June 19

Thorns, Part 1

Judges 2:1-3 Then the Angel of the LORD came…and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’”

The Lord had made a covenant with His people, and He had done His part: He had delivered them out of Egypt and brought them into a new land. Their part of the covenant was to drive out the inhabitants of the land, avoiding idolatry in the meantime. The second half of Judges 1 tells the story of the tribes who failed to dislodge the previous dwellers. Some tribes subjected the conquered inhabitants to forced labor, but didn’t drive them out. Some tribes were pushed by the enemy into a corner of sorts, owning part of the land (the hill country) but not all of it (the plain—see Judges 1:34)

Once the tribes failed to dislodge the unholy inhabitants, those inhabitants became “thorns in [their] sides” and their gods became a snare. Since ancient Israel’s struggles and victories are an example to us (I Corinthians 10:11), it’s easy to see the applications to us.

God has made His covenant with us His people. Our part of the covenant is to gratefully allow the Holy Spirit to continue to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). That means dislodging the things that hold us back from moving forward in that process: sins, habits, and demonic strongholds within.

Like the ancient Israelite tribes, some of the dislodging has occurred in us. Perhaps we have conquered anger, or lust, or unkind speech. But perhaps we have just put the enemy under our dominance, but his presence is still there. Or perhaps, like the people of Dan, we have allowed the enemy to press us into a corner of our inheritance, preventing us from taking all of what God has given to us.

Why would the Lord allow this? One of several possibilities is that we may have not been faithful to our part of the covenant, and we may have made a covenant with the previous inhabitants of the land (e.g., greed, lust, control, etc.) Perhaps we have accommodated the presence of particular sins in our lives to such an extent that they have “made a place” in our lives (and hearts and minds) that can’t be easily dislodged.

There are other possibilities as well. But we must be constantly open to God’s revelations to us about where we have made these largely subconscious agreements, that we may begin to work with God to dislodge them.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes and heart to be convicted of where I have made even unspoken covenants with sin. I receive Your call to renounce these covenants and take all the spiritual land You have granted me.

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