“But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.” Numbers 33:55
The Jewish people had spend forty years wandering in the wilderness and now they were on the verge of the Promised Land! Hundreds of years of slavery and misery were about to be finally put behind them with the long-promised rest that God had said would come with their own land.
Before that rest could there was one last job to be done – the inhabitants of the land were to be driven out. All of them. Completely and entirely.
The pagans in the land of Canaan were so thoroughly ravaged by idolatry, wickedness and disease that if any were to remain, God’s warning was severe: they would be PRICKS in your eyes, THORNS in your sides and shall VEX you!
Sadly Israel did not heed God’s warning. The first generation of Jews did as they warred with the locals and removed them from the planet as God instructed. But their children of the next generation took the easy path of trying to control the Canaanites rather than eradicating them. Six times in Judges chapter one the Bible says the tribes of Israel “did” not drive out the local inhabitants. They made a choice to disobey God and the ensuring misery and judgments are the main theme of the book of Judges.
When a person trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior they enter new territory . They are a child of God who now enjoys the blessings of a loving heavenly Father who wants to give them joy, peace and rest. Sin has been paid for a new nature imparted (II Cor. 5:17), but the old nature is not yet gone. Until one gets to heaven there is a spiritual war to be fought and “inhabitants of the land to be driven out!” The old fleshly habits and besetting sins of our past need to go. All of them. Completely and entirely.
The devil will tell us that such victory is impossible and that the fight is too hard. He will tell us that we are better off just trying to find a comfortable level of toleration with our gossip, lust, pride and the host of nasty habits that they spawn. Remember that such advice is coming from the one the Jesus called the father of lies! (John 8:44)
We face the same dilemma the Jews of over 3000 years ago did: do we put in the effort to drive out these wicked inhabitants of our land that will rob us of the joy and rest that God promised? Or do we take what seems like the easy shortcut of putting up with them? The option that inevitably leads to pricks in our eyes, thorns in our sides and some almighty vexation?
When was the last time you asked, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psa. 139:23-24) What is in your heart today that you know should be driven out? What are you going to do?
Israel’s ironic failure was to enter the Promised Land while at the same time not believing and acting upon the promises of God. This failure led multiple generations of Israel to fail in finding the rest they had been promised.
Our day is full of miserable Christians who have failed to find the “joy and peace” that God promised to those who believe. (Rom. 15:13; 14:17; Gal. 5:22) The problem is usually some inhabitants of the land yet to be driven out of our hearts. What pricks and thorns are you allowing to vex your heart today? Remember God’s promise of I Cor. 10:13,
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.