When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, … seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
Though the inhabitants were greater in number and mightier in physical power than Israel, they didn’t have the God of Israel fighting for them. Thus He promised Israel that He would drive them out to make room for His people. God would deliver them over to Israel so that they might “utterly destroy” those nations. In fact, the Hebrew term translated as destroy is חרם cherem which is, most literally, something that is devoted for destruction. In other words, it is something that is banned and, therefore, should not be allowed to get close to God’s people. Some commentators go so far as to say the word denotes something that is consecrated for extermination.
To say such things in today’s world incites great emotion and encourages “finger pointing” at the God of Israel. However, there is this universal law that cannot be argued away — leaving one bad apple in the barrel eventually causes all of the apples it touches to rot as well. So if you don’t want all of them to spoil, you have to be willing to take action. Likewise, were the Israelites of old hesitant to do as God instructed them, chances are that the ways of their neighbors would have quickly contaminated their thinking and, consequently, caused them to emulate the nations rather than being a light to the nations. Come to think of it, that is exactly what happened over time.
While no one is suggesting that you go out and “utterly destroy” your heathen neighbor, the need to remove corruptive influences from our lives is still valid. If we associate with “bad apples” we shouldn’t be surprised to discover spoilage in our lives. On the other hand, when we walk in the Spirit and obedience to the ways of God, we can overcome those who are seemingly greater and mightier than we are. As it was then, so it is now: we have the God of Israel who fights for us and who delivers the enemy into our hands. Because He has overcome the world, in Him and through Him, we will overcome too.
Blessings and Shalom,