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Little By Little—Deut. 7.22

In Genesis 15.18, God promised to give the nation of Israel the territory that extends from “the River of Egypt” in the southwest to the “River Euphrates” in the northeast. The “River of Egypt” was not the Nile River, but the Wadi El-Arish, which marked the eastern border of that nation (cf. 1 Kings 4.21).

If Israel wished to receive and maintain possession of this land, they were expected to remain faithful to the will of God (cf. Deut. 7.12ff; 28.1ff).

Premillennial Error

Premillennial doctrine contends that God has not yet fulfilled this promise to Israel. Allegedly, that will occur after the Lord’s second coming.

However, the Bible unequivocally argues that God has fulfilled the land promise — multiple times in fact!

After the conquest of Canaan, the Bible says that “the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which he had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it” — indeed, “not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Josh. 23.43-45; cf. Josh 11.23). The same assertion is made during the reign of Solomon, more than 400 years later (cf. 1 Kings 4.21; 2 Chron. 9.26; Neh. 9.7-8; Ps. 80.11).

Hence, contrary to Premillennialism, Christians are no longer anticipating a promise to live in the land of Cannan, for there is another land of “rest for the people of God” that is not Canaan (Heb. 4.8-9), which is “a better, that is, a heavenly country” (Heb. 11.16).

Little By Little

That said, it is noteworthy that Israel did not possess the land of Canaan in a single day. Surely, God could have settled the transfer of the land from the Canaanites to the Israelites through a single, momentous battle. Instead, it took seven years to complete (cf. Josh. 14.7, 10; Deut 2.14). Why so long?

In Deuteronomy 7.22, God promised to “drive out those nations before” Israel “little by little.” In other words, the conquest would occur in phases. Why? He explains: “you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.”

Please note that he does not suggest that Israel could not destroy the Canaanites at once period. Since they marched by faith in the Almighty God, there was no army — or collection of armies — that had the power to withstand the might of God’s people (Heb. 11.33-34)! Nor was it a problem that the Israelites were a small force compared to the Canaanites, for “nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14.6; cf. 2 Chron. 14.11; Ps. 33.16).

Rather, God gave them the land in stages to maximize their wealth and ensure minimal losses. Having too much at once could have led to much waste. The beasts of the field, if left without oversight due to their sheer number, could potentially do much damage to their fields, leading to blight. The animals themselves could also have perished.

In that case, receiving such vast wealth at once would eventually be more of a curse than a blessing for his people. So, instead, God let some of the heathen continue to work the land and oversee the beasts until his people could seize them for themselves.

In Exodus 23.29-30, he explained:

“I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land becomes desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you until you have increased, and you inherit the land.”

God's Care For His People

God’s little-by-little approach reveals two things about his relationship with his people.

First, God wants to bless his people. He “gives to all liberally and without reproach” (Jms. 1.5). Literally, James describes him as “the giving God.” He desires to give generously (haplos—without folds; i.e., openly, holding nothing back). Nor does he scold his people for asking for lawful blessings. We should therefore never be ashamed to make our requests known to God, however trivial we may think they are (Phil. 4.6).

Second, God is wiser than we are. He knows what is truly best for us, more so than we do. Although we can never ask for too many lawful blessings, perhaps we sometimes ask for too much too quickly.

Let us remember, however, that while others around us seem to accumulate vast windfalls seemingly overnight, in most cases, such fortune tends to redound to their ultimate misfortune.

Conversely, God knew that Israel would be much wealthier in the long run if they received their spoils in incremental phases (cf. Prov. 13.11, ESV).

People of faith, therefore, recognize that if we are abiding by his will, then whatever circumstances God enables us to experience are designed for our ultimate good (Rom. 8.28), even if we do not comprehend how that could be. Since that is so, let us heed the Psalmist’s mandate:

“Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Ps. 62.8; cf. Heb. 2.13).



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