Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: We must refuse all worldly covenants if we would belong fully to God.
Goal: Choose Christ as your only Lord, and identify specific changes this decision will require.
Jennifer Johnson banged her hands on the steering wheel. “I can’t believe it!” she screamed out loud. She’d run out of gas. It was dark, and she was scared. She was in a part of town where there had been riots only the week before. She could barely see outlines of large warehouses, railroad tracks, and chain link fences. She looked for a telephone, service station, anything. She saw nothing, and was scared.
Then she saw him, and the hair stood up on the back of her neck. Her heart raced. In the middle of the street, coming straight at her, she could see a man approaching. “Maybe he won’t see me,” she prayed. But then he was at her window. He tapped the glass and yelled something, but she was instantly hysterical: “Get away. Leave me alone. Don’t bother me.”
He yelled louder, and knocked harder. He raced around the car and tried all the doors. She blew the horn and screamed, and he was gone. But in a moment he returned, carrying a long, thick board. He tried to say something to her, but she screamed, drowning out his voice. He battered the driver’s side window with the board until it shattered. In an instant he reached in, unlocked the door, opened it, and grabbed Jennifer. She hit him and kicked furiously until his nose and face were bleeding, but he pulled her from the car and dragged her away.
About 40 feet from the car, he suddenly dropped her. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, but she was terrified. She backed away from him until she ran into a fence. He had not moved. He tried to speak but she screamed, “Leave me alone. Go away.” He stood there for a second, and then walked slowly away.
She sat trembling. Then a strange noise caught her attention. Lights began to flash in the night. The ground began to shake. The noise grew louder, and came closer. In an instant she saw it. A train roared past a few feet from where she sat, crashed into her car, and dragged it scraping and banging into the darkness.
Then she realized: the man knew about the coming train. He was not trying to hurt her—he was trying to save her.
So it is with the will of God. What looks unfair, or punitive, or unreasonable, is not if it comes from the hand of an all-loving, all-powerful Father. A parent who forbids illegal drug use is not punishing his child, but protecting her. When we allow our children to compromise with that which will destroy them, we share the blame for their pain.
And so the God of Israel forbade his people to make treaties with the sinful, idolatrous people living in their Promised Land. He warned them again and again that such pagan alliances would poison them spiritually. His warning is as relevant to us as it was to them. We are to be in the world, but not of it. When the ship is in the water, all is well; when the water is in the ship, disaster is on the way.
C. S. Lewis remarked that any time we live for “Christianity and…”, whatever is on the other side of “and” inevitably supersedes that which precedes it. Are there places in your life where compromise with sin exists? How can you help your class yield themselves fully and only to God?
Expect opposition (vs. 1-2)
As we noted last week, the people of God are in a constant spiritual battle. Augustine was right: there is a city of God and a city of the enemy. They are locked in perennial struggle. But Satan cannot hurt the Lord of the universe, so he attacks his children. He knows that this is always the best way to hurt any loving parent. An African proverb says it well: when elephants fight, the grass always loses.
So expect the enemy to attack. As my youth minister used to say, if you and the devil are not in opposition, you’re probably in partnership. When the kings west of the Jordan heard about Israel’s victory over Jericho and Ai, they “came together to make war against Joshua and Israel” (v. 2). They came from the central mountain area, the rocky plateaus to the west, and the seacoast further west, comprising the largest portion of land in the region. And they formed a new strategy, becoming a new kind of enemy.
No longer would Israel have the privilege of fighting against a single army, one city at a time. Now they would face the combined forces of their opponents. But as great as this threat appeared to be, it would not pose the long-term threat the nation faced through the deception recorded in this week’s study.
You and I can assume that the enemy will attack us. We read only three chapters of God’s word before we find Satan deceiving our parents. Abel would face death at the hands of his brother Cain. Moses would withstand the assaults of Pharaoh and the mightiest army the world had ever seen. Daniel would face his lions, and his companions their fiery furnace.
Peter and the apostles would stand before their Sanhedrin. Paul would deal with his Judaizers and eventually his emperor. John would suffer on his Patmos. Jesus warned us that tribulation is inevitable (John 16:33). So expect opposition. The enemy is coming after you. A lion roars when he is about to pounce (1 Pt 5:8). You don’t have to find him—he’ll find you.
Beware deception (vs. 3-15)
Those enemies who attack us spiritually are a constant and predictable threat (cf. Ephesians 6:12). But our even more dangerous opponents are those who appear to be our friends. Because Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), “it is not surprising if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness” (v. 15).