Living with Pricks and Thorns

Numbers 33:52–53, 55 “You shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places; and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. … But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land in which you live.”

Observation: These verses perfectly foreshadow and encompass the Gospel message. The Israelites had entered the Promised Land, and God told them to drive out all the old inhabitants, to sweep the land completely clean of every old idol, everything and every place that had once been an object or a place of worship. It was to be warfare of the kind that would take no prisoners, or brook no compromises. The consequences of disobedience in this weren’t that they were going to be thrown out of the land to wander in the wilderness again. No, they were going to have constant trouble, constant irritation, and a lack of peace.

Application: Living in freedom is a choice, not a guarantee. The Israelites were told to enter into the land, and they had done so. But their possession of it had to be complete. 

The relationship of this passage to the Gospel message is this: simply accepting Christ as Savior is merely the beginning step, equivalent to the Israelites’ entering into the land. But then I must do the hard work of dispossessing every old idol, every old habit, every enemy and all their possessions. If I don’t, I will be a miserable Christian indeed, living not in victory, but with the pricks and thorns that have every right to afflict me because I have not turned them out completely. 

I want Christ to bless and “clean up” my old life, but He wants to bring everything about my old self to utter and complete death. Every remnant of my old flesh life is to be crucified with Christ so He is free to begin writing a new story on my heart.

Prayer: Father, You are a jealous God. You say I am to have “no other gods” but You. Show me, Lord, every area of my life where I am clinging to something You want me to surrender—whether it be relationships that aren’t life-giving or possessions I hang on to out of financial fears or habits that weren’t formed under Your watchful gaze. All these things, Lord, I choose to put to death so I can enter into true life in You.

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