Numbers 33 While they were camped near the Jordan River on the plains of Moab opposite Jericho, the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: When you cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molten images and demolish all their pagan shrines. Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy. You must distribute the land among the clans by sacred lot and in proportion to their size. A larger portion of land will be allotted to each of the larger clans, and a smaller portion will be allotted to each of the smaller clans. The decision of the sacred lot is final. In this way, the portions of land will be divided among your ancestral tribes. 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. And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.”
Reading the whole chapter gives us a sense of how long and tiresome this journey was that the Israelites were made to undertake over 40 years and now these instructions on how they were to deal with Jericho and its residents seems a bit harsh, don’t you think? What is God intending in this and how is this speaking into our lives today?
While it is true that this 40 year journey could have been done in a few weeks, what is also true is that God had a lot of work to do in the hearts and minds of the Israelites who lived 430 years in captivity in Egypt. Their thinking, culture, belief systems, understanding of God, motivations, etc. were all far from what God wanted for them and this journey helped them and us understand how God works in our lives.
It certainly would’ve been simple enough for God to transform us into His likeness but that would mean we would be without choice and be mere puppets in His hands. However, what God desired is to give us the freedom to choose Him over everything else and to walk in His ways out of our free will when we have considered what life has to offer. The 40 year journey cost many of the Israelites their lives because of their disobedience to God but it also produced much faith in the few that held onto God and waited on His redemptive plan.
The instruction given to Israel about how to deal with Jericho and the idols and the idolaters living there seems extremely harsh but it also is reflective of God’s heart for us. The first two of the ten commandments remind us that we should love God before all else, we should have no other Gods before Him, that we will not make any images of Him and bow down to the gods of this world, and should we do so, God’s wrath would be upon us.
The Canaanites were deeply entrenched in their worship of idols and God wanted to make sure that the Israelites did not fall to the temptations of their ways. This reminds us of how much God detests sin and how we as children of this Living God need to drive out sin from our lives of it will drive us away from God.
Matthew Henry wrote, ‘Let us hear this and fear. If we do not drive out sin, sin will drive us out. If we are not the death of our lusts, our lusts will be the death of our souls.’
In His Loving Service,