Traveling is one of my favorite things. I love thinking about, planning and going on trips, day trips, week-end getaways, week long vacations and I have been fortunate to have taken many different trips. Moses and the Israelites spent quite a bit of time traveling also. Chapter 33 of the book of Numbers includes a detailed list of the “journeys of the sons of Israel.” But now, their 40 years of wandering in the desert were finished and they were poised to enter the Promised Land. Sadly, those who would enter the Promised Land were the second generation of those who had left Egypt – all of the original group, except for Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb had died and, in verse 38, Aaron dies.
When anyone in our family is getting ready to leave on a trip of a week or more, we call each other. I think of these as our “just in case” calls. Just in case some disaster or problem occurs either at home or with the travelers; it seems good to touch base, make sure we know the when’s and where’s of the trip, remind them that we will be thinking of them, praying for them and hoping they are having a wonderful time! God had some final important instructions for Moses and the Israelites before they step into the Jordan, the last leg of their long and difficult journey.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places; Numbers 33:50-52
- Drive out the inhabitants
- Destroy their figured stones and molten images
- Demolish their high places
This sounds so harsh, the people currently living in the Promised Land were idol worshipper’s and God’s plan was that the Israelites were to be set apart to worship Him and Him only. God knew their tendency to be led astray and powerfully influenced by others and we are no different. We all have one or more idols in our lives; our modern day idols are less obvious than those made of stone but are no less tempting. Our idols can be much more subtle, things like status, financial security, physical appearance, another person. We give our idols cute names like career advancement, investment strategy, meaningful relationships – now don’t misunderstand me; these are all good things but when they take first place in our time, energy, hearts and minds they become idols. Driving out these “inhabitants” may mean changing the people, places and things in our lives. Is your group of friends more interested in hitting the clubs than in encouraging your walk with God – you might need different friends. Does getting that promotion mean eliminating family time, cutting out church – your job title could be your “molten image”. Are you spending more time with your TV than with God and His Word – the recliner has become your “high place”.
God tells Moses what will happen if the idol-worshippers and idols are not removed…
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. Numbers 33:55
When we don’t eliminate the idols in our lives we can expect the same results:
Pricks in the eyes – ever get something in your eye? It is difficult to concentrate on anything until we remove that grain of sand. What we see affects and changes what we think. If we focus on our idols our thinking gets twisted and confused and the idol becomes our priority; we focus on the created thing and not our awesome Creator.
Thorns in our sides – being a “workaholic”, “couch potato” or party animal all will have a serious affect on our health. Worry will replace peace, frustration and anger will replace joy. Science is revealing what God has always said, stress saps your strength and can definitely shorten your life.
Trouble in the land – it is impossible to serve two masters. Worshipping power, position and money destroys families and relationships. The idol of self-gratification results in everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, usually at the expense of others. These earlier, idol-worshipping societies did not survive, eaten away from the inside out, imploded on themselves.
Discovering our personal idols and then eliminating them will take prayer, discernment and discipline; it may require making some difficult changes to the people, places and things of our lives. The Christian Life is the trip of a lifetime, worth thinking about, planning and enjoying into eternity. Have a wonderful journey!