You shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you . . . those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides . . . Numbers 33:52-55
It is not uncommon, in medicine, to diagnose someone with an advanced disease that would have been much easier to treat before it grew and spread. Ignoring glaring symptoms, a patient sometimes allows a cancer to metastasize. Why would you ignore this? Now it is too late.
It is easy to criticize others. I would never be so stupid, right?
When I was finally dragged into treatment, I found I was not alone. Most of us had to be forced to get help. There were a few strange ones though, who recognized their addiction and decided to address it before life fell apart. Most of us though, allowed our disease to spread before we became willing to address it.
God, in today’s passage, told the Israelites that they had a cancer they must address. He promised to give them the land of Canaan but told them there was something they must deal with first. There were those living in the land whom God wanted out. Do the work of removing them now or you will regret it later.
This is the same attitude we must take with those things that cause us misery and destruction. When we tolerate our own lust, pride, anger, need for affirmation, selfishness, resentments, and greed, we allow those things to metastasize. Like a cancer, they grow, spread and kill. We ignore and tolerate them to our own peril.
God insists to us, as He insisted to the Israelites, Deal with this now. He knows that when we tolerate little sins, they grow and spread, producing death later. Like cutting out a cancer, getting rid of destructive habits is painful at first, requiring discipline and hard work. Waiting to deal with them until they have spread though, is far worse. When we obey God, enduring the discomfort of addressing our sin now, He heals us, growing life and peace where death and decay once grew.