Thursday, October 28, 2010

living with mistakes

However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.
Joshua 16:10

The tribe of Ephraim literally had to live with their negligent mistakes. They should not have been content with letting Gezer stay a Canaanite possession. I am sure that they felt that dominating the Canaanites there was as successful as driving them from the land. They were wrong. They would live with this mistake for generations. And it would become a problem for them and for the nation.

This was continued evidence of the nation's spiritual lethargy as they settle into the Promised Land. The book of Judges clearly shows the negative and painful consequences of these early decisions to not drive out the inhabitants of the land. The ESV Study Bible has this insightful note on Joshua 15:63:
Against the backdrop of so much success, the notice that the people of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem and that they dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day is disconcerting in at least two respects. First, it recalls Moses' repeated warnings against allowing Canaanites to survive and live among the Israelites (see notes on 6:17; 6:18). Second, it raises a theological question: how is it that the people of Judah “could not” drive out their foes? Surely the god of the Jebusites is not stronger than the God of Judah! This is not the first instance of failure to occupy (13:13), and it will not be the last. In 17:12 the Manassites are unable to occupy certain towns because “the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land.” In 17:16 the Ephraimites cite Canaanite possession of “chariots of iron” as preventing them from taking the plains. These statements seem to be in tension with the dominant theological conviction of the book of Joshua that “the hand of the Lord is mighty” (4:24) and with the divine promise to the leader Joshua that “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. … You shall cause this people to inherit the land” (1:5–6). Joshua himself seems to agree with this assessment, insisting in 17:18 that “you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” Perhaps statements of what Israel “could not” do are to be read as early evidence of spiritual slippage—of failure to follow the Lord “wholly” (see 14:8)—which will become increasingly evident in the book of Judges.

The unfortunate disobedience by some groups of Israelites during the time of Joshua would later wreak havoc with the generations after them. There was little thought to this at the time. It makes me pause and consider that my choices today affect not only myself, but also my children. I would not want to make this kind of mistake, and then cause needless spiritual damage for someone else! That is why firm commitments to spiritual realities cannot waver.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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