The nations that God left to be ‘thorns’ in Israel’s side are identified for us. We are also given God’s reason for leaving them and Israel’s response.
Reading this section I want to shake my head and cry! So much for the ‘separation’ God called for from His people. “So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the HIvites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods” (verses 5-6). ALL that hard work that God put into bringing His people out from among the nations was being undone.
The reasoning given for this testing leaves me wondering. “It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before” (verse 2). I understand teaching your ‘children’ to stand up for themselves and to defend themselves against aggression. I also understand being willing to defend your principals. But why war? I would think it would be WONDERFUL not to know war.
Here is what sprang to my mind. I won’t swear it is from the Holy Spirit but I believe it bears His fingerprints. I will start with an old quote that heads in the direction I’m going. “Those who stand for nothing, will fall for anything” Alexander Hamilton.
In any conflict there are at least two sides. For that conflict to escalate into ‘war’ proportions, each side has to be able to articulate their point(s) and the point(s) they are opposing. Each side has to be able to gather likeminded individuals who support the same points they do. There also has to be an impasse that prevents the opposing sides from reaching a compromise or general consensus.
God chose the dividing line for His people. It was who they served. He didn’t give the option of compromise. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15b). There wasn’t an option for “all of the above.” This was a dividing line question. There would be some on one side and some on the other.
God was testing Israel’s commitment to His ultimate dividing line. Will they serve Him ONLY or will they serve the powerless gods of the people around them? Will they stand up against those saying, “It doesn’t matter.” Will the people He picked as His own hold to the principals He gave them?
In our reading we see the answer is “NO.” They freely mix in the very things God told them not to. They mix bloodlines. They mix cultures. And they mix spiritual practices. These actions abolished the purity He was trying to maintain.
Mind you, God DID NOT say that others, of ANY nation, couldn’t join in following Him and keeping His commandments. They would become grafted into His family and treated as family. But they couldn’t bring their old life with them. They had to completely adopt HIS Laws, HIS rules and HIM as their ONLY God. He wanted those who were willing to stand up and say, There is ONE God and He is the God who created the universe. HE is the LIVING God. The God I serve.”
In the time Israel is living in this is an unpopular stand. Polytheism is rampant. It is ‘the flavor of the week’ all around. The other gods didn’t care if their followers included other gods with them. I believe it was common if not encouraged to divest oneself as these gods were purported to be specific to different areas of the people’s lives. One god for fertility, another for rain, and so on.
God’s dividing line went deeper than just name. It went to the heart of the matter; Life & Death. God was/is the ONLY one who is NOT a created thing. He is The Creator. He is the Living God. Every other god was created by man. Carved, fashioned, molded, created by the hands of man. An imamate object ascribed power when in truth it holds nothing. It IS DEAD.
God offers us that same choice. We can choose Life or we can choose Death. There is NO middle ground. There is NO ‘all of the above’ option. We serve Him and receive the Life that He offers or we serve something else and forfeit that Life.
The ‘warfare’ was real! God let Israel prove their dedication to Him through physical warfare. Funny though, that as they were waging these wars they were still trying to choose ‘all of the above’ in the area of worship. God let their victories or defeats illustrate where they stood and how He felt about it. WHEN they served Him, they succeeded. When they didn’t, were defeated.
Our ‘warfare’ today may not take on the same bloody battle field but it is just as important. Ours is a spiritual warfare. Do you stand up for God’s truths or fall for Satan’s lies? The ‘Battle Lines’ have been drawn. God stands on one side and Satan on the other. Life or Death.
You don’t think that’s fair? You want to have it both ways? You think there has to be a better way? Let me just say this; IF there had been another way don’t you think God would have chosen it? He loves us SO MUCH that He WILLINGLY gave us His own Son’s life. Do you think it was easy for God to give us this gift? It ripped His heart open! He tore His garments in pain; the veil in the Temple. The earth shook at His cries.
NO OTHER god could claim such a sacrifice for those serving them. And NO OTHER god could offer life as a reward for those who choose to follow them.
Father God I CHOOSE YOU! I choose the eternal life that Jesus blood bought for me. I will stand for YOU. I WILL NOT compromise. I will fight the spiritual battles waging in my life and my world.
Father God there is so much ugliness in our world today. Hate speech, riots, vandalism, senseless violence, divisions on every front. I know there won’t be true or lasting peace until Jesus returns and reigns in this world. My heart breaks knowing that things are going to get worse. PLEASE LORD guide me during this time! Keep me from feeding into the hate. Let me speak love. Let me speak of You. Let me shine Your love in this dark world.