Saturday, July 18, 2015

God Says "You Don't Need To Make a Deal" with Your Enemies.


God Says No Spiritual Multi-Culturalism and No Deal
Exodus 23:31-33: “And I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, lest they make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
Back in the wilderness, thousands of years ago, God told the Israelites that He would “fix the boundaries of their land that He was giving them”.  And then the text goes on to describe the Promised Land for the Israelites.
Take a look at the description given in these verses and then check it out on a map.
On the south: The Red Sea
On the west: Somewhere in the “wilderness” from Egypt (Gulf of Suez) to modern-day Israel (north of the Gulf of Aqaba)
On the north: The Great Sea (sea of the Philistines, now also called the Mediterranean Sea)
On the east: The Euphrates River (beyond a part of Syria today).
Now compare that massive expanse of land to the property that modern-day Israel is fighting for and protecting as a nation today – only a small portion of what God had promised them. And still many of the world powers want them to give that up, too. They would rather have them homeless – without a land to call their own. Their enemies – primarily the Palestinians and the Iranians -- want them to be erased from the face of the earth.
In my humble opinion, there is a possibility that God not only will make sure they keep what they have, but that it is possible He may, before this is all over, in a miraculous way give them now what He promised them in the book of Exodus, or some of it. That makes for interesting observing in the years ahead. Even the Nuclear Deal agreed to by world powers with Iran this past week will change what God has in store for His people and for their enemies. (Of course, in the very end, it really will not matter, because God’s people will have it all.)
God told the Israelites that their enemies would be delivered ‘by Him’ into their hands so that ‘they’ can drive them out of the land that is to be theirs. The truth is that Israel has never actually taken over all of that land (save for a short period in the times of King David, only to lose it again because of their sin). David Guzik explains this by saying that God may “grant” but we need to “possess”. He says, “(God) withholds our possession of many blessings until we will partner with Him in bold faith and obedience.”
Like the Israelites, we too, Guzik says, have “been granted every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; but will only possess what we will partner with Him in faith and obedience to receive. God is not an indulgent, spoiling father, pouring out on His children resources, blessings, and gifts they are not ready to receive or be responsible with.”  And there once again we see the reference to two of the three key elements we had earlier discovered are the secret to a great life with and for God: total trust (reliance on God); total obedience; and committed service.  If the Israelites did not get what God promised them it was not because He changed the rules. And the same is true in our case.  We claim God’s promises and are ticked off when we don’t get them, but we fail to examine how short we fell on our side of the agreement.
And then God says, “You shall make no pact with your enemies or with their gods.” The promise of the land was conditional also to this requirement – that they should make no agreement of friendship, nor have any familiarity with idol-worshippers, or with their idols or gods. And God goes even further by telling them such people shall not be allowed to live in their land or travel in it without first renouncing their idolatry.  So, what does this tell us about modern-day immigration laws?
I am not so sure that what God proposes is so much an immigration issue as the need for His people to avoid both His reproach and that of other believers as a result of having a close relationship with the worshippers of false gods. Now, who does that include today? Well, in one sense, just about everyone who does not accept, as the Apostle Peter utters in Matthew 16:16 that Jesus Christ is “the Son of the living God” and has accepted Him as his/her own personal Savior. That’s a lot of people.  Did God mean for us not to ‘associate’ with non-believers? Absolutely not – just look at the example of Jesus in the New Testament.  No, the intent of the instruction here for us is not to have “intimacy” and that may mean different things to different people. For me, it means do not rely on them, do not obey them where their instructions contradict what God is wanting of us, and do not serve them or the things or idols they serve. It means do not intermarry with them.
In the days of the Exodus, it may well have made sense that before someone comes to live in the land controlled by the Israelites, they had to become monotheists and agree to worship the Living God of Abraham. That would make a lot of sense today, but it’s far too late for that, as we’ve already given up idea of unification between ‘church and state’.  We have dichotomized our very essence be separating the two. But yet God never intended that way.
And God says there’s a good reason for religious (not racial) separation. Matthew Henry spells out the implication. There’s a “. . . danger of being drawn to worship with them. By familiar converse with idolaters, (our) dread and detestation of the sin would wear off; (we) would think it no harm, in compliment to (our) friends, to pay some respect to their gods, and so by degrees would be drawn into the fatal snare.” Henry, writing many years ago even points out the dangers of living in a ‘bad neighborhood’ for the sins of others will be our snares, if we look not well to ourselves.” (Italics and bracketed parts mine.) Of course, millions of people living today in the only places they can afford to live are proving that to be true. With murders and drug deals taking place regularly, these people know their only hope for survival is to move away.
But the main point Henry makes is this: “We must always look upon our greatest danger to be from those that would cause us to sin against God. Whatever friendship is pretended, that is really our worst enemy that draws us from our duty.” Amen. What relationships do you and I have that would qualify for that?
And by the way, just what did happen to the Israelites with respect to this promise and this warning?  David Guzik writes, “Through lack of discernment, Israel did end up making a covenant with some of the people of the land.” We read about it in Joshua 9. But we also know that there is no area of the law that Israel - or anyone - has ever kept perfectly. And thus, if we were honest, we cannot expect God to bless us fully in them, although in His magnificent grace and love, He does much more than we deserve.
And we will never be in a position where we have to make a “deal” with those that oppose God in order to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, our world leaders do so out of fear or political convenience and nations pay the price.

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