Most of this chapter reads like a litany of failures. Eight of the twelve tribes failed to drive out at least some of the inhabitants of the land. Does that mean God didn’t fulfill His promise? Not at all! We can be sure that God gave them the land, and the power to drive the people from the land, because we are told that they forced the people to serve as laborers. If they were strong enough and powerful enough (that is, God had given them the strength and power) to force the inhabitants into servitude, they were strong enough to drive them from the land.
These tribes chose not to grasp the gift God had given them. They decided they had a better idea: Keep the inhabitants of the land and force them to do the hard work. Their choice to do this reveals some seriously wrong thinking about God, His Promises, and His plan for them.
First, the excuses made regarding the inhabitants reveals a lack of understanding of God’s omnipotence. Having chariots of iron or being determined to stay are pretty feeble defenses in the face of Almighty God. To suggest that these prevented the Israelites from being able to drive them out indicates an utter lack of faith in God, who had demonstrated His power over the seas (the Red Sea and the Jordan River), the land (remember that thing with Achan where the earth swallowed him and his whole family), and all creatures (the quail God sent for food and the snakes He sent for judgment).
Choosing to force the inhabitants into servitude reveals a lack of understanding of God’s plan for them. God promised that He would provide, that He would give them rest through Sabbath days and years, and that He would bless the land with abundant harvests FOR THEM. By keeping the inhabitants to do the work for them, they traded the abundance of God’s promises for a lazy life of mediocrity. God had a plan for providing for them so abundantly that they could eat well for over a year from the sixth year’s produce, but the plan required them to trust God, obey His command to drive out the inhabitants and their pagan worship, and to do the work as they relied on God, not on human servants.
It reveals a lack of reverence for God and a lack of core belief that He would do what He said He would do. Both in regard to the blessings God promised, and in regard to the prophesied consequences of disobedience, these tribes demonstrated their lack of respect for God’s authority and power by prioritizing a life of leisure over obedience. They didn’t truly believe He would give them victory, provide for their needs, or that He would bring judgment on their disobedience.
So how does this relate to me? I’ve seen this same story play out in my life. God has given me the righteousness of Christ, but I must take hold of it and drive out every vestige of the enemy from my heart. I must take every thought captive. I must walk as if I’ve been delivered from bondage into freedom – because I have! But, like the Israelites, if I choose to live in bondage, there will be consequences. If I allow “little sins” to take up residence and dwell in me, I will miss so much of God’s blessings. If I focus my eyes on how impossible it is for ME to overcome, instead of how very easy it is for the Spirit that DWELLS IN ME to overcome any obstacle, I will never experience the abundant life that Christ died to provide for me.
Imagine if I bought a brand new car for each of my kids (don’t get excited, kids, this is just an illustration), but they never believed me when I said, “I have a new car waiting for you. You just need to come and get the key,” so they never came to get it. What does that say about their view of me?
1. They know I don’t have the resources to provide what I promised.
2. They don’t believe that I was telling them the truth when I promised it.
3. They don’t recognize that I love them so much that I would give to them extravagantly.
Now think about your relationship with God. What has God promised you? What do you believe about those promises? What do your actions reveal about what you believe about God, His power, and His promises?