Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; 2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; 3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath. 4 And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
We may be tempted to think that some of the nations of the Canaanites just slipped through the cracks but here our verses tell us it was providence that left them behind. Those enemies left in the land were not there because of their strength, or to weaken Israel but to strengthen Israel, “to teach them war.” Secondly, they were there to prove the Israelites, that is “to know whether they would hearken to the commandments of the Lord.”
Rest assured our hottest trials and our strongest foes are there for our good and by our God. “All things work together for the Good to them that Love God,” even those hurtful and unpleasant bits of life. How often have we questioned why God left behind so much of our weaknesses, so much of our flesh, so much of us when he saved us? Why must we contend with satan, the world, and self? It is no accident, dear Christian, this was not an oversight on God’s behalf. Every moment is measured, every turn is guided, and if it be that he has left some hurtful lust for you to war with, or some agent of satan, it is to make you stronger, not weaker.
Prayer is strengthened when the enemy assails us, faith is strengthened when we have to run to the throne of grace and obtain help daily to overcome our enemies. Why were we left in a sinful world? Why not take us up to heaven the instant we were saved? It is to teach us war! We have been enlisted in the hottest war that has ever raged, a war in which the souls of men weigh in the balance. We are left here to war with Sin and with Satan, so that others may hear and join our ranks. As there was still work and war to do in Cannan so is there still work to do in the church age and war to war in the Church age. O that He may teach us to war and to work, like those who built the wall in Nehemiah’s day with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other! No better way to learn war than to war.
Our enemies are present with us to prove us. Not to prove to God who we are, he already knows, but to prove to us who we are. We may begin to think that we are much greater than we are if it were not for those hurtful darts of the enemy that remind us of our mortality and our need for God’s strength and deliverance. They are like a bullwhip that keeps the animal in his stall, like the shepherd's rod that keeps the sheep in the pasture. Many times his chastening hand comes from the hand of the enemy, that is God has the power to use even his enemies to do his bidding. This is what happened to Israel when they had proven that they would not obey God’s word, and they began to marry Canaanites and to worship Idols, those enemies left in the land would rise up and by stripes and deaths and defeats and enslavement the children of Israel would remember that their current estate was because they sinned against God and his commands. In turn, I'm sure they would also have to remember, that in those same chapters that laid out the curse that would fall upon them, the promise of God that if they would repent God would turn to them and deliver them again.
So it is with us, when we have strayed far away from God, Sin begins to overtake us, we are reminded of our weaknesses and God’s chastening hand and many times as I have remembered my sinfulness and disobedience I have also remembered the promises of God, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So while I don’t thank God for sin, I thank God for his power and providence over sin, Satan, and the world. He will use even these things for His glory and our good.