As I’ve meditated on Dt. 7 and thought about what I would say to you, Brian and Kelly, I’ve thought that this really is a great wedding text. I think it needs to make it into the wedding lessons more frequently than it usually does.
This passage talks about conquest, destroying idols, the love and election of God, the covenant and mercy of God, the judgment and blessing of God. Everything is there. Everything is here for a great wedding sermon. Joshua and I have the great privilege of tag-teaming you today: I will be laying out all the weapons and instruments, and then he will get to poke you with them.
The chapter begins with a declaration of the gospel. Moses says, “When the Lord you God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and cast out many nations before you… nations greater and mightier than you…” That’s the same way the Ten Commandments begin: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt…” The Word of God begins with blessing, it begins with salvation, it begins with the gospel, with the declaration of victory and freedom. But notice one significant difference from the preamble to the Ten Commandments. Here in Dt. 7, the gospel is future. The gospel is a declaration of good news concerning what God will do, what is coming.
The truthfulness of God’s promise is so certain, that Moses gives specific commands to the Israelites regarding these promises. When you take possession of this land that God will give you… The Israelites will need to be prepared to do several things. First, Moses tells them that when God delivers the enemy nations over to them, Israel must conquer and destroy them. And in case there was in ambiguity in that requirement, Moses makes it clear that this means they may not make covenants with them or show mercy to them. Sinful hearts have the amazing ability to turn commands like “destroy them” and “conquer them” into suggestions that really mean something more like make covenants with them and show them mercy. Moses has been with Israel long enough to know better, and he throws a couple of road blocks up to at least slow them down. He also tells them that this means they can’t make marriages with them or allow their sons and daughters to intermarry. Moses notices one fellow in the back scribbling furiously who had figured out how to make the words “destroy” and “conquer” form a chiasm which actually symbolically represented a unity candle which obviously meant that God wanted them to all get married. But Moses closes that exit too. He points that intermarriage would be a particular folly because it will result in turning their children and grand children away from following the Lord to follow other gods instead, and the end result of that will be that Israel will have become an enemy of God. And God destroys His enemies, and so God will have to destroy Israel.
Again, Moses doesn’t leave any doors unlocked for Israel. He spells out clearly that this means Israel must specifically destroy all of the pagan altars and liturgical trinkets they find in the land. The pillars, the images, and the altars must be cut down, broken down, and burned in the fire (7:5).
The Lord reminds Israel that she is a chose people, a special treasure above all the peoples of the earth. But He also reminds them that this is not because of something special in them. It wasn’t because they were the strongest or the most numerous – that was clearly not the case. Rather, they were the least of all peoples, and the Lord brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord set his love upon Israel because of His great mercy and because of His covenant with their forefathers.
The passage concludes reminding the people of Israel of what it means to be the covenant people of God. What does it mean to be loved by God? God’s love for His people means blessing and mercy for a thousand generations toward those who love Him and keep His commandments (7:9). And this means blessing and prosperity in the womb, in their land, in their grain, in their wine and oil, in the cattle, and God promises to drive barrenness and sickness and the plagues of Egypt far away from them. But this love of God also includes a righteous jealousy that insists that He will repay those who hate him, and those who refuse His love and resolve to be His enemies, He will treat like enemies and destroy them.
So what does all of this have to do with love and marriage? Well nearly everything actually. A faithful and godly marriage must include everything that we covered in this passage. Marriage begins with the blessing of God, and that’s really what a wedding ceremony is. We all stand up here and put our best clothes on and ask God to bless this new family, this new household. We begin with the blessing of God, but that blessing is a blessing that looks forward to something. It’s good news, it’s a promise of blessing, but it’s future. Your suits and dresses and flowers are meant to point forward. They of course honor you today, but they are also meant to signify in a small way the glory that awaits you. The glory of life together, the joy of children, laughter around dinner tables, the wonder of making love, walks under the stars at night, and the countless other glories of sharing life together. But you haven’t done that yet. It’s all ahead of you. And so all of that is the land that the Lord your God is giving you. And of course literally, the Lord will give you a place, a piece of land probably where you will settle down together. But all of that is the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you.
But this inheritance is not free of enemies. Today, the Lord is declaring to you that He is giving you this wonderful land, this wonderful gift, all of these glories and far more. And the Lord is also declaring to you that He will take you there, He will ensure that you arrive safely, and He will cast out the nations that stand in your way. And just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that God is arranging for the layoff of some poor chap in graduate student housing so that you can get a really fancy duplex. No, we do not struggle against flesh and blood, our struggle is against far more insidious nations, far more difficult enemies. The enemies of sin, the flesh, and the devil, and of course this doesn’t mean that your warfare is only inside your head. This warfare begins now and you will face these enemies everywhere. You will face them at your dinner table, when you’re going to bed at night, and when you get up in the morning. You will face temptations at your work, in your studies, with your children, with friends, family, and throughout the rest of your life. But the Lord your God has promised to cast them out before you. He promises to cast out these sins, these lusts of the flesh, these devils that try to drag us down. God promises to give you this land, and therefore He will go before you and prepare it for you.
But this doesn’t mean you just get to relax. The command is the same for you as it was for Israel. You must go into this land and conquer and destroy these enemies. And you may not make covenants with them and you may not show them mercy. What are the names of these enemy nations: pride and arrogance, lust and greed, contentiousness and bitterness, backbiting and lies, all of those nations must go. And of course these evils do not ordinarily show up and introduce themselves with horns and a tail and a pitchfork. They don’t usually show up and introduce themselves as evil and ask to be your friend. And this means that you must be on your guard, alert, with your hand upon your sword at all times. And of course your sword is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ps. 149 has the wonderful line where the Psalmist calling God’s people to praise Him, and he says, “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples” (Ps. 149:6-7). How are the nations to be driven from the land? With the high praises of God in your mouth and a two-edged sword in your hand. In other words, let the word dwell in you richly so that you are constantly armed against every enemy.
Like Israel, you need to recognize that the reason God is granting you this wonderful inheritance, the reason he calls you to these great blessings, is because you are His people, you are a special treasure to Him. And this is not because you are stronger, smarter, better looking, or greater than everyone else. No, actually one of the qualifications for being special in God’s eyes is being helpless and weak. Just as God delivered Israel out Egypt with an outstretched arm and displayed his might and glory in that great victory, so too God has displayed his power and glory in each of you. He has freed you from your own enslavement to sin and death, and has brought out with His outstretched arm. And He has done this simply and solely because the Lord loves you, and He loves to display his covenant mercy and kindness.
And God promises that this love and mercy will go with you. It is this love and mercy that guards you and keeps you; it is this love and mercy that goes before you and casts out the enemy nations from the land. It is God’s love and mercy that promises you children and grandchildren, promises to bless you in all of your endeavors, and to drive all barrenness and evil from your midst. God is the one who has brought you out of Egypt, and He is the one who will keep Egypt far from you.
Of course the warning is also for you: God does repay those who hate Him, there are curses for those who reject His love and mercy. And marriage pictures this covenant so well because it too is a covenant. And you all have been around long enough to know that marriages can be some of the most wonderful blessings and glories, and others can be pure and horrifying hell. And it really always comes down to love and mercy. So remember the love and mercy of your God, the love and mercy that surrounds you today, the love and mercy that promises to follow you all the days of your life, the love and mercy that will go before you and cast out your enemies. Gird your sword upon your thigh, with your glory and your majesty, and ride forth from here in majesty because of truth, humility, and righteousness, and Your right hand will teach you awesome things. Your arrows will be sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; the peoples will fall under you.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!