Friday, February 19th
This passage reminds the people of Israel that they must be an active participant in their covenant with God. This relationship is a two-way street. The parts of Chapter 7 before and after this reading show that although Israel did nothing to earn its favor with God, if it wanted to remain in a covenantal relationship with God, it would have to do certain things.
The enemies of Israel presented a lot of temptations to them – the temptation to worship their gods, to covet the gold and silver from their idols, and to follow their pagan lifestyle. However, one of the specific instructions God gave Israel on how to participate in the covenant relationship with him was to destroy the enemy completely. God commanded Israel to have no pity on the enemy, but to “devour” them and not to serve their gods, because that would be a snare or a deadly trap to them. Something, other than God, might catch their attention and heart.
If the Israelites turned to other gods, to covet the gold and silver in idols, or to have pity on the enemy and not destroy them completely, they were removing themselves from a relationship with God. Only while the people upheld their end of the covenant with God did they place themselves in a position to be in relationship with – and be blessed by – God.
But Israel’s destruction of its enemies did not happen once and for all; it was an ongoing fight. Israel was a small people, whereas their enemies were not. In the verses following this reading, Israel was commanded to have no dread of the enemy, because God was with them and in their presence. However, God said that he would not wipe away Israel’s enemies in one fell swoop; he would instead clear them away “little by little,” because to do otherwise would upend the natural state of things (wild animals feeding on the corpses would grow too numerous for Israel to contend with).
We may wish that God would take care of our problems once and for all, but he does not, and we must fight our battles over and over. We can take heart that God is with us and in our presence. All he asks in return is that our commitment and devotion to him be unwavering. There are shiny, pretty things out there that can lure us away – but they are snares and deadly traps to us – because we can spend days or years of our lives enamored with things that do not matter, that don’t serve us, and that only work to keep us outside of our covenantal relationship with God. God will work to remove these challenges from our lives, little by little, but we cannot hold on to any leftovers. We are small, little, and weak. But God chose (chooses still) to love us. He wants 100% of us in return.