One God – One People 1-26
Exclusivism holds many a negative connotation for many people in the world. The simple definition of exclusivism is the action or policy of excluding a person or group from a place, group, or privilege. Today’s society and the society of the past does not abode well with the idea that one group of people are above all others. There are many groups of people and religions that feel that they are to only one that has the correct view of how people should live. That should be an obvious statement and I do not think the need to list any examples. The Jewish nation served the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to this day is the oldest religion in the world. But it was never that they were superior to any other nation. The Jews were called by God in a covenant relationship as His chosen people for a purpose. “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6) The purpose of God was not that they would be a superior race of people but a people that would be His witness of a people that lived in His righteousness. It was God’s purpose that through the Jewish nation that His Son Jesus would be born as the Savior of the world. They were not superior people but people who were showing the way to the truth. When the Messiah came they failed to receive Him, they rejected Him, and through Him the gospel of Christ was given to the Gentile world.
Therefore, Christianity was born and Christ Church was established by His Apostles. They were to fulfill the purpose of God to be a people living in His light that it might shine in a darkened world that people might see “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Neither then are the Christians superior over others except they have been forgiven of their sin by the redeeming blood of Jesus. Jesus is the only way to have a restored relationship with God.
In the context of this chapter of Deuteronomy exclusivism is the result of the holy war that God had declared upon those who had rejected Him for the worship of false gods and religions. They resided in the land of Canaan and were many nations. No one nation has ever possessed the Promised Land, not even Israel. The land of Canaan was promised to Abraham and His seed and is holy to them and the Christian nation as they have been grafted into the family of Abraham. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.“ (1 Peter 2:9)The land had to be taken and it had to be possessed by God’s chosen people and would remain theirs as long as the served Him, had faith in His revelation and were obedient to His Word.
The Israelites were commanded by God to defeat the nations that were in Canaan. They were to utterly destroy them that their wicked influences could not defile the people. The land was to be purged of all the inhabitants without compromise that would lead to apostasy. All religious structures that were not Israelite were to be destroyed.
Support for exclusivism is hard to justify in a worldly view and must be seen in the Biblical context. God’s command was a positive exclusivism in loving support of the uniqueness of God’s action both in the Old Testament and the New Testament Church. There is one God, one way and soon one nation. God’s nation as all unrighteous people will be purged from His presence. As the inhabitants of Canaan were supposed to be when the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land that God had given them.
Verses 6-11 there emerges a theology of exclusivism which is the undergirding of the call of God for the Israelite people. The Israelites were not to fear the people of Canaan but to remember the power of God as He had delivered them from the hand of the Pharaoh of Egypt. They were to put their trust in the promises that God had given to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Genesis 12:1) For the Lord has proven Himself as faithful and true to keep His covenant with His people.
Because of the uniqueness of Israel’s relationship with God a unique performance was demanded of them: “Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.”
The rewards for exclusivism are a reality of God’s covenant love and faithfulness which are seen in His external manifestations of love and blessing. The people were given the assurances of health and well-being. They were also promised to be victorious over their enemies. The army of Israel went to the battlefield but it was God who fought the battle for them. To enable the Israelites to know that God was with them. “You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.” They were not only to dispossess the Canaanites but to eradicate all traces of their heathen worship.