In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is preparing a new generation of, Israelites to enter the land of Canaan. The previous generation died in the wilderness due to their unbelief and Moses wants the generation he’s addressing to do better. I think Daniel Block’s contention that we should listen to Moses here in a pastoral way more so than as a lawgiver makes a lot of sense. He knew his time on the earth was almost at an end (3:24-26) and like all of us, he wanted to accomplish as much as possible. Preparing this generation to live in the land was his passion.
Taking possession of a land occupied by wicked people leading destructive lives (see 9:4-5, 12:29-31) would be a challenge. Moses reminded them that the people living there were “greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky” (9:1). Moreover, the Anakites lived there. They were “strong and tall” (v. 2). Their reputation preceded them as Moses reminded Israel of what was to them a familiar saying—“Who can stand up against the Anakites?”
One thing you have to appreciate about Moses is that he told it like it was. It would have been a temptation to minimize the challenge and say what the people wanted to hear, but we don’t get any of that from him. He was upfront about what they would face. He’s did this of course because he wanted Israel to understand they could not be successful on their own. God alone was able to get them into the promised land, so they needed to put their trust in Him. And that’s just what Israel did. The nation stumbled and fell in lots of areas, but they trusted God and took possession of the land (see Hebrews 11:30 for an example of this). God was faithful to His promise.
It’s not difficult to see the Anakites as representative of other enormous challenges Israel would face. There would always be giants that opposed them whether it was the giant of idolatry, dispossessing all the pagan people from their land, or simply learning to overcome anything that might keep them from walking daily in God’s way or as the prophet Micah would later say, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly” with God (6:8).
In the same way, our lives are full of Anakites. For some, it’s the giant of an addiction or a destructive habit. Like the paralytic who had been that way for 38 years, they’ve been held hostage for so long that they’ve all but given up hope and Christ would ask them what He asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” They’ve been doing it wrong for so long they think that it has to be that way. It doesn’t. They need to ask that God will help them to “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the flesh,” (Roman 8:13). They can’t do it on their own (they know that), but they can do it with God’s help!
For others, the giant they need to overcome is complacency. They’re happy just to stay where they are. They aren’t growing, they no great passion, or dream for God—their goal is to make sure they stay where they are—in their comfort zone. If they have any dream at all, it’s about a place known as Someday Isle. It’s not a real place, it’s a mindset that says, “Someday I’ll reach out to people in need,” or “Someday I’ll share what I have with others,” but like the paralytic in John 5, they’ve been on that isle so long that Jesus would ask them, “Do you want to get well?” Again, they can’t do it on your own, but they can with God’s help.
Like Israel, our challenge is to remain dependent upon God and focused on His promises! What is the giant in your life?