I Am Sending an Angel Ahead of You

to Bring You to the Place I Have Prepared

23: 20-33

    DIG: Why does the Holy Spirit emphasize these four themes? What is God preparing the children of Isra'el for?

    REFLECT: What, if any, agreements have you made with the world that you regret?

    At the conclusion of the Book of the Covenant, God makes a covenant promise that He will bring the Hebrews to the Promised Land. He will accomplish this by sending His Angel before Israel to lead the people. There, He would destroy the pagan peoples. Israel would be the instrument of that annihilation. And, afterwards, God would richly bless Israel as long as they stayed away from the idols of Canaan.448 In anticipation of their eventual conquest of Canaan, certain regulations were established concerning their travel and their confrontation with the enemies that lived there. Four basic ideas emerge.449

    First, God stressed the need for obedience.450 See, I am sending an Angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared (23:20). This Angel must be obeyed. Pay attention to Him and listen to what He says. Do not rebel against Him because He will not forgive your rebellion, since My Name is in Him (23:21). Whatever He does, He does in My name. Only God can forgive sin, and because He is part of the Godhead, God’s name is in Him. This can only be Jesus Christ, or the Angel of the LORD, who appeared to Moses at the burning bush (3:1-6). Whenever the phrase: the Angel of the LORD is seen in the TaNaKh, it is always the Second Person of the Trinity or Jesus Christ. It is never a common, ordinary, run of the mill angel.

    There would be a reward for following this Angel. If you listen carefully to what He says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you (23:22). My Angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out (23:23). The children of Israel were not to make any converts with the inhabitants of the Land nor with their gods. Joshua made the mistake of making a covenant with the Gibeonites. He did not do enough investigating. Of course, the reason the nation of Israel finally went into the Babylonian captivity was because they ended up practicing idolatry by serving other gods. They did not heed ADONAI’s warning.451

    The second important theme of this section deals with the worship of the true God. The religions of the ancient Near East were idolatrous. Their gods were made out of wood and stone. They worshiped on the high places, or sacred sites with their sacred standing stones, or altars of sacrifice. How then would the Israelites worship the true God? They would have to demolish all the Canaanite gods and be completely separate from them. He said: Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces (23:24).

    If they served only the LORD there would be five rewards for obedience. Worship ADONAI your God, and His blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you (23:25). A play on words occurs in this verse between food, the Hebrew word lehem, and sickness, the Hebrew word mahalah. The two are antithetical, and as opposites they demonstrate that God will take care of all things for the Israelites. For an expanded list of the blessings they were promised if they displayed obedience to the LORD (Deuteronomy 7:12-16). And none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span (23:26). Much of the religious ritual of the pagans was an effort to appease the gods so that they would ensure fertility for man and all that he owned. Acts such as temple prostitution and child sacrifice served to manipulate the gods so that productivity would result. The Israelites were not to participate in spiritual adultery. It is God and God alone who provides the fertility for humans, animals and fields. This teaching is reinforced in Deuteronomy 7:14.452

    The third theme centers on the provisions that God would make for their victory while fighting in the land of Canaan. God also promised to give the Israelites the Land gradually. Their enemies, terrorized by God, would be confused and would retreat. God said: I will send My terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. That is exactly what happened to the Egyptian army as they attempted to cross the Sea of Reeds (14:24-25). I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. Like running to escape the sting of a hornet, they would flee in fear and panic. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. The hornet probably symbolized Egypt’s military strength (compare the symbolic use of flies and bees in Isaiah 7:18).453 This would be done gradually. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land (23:27-30). As the Canaanites would decrease, the Jews would increase until they inhabited all of the Promised Land (Judges 1:17-36).

    I will establish your borders from the Sea of Reeds in the south to the Sea of the Philistines in the west, and from the desert in the east to the Euphrates River in the north (23:31a). This territory was occupied during the time of Solomon (First Kings 4:21), though much of it was not fully under their control.454 I will hand over to you the people who live in the land, yet it is your responsibility to drive them out before you (23:31b).

    The fourth theme of the epilogue focuses on the warning that no covenant should be made with the peoples of Canaan or their gods. The presence of these enemies in the Land was a constant threat spiritually. Therefore, He said: Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods (23:32). Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against Me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you (23:33). Prohibitions against intermixing with the pagan peoples is a common theme in the Torah (Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-5). For what necessarily happened in such cases is that the people of the LORD stumbled. This was a trap, or a snare, which they were to watch carefully and from which they needed to flee (Deuteronomy 7:16; Joshua 9:3-15, 23:13; Judges 2:3).

    This final section of the Book of the Covenant (20:18 to 23:33) came with the promise that ADONAI was guiding and leading His people to a place that He had prepared for them. No matter how difficult the way, no matter how many obstacles the people faced, God was still in control. He was the One in charge, directing His people to the Land of promise.455

 

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