"But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. "
Hmm... It sounds a little harsh don't you think.
I mean essentially God is asking the people of Israel to destroy another group of people. Drive them out of the land, don't let any remain. No man, woman or child!
It's a tough passage. I get why people have a hard time with passages like this. This doesn't sound like a gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love kind of God. He sounds kinda mean.
But don't miss what he is really saying.
He is telling the people of Israel, "YOU are my chosen people, not them. This is the land I am giving YOU. It is no longer their land. And if you let them stay, I know what will happen. They will turn you against me. They will lead you astray. They will be a bad influence on you. I have seen how this plays out and it's not pretty. Drive them out of this land, for your own good."
But the Israelites didn't listen. They didn't drive the people completely out of the land, they let them stay. They thought they could handle living amongst these people. The Israelites believed they were immune to their influence, after all they were God's chosen people. But it turns out God was right. The Israelites couldn't withstand the influence of these people living in their promised land. Eventually the Israelites intermarried with them, eventually the Israelites came to worship their gods and not the God of Israel. Eventually their relationship with these people gave them incredible trouble. Just like God said.
The same thing still happens today. We are God's chosen people, children of the most high God. But everyday we surround ourselves with things and temptations of this world that we simply think we can handle. Things we know we probably shouldn't be around but, we don't REALLY believe will negatively influence us. Things like the shows we watch, the gossip we participate in, the busyness that drives us away from God, the people we spend time with, the things we do for fun. We think we can "handle" these temptations and that they won't influence us or impact us. But I'm not convinced that is the case.
I think just like the ancient Israelites, we are in over our heads. I think these things that we surround ourselves with, things we don't even realize because they are such a part of the culture around us; materialism, violence and sex in the media, gossip, busyness - I think they influence us. I think they are "barbs in our eyes" and "thorns in our sides" and I think they will eventually give us trouble if they haven't already. And I think we need to steer clear of them. I think we need to drive them out of our homes (our "land"). I think it's time.
What do you think?