Uncompromised Commitment

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“Be very careful never to make a treaty with the people who live in the land where you are going. If you do, you will follow their evil ways and be trapped. Instead, you must break down their pagan altars, smash their sacred pillars, and cut down their Asherah poles.”

Exodus 34:12-13

In our time of history, when tolerance and dialogue are the watchwords of interfaith interaction, Exodus 34:12-13 can sound harsh and extreme. What God said to Moses about how the Israelites are to relate to the pagan who currently lived in the Promised Land was intolerant. That’s not a criticism. It’s a fact.

Why did God instruct his people not to live alongside the Gentiles in the land? Why did he even require the Jews to tear down the implements of pagan religion? Part of the answer to these questions appears in the second half of Exodus 34:12. (Another part comes in verse 14, which will be the topic of tomorrow’s reflection.) After telling Moses “never to make a treaty with the people who live in the land where you are going,” God explains, “If you do, you will follow their evil ways and be trapped” (34:12). The Hebrew original of this verse uses the word “snare” (moqesh) to describe the danger of a covenant between the Israelites and the Gentiles. It would draw God’s people into the net of pagan religion, leading them away from an exclusive relationship with him.

As we reflect upon this passage from Exodus, it’s important to note that God’s instructions to Moses came at a unique stage in salvation history. Thus it would be wrong to establish, on the basis of this text, a precedent to guide our actions today. Indeed, we have no evidence that the early Christians sought to destroy pagan religious sites. Rather, they reached out with the good news to pagan peoples.

Yet the deeper truth of Exodus 34:12-13 does inform our relationship with God today. He requires our uncompromised commitment, even as he offers the same to us. Those things that have potential to snare our hearts, thus dragging us away from the Lord, ought to be avoided. If we’re going to be fully devoted to God, we cannot “make treaties” with anything that competes with or dilutes our devotion.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: In what ways are you tempted to “make treaties” and risk being lured away from the Lord? What helps you to have an uncompromised commitment to God?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know that this passage from Exodus doesn’t sit well with our values today. Of course you’re not asking us literally to do as you once required of your people. Our context is different from theirs.

Yet, in a way, we face many of the same temptations. We too can be snared by this world, if not by its religions, then by its idols of riches, fame, security, and self-control. We are easily tempted to compromise our commitment to you, to live in the world and of the world. Forgive us, Lord, when we fail to give you the devotion you deserve.

Give us wisdom, dear Lord, to see the snares in our world and avoid them. May we stay far away from whatever might dilute our commitment to you. Help us to live fully as your people each and every day, for the sake of your kingdom and glory. Amen.