While they were camped near the Jordan River on the plains of Moab opposite Jericho, the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: When you cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molten images and demolish all their pagan shrines. Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy. You must distribute the land among the clans by sacred lot and in proportion to their size. A larger portion of land will be allotted to each of the larger clans, and a smaller portion will be allotted to each of the smaller clans. The decision of the sacred lot is final. In this way, the portions of land will be divided among your ancestral tribes. 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.”
God told Moses that before the Israelites settled in the Promised Land they should drive out the wicked inhabitants and destroy their idols.
Why were the Israelites told to destroy the people living in Canaan? God had several reasons: (1) God was stamping out the wickedness of an extremely sinful nation. The Canaanites brought on their own punishment. Idol worship expressed their deepest desires. It ultimately led to the worship of Satan and the total rejection of God. (2) God was using Moses and Israel to judge the peoples of Canaan for their sins in fulfillment of the prophecy in Genesis 9:25 and 15:16. (3) God wanted to remove any trace of pagan beliefs and practices from the land. He did not want his people to mix or compromise with idolatry in any way.
If you don’t do the job right the first time, it often becomes much more difficult to accomplish. God warned that if the Israelites did not drive the wicked inhabitants out of the Promised Land, these people would later become a source of great temptation. That is exactly what happened. The Israelites did not fully understand God’s reasons, and they did not carry out his command. This eventually led them to compromise and corruption.
In all areas of life, we should obey God’s Word because we know he is just, even if we cannot fully understand his overall purposes. In Colossians 3, Paul encourages us to throw away our old way of living and move ahead into our new life of obedience to God and faith in Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites moving into the Promised Land, we can choose to destroy the wickedness in our lives, or we can settle down and live with it.
To make for the new life, we must drive out the sinful thoughts and practices. Have you grown comfortable with a particular sin in your life? God does not ask you to eradicate it by yourself. Just as he went before Israel, fighting their battles in the Promised Land, God is calling for your faith and trust to follow him. As you do, God will purge sin from your life.