As I continue to read through the Bible this year, the insight I read today discussed the historical events surrounding the twelve tribes of Israel as they entered Canaan, the Promised Land. If you are a student of God's Word you might recall that God's instructions were to drive out all the previous inhabitants of these lands as the Israelites entered to take possession.
Actually, I've heard a lot of rumblings in the form of questions as to why would God give this command? Wipe out countless individuals, including women and children? Although the mind of God can never be explained because of His infinite wisdom and knowledge compared to our finite capabilities, it's extremely difficult for humans to admit their intellect is lacking when measured against our Creator God. We keep kicking against intellectual bricks only to suffer from stubbed toes. However, we can understand a tiny portion of God's reasoning as we continue to read the scriptures.
I believe this understanding begins with the Ten Commandments, especially the first two that deal with our relationship with God. The first commandment instructs us to have no other gods before Him and secondly, we are to make no graven images. Okay, you might ask, what does that have to do with instructing the Israelites to wipe out previous inhabitants of Canaan?
God doesn't want to share our love, obedience or allegiance with any other gods. He is a jealous God, not desiring us to prostitute ourselves with other gods. Let me explain. The first commandment tells us to not have any other gods before HIm. So, you might not have statutes of gods surrounding your home or office. But where is your heart? Is it concentrated on a relationship? Shopping? Alcohol? Drugs? Sex? What gets the majority of your time and money? Is it perhaps a material god of some sort? By the way, jealous in Hebrew means deeply passionate. It's not the definition we have come to know surrounded by negativity. God is deeply passionate for you and wants the best for your life. Unfortunately, that cannot transpire if you are clogging the arteries of spiritual guidance with self-inflicted remedies.
And the prostituting yourself...not necessarily means sleeping around. But it's close. If we are believers in Jesus Christ, he becomes one with us, just as in a marriage covenant. If the two become one, they are to be stuck together like super glue (excuse the illustrations, but I'm a visual learner). God's not going anywhere, He is the part of the covenant that will remain true, steady and unchanging. So that leaves us. We get pulled aside and stray from our covenant relationship/commitment. God calls our straying prostituting ourselves with other gods. If we as humans are hurt by our spouse prostituting himself or herself with another, you can imagine what the God of the universe feels over our actions of running after a false god.
Moving on....going back to my daily reading this morning, the Israelites did not follow God's instructions to wipe out the Canaanites. Why would He ask this of them? Because the people of Canaan were not God followers. This nation was full of various gods and god worshippers. Some would offer their children as sacrifices....it was not what God desired for those who were called His own. You might recall in your youth being with individuals who were not good influences. The longer you hung out with them, the more you took on their actions and attitudes until finally you became one of them. And this is exactly what God knew would happen to His people if they were daily surrounded by unbelievers.
You then probably think, but women and children? Women were basically on board with their husbands and their offspring were being raised to worship these same gods. Actually, it was women many times that led the men astray....take a look at Samson and his life's story.
As F. LaGard Smith writes, "The incomplete conquests have left Israel vulnerable to the pagan influences around them. As they begin to evolve into a more agricultural society, the Israelites will become increasingly attracted by the Canaanite cult of Baal, which is associated with fertility and crops. A strong spirit of compromise leads to intermarriage, idolatry, and immorality. The combination of national sin and unconquered inhabitants results in dominance and oppression by various pagan peoples, just as God predicted. During this time the Israelites go through repeated cycles of sin and oppression, but fortunately, of repentance as well."
Most of us would explain this away by saying, "isn't it a good thing to share knowledge on agriculture?" But it goes much further when those we are taking advice are giving credit and praise to Baal, a graven image which God expressly commands us as believers not to do...even if everybody else is doing it.
Even though we pull away, wander, sin and get caught up in situations we know deep within are against God's instructions and commands for our lives, our Lord remains a God of forgiveness. All we need to do is repent. It is so easy today to get caught up in a whirlwind of outside, ungodly influences. Some want nothing more than to destroy the God we serve, but we need not get caught into a web of pagan gods....we serve the One, True God and He will always protect, guard and guide if we keep the course.