REFLECT: Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened: 1 Corinthians 5:6-7
APPLY: God commanded the Israelites that they were no have no other gods besides He (Exodus 20: 2-3, 5-6). They were instructed to worship Him in strictly regulated ways (the book of Leviticus), to not make graven images (Exodus 20: 4, 5), and not intermarry with surrounding (pagan) people groups, lest they lead them astray (1 Kings 11:1-2). It didn’t take them long to stray – mere chapters later, there are reports of pagan sacred poles condemned to destruction (Exodus 34: 13), the people worshipping Baal and Asheroth (Judges 3:7), a notorious asherah pole that a reforming king desecrated by having it ground to powder and spread over graves (2 Kings 23:6).
In fact God had made it a condition of His covenant with the Israelites that if they remained faithful to Him, they would remain in the promised land in peace, but that if they were unfaithful to Him by worshipping other gods, he would thrust them out of the land. They were solemnly warned of their sacred obligations by a series of blessings and curses that would come to pass – the blessings would manifest if they obeyed, the curses would torment them if they didnt (Deuteronomy 28).
The thing is, the very practices that they were warned to flee, reared up in their midst and quickly took root: in fact, once they took root, they were never entirely stamped out. Typically the prohibited practices would emerge and become widespread, until a prophet arose to confront the people with their sin, and call them to repentance. This pattern continued when ruler judges were replaced by kings.
It was these practices that were the downfall of Israel in the end as God’s Word was fulfilled. The lineage of the kings of Israel (and Judah, which eventually split of from greater Israel) reveals a sad progression of rulers who were raised in pagan practices by their parents (e.g. 1 Kings 16: 30-32, 2 Kings 21: 1-7) with only a few outliers who bucked the trend, attempting to eradicate the land of such evil practices. (e.g. 2 Kings 18: 1-3; 2 Kings 22:1-2) . The rot was so deep, that even the reformer kings sometimes cut out only some, rather than all the rot (1 Kings 15: 11-14; 2 Kings 12: 1-3).
Finally the people grew chronically indifferent to God’s requirements and his messengers, the prophets. Their ethical edges grew blunt, their filters undiscerning, until they did the worst possible thing: provoke God to anger (2 Kings 21: 12-15, 2 Kings 23: 26,27). The result was they left the land of milk and honey which they had entered into, generations earlier, a newly free people full of optimism and great promise, again a captive people, condemned to centuries of bondage in foreign lands. The rot insufficiently addressed, spread – over time – with disastrous results.
The takeaway is that, regardless of its manifested form: fear, pride, envy, malice, resentment, hate…, a little poison goes a long way (1 Corinthians 5: 6-7). The nature of our flesh – our humanity – is that it is seeded with toxins (Galatians 5: 19-21). This means, being tempted by these toxic imps is normal: it is the giving into, and acting under, the influence of them that is blameworthy (Romans 7: 15-25).
Your obligation is to resist and banish the toxic critters – the instant you perceive a presence. Fail to do so, and they will spread their infectious presence in your thoughts and decisions, and open the door to more of their miserable buddies (Matthew 12: 43-45). After all, misery loves company: you’ll be shocked at how quickly the babble of toxic thoughts starts to drown out the still quiet voice that counsels grace.
PRAY: Father, it is daunting to realize that I must be alert always, and I never can let my guard down against the toxic wiles of the evil one. How wonderful that those wiles need not ensnare me, because You have empowered me and set me free. Thank you my Father. Amen.