1-2God's angel went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you out of Egypt; I led you to the land that I promised to your fathers; and I said, I'll never break my covenant with you—never! And you're never to make a covenant with the people who live in this land. Tear down their altars! But you haven't obeyed me! What's this that you're doing? 3 "So now I'm telling you that I won't drive them out before you. They'll trip you up and their gods will become a trap..."
10 Eventually that entire generation died and was buried. Then another generation grew up that didn't know anything of God or the work he had done for Israel.
(Judges 2:1-3; 10)
The book of Judges is not often one of the places I turn to find counsel for my life because I think of it as a book of history about what happened when the Israelites inhabited the Land of Canaan. As I was studying the first two chapters today, the evidence that Israel did not do entirely what God had asked them to do became quite apparent. The instructions God gave them when they entered into Canaan was that they were to drive out all the inhabitants of the land, completely purging it of the false places of worship that the inhabitants had engaged in.
The accounts of the battles and the settlement of the various tribes of Israel into the regions of the territory are littered with the one-liners that simply state, "...they couldn't get rid of..." Those five words speak volumes! The Israelites became co-inhabitants of the land, instead of becoming the only inhabitants as God had instructed. That very issue would cause Israel to fall into all kinds of false worship and grievous sin within one short generation. The remaining people became the stumbling block for the 12-tribes of Israel.
The fact is that God often tells us the same thing about the issues of our past - drive it out! Get rid of it totally! Yet, in some form, we hold onto the past and it becomes the very thing that we repeatedly stumble over! Whenever God instructs us to do something, it is not on a whim, or just because he wants to see us work hard at something. In fact, when he instructs us to do something related to letting go of anything in our past, it is because he knows that it will hurt us in the future if we continue to hold onto it.
We all have junk closets in our garages, sheds filled with miscellaneous items, and other places where we keep "stuff" that we really don't use any longer. We think to ourselves, "It is still good and I may need that some day." So, we tuck it away! I ask you - how many times do we actually go back to that tucked away item and pull it out for meaningful use later on? Not too often! Those things become clutter in our garages, sheds, and recesses of our homes.
Clutter is really anything that causes disorder to abound. For Israel, keeping those altars of false worship and allowing the original inhabitants of the land to remain would eventually turn their hearts away from pure worship to their God - it was a form of "clutter" in the land. They failed to "clean up" and that made for a sense of disorder in the land.
Did you know that there is another definition for "clutter"? It is the unwanted echoes that are seen on the radar screen that cause much confusion when someone is trying to observe for the correct "ping" of the object they are observing. They call it "unwanted echoes" - that is kind of like the sinful pursuits of our past, the failures we cannot let go of - they are "unwanted echoes".
The fact is that the things God asks us to rid ourselves of are like those unwanted echoes that serve to keep us from "tuning into" God's radar "ping" as we should! They may seem like insignificant things to us, but in the end, they "clutter" our lives with all kinds of "echoes" that just don't allow for us to have clarity in our lives! The end result is that we often get off course and into a jumbled mess of confusion.
God's instructions are NEVER without purpose. We may not understand the "why" behind what God tells us to do (much like Israel just did not know the reason God was telling them to rid the land of the inhabitants and their altars). The hard part is trusting God to know what is best and then doing it. Every army has to do this to be successful. They listen to the voice of their commander, knowing that the commander has a plan in each individual movement of the troops.
The same is true in our lives - God has a plan in each move we are asked to make. So, the instruction to "rid ourselves" of something is really not a punishment, or an optional step. It is meant for our protection, preservation, and provision. Nothing God asks is without a reason - sometimes we just need to trust him and see what he will do when we do!