Take & Possess: Canaanites, Weeds, & Driving Out Enemies (Part I)

Pulling Weeds

Weeds don’t take no for an answer. The Canaanites would dwell in the land. To take is not the same as to possess.

So how can you drive out the enemy and truly possess the land?

How Persistent These Weeds

My proud, melancholic temperament turned up again Thursday. It might have looked like low-spirits, sickly, and weak.

And as much as I’d like to think it was because our family is weary of fighting off Covid-19 and because layers of a loved one’s harmful stronghold keep unfolding. I’d like to think it was those—those “tough life circumstances.”

But if I search my heart, hard as those are, the real trigger is my sin within, my bad habits, my mental weeds. Self-pity is one. Comparing gifts—I’ll call it what it is, coveting—is another. These joy-killing natives in the land—these godless -ites—have have dwelt so long in my life that they dislike being dislodged.

They’re stubborn. The roots are deep. They go way back.

Back to the dejected five year-old hiding in Grandma Wustmann’s dark coat closet because she felt slighted by an aunt. Back to the eight year-old crying bitter tears because my up-north cousins go to Grandma Considine’s overnight grandma parties and again when my best friend Jane got a pool. Way back.

My sins are ever before me. They tell me that I need to be satisfied in God, that I need salvation’s joy restored (Psalm 51:10-12). But why should these enemies, these weeds, leave their dwelling-place?

After all, like the Canaanites in Promised Land- they were in the land first.

What Are Your Evil -ITES?

Do you know about the evil -ites? They’re the natives in the land; the enemies God’s people faced when they finally entered the Promised Land. God made it clear that Joshua was to destroy them and drive them out.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Deuteronomy 7:1-2

Why so severe?

God made that clear too. Because coexisting with Canaanites leads to compromise, “for that shall be a snare to you” (Deut. 7:16, also 7:17-26). That’s why this Canaanite must be conquered. The Canaanites were real godless people who lived in a real godless place. They were not an ignorant, innocent people.

To escape the evil, corrupting Canaanite influence, God told the Israelites to destroy them and drive them out.

But I think the -ites also represent our besetting sins, the sins that “cling so closely.” I mentioned a couple of my evil -ites, coveting and sullen self-pity.

They’re pesky and persistent—these “Canaanites.”

This Canaanite Must Be Conquered

But God commands us to deal with them the same way he commanded the Israelites to deal with the evil, godless -ites. “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies…For sin shall not have dominion over you,” wrote the Apostle Paul.

Do you see how the imperative—let not sin reign— is grounded on the indicative—for sin shall not have dominion. This means that when God gives us a command to do, it’s rooted in what He has already done.

Christ has already set us free from sin’s ruling power (Romans 6:2,14,22). His death on the cross has already disarmed evil rulers (Colossians 2:13-15). What’s more, the Holy Spirit is ready to war against the sinful desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:17).

Which means, “The hasty temper [or the self-pitying, melancholic temper] may be natural to you: but seeing that your position is Christ is supernatural, this Canaanite must be conquered,” F.B. Meyer declares. “Talk no more of these Canaanites who would stay in the land; but say of the blessed Spirit, ‘He is well able to drive them out.‘”

If, by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body, we will live (Romans 8:13). We are well able to drive them out, to uproot our weeds.

Weeds—and -ITES—Have No Rights

Sometimes, at the beginning of our Christian life, we make a feeble effort against them, and hope to cast them out; but they stubbornly resist, says Meyer. If conscience strikes, we reply, “Do not find fault; we couldn’t help it. These Canaanites are self-willed and persistent, they would dwell in the land.”

Meyer is referring to Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land, the land west of the Jordan. I just read about that in the book of Joshua and the start of Judges.

The book of Joshua opens with these words,

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

The book of Joshua is about how God was with Joshua on those conquests, gave victory over enemies, and gave Israel the Promised Land.

The Earth Is The LORD’S

Which means that their enemies had no right there. The rightful owner of the land, the Creator of the heavens and earth, had promised it to his people way, way back. In fact, hundreds and hundreds of years even before the Israelites were slaves in Egypt God promised this very land to Abraham.

For, “the earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Which means the wicked -ites had no rights—no right to dwell in or to possess the Promised Land.

So too, our bad habits, our besetting sins, have no right to persist in our lives. We walk in newness of life.

These weeds have no right to grow in our united-with-Christ lives (Romans 6:1-11).

All Came To Pass

Because God keeps his promises. And He promised us his overcoming power. Remember 1 John 4:4, Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world?

God is greater than the enemy -ites. And He said if we obey, he’d drive out our enemies; and none of God’s good promises fail.

Not one.

These next few verses come near the end of the book of Joshua,

Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:43-45

It is ours to obey, and not to make peace with the enemy (See Judges 2:2). The whole soil of our hearts has been made over to the Son of God, Meyer writes, and there should be no part left to weeds.

Where “COEXIST” Cannot Exist

Whatever you might think of the bumper sticker, it was impossible for Israel to coexist with the Canaanites and thrive. And it is impossible for known, unrepented sin to coexist with righteousness (Romans 6:15-23).

There can be no peace between you and Christ, C.H. Spurgeon said, while there is peace between you and sin.

Which means that I had to do some fighting with my self-pity, whose roots were deep in coveting a life and I don’t have, and deeper still in discontentment.

There can be no peace between you and Christ while there is peace between you and sin

C.H. Spurgeon

I must wield the sword of the Sprit—real gospel truth—against these Canaanites. Truth like, The vinedresser prunes branches that bear fruit and the Lord disciplines those he loves. Like, in everything give thanks and be content with what you have.

Because we cannot possess what we do not first dispossess. We cannot possess what someone else controls. If coveting rules my heart, the peace of Christ won’t. Those two can’t possibly coexist. Don’t you know, James asked, that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?

The Israelites could not possess that part of the land where they coexisted with the Canaanites, even if they “kept” Canaanites as slaves. Instead of destroying or driving them out as God had commanded, the Israelites allowed them to live in their midst.

But if they had the power to enslave the enemy, they had the power to drive them out. (More on that in Part II.)

Living With The Canaanites

Judges chapter one gives an account of the successes and failures of the Israelite tribes in “possessing” what had been “taken” under Joshua. Judah did okay, but the other tribes did not.

At first, the Canaanites are dwelling among the Israelites (1:21), but soon after we read that the Israelites were dwelling among the Canaanites (1:32-33).

Do you hear the difference?

In the beginning of the account in Judges 1, the Israelites are driving out the Canaanites while a few pesky Canaanites lived among them. Even the finest manicured lawns have a few, isolated bursts of April dandelion bloom.

But eventually the Israelites are either using the Canaanites as forced labor—trying to put sin to work for them—or even worse, living among the Canaanites. That’s the yard so emblazoned with dandelion weed, you barely see green.

Dandelions And Grass

Here’s the progression from a few dandelions in a sea of green to a splash of grass in a field of dandelions.

It’s in Judges chapter one,

27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages[…]for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28 When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor.

31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, 32 so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.

33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land…

34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain.

The tribe of Dan didn’t even make it out of the hills. And so Israel failed to possess the land.

Not To Conquer Is To Be Conquered

Not to conquer your spiritual foes is to be conquered by them, A.R. Fausset warns. They will push the first advantage you give them over you, until step by step you are brought down from being their master, to become their dependent vassal.

We have all unconquered ‘Canaanites’ in our hearts. And friendship with the world is enmity toward God. We must be alert to our inward foes, whom we imagine we have “under control,” and so treat them leniently. Soul-foes like nursing a grudge, throwing a pity party, or maybe just “blowing off steam.”

But no. We can’t all just get along. These can’t righteously coexist.

Partial Obedience = Incomplete Victory = More Weeds

This was not a complete victory for God’s people. Despite the promise God made to give them the land and give the enemies into their hand, this is not that story. God had said to drive out these Canaanites. Israel was to get rid of them and then to dwell where they had dwelt. The tribes failed to drive them out.

There are things that God has told us to drive out of our lives. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” In other words, fight your sin with urgency.

If your eye causes you to see, don’t look. If your foot causes you to sin, don’t go. If your hand causes you to sin, don’t do.

JOHN STOTT

Irish Pastor David Legge warns, Do not flirt with it! Do not allow it to take root! You see, if you do not obey God completely, only in a partial obedience, you will be conquered. If you do not conquer that sin, that sin will conquer you! 

I drive out the -ites in my mind. Sin has roots in thoughts. I must go deep to pull out weeds and plant that place with the excellent and praiseworthy.

Because gratitude and self-pity don’t coexist. Joyfully pressing on doesn’t dwell with discontentment. So I fought hard. I wrote thank you notes and sent I-care texts, and I thought on what is true. That’s how I took back the land.

Keep Up The Good Fight

I know I will have to keep up the fight because the Canaanites are persistent. But day by day, moment by moment, I can push them back. Because Christ died and rose again to give us His power to overcome.

So don’t make peace with sin. Don’t let the enemy possess the land. If you know it’s a sin, drive it out.

Don’t let the Canaanites dwell in your land.

When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land.

Judges 2:6

*Look for Part II of TAKE & POSSESS coming soon.