And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.
For whatever reason, they stopped short. For whatever reason, several of the tribes of Israel did not gain complete victory as God had commanded them to do. Whatever excuses there were, whatever reasons they found, they left this most important task incomplete. And so the Canaanites among them were like a cancer to Israel. Cancer is dangerous and unwanted. It doesn’t belong. It’s like a doctor going in to remove the cancer but purposefully leaving some behind. What is left over causes a lot of damage.
It works the same way in our lives. God wants us to utterly drive out anything in us that is not of Him. Leaving anything is like choosing to keep some cancer. It’s only going to hurt us. It’s only going to cause some damage down the road and infect the healthy parts of us. And the longer we allow it to be a part of us, the more damage it’s going to do and then the harder it will be to remove completely. And because it is ultimately disobedience to God that leaves those things there that shouldn’t be, it hurts our relationship with Him in significant ways.
This was to be their moment. These were Israel’s years of conquest before they would have rest from their enemies. This was the last push before the blessings of the land were completely in hand. This was their strongest and healthiest state. And instead of being the beginning of something truly wonderful, it was the beginning of the corruption that started their descent into idolatry and led to judgment from God. And so it is for us that we must beware in our strongest and healthiest spiritual state that we don’t get comfortable leaving some things in our lives that shouldn’t be there that can fester and corrupt us and lead us to a horrible place we never wanted to get to.
How diligent and how careful are we willing to be about the kinds of things we allow into our lives? How prideful or lazy or careless will we be when our spiritual health is at stake? What kinds of things are we willing to risk by not being completely obedient to what God has commanded us? If our relationship with the Lord is valuable to us, if pleasing Him is important to us, then let us not knowingly allow things into our lives that can damage that relationship. Let’s be very careful and on guard against things that seem so harmless but can actually hurt us much more than we ever would have thought.