And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the plains of Moab by
the Jordan near Jericho, saying, Speak unto the children
of Israel, and say unto them, When you have passed over
Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then you shall drive out all
the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all
their engraved stones, and destroy all their molten images,
and demolish all their high places: (Numbers 33:50-52)
But if you will not drive out the inhabitants of the land
from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those
whom you let remain of them shall be barbs in your eyes,
and thorns in your sides, and shall trouble you in the land
wherein you dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall
do unto you, as I thought to do unto them. (Num. 33:55-56)
The Israelites were about to enter Canaan the land God had promised to give them for their very own. But they were given some instructions: they were to drive out all the inhabitants, not allowing any to remain in the land. Furthermore, they were told to destroy all the false gods, and tear down their altars (high places) used in their idol worship.
To show the seriousness of this command, they were also given a clear warning: If they did not do this, these people they allowed to remain would be barbs in their eyes, and thorns in their sides, and would give them trouble in their new land; maybe not right away, but it would surely come to pass. In addition, the Israelites would share in whatever punishment or judgment that God would pronounce on them.
When we look at the history of ancient Israel, we can clearly see the truth of God's words to them: these things came to pass, just as God had told them.
There is a lot for us to learn from these few verses. Are there any idols in your life that you need to destroy? Any people that you need to "drive out", because they are leading you away from God? Any high places you worship that need to be torn down? It is just as important for us to drive out the old “inhabitants” as it was for the ancient Israelites. If we don't, they are going to give us trouble in our new lives.
If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him,
as the truth is in Jesus: That you put off concerning the former
way of life the old man, which is corrupt according to the
deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And
that you put on the new man, which after God is created in
righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24)
When we put on our new life in Christ we have to drive out all the inhabitants in our old lives – putting off our former way of life. Things that are outwardly visible to all, like the high places where the pagan nations worshiped their pagan gods. And things that are secret, that only we and God know about. Things like ungodly habits we may harbor, ungodly influences we may have, even ungodly anger, unforgiveness, and attitudes. If we do not drive out the old inhabitants, we'll be doomed to fail: all the old things that we do not drive out will become barbs in our eyes, and thorns in our side. Barbs in our eyes cause blindness, blinding us to the truths of God's word. Thorns in our side cause us pain, sometimes even disabling us and certainly keeping us from enjoying life.
But notice that there are two parts to this instruction. It won't do us any good to try to put off the old, if we do not follow through and put on the new. If we don't put on the new after we take off the new, we leave ourselves exposed and vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy of our souls. So how do we put on the new man? Again, God gives us instruction:
And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good,
and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
Be transformed – not by our own efforts, but by the work of the Holy Spirit within us as He renews our minds. The more we put off the old (by driving out all the former inhabitants) and put on the new (by reading God's word and applying it in our lives), the more the power of the Holy Spirit transforms us by renewing our minds, our thoughts, our attitudes.
Isn't it wonderful that our loving Heavenly Father does not leave us to stumble along blindly, but has given us an instruction book? We don't have to worry and wonder and guess, we just have to read His word, and do what it says. And God doesn't leave us unarmed for the battles we face. He has given us all the tools we need for whatever comes our way. He also gives us companionship, guidance, and support of the Holy Spirit.
The Israelites found out the hard way that the results of not being obedient to God have far-reaching consequences that they not possibly have forseen. From failing to drive out all the inhabitants in the land, Samson, the strongest man
who ever lived, ended up being blinded. Truly a barb in his eyes, just like God said. And the giant Goliath was truly a thorn in Israel's side, crippling them with fear - all except one young shepherd boy.
And to this very day, six thousand years later, Israel is still having trouble from not driving out ALL the inhabitants of the land God promised to their forefathers. It was all just exactly as God had told them, before they ever even entered the promised land! To help you to better understand the far-reaching consequences of such seemingly insignificant acts of disobedience to God's instructions, read this wonderful Bible study:
Little Areas Of Rebellion
Likewise, if we fail to learn from the example of the Israelites, and fail to drive out all the old “inhabitants” in our lives, there may be consequences we cannot even begin to foresee. Let's not make the same mistakes the Israelites made. Let's get this thing right, and be obedient to God, so that the old things in our lives won't become barbs in our eyes and thorns in our sides, blinding and crippling us, and constantly giving us trouble. Let's not be conformed to the world around us, but let us instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Are you with me?