Numbers 33:51 -53: "Tell the Israelis that when they have crossed the Jordan River to the land of Canaan, they are to drive out all the inhabitants of the land and destroy all their idols and their molten images. You are to demolish all their high places, take possession of the land, and live in it, because I've given you the land to inherit.” (ISV)
Numbers 33:55 – 56 “ But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then shall those that ye let remain of them be as pricks in your eyes, and as thorns in your sides, and they shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. And it shall come to pass, that, as I thought to do unto them, so will I do unto you.
Here we find the command given to Moses for the children of Israel regarding the inheritance of the Promised Land.
The Israelites took the land and they permanently settled the land, however, they did not fully obey the commands of God. They were commanded to “drive out” the inhabitants of the land and to destroy all of their idols. This they did not do completely. We have proof of this from the scriptures.
Judges 2:1 -3: “And the angel of Jehovah came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you: and ye shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall break down their altars. But ye have not hearkened unto my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.”
Israel's problem here was not its military strength, because Yahweh had assured them that they could drive out the inhabitants of the land. Israel's real problem was a spiritual problem. They liked living with the enemy and they took a fancy for their idols. So, Yahweh says He will now not allow them to fully possess the land. He will not drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before them. They will never, and did never, fully possess the land. All of the tribes were guilty.
Now, I could go into numerous scriptures here just to prove what I have said, but I will instead just list a few for you to reference: Joshua 13:13, 15, 63; 16:10; 17:13; 23:13. Judges 1:19-33, Judges 2:21-23.
Yahweh said He would make these peoples be an “adversary” to them or as most translations say “a thorn in their side”, and a “prick in their eye”. They would be a people who were constantly agitating them and causing problems for them. Furthermore, He states that He would make their gods a “snare” or a “noose” for them; entangling them into their web of idolatry.
What does this have to do with us today?
We have been given a promised land to inherit, but we must first go through our testing ground here on earth before we will be able to inherit the promised land that awaits those who are faithful. God has given us His commandments, statutes and judgments to follow and He has commanded us “not” to serve other gods. While living on this earth we battle with the enemy Satan. His job is to prevent us from entering the promised land. We lose this fight when we fail to “drive out” the enemy from our lives. We cannot and should not be content with “living with the enemy”.
A quote I once heard, but don't know from whom it came said, “ The enemy you refuse to fight today, you will have to fight tomorrow.” My question to you would be, what enemy have you chosen not to fight that rears it's nasty head up in your life on a regular basis, like a thorn in your side? Maybe you don't even recognize this enemy, this idol?
Just as the corrupt practices and idolatry influenced the children of Israel, likewise, we allow corrupt practices and idolatry to stay in our lives. Israel learned the hard way that God (Yahweh) did not want to be worshiped like the false gods were worshiped by the pagans. When a person mingles the worship of idols or pagan practices in with the worship of Yahweh they have perverted the gospel.
Yahweh commanded His people not to learn the ways of the nations around them.
Deuteronomy 12:29-32 “When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest in to dispossess them, and thou dispossessest them, and dwellest in their land; heed to thyself that thou be not ensnared to follow them, after that they are destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying: 'How used these nations to serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.' Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God; for every abomination to the LORD, which He hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters do they burn in the fire to their gods. All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (JPS)
There are many things in the world that are pagan or that come from a pagan background. I don't think we could ever eliminate all of those things from our lives. However, the pagan practices that we should be concerned about are the ones that we “participate” in while stating that we are honoring or worshiping God. We associate those pagan practices into our service to Yahweh or His Son Yeshua.
If we are practicing certain customs or traditions and claim that we are honoring God by doing them, then we should be very careful about where these traditions and practices came from. God does not want “unclean and unholy” customs and traditions mingled in with His divine plan for true worship to Him. His Word tells us clearly how He desires to be worshiped. Mankind cannot make clean what God has already declared to be un-clean. Mankind cannot make holy what God has declared to be unholy. Just because a human being thinks something is cute and innocent does not mean that God feels the same way. We must play by His rules and not our own. God clearly states that He does not want us to serve Him in any manner by which the pagans served their gods. When we do this then we are “living with the enemy” and they will be a “thorn in our side” and a “prick in our eyes”, Yahweh will not be honored; instead we have honored Satan.
I am reminded of the story of King Jehu, King of Israel. King Jehu wanted to do the right thing. He destroyed all the Baal alters and idols and all the other idols in the land. However, he left the two golden calves that Jeroboam had made which caused the House of Israel to sin. Why would he destroy all the other idols but leave those idolatrous things in the land? Maybe it was because they had existed for so long, they had been a tradition for so long, and the people thought they were worshiping Yahweh when they worshiped the calves. Their deception was in trying to come to God on their own terms and not His, for they had adopted the pagan practices of the nations around them.
The Apostle Paul gives us a warning in Galatians 4:8-10.
“Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods:but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain. (ASV)
Many people read this verse and they incorrectly assume that the Apostle Paul is talking about the new converts returning to the observance of “Jewish” days, months, seasons, and years. This could not be further from the truth. In verse 8 Paul clearly states that he is talking to those who once served those who were not gods. This does not apply to the Jews. Even Yeshua states that “salvation is of the Jews” and that Jews “know who we serve”. Paul is clearly addressing an audience who once served idols and they are now wanting to “bring over” some of their old customs and traditions in the observance of certain festivals of days, months, seasons and years. The Apostle Paul states in chapter one of Galatians that they were “perverting” the gospel that he delivered to them. How were they doing this? In two ways:
First, they were trying to serve Yahweh by perverting the gospel with the “works of the law”. The works of the law is not the Old Testament and the Covenant made with Moses. The “works of the law” were the oral traditions of the Jews which contradicted the written Torah.