The Danger of Allowing Sin
Numbers 33:50-56
And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,…

The Israelites were now on the confines of the land of promise. So God speaks to them about the future, tells them what it was His will that they should do when they enclosed the land of promise, and what would be the consequence of disobedience. These, then, are the two points which we may consider — Israel's calling, and the consequences of neglecting it.

I. ISRAEL'S CALLING. This was to drive out all the inhabitants of the land, to dispossess them, and themselves to dwell in it. If we view this with reference to the inhabitants themselves, we must regard it as the righteous judgment of God upon them on account of their sins. But we may also regard this visitation with reference to Israel, and then it will become evident that it was necessary for their safety. The Israelites themselves were so prone to fall away from God that their being surrounded by many idolatrous and degraded nations would be sure to lead them gradually away from Him. They would soon cease to be a separate people — a people consecrated to Jehovah. That little word "all" is very expressive. It shows that the judgment was to be universal. It proved the greatness of God's care for Israel. It was also the test of Israel's obedience; and it was a test, we know, which they did not stand. They substituted a partial for an unreserved obedience, and drove out same, but not all, the inhabitants of the land. We find a long list of Israel's defects of obedience in Judges 1:21. Now, in this, as in so many other points, Israel's calling is typical of the Christian life. In what way? We often take Canaan to be a type of heaven. Yet it is easy to see that there are many points in which Canaan was no type of heaven; and one of these evidently was that whereas in heaven there will be no sin, no enemies, no temptations, in Canaan all these existed. In this point of view, then, Canaan was not a type of heaven, but rather of the Christian life now; and to that command, "Drive out all the inhabitants of the land, and dispossess them," we shall find an analogous one, descriptive of the Christian calling, "Put off the old man with his deeds." There is a principle of evil, called in Scripture the "old man," which comprehends sinful desires and evil habits; and this we are called to dispossess of the land. The old man is daily to be put off, the new man to be put on. The old man, though nailed to the cross, is never utterly extinct until the earthly house of our tabernacle is exchanged for the "building of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The new man requires to be constantly strengthened by fresh gifts of the Spirit of God. When, then, God says, "Drive out all the inhabitants of the land," it has a meaning for the Christian; and its meaning virtually is, "Mortify the old man," crucify the whole body of sin. Do not spare any sin. Let all be resisted and overcome. Now, the old man is in no sense the same in every Christian. It is the principle of sin, the principle of self. In whatever heart it is, its nature is the same; but in other aspects it is not always the same — for instance, it is not always the same in its power. In one Christian it prevails much, in another more believing and watchful heart it is kept under control. Then, again, it is made up of different elements, and the elements which constitute it are not always the same in their proportions. Thus, the chief element in one case will be pride, in another self-righteousness, in another hypocrisy, in another vanity, in another temper, in another impurity. Sometimes two will appear together in intimate alliance, and those not unfrequently two very opposite evils. In endeavouring, then, to carry out the injunction, "Drive out all the inhabitants of the land," it is important, on the one hand, that we should be aware of the element of the old man which is most prominent in it; and, on the other, that we should never forget that our besetting sin is not the only evil against which we have to contend, but against the old man as a whole.

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF NEGLECTING THIS CALLING. We see it in Israel. They did not fulfil the command, "Drive out all the inhabitants of the land." Most of the tribes allowed some to remain, whom they brought under tribute; in fact, with whom they made a league. The consequence was that those few inhabitants, though not powerful, caused them constant trouble; sometimes they seized an opportunity to attack them again; still oftener they proved a snare to them by leading them into sin, so that in the expressive language of Scripture they were "pricks in their eyes, and thorns in their sides." Thus Israel's sin was made their punishment. They spared those whom they ought not to have spared, and they suffered terribly in consequence. All this bears upon the Christian's life. There is a deep mystery in the spiritual life. How wonderful it is that there should be two principles — two natures in perpetual warfare with each other in the Christian's heart — the one of God, the product of the Spirit, the other of Satan, the result of the Fall; the one the ally of God, holding communion with Him, the other allied with the powers of darkness, an enemy in the camp ever ready to open the gates! It seems to be God's purpose not to put His people at once and for ever beyond the reach of temptation, but to exercise their faith and patience, and to show the power of that Divine principle which His own grace has put into their hearts. Do not, then, be cast down when you are deeply and painfully conscious of this inward conflict. Take it as God's appointment. Remember that it is to prove you, and that God proves you in mercy, to make you more than conqueror. But there is another point of view in which we must look at this. There are many cases in which this painful severity of conflict is owing, in great measure, to previous unfaithfulness to God. Suppose a person to have indulged in some sinful habit at any period of his life; it may be a want of truth, or impurity, or in any other sin, though the power of that sin will be broken by the entrance of the Spirit of God into the heart, yet it will cast its shadow long after it. The habitual sins of the unrenewed man are the snares and temptations of the renewed man. There is much of practical warning in this solemn truth. If ever you are tempted to indulge any sinful thought in your heart, remember that that indulgence will certainly find you out again. God may, in mercy, forgive it; but if He does so that act of unfaithfulness will bring bitterness into the soul, will prepare the way for new conflicts and temptations. We should cast ourselves wholly on Jesus for the forgiveness of all past and present sins, and for strength to drive out "every inhabitant of the land" — the old man, with all his deceitful lusts.

(G. Wagner.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,

WEB: Yahweh spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying,

No Compromise with Idolatry
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