Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exodus 23:20-33

20"See, I am sending my angel before you to lead you safely to the land I have prepared for you. 21Pay attention to him, and obey all of his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sins. He is my representative--he bears my name. 22But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you. 23For my angel will go before you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, so you may live there. And I will destroy them. 24Do not worship the gods of these other nations or serve them in any way, and never follow their evil example. Instead, you must utterly conquer them and break down their shameful idols.

25"You must serve only the LORD your God. If you do, I will bless you with food and water, and I will keep you healthy. 26There will be no miscarriages or infertility among your people, and I will give you long, full lives.

27"I will send my terror upon all the people whose lands you invade, and they will panic before you. 28I will send hornets ahead of you to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites. 29But I will not do this all in one year because the land would become a wilderness, and the wild animals would become too many to control. 30I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to fill the land. 31And I will fix your boundaries from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the southern deserts to the Euphrates River. I will help you defeat the people now living in the land, and you will drive them out ahead of you.

32"Make no treaties with them and have nothing to do with their gods. 33Do not even let them live among you! If you do, they will infect you with their sin of idol worship, and that would be disastrous for you."

Points of Interest:

· In covenant terms, God is itemizing the benefits he is willing to give the people if they enter an exclusive agreement with him. The benefits include an angelic guide, fighting against their enemies, provision of food and water, protection against, healthy births, long lives, and lots of land. Basically, God is promising them that he will provide abundantly for all of their basic needs if they will trust him. A major part of trusting him is refusing to cut any side deals with other gods or with the people of the land.

· In hero’s journey terms, God is foreshadowing for them the ‘test, allies, and enemies’ stage of their journey to the promised land. Their allies are the angel and God himself. Their enemies are the other peoples and their gods. Their only real test is to listen to listen to their allies rather than their enemies.

· I am sending my angel’—apparently, the same angel who has guided and protected them so far is being lent to them on a longer term basis.

· Pay attention to him, and obey all of his instructions’—recently, God has been quite concerned to promote his lieutenants in front of the people. In 19:9, God explains to Moses that one of the reasons for his big fireworks show is to prove beyond a doubt that Moses has his confidence. Here, he very clearly gives the angel his own authority over the people. It seems that God is trying to protect against the substitute teacher effect; he wants to insure that Moses and the angel have the ability to control the classroom, as it were. God wants the people to know that Moses and the angel are trustworthy guides, and also that refusing to listen to them will lead to trouble.

· never follow their evil example’—like any parent would be, God is concerned about the effect of peer pressure on his people. He is aware that there will be things about the idol-worship of the Canaanites and the other tribes which will be extremely enticing to the Israelites, and he warns them ahead of time to stay out of circumstances which will be too tempting for them.

· Instead, you must utterly conquer them’—of course, a parent’s answer to her child’s temptation to hang with the wrong crowd isn’t usually, ‘Utterly conquer them.’ As I’ve mentioned previously, God’s command to overcome the Canaanites et al. probably comes out of a long history of stubborn unfaithfulness on the part of the Canaanites. It’s also true that the Israelites and the Canaanites are in an all-or-nothing situation that is not usually the case in youth peer groups; one or the other of these groups of people is going to control this land. God wants to make sure that it is the Israelites.

· the land would become a wilderness’—God intends to give them a fully settled, cultivated land, not some disorderly wilderness. He wants to give them a home in move-in condition.

· I will help you defeat the people now living in the land’—the land and the people in this passage are real people and a real land, but they’re also, I believe, meant to be a metaphor for our lives. The land represents our lives, and the Canaanites represent spiritual enemies and negative spiritual forces who have camped out in parts of our lives and hold them against us. God wants to kick those enemies out and give us our own lives, to live abundantly and freely.

Taking it home:

· For you: God shows here just how delighted he is to provide for his people. He wants to give his people a big home, fully equipped with all of the bells and whistles. He wants them to have a long, full, and prosperous life. He wants them to be safe from their enemies. Ask God to give you that sort of life. If you feel as if God has not provided, ask him why. If God has given you any instructions for how to obtain such a good life, make sure to pay attention. Ask God to help you have the trust and discipline to listen to him.

· For your six: God’s plan is to give your six the power to defeat the spiritual enemies who have camped out in their lives, but, just like with the Israelites and the land, he will only give them what they have the capacity to keep. Have patience with your six and with God as God slowly hands them abundant life piece by piece. Resist the temptation to try to ‘fix’ your six or to try to force them to address areas of their lives they aren’t yet ready to face. Ask God for discernment about appropriate next steps for them, and ask God to drive the enemies out of that ‘land.’

· For our church: God’s hope for the Israelites is that they will be an example to the rest of the world of the greatness of a life lived in relationship with him. But he knows that it is equally possible that his people will completely accommodate to the culture of the people around them, thus robbing them of anything distinct to say. Pray that God would give us the boldness and the power to live a life different from the standards set by the culture around us. Pray that we would be distinct in the right ways, ways that will show the goodness of a life lived with God.