God’s power, protection, and provision
Let’s fact it, we are going through our own “wilderness wandering” aren’t we? We are on our way to our Promised Land, but for the time being, we find ourselves living in a land that is far from perfect. But I don’t think the Promised Land is just a metaphor for heaven. I think it is a picture of life lived by faith in God and in obedience to Him – right here and now. In other words, we can enjoy the promises and blessings of the Promised Land in this lifetime and not just in the one to come. In this chapter, God is telling the Israelites that He is going to provide them with a guide – someone to lead them, protect them, and provide for them as they journey through the wilderness. His job was to get them to where they were going – their ultimate destination – the Promised Land. But this angel’s job was not going to end when he got the people to the land. He will bring them to the land of the “Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites” (Exodus 23:23). Notice that God seems to accentuate the negative, not the positive. He doesn’t remind them of the abundance of crops in the land, but the abundance of enemies. This is NOT going to be a cake walk. It is not going to be easy. But God says, “I will destroy them completely!” He knows there are enemies. He knows they are powerful. And He knows the Israelites will be unable to defeat them. So He promises to do it for them. God simply tells the Israelites that they must not “bow down to their gods; you must not serve them or do according to their practices. Instead you must completely overthrow them and smash their standing stones to pieces. You must serve the Lord your God…” (Exodus 23:24-25 NET). In return for their obedience and allegiance, God assures them that “he will bless your bread and your water, and I will remove sickness from your midst. No woman will miscarry her young or be barren in your land. I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send my terror before you, and I will destroy all the people whom you encounter; I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you” (Exodus 23:25-27 NET).
God tells the people that this is going to be a process. It is going to take time. He is not going to evict the inhabitants of the land in one fell-swoop. If He did, the land would become desolate and the wild animals would take over. This was going to be a methodical, slow plan of filling the land. But God would be with them. His angel would lead them. God would increase their borders and expand their territory – in His time. All they had to do was remain faithful to Him. They were not to make covenants with the people of the land or worship their gods. Instead, they were to evict the land’s inhabitants. God’s reasoning? “They are not to stay in the same country with you lest they get you to sin by worshiping their gods. Beware. That’s a huge danger” (Exodus 23:33 MSG).
So what’s the point? God has given us, as Christ-followers, His angel to lead us – in the form of His Holy Spirit. We have the divine presence within us to guide us and direct us. Just like the angel that appeared before the people of Israel, the Holy Spirit deserves the same respect. “Pay attention to him, and obey all of his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sins. He is my representative – he bears my name” (Exodus 23:21 NLT). We are to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We are to follow His leading. He is leading us to the “land” that God has promised. But to occupy that land and enjoy all that it has to offer, we are going to have to rid the land of its current inhabitants. My land is occupied by pride, envy, greed, lust, and an assortment of other enemies. The Holy Spirit wants to help me displace these enemies in order that I might enjoy all that God has promised. If I don’t get rid of them, I will worship the gods of these enemies. Pride worships self. Envy worships what others have. Lust worships at the altar of physical pleasure. Greed worships money and materialism. God wants to help me rid my life of these enemies so that I can “possess the land” He has promised me. But this will be a slow process. It will not take place overnight. God, through His Holy Spirit, is methodically and faithfully revealing the enemies to me and empowering me to remove them. He has to expose them to me before He can expel them. He wants me to take them on one at a time – with His help.
God is at work in my life and yours. He is leading us and empowering us. He wants to provide and protect us. But we must obey His angel. We must listen to the promptings of His Spirit within us. The enemies will show up on a daily basis. They are not going to leave willingly or easily. It is a battle, but the angel of the Lord fights for us. We can have victory. We can enjoy the promises of God – even this side of heaven.
Father, thank You for reminding me that there are promises to be had here and now. I have Your Spirit to lead me, provide for me, and protect me. He also fights for me. This battle is Yours, not mine. I am no match for the enemies in my life. I have tried to defeat pride before. I have tried to drive lust from my life in my own strength before. I have tried to stop envy from attacking me. But each time I have failed. Because I keep forgetting that I can’t fight these battles alone. Keep me dependent on You. Help me to realize just how much I need You. Open my eyes to the enemies occupying the land of my life and turn to You for help. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men