As a child, the stories from the Old Testament certainly helped shape my view of God. Although God is loving and kind, I couldn’t help but recall the times where people were punished for their disbelief and because they were not the Israelites. Reading through Joshua, I had a different thought as I heard about the destruction of the cities and slaying of the people who inhabited the those cities so that the Israelites could begin to live in their Promised Land.
When the Israelites went to enter the Promised Land, God commanded them to give the first city to Him. Joshua 6:18-19 “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the Lord and must be brought into his treasury.” The plunder that they would receive was to be dedicated to God, a first fruits if you will.
We are also called to bring God our first fruit, the tithe. We are called to set it apart for His use through the Church. When we dedicate our first fruits, or tithes to God, When we fail to do this we rob God and bring curses upon our self. When we do, He blesses the rest of the fruit of our labors.
Malachi 3:8-10 Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!
But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”
God wasn’t trying to withhold anything from the Israelites, He was showing them that if they gave Him first place, everything else would be covered. It is the same for us today. God is not trying to take our money. He is trying to get us to give Him first place in our lives.
Then I thought about the next few chapters of Joshua, as the Israelites went to occupy the Promised Land they were told to destroy all the people living there. They were allowed to keep he livestock and the gold and silver, but the people, the towns, were to be completely destroyed. I always thought, “How could a loving God destroy all those people?”
Today though I saw a different picture, it didn’t answer my question, but gave me a different view of things and how those stories apply to my life today. They were told to destroy the people because God knew that the influence of the foreigners would lead the Israelites astray. Their flesh would see the nice cities, the people who were pleasant to look at and be distracted from the call God had on their lives. He did not want the Israelites to be led astray to worship other idols or gods. He wanted to give the Israelites a fresh start.
Even today God calls us to separate ourselves from the world. Not that we will not live in it, just as the Israelites occupied the Promise Land, God has called us to occupy our cities, regions, states, and nations. However, Israel took His presence with them, and we are called to carry His presence in to the world. He does not want our loyalties to lead us astray. Our influence is to be of Him on the world, not to allow ourselves to be influenced by the world.
He wanted everything destroyed in the territories because He knew their flesh would be weak. God also calls us to destroy strongholds in our lives. We can not live with the gods of this world in our lives and still walk in the fullness of His power. We must destroy their influence on us completely to walk in the fullness of God’s promise to us.