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bulldozer clearing brush March 20 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Deuteronomy 19, 20, 21, 22

Removing Evil

In North America the month of March is just about the time when land is cleared so that houses and businesses may be built. Clearing physical land is sort of like clearing spiritual land; there are obstacles that need to be removed before the land can be leveled for building. Obstacles create confrontation. Most of us hate confrontation because it is sometimes difficult. People in a job or ministry who become obstacles may resist being removed from their positions; and children and teens sometimes resist correction. Therefore, many tolerate their behavior, or maybe even work around them. What is the result? The lofty ideals we wanted for our family, business, or other organization become tainted or ruined. Parents who do not swiftly discipline the misbehaviors of their children will raise rebellious and spoiled children. Employers who do not deal with the treacherous actions or even laziness of their employees encourage further mischief and discourage industrious workers. Church leaders who do not deal with little offenses in the church let them become big offenses. This causes dissatisfaction, desertion, or possibly even a church split.

In a similar way, Israel had to purge evil in the land they were to inherit or their inheritance would be spoiled. How were they to purge evil? Deuteronomy 12-26 records specific stipulations God gave the Israelites, patterned after the Suzerain Treaties of that day (more…). From these we can learn some principles for purging evil in our own lives and organizations.

Purging Social Injustice

For the Israelites, purging evil first meant removing personal evil from their own community. Murder, accidental deaths, malicious accusations, and theft of property have occurred since the beginning of civilizations. In Israel's theocratic society God instituted regulations to address these crimes. To deal with accidental deaths in Israel, cities of refuge with paved roads were to be built and evenly spaced across their land. There someone might flee from an avenger. These were set up to protect the innocent - not the guilty. If a court of elders determined a person actually committed murder, he was brought out from the city and handed over to the avenger of the family (usually a male close relative) and killed. If a person were found slain, but there were no witnesses, the dead person was taken to the nearest town, and an animal was killed as symbolism of the punishment the slayer should have received, and it was accepted by God (Deuteronomy 21:1-9). Those who falsely accused their brother Israelites of crimes would suffer the same punishment as they intended to pin on the accused. Those who moved boundary stones so they might steal property would also be punished. Any crime required at least two witnesses to have a conviction. If there were a conviction, Moses gave these instructions to the elders:

You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Deuteronomy 19:19b-21, NIV).

Our government must act with fairness and justice if we are to purge the corruption in our society. The innocent must be protected and the guilty must be punished. The same principle is true in our families and other organizations.

Purging National Threats

Israel was in a holy war, so purging evil also included completely wiping out all the extremely wicked and idolatrous cities in Canaan. These the Israelites were to dispossess. If they did not destroy them, the Israelites would soon be worshipping their gods, falling into sin, and losing their inheritance (Deuteronomy 20:18). America is not in a holy war, but our government should still actively prevent evil influences from invading and corrupting our country.

Those cities which were more distant from Israel were offered a peace settlement. If they accepted peace terms they became a vassal of Israel. If they did not accept the terms of peace and surrender, then the Israelites were to wipe out all the men from that foreign nation but save the women and children, livestock, and the rest of the plunder. If they wished to marry some of the women, the women shaved their heads (possibly symbolizing the removal of their old authority) and observed one month of mourning before marrying any Israelite men. Apparently, distant cities had less of an evil influence on Israel than the cities in Canaan that Israel was to dispossess. A principle we might draw from this example is that we should measure the level of threat that needs to be purged so that we do not over-react with severity. We must at times act with mercy and grace.

Purging Evil in Families

Since God was their God and would go before them into battle, Israel was to concentrate, not only on removing evil from their society and from the nations they were to dispossess, but they were also to purge evil practices in their own families. As the family goes, so go the worship centers, the schools, and even our nation. This is one reason we must first find forgiveness and peace with God, so that we can be right with him and with each other (more...). The Israelites had a restored relationship with God. They were to act as good neighbors, looking out after them and being kind. They were to treat family members with fairness and equity. Parents, who could not handle a hopelessly stubborn, rebellious son, who wasted his life in riotous living and drunkenness, were to stone him to death. If a daughter was promiscuous before marriage, she was put to death. Transvestite behavior was forbidden (Deuteronomy 22:5). If men and women committed adultery they were both put to death. If a man raped a legally married woman, he was put to death. If she was not married and he did this evil thing, he had to pay her father 1 ¼ pounds of silver, marry her, and never get divorced from her. No incest was allowed under penalty of death (Leviticus 18). To endure as a society and as families we must purge evil.

A note of caution to those who might be over-zealous in applying these principles: 1. We must act lawfully and let our government handle legal and social matters. God instituted government for such a purpose (Romans 13:1-5) 2. We must deal with specific sin, but preferences in disputable matters that are not set forth in the Scriptures should be handled with grace.

Lessons to live by:

  • We must act with fairness and justice if we are to purge the corruption in our society. The innocent must be protected and the guilty must be punished.
  • We should measure the level of threat that needs to be purged so that we do not over-react with severity. We must at times act with mercy and grace.
  • Purge evil practices in your family. As the family goes, so go the worship centers, the schools, and even our nation. This starts with a personal relationship with God. He gives us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...) .
  • Evil must be purged in a timely fashion. We must be strong. We must not be afraid. We must act courageously and decisively and not have much sympathy for the offender.
  • Evil was purged in Israel because they were to be a holy people to the LORD. We do not live in a theocracy, where God instructs us to exercise judgment in the way he told them, but we should still remember we also are to put to death or purge our own lives of sin (Colossians 3:5) and live lives holy to our LORD (1Peter 1:15,16 ).

Today's Bible memory verses:

Colossians 3:5 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (NIV)

1Peter 1:15-16 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (NIV)

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