Lent Devotion for March 5
Reader: “When you cross the Jordan,”
Response: “drive out all the inhabitants.”
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 33:50–56
50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses,51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.
55 “‘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. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”
Reader: "The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Finally, after nearly forty years, the Israelites are almost ready to enter the Promised Land, the land of Canaan! Once more, the Lord gives Moses clear instructions. You would think that based on their past experiences, the children of Israel would not need to be reminded. First off, the portions of land were to be distributed fairly among the people with everyone receiving the same amount based on the size of the tribe and clans. Of great significance was the charge to drive out the people of the land completely. Israel had already proven to be a people easily swayed by the practices of those around them. They were to completely destroy the shrines and idols of the people. There was to be no remnant of pagan worship or worship practices anywhere among the Israelites. The syncretic temptation was too great. If the Canaanites became neighbors, they would certainly lead Israel away from Yahweh. They would become harassers of God’s people. But there is a further warning given. If Israel failed to drive out the people living there, God would do to His own people what He had planned to do to those being driven out.
What does this account tell us about how we live in the 21st century? I think several things: 1) As God’s people, we need to keep up our guard about the very strong pull of the culture around us, a pull which ignores God’s word. For example, Sunday is no longer viewed as a sacred day, it’s a second Saturday (children’s soccer, shopping day, weekends away, recreation day at the beach, on the water, etc.) Any thought of worship with God’s people as the Body of Christ is not on the radar. 2) The cultural moral value is pretty much non-existent. Living together outside of marriage brings no embarrassment or even a sense of wrong. Sexual identity is completely confused. The marriage of one man to one woman is “completely out of date and marriage and family needs to be completely redefined,” so we are told. 3) The Bible carries no authority whatsoever. Every person determines his or her own truth. Tolerance is “the greatest virtue so long as you agree with me about where our tolerance boundaries are” so the thinking goes. Need I say more? You get the idea. As the Maker of people, God knows us quite well, hence His instructions to Moses. Live wisely today!
"And He Shall Purify" from Messiah, Kings College, Cambridge Choir (Watch on YouTube)
Write your blessed name, O Lord, upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraved, that no prosperity, no adversity, no pull of this world shall ever move me from your love. Be to me a strong tower of defense, a comforter in tribulation, a deliverer in distress, a very present help in trouble, and a guide to heaven through the many temptations and dangers of this life.
- Thomas a Kempis, 1380-1471