What do you need to succeed in a military conquest? Bigger guns, more men, better equipment, shrewder strategy, more courage than the enemy––all seem reasonable. What did Israel need to successfully conquer Canaan, a land of giants? Faithfulness to God. For Israel, it wasn’t about the size of their army or tactics or chariots but about faithfulness to their covenant God and obedience to his commands. God promises to fight for his people when they are faithful to Him. This is why in a series of sermons, Moses preaches faithfulness for the next generation––because Canaan is a land full of giants.
Your Giant Killin’ Cousins (Deut. 2:1-25)
We pick up mid way through Moses story of Israel’s wilderness wandering. The Lord is kind and leads his people on a walking tour of their giant killing cousins of the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonities and encourages them that they too can kill giants and take their land. Moses, acting as the tour guide, says in verse 10, “And let me draw your attention over to the Emim who formerly lived here. They were a great people and many and tall as the Anakim––remember, the Anakim, the giants your parents feared? Yup, the Moabites took care of their giant problem and settled in their land.”
Israel keeps trekking and comes into the territory of the people of Ammon. And like their Moabite cousins, the Ammonites be giant-killers and land-takers (vs. 20-21).And the Edomites, Esau’s people took on their own cluster of giants––the Horties, the Avvim, the Caphtorim––they destroyed them and settled in their place.” (vs. 22-23). The implication of all this for Israel is “Go thou and do likewise.”
King Sihon and King Og (Deut. 2:24-3:22)
Israel needs practice possessing the Land and fighting giants. So that’s what God gives. In the next section, God commands Israel to go fight King Sihon and take possession of his land. And the Lord said, “Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over you. Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land” (2:31). And Sihon comes out and all his people, and guess what? “The LORD our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people. And we captured all his cities…” (vs. 33)
The LORD continues the faith training with a Og the King of Bashan. The Lord says, “Do not fear him, for I have given him and all his people and his land into your hand. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon the king of the Amorites.” Which is just what happened.
At the conclusion of the history that brings Israel to the border of the Promise land, Moses encourages Joshua, “Your eyes have seen all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. So will the LORD do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you” (3:21-22). This is the key for Israel’s conquest––the Lord your God will fight for you. So what must Israel do?
Call to Faithfulness (Deut. 4:1-40)
In chapter 4, Moses concludes this first sermon by calling Israel to faithfulness. Moses gives the the application of this history of giant fighting––hear and obey God’s commandments. “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go into and take the possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers is giving you” (4:1). Israel’s biggest challenge in the land is not the giants, but obedience to God. God will fight the giants and all the rest. But Moses knows that Israel will struggle with whole-hearted obedience through the generations. And so Moses charges them to listen to the rules, the statutes, the commandments of the Lord starting with the Ten Commandments and teach the next generation (vs. 9-14). If your commanding officer was explaining the directions to cross a mine field that you must walk through, would you pay attention? Would you pay extra attention if you must lead your kids and then your grandkids?
Jesus and Giants in Your Life
God intends for his people to go into a land full of giants. This is not a mistake. This is sanctification. Perhaps you’re like Israel, and you expect that once you were delivered from the slavery of Egyptian sin, that all of life would be the milk and honey of a promised land. But you get into it and realize that there are giants. And you think, “This isn’t the promise land I expected––maybe could I get some smaller giants? Maybe less battles to fight?” Obedience looks hard, difficult, terrifying, but still necessary. Chesterton said it poignantly in What’s Wrong with the World?, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
Israel was to be a nation of faithful giant fighters. Why? The answer is that God loves good stories. And good stories come with big bad guys. The best story is about Jesus the Giant Killer. The Gospel of Luke describes Satan as an armored strong man guarding his treasures. Jesus is the stronger champion who overpowers the strong man, takes his armor, and divides the spoils. We’re not understanding the story right when we think of Jesus as a godly giant fighting a puny devil. Rather, Christ became one of us, and as Isaiah says “with no form nor appearance,” and as a normal man He bound and defeated the greatest giant. Jesus the Giant-killer is the One who leads his people into the the Promise Land, and this is a land full of giants. And we are to be just like Jesus––a nation of faithful giant fighters.