Back when my family and I still lived in Illinois, my children were responsible for weeding the flowerbed on the north side of the house. When I first gave them the job, I showed them how to weed properly. I emphasized that they couldn’t only rip the leaves off. Instead, if they wanted to do the job right, they had to pull the root up too. Not surprisingly, my children took the easy course rather than the necessary course. They pulled all the leaves off the dandelions, thistles, etc., and in two weeks, they were rewarded with a fine new crop of weeds.
Sadly, we see the children of Israel making the same mistake in Judges 1-2. God’s instructions were clear. They were to enter the land and drive out the Canaanites entirely. However, Judges 1:16-36 describes their failure to complete the conquest. In some places, they put the Canaanites to forced labor. In others, they simply let them be.
God’s reaction appears in Judges 2:3. He says, “I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” The Israelites’ disobedience meant that now they were stuck with the remaining Canaanites permanently. The roots they left in the ground were going to spend the next 700 years producing a crop of spiritual disaster.
Today, our lack of determination in dealing with our spiritual problems can have the same effect. Like weeds in a flowerbed, sin will take over our lives if we leave it to grow unchecked. Most Christians know this; the ones who don’t get it will fall away quickly.
However, many brethren who know that they need to weed the gardens of their lives fail to see the importance of getting the roots out. It’s not enough for us to turn aside from the most obvious manifestations of sin. Instead, we also must change the circumstances in our lives that produce the sin and uproot the love of sin from our hearts. Otherwise, in a very short period of time, we’re going to find ourselves battling exactly the same spiritual problem.
For instance, let’s say that a married Christian man has gotten emotionally involved with a female co-worker. They’ve admitted to each other that there’s chemistry between them. However, both of them know that it’s wrong, and they’ve resolved together that they’re not going to do anything about it. However, they continue to talk to each other and be friends.
If this brother is unwilling to make more drastic changes than that, the roots of sin he has left in his life will eventually destroy his marriage. As long as he continues to be friendly with this woman, she will be a temptation to betray his wedding vows. If he doesn’t want that to happen, his friendship with her has got to go. If his professional relationship with her is such that he can’t avoid her, he needs to find a new job. What’s more, he has to get her out of his heart and replace her with his wife. Only then will his marriage and his soul be safe.
This would doubtless seem extreme to many in the world, as a complete removal of the Canaanites seemed extreme to the Israelites. “Do we really have to do that? But they’re so useful as forced labor!” Well, “have to” depends. Do we, more than anything else, want to glorify God and spend eternity with Him? If so, the question answers itself.