Israel is going to get some BAD news. It’s not what they were anticipating but it’s what they earned.
God told Moses, who faithfully told the people, that when they came into the Promised Land that they were to drive out ALL the inhabitants. As we saw the last time we met, they failed to do this. Every territory on the western side of the Jordan, with the exception of Issachar, Judah and Simeon have the inhabitants living with them in at least one of their cities.
It doesn’t count that when Israel got stronger they turned these people into slaves. God gave them a direct order and they failed to obey it. We are not told the “motives” that generated this situation. They could have felt sorry for the inhabitants. They might have been unable to completely defeat them in battle. They may have seen some kind of “use” for the people. Or they might have thought God was being too harsh. Whatever the reason, they failed to obey His command and He knew about it.
When God told them to remove the people and tear down their altars He had a good reason for it. He wanted to make it easier for them to remain faithful to Him. Not because the other religions were “powerful” or “more enticing” but because they were abhorrent and led to bondage in sin. They were also powerless. God wanted to keep His people from getting sidetracked and caught up in these practices. If you are not surrounded by filth you have a better chance of staying clean.
Israel wasn’t thinking long term when they let the inhabitants stay. They were thinking about what worked for them in the moment. God looks to the future. He also KEEPS His word. He told them that IF they obeyed they would be blessed and take the land. He also told them that if they DIDN’T obey they would be pushed from the land. They chose the short term gain and received long term pain.
God wasn’t going to run the inhabitants off alone. He could have. He could have sent some kind of natural disaster that wiped the people out. He could have sent a targeted disease that only affected certain populations. He could have blighted their crops to the point where their food supply was exhausted. He could have sent ANY of the plagues that He rained down on Egypt. But He didn’t. He promised to work through His people. He worked as long as they did. He let them do AMAZING feats but THEY had to put forth the effort first.
This time of conquest was intended to set up Israel’s foundation. It was to give them something solid to build upon as a nation. They were supposed to be building that foundation without defects. With a FIRM foundation they would have been able to weather the storms.
Thinking about this brings to mind pouring concrete. Mind you, I haven’t personally poured any concrete but I have been around my family long enough to get some basics down. One of those basics is preparation.
You do not just go out and pour some concrete mix on the ground, cross your fingers, and come up with a beautiful project. You start by digging out your area where it will be poured. You remove several inches of existing material to create a “pan” to hold your mixture later. You put borders (forms) around your pouring area. You ensure these are strong enough to withstand the pressure created by the wet material, smooth, and tight enough that excess material doesn’t seep through. Without this setup your mixture would run wherever it wanted.
After your forms are laid you move onto mixing the materials. Too much water and your mold doesn’t set. Too little water and it sets too quickly and will crumble. The wrong size of rock makes a difference. Too small and it doesn’t hold together. Too large and it isn’t smooth. Timing is important too. Depending on the depth of your project and its purpose more time may be needed to ensure dryness all the way through. The right ingredients, in the right amount, in the right order, AND at the right time are required to make a strong foundation.
During this concrete project another issue is critical. DO NOT let impurities into it! Foreign materials in the concrete will not only mar its appearance but can have disastrous consequences on its durability. Letting leaves or mud get mixed into your material is a NO NO. A few particles of dirt won’t hurt but pockets of it throughout your project will compromise its integrity. This is what Israel did with their foundation. It doesn’t matter how ‘smooth’ or ‘level’ you make the surface of this compromised foundation, it will NOT hold and support the weight it was intended to bear. It WILL fail.
Another analogy came to my mind while thinking about the “thorns” that God said these people would be to Israel. I was thinking about the times I have to go into the field at my home. I live on 15 acres of farmland. We have cattle on 12 ½ acres of that. They are not our cows but their care occasionally requires me to go into the field and deal with them. When I go, no matter which route I choose, I come back with my socks full of ‘stick tights’. They are these little burrs that grab hold of your clothing. You can’t brush them off. You have to pick them out one at a time and they get EVERYWHERE! They even get inside my shoes and I fight with locating and extracting them for days. It doesn’t matter how careful I am, they are going to grab onto me. They are my ‘thorns’ because they stick to me every time. They are part of what makes up my landscape. They are part of the original vegetation and I can’t keep them out.
The worst of the offending vegetation are star thistles. I have tried everything I can to rid my property of this menace. I even went through the entire field pulling, bagging up, and hauling off all the plants that grew one year. I stayed on top of it all season. But their seeds are so small and cling to anything that the people feeding the cows brought more in from other pastures with them. All I can do now is pull and dispose of any that get in my area. The thorns of the past and the neighbor’s thorns have become my thorns too. And these ones HURT when they stick you!
Israel’s ‘thorns’ were as insidious as my star thistle. Little seeds that either got left or allowed to be brought back in would spoil their landscape and eventually take over their territory.
DON’T give weeds a chance! In your own life, watch what you allow to grow. You don’t have to be so narrowly focused that you have nothing in common with the rest of the world but don’t let the weeds of sin choke out your crop of faith. Weeds will grow. But you have to diligently pull them up and get rid of them. Being diligent in your weed management also prevents big weeds from developing. Even a thorn bush, when kept cropped at the surface can’t hurt you as much as one you let bloom and go to seed.
Father God, what debris or thorns have I let remain in my heart? I KNOW I’m not free of them. Help me identify AND remove them from my life. Some I see but don’t know how to rid myself of. PLEASE take those ones from me by Your great power. I want my foundation to be ‘Rock solid’.
Thank You Holy Spirit for giving me object lessons that help me relate to God’s word easier. I pray I learn from them as well as helping others with their understanding too. I want to take these lessons in and make them a part of me. I want to repair any cracks in my foundation that my actions or inactions have created. I also want to clean up any messes that haven’t yet caused failure of my foundation but that put it at risk. Help me identify these and deal with them honestly. Lead me in this Holy Spirit. Speak clearly so I can’t pass it off as coming from any other source. Speak Lord for Your child is listening.