However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; for the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land. And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out. (Judges 1:27-28)
Purity Demands Cleansing
After the death of Joshua, the tribes of Israel began settling the land of Canaan in accordance with the covenant God made with them. The Lord had promised through Abraham to give the land to the Hebrews with the condition they drive out the inhabitants of Canaan and tear down their altars to pagan gods. Joshua led the nation in the conquest of Canaan firmly establishing the power of God upon the Canaanites, Perizzites and all the people of the land. God’s word had declared the children of Israel were to completely destroy the people of the land because their wickedness had come to the judgment of the Lord but the people did not do what was commanded of them. The conquest of the land would never be fully complete as tribes like Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages and many other villages allowing the Canaanites to dwell in the land. This was the case with the tribes of Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan who failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land. God had led the people out of Egypt and brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey. Abraham was promised the land of Canaan but did not receive it for himself as the iniquity of the people did not warrant the wrath of God to destroy them. This was not the case of Israel conquest of the land because now the wickedness of the Canaanites had become full to receive the judgment of the Lord. The agency of that judgment was the sword of the nation of Israel. However, the nation of Israel did not do what the Lord had commanded and the influence of the Canaanites remained in the land. This would lead to the downfall of the nation in the days of the divided kingdom. Israel allowed the influence of idolatry to remain in the land and it became their Achilles heel that would lead to their destruction.
God had a plan for His people. He wanted to bless them with all of the blessings from His storehouse of wealth. His covenant with them was to give them a land flowing with milk and honey if they would follow His will and drive out the evil influences that He knew would destroy them. They conquered the land but did not drive out the people that would change their hearts to serve idols and pagan deities. Israel could have been a great nation if they would have obeyed the voice of the Lord. The influence of the people of the land was a very subtle and Israel may have viewed them as harmless. Looking at the lives of the Canaanites, the people of God did not see the evil that lurked under the surface. Human wisdom decided against the word of the Lord and Israel thought they knew more than God and allowed the Canaanites to dwell in the land. The angel of the Lord came to Israel and rebuked the people for their insolence and disobedience. He declared the rebellion of the people to drive out the inhabitants would become the chain about their necks to destroy them. It was not a hard thing for the Lord God to destroy the inhabitants of the land with a sweep of His hand but that remained a duty of Israel. The Canaanites would become a thorn in the side of Israel and the gods of the land would be a snare to Israel. This would show the value of God’s word and how disobedience to the command of God was a death sentence for the people. Purity demanded the removal of the evil influences that surrounded them. Israel refused and it cost them everything.
The Canaanites have long been gone from the land of Canaan but the influence of the world upon God’s people remains a strong and potent power. There is a principle established in the story of the period of Judges that should resonate with the Christian. When the influences of the world are allowed to remain in the lives of God’s people, they will find a greater struggle to be devoted to his will. Throughout the New Testament, admonishments are given to exhort the child of God to remove the influences of the world from their lives. No one can serve the Lord who has one foot in the world and think they have one foot in the kingdom. Jesus explained that no man can serve two masters and this demands a choice. For the child of God to live a full and powerful life in Christ, the charms of the world must be removed. Too many Christians believe they can live pure lives and share in the attachments of the world. Many will argue that social drinking is acceptable for a Christian, immodest dress is relative to the whims of the world, service to God is a personal choice and a myriad of excuses to serve the Lord on Sunday and live worldly lives the rest of the week. Israel was destroyed for lack of knowledge. The reason they were destroyed is that they allowed the one thing that God had told them to remove remain in the land. God knew best and the people rejected His will. The child of God must believe the word of the Bible is the pattern that must guide the heart and without the removal of the influences of the world, there will be no growth. Purity demands the removal of those things that will steal the heart away from God. Israel did not completely drive out the Canaanites. These things were written so that men can see the consequences of impurity. Serve the Lord. Remove sinful influences.