Remember sending your kiddo off to kindergarten that first day? Or camp? Or that first solo in the car? (GAG!) Or college? I remember the anxiety of allowing our teenage girls to go on month-long mission trips out of the country. The first one was to Hong Kong when it was still under British rule, and I found out (after the fact) that my 14-year-old smuggled Bibles into China. She assured me it was safe.
Because 14-year-olds know these things.
On one such excursion, one of our daughters reported that when she arrived at the staging complex, there signs posted everywhere that read “CALL YOUR MOTHER!” Somebody there must have compassionately understood.
Now, by the grace of God, all three of our children have somehow survived into their 30s, and yet I still wonder if I did enough, said enough, showed them enough. Most probably not; parenting is not actually set up that way, I’ve decided. There’s so much they just have to learn on their own. My own dear father calls it “the school of hard knocks”, and he and my mom should know; they’ve earned graduated degrees from that place of higher learning, several times over.
Still, it can be hard not to give those few parting words of wisdom, even if it’s “remember your toothbrush”.
So after wandering about for several decades, here are the Hebrew people getting a few (okay, quite a few) last minute instructions before entering the long awaited Promised Land.
It’s pretty difficult to wrap our 21st century mindset around what God is telling His people to do here, which is actually interesting fodder for discussion on a higher level. (A brief survey of cultural history will show that the Canaanites were more than “not-nice” people, so some Providential housecleaning may have been happening here along the lines of Sodom and Gomorrah…)
We pick up Moses’ speech with this warning:
“But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live. And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.”
It’s not just promises of good that Moses is informing them of here, oh no. There are also definite promises of consequences, and although some may be delayed, they are (as the people are to find out) nonetheless overtly severe. Holiness is a dangerous thing. Powerful, but dangerous.
Interesting to me, however, is the connection between the promise of the land and the need to fight for it. In other words, if they fight for it, God guarantees they will have it.
Similarly, I can apply this thought to myself:
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
When I become a Christian, it’s like taking the Promised Land. There are old habits of doing and thinking and being that must be utterly and ruthlessly destroyed. When Jesus moves in, that’s when the real housecleaning starts, not before. There is an ongoing fight. Unfortunately, we tend to relegate holiness to rules and distinctions that have nothing to do with the true power of promise.
But the Good News is that holiness is a promise, not just a moment-by-moment struggle.
So be encouraged today. And don’t forget to brush your teeth, buckle your seatbelt, and, oh yeah…
…call your mom, please.
Numbers 33: 55,56; 2nd Corinthians 7:1 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.