The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you.
Moses lets Israel know, in this verse, that the conquest of the land is going to be a gradual thing. They will not just go in and insta-stomp everyone like they did with the kings on the side of the Jordan they’re on, but there will be a gradual beat-down of the various kingdoms. This would have been what took place if Israel had actually continued to conquer after the initial entry, but Israel came into the land and conquered a portion and decided that was enough. No more beat-downs. No more working on making the land completely their own. Just settle in and deal. And Moses explains that the reason for the gradual conquest is the wild animals. God is so into the detail that He’s even concerned about making sure the wild animal population is under control.
This is a nice bit of history of Israel, but it doesn’t do much for me today without some principle to apply.
The entry into the Promised Land and the conquest of same are often compared to the believer’s sanctification. Salvation comes in three parts and tenses: the past tense, having been saved from the punishment of sin; the present tense, being saved from the power of sin; the future tense, being saved from the presence of sin. The believer is saved from the punishment of sin. Jesus’ death on the cross is a one-time payment for every sin that ever has been and ever will be committed. So the price; the punishment for sin are dealt with. This is compared to the initial entry into the Promised Land; all victory and butt-kicking and no loss at all (with the exception of Ai, which became a great example of trying to save ourselves). Pretty much the rest of the OT is a study in being saved from the power of sin; of sanctification. It is, however, most often a bad example; an example of not laying hold of the victory in Christ. See, Israel enters the Promised Land, but never kicks out the folks living there. Eventually, kings will come along and do some of the work of getting the other nations out of there, but the work is never quite finished. And that is like many believers. We are saved from the punishment of sin, but we never quite get to the point of having victory over the power of sin. It always nags at us and causes us problems. Part of that is, I think, because we expect insta-deliverance. We’re so into instant everything, in the time in which we live, that anything requiring effort and long term commitment just seems overwhelming to us. So we come to God and expect that Him saving us will include instantaneous deliverance from our addictions and bad behaviors and destructive emotions and all the sin that so easily entangles us. We come to God expecting a miracle cure and sometimes, just sometimes, that is precisely what God has in mind. Other times, He wants us involved in the process. Like the blind man who had to wash his eyes in order to receive sight or the lepers who had to go show themselves to the priest. Sometimes God does the instant thing. Other times — I’d guess most times — God does the gradual, involve the sinner in the sanctification process. Why? Because wiping out all the sins with power in our lives (kingdoms) instantly would leave a vacuum in us that would be filled by other sins (wild beasts). It’s not that God is unwilling, but that I am unable to deal with what would follow.
God, thank You for removing things from my life gradually. Please forgive all the times I’ve complained that I did not receive instant deliverance. Please teach me to appreciate the gradual removal of the things that entangle me so that I am not overwhelmed by things that seem to be held in check at the moment. Thank You.