Israel was now at the end of their forty-year wilderness journey, a journey during which God had instructed them using the many difficulties and hardships that they experienced. He instructed them through Moses as to their conduct in worship, the spiritual structure of their priesthood, the construction of their place of worship. Many lessons were taught and through their many failures God’s instructions were meant to equip them for life in general and for what they were now going to accomplish in the promised land. They are now encamped on the border of the land that God had promised to their fore-father Abraham, a land that was occupied by people who were heathen in nature, who worshipped a variety of false gods; their worship included child sacrifice, perverted worship involving prostitution, ritualistic meals, licentious dancing, all such that were (are) satanic imitations of true worship. So, one of the final instructions from God through Moses is recorded: “On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.” <Num.33:50-52 (NIV)>.
Why the instruction to drive out all the inhabitants? God knows that what we see and hear on a regular basis influences us to the extent that we are encouraged to incorporate these beliefs and actions into our lives. Advertisers are well aware of this and we are inundated with repeated messages encouraging us to consider the suggestions. God had set up a specific procedure and practice of worship for His people, one that was godly and spiritually beneficial for His people, any variation or insertion of satanic imitations would be contrary to God’s purposes. A severe warning to believers in Christ! God has called us to be a separate people, followers of Christ that are not to incorporate any worldly imitation into our worship, whether private or corporate <see Jos.23:7; Psa.4:3; Rom.13:12-14; 2 Cor.6:14-18>. God further speaks, through Moses, a warning that if they fail to completely obey His command, they will suffer the consequences: “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.'” <Num.33:55-56 (NIV)>; and this warning certainly has an application today in our private, and our corporate worship.
It was unfortunate for the Israelites that under the leadership of Joshua they conquered and drove out only some of the inhabitants of the land, allowing many of the Canaanite tribes to remain in disobedience to God’s command. After Joshua’s death it is recorded: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” <Judg.2:10-13 (NIV); see verses 1-3>. And this began many years of rebellion against God resulting in God’s judgment upon them, and this judgment continued all through their history as the influence of idol worship caused them to turn away from God. Finally, God had to send them into exile as the Babylonians conquered the land that God had given to them.
What then should we learn from this, why is all this history recorded for us? The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth reminding and warning them of Israel’s history: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” <1 Cor.10:11 (NIV)>. Paul warned them about their idolatry and pagan revelry; he warned them of sexual immorality; of testing The Lord and grumbling <1 Cor.10:7-10>; all of which the Israelites experienced during their wilderness journey. What was Paul’s reasoning? It was that pagan worship is offered to demons! <1 Cor.10:20>, and each and every believer and follower of Christ today must be on guard, not allowing Satanic imitations to be incorporated into our worship whether private or corporate! The Israelites practiced this intermingling during their history while living in the promised land and suffered the consequences of exile. Believers and followers of Christ must understand that although these sins are recorded in the history of the people of Israel, they are still widespread today both in our private and corporate lives. We, therefore, must take note of Paul’s warnings given to the Corinthian believers, and seek the help of The Holy Spirit to keep us faithful to God’s Word and from participation in these sins which would be to our downfall, disgrace and discipline by a Holy God.
It is extremely easy for us to be deceived by Satan into believing that certain practices are allowable because they are attractive and thought engaging to our worship and to those that we are attempting to reach with the Gospel, but we must be careful to remember that “”Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is constructive.” <1 Cor.10:23 (NIV)>.