Little by Little
Deuteronomy 23:29-30 I will not drive [the enemy] out from before you in one year, lest the land become 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.
Judges 3:1-2 Now these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it)….
These verses from Deuteronomy and Judges can be disconcerting or discouraging to those of us who love the idea of a dramatic, swift victory over our spiritual enemies. But the completeness of the Lord’s victory at Calvary and with His resurrection, however, does not always translate into instant victory. God, in His eternal wisdom, has generally chosen to give us victory over time, step by step.
There are many reasons for this, many of which likely fall under the category of the “secret things of the Lord.” But there are a few reasons listed here. Gradual victory keeps us in a state of awareness of spiritual warfare, and is a precaution against letting our guards down. We also have to keep on depending on the Lord. (Thanks to Matthew Henry’s commentary for these.)
When it comes to what the “beasts of the field” might represent, it might be best to start with a literal interpretation. These were untamed, dangerous elements that could attack at any moment. Just because ancient Israel won a victory over a land, it didn’t mean they possessed it immediately. Full possession took time and other, different strategies and tactics. That way they weren’t overwhelmed by all the dangers the land posed.
For us, these “beasts” could be the traps and temptations of this world, which are a constant danger. They could be unseen spiritual forces that we’re not aware of, and which might overwhelm us if they were released against us all at once. Remember that justification is an instant event, but sanctification takes the rest of our lives. In the same way, His advance in our lives first comes with a grand victory (salvation) followed by incremental steps of holiness and dominance over sin and self.
Just as the young and passionate might be discouraged by these “speed bumps” God puts into his victory march, more seasoned folks can find great encouragement in these scriptures. No matter how slow the progress may seem, God is still moving, still bringing His victory. God never leaps ahead foolishly, but wisely and strategically possesses the land—the land of our hearts, our minds, our souls, and every place He sends us into.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for instructing us in the way of full victory. Lord, help me not to be discouraged by slow progress. Help me instead to stay focused on what You want me to do as You work through me to extend Your kingdom and hold Your victory.