September 24, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. . . . Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”—Exodus 23:20–33 (NIV)
In today’s passage, God commands the Israelites to “demolish” their gods and “break their sacred stones to pieces.” He commands them to not “bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices.” Basically, God is reminding them to have no gods besides Him and no idols or images. But when you look at this passage, you actually see God take it beyond just ridding the land of idols and pagan practices, because it can’t end there. He also tells them, “Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land.”
What’s He saying here? Well, the Israelites were prohibited from making any sort of treaty with the people groups that inhabited the Promised Land by which they could share the land. Now, it was customary at the time for treaties between nations to contain an acknowledgment by each of the other’s gods. So, any treaty or partnership with a nation was a sort of treaty with its gods. There was to be a zero-tolerance policy for the worship of anything or anyone but Yahweh in the Promised Land.
Note: If non-Jewish people renounced their idolatry and trusted in the Lord, they could dwell among the people. We see this with Rahab, Ruth, and others.
Why such a policy? Because God knew without it, the people would sin against Him. And even a cursory scroll through the Old Testament would show you just how true this is. It happened countless times and always had devastating effects for Israel. And it happens to us, too!
Just like Lot was compromised by living so close to (and eventually within) the walls of Sodom and Gomorrah, and just like “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV), when we allow ourselves to be immersed in and desensitized to worldly, post-modern, post-Christian, pseudo-spiritual, self-help, woke, progressive, or anything else THAT ISN’T THE GOSPEL OF JESUS, these things become a “snare” for us—a honey trap, the irresistible bait used to lure and trap and enslave a victim in sinful patterns and practices.
So, how are we to live in the world without being conformed to it? The answer is in today’s opening passage: “I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says.” That angel bears the name of God and is the pre-incarnate Christ, God in the flesh! The best way to avoid being uprooted by idolatry and pagan ideology is to be “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith . . . overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:7 HCSB).
When we fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV), when we abide in Him (John 15:4) and walk in obedience, we can be certain He will go before us, guard us along the way, conquer our enemies for us, and bring us to the place He has prepared and purposed for us!
Pause: Why is it so dangerous to “make covenants” with and dwell together with idols and pagan ideologies? How does this look in the world today?
Practice: Pray today and consider areas where you are, like Lot, allowing yourself to be open and dwelling near to sinful and wicked ideology and idolatry.
Pray: Father, I ask for Your help and guidance, Your protection and provision, as I seek to keep myself free from idolatry and worldly ideology. If anything has infiltrated my faith and beliefs, my philosophies and worldview, please point it out and root it out. I desire to honor You with my mind, heart, and soul, I desire to keep this temple of the Holy Spirit solely devoted to You and no other. Reveal and refine me, Lord. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.