselves about change of heart, nor about what is true or false.
These three things, then, have to be driven out of the soul: conformity to the world, the evils of the heart, and the false views of the intellect. As these are expelled, the soul will find peace.
Only, however, by little and little can this be done. This does not mean that we may be heedless, easy, and indifferent about it, and do little when we could do much. On the contrary we must, as long as we are in the world, labor and strive in the name of the Lord to become renewed in heart, mind, and life, and neither despair nor be impatient if we find our progress much slower than we had hoped. We can leave outward sin at once, and we should do so. There can be no change or amendment of life without that. But there are inward weaknesses, follies, and sins, and often, when we suppose they have been all overcome and expelled, we shall find them returning in force again and again. But we should take courage, and fight the good fight day by day in the Lord’s strength, trusting in Him. Then little by little all that is evil will be expelled and replaced by what is good. If we die while the contest is going on, we are on the Lord’s side and shall go to His kingdom. We should hope for the complete triumph of the Lord in us.
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”