Oh, the Israelite people!
At first glance, it’s so easy to judge them and yet a closer look finds my reflection in the pages recorded for us. The Old Testament is filled with instances of God telling His chosen people to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land God had promised them. But time and time again, they didn’t listen. What was the big deal? No harm was being done. Saving a couple people or intermarrying couldn’t be that big of a deal. Here is an example of the specific instructions the Lord gave to His people:
“But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live,” Numbers 33:55 NLT.
Sounds pretty clear right? God wanted all traces of the pagan lifestyle destroyed. He wanted a fresh start for His people. But Israel didn’t fully comprehend God’s reasons, so they didn’t fully carry out his instructions.
Something inside us all as human beings question God’s ways. Why? Why would He ask us to do such a thing? We try to analyze His instructions rather than simply obeying them. God’s ways will not always make sense to us. Many times they defy human logic. Genesis records the first questioning of God’s instructions when the serpent convinces Eve that God didn’t really mean not to eat of the fruit, He just didn’t want her to be wise. Instead of trusting God’s instructions, we doubt His motives. How foolish!
The book of Psalms records the result of the Israelites going their own way:
“Israel failed to destroy the nations in the land, as the Lord had commanded them. Instead, they mingled among the pagans and adopted their evil customs. They worshiped their idols, which led to their downfall,” Psalm 106:34-37 NLT.
Two lessons resonate with me from these passages.
- Disobedience to God’s instruction results in our downfall. Because Israel chose their own ways, they eventually gave in to the pagan practices and customs surrounding them. Because Eve ate the fruit, humanity was forever changed.
- Partial obedience is still disobedience. Scripture tells of numerous times the Israelites did drive out the inhabitants of the land, but not completely. They left enough remnants of the past to have their faith sway later on.
I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but there are many times in my life I don’t understand why God is asking me to do a certain thing. I try to make an area gray where God has told us it’s black and white. When we don’t completely understand His ways, we start to make our own “rules” instead of obeying His. It starts with something like, “It can’t be that bad,” or “I don’t see what it would hurt.” Therein lies the problem, we’re right, we can’t see, but God does. Just like God knew the Israelites would be swayed by pagan influences eventually, He knows what’s best for us as well.
God, help us to completely obey what you have told us to do. May we question less and obey more. Teach us your ways. Amen