Take & Possess: Canaanites, Weeds, & Driving Out Enemies (Part II)

Burdock Weeds

Driving out -ites is effortful. It’s hard work to hold back weeds. Despite all our pulling and digging, wild mustard grows like gangbusters and burdocks keep sharing their spiny seeds.

In fact, I plucked some burdock off my running tights this morning. Two steps off the trail was all it took; they latched on before I knew. I ran all of five yards before the itch was too much and I had stop and pluck them off.

At least some of them.

When It’s Not Good To COEXIST

In Part I, I shared how God told the Israelites on the edge of the Promised Land to drive out the current residents—the “-ites.” God promised through Joshua that he would be with them and give them success. So he called them to take and to possess the land. But they did not. They chose to coexist.

Neither God nor Joshua suggested the Israelites “coexist” with the Canaanites. Because coexisting with -ites leads to compromise (Deut. 7:16-26), “for that shall be a snare to you.”

The Israelites could not possess that part of the land where they coexisted with the Canaanites (Judges 1:27-34). Instead of destroying or driving them out as God had commanded, the Israelites allowed them to live in their midst.

But we are not called to dwell with sin in our lives and let burdocks to stick to our pants. With these we ought not coexist.

For we are called not only to take but to possess the land.

Take And Possess

In an insightful message called “Living With The Enemy,” pastor Bob Deffinbaugh explains the distinction between the Hebrew words“take” (lakad) and “possess” (yarash),

The term “to take” has reference to the initial conquest of a territory while the term “to possess” refers to the permanent occupation and control of that territory.

We may read of an earlier conquest of a certain city in Joshua only to discover in Judges that it had to be taken again and then possessed. When the Israelites first “took” the Promised Land under Joshua, there were too few people to occupy and possess the land. When the victorious Israelites moved on to fight another battle, the displaced Canaanites moved back to “re-possess” their land. Under Joshua, the Israelite tribes united to fight the Canaanites and make strategic victories (Joshua 1-12). Later under Joshua (Joshua 13 ff.), the land was divided among the Israelite tribes with each tribe allotted an inheritance. Then, in Judges, it is the task of each individual tribe to “possess” their inheritance. This usually required retaking the land and then occupying (possessing) it.

But these two JoyPrO posts are more than an Old Testament history lesson. They’re meant to help make sense of our struggles with “indwelling sin.”

Because if we focus elsewhere the enemy slips back in. This morning it was a bright yellow flower, a cowslip I think, that took my focus off the beaten path where the burdock got me.

They represent our besetting sins, the ones that are hard to shake, that “cling so closely.” We might “take” and name them: gossip or anger, grumbling or envy or anxiety. But we don’t fully drive them out.

They’re irritating. But it takes more time and effort than we’d like to spend to pull all that burdock off.

Or, I could say, to fully “possess” my pants.

Why They Didn’t Possess The Land

Like we said at the start, taking possession is effortful. The Lord’s rebuke of his people in Judges 2:1-3 makes that plain.

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 

The Israelites did not obey God. So God did not drive out the -ites. Which makes me wonder, does God drive out our sinful -ites while we stay friendly with them?

A Thorn In Your Side

The Lord had said that He would not drive out the Canaanites, but would leave them as a “thorn in the side” and as a “snare” to them (2:3). Thus, coexistence was a form of divine discipline.

God said to Israel, in effect: ‘If you make alliances with the people of the land, you shall no longer have power to cast them out. The swift rush of the stream of victory shall be stayed. You have chosen to make them your friends, and their friendship shall produce its natural effects, of tempting you to imitation.’ The increased power of our unsubdued evils is the punishment, as it is the result, of tolerance of them. We wanted to keep them, and dreamed that we could control them. Keep them we shall, control them we cannot. They will master us if we do not expel them.

Alexander MacLaren, A Summary Of Israel’s Unfaithfulness and God’s Patience

Their mastering us means we’ve become “worldly.” It’s an old fashioned word, but I think it just means if we’re on friendly terms with weeds and soul enemies, we’re worldly.

Worldliness & Weeds

Someone has said that worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange. Which reminds me of a garden of weeds.

Have you ever grown a garden of weeds?

I have. It didn’t start that way. It started as a garden of carrots and peas. But we went west for two weeks in June and when we got back we had a garden of weeds. Because vegetables take effort.

Worldliness is whatever makes

sin look normal and righteousness look strange.

-Kevin DeYoung, from David Wells

I’ve been thinking how worldliness is like my garden of weeds. It’s what happens if you don’t push back. And if you look at a garden of weeds long enough it looks normal.

Straight rows of vegetables interspersed with brown dirt looks strange.

A Foot in Both Worlds

If we try to walk with one foot in both worlds—compromise with the world and partial obedience to God—we won’t have the best of both worlds. When I’ve tried, I’ve experienced the worst of both.

For example, the moment I start sympathizing with myself, following the world’s wisdom, rather than taking God’s way to avert passive-aggressive, it all goes south. No spiritual victory and no blessing there. 

The world’s prescription for hurt is to hurt back or to retreat, but it’ll only make it worse— more self-focused and proud. I know this. The worldly way of handling hurt won’t help you grow.

We’ve got to cling to the Lord and obey his commands. Or the weeds will come back.

Cling to the Lord & Possess the Land

We see this in Joshua chapter 23.

Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The Lord your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the Lord your God promised you. 

Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day…

11 Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. 12 For if you…associate with them and they with you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.

The world will not yield an inch to the person who is not resolute for God. Like the -ites who became a trap and a snare. Like pesky, unyielding weeds. The world and the weeds come back. They’re invasive.

Worldliness is a garden of spiritual weeds.

But we don’t live those weeds.

Already & Not Yet

If you know Jesus, I know your address. Because it’s the same as mine: Between the already and the not yet.

The Book of Joshua speaks of both the complete fulfillment of God’s promises (11:23, 21:45) and the incompleteness of the actual possession of the land (13:1, 23:4-5). The writer speaks of the conquest as completed (21:43-45, 10:40-42, 11:23, 23:1, 14)—I have given them rest— but he also describes the occupation as incomplete (13:1-7; 15:63, 17:12-13, 18:3, 23:5). I will drive them out.

A country may officially be defeated and occupied before every part of it ceases resistance. I was after all jogging along with more prickers in my pants. But there will comes a time when they’re all plucked out.

We see the same truth in the New Testament: the power of sin is broken, but it’s still present in our lives. God has already blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing and our future inheritance is guaranteed (Eph. 1:3, 14).

But we don’t possess it completely. Not yet.

Able Not To Sin

Have you ever heard this progression? That after the Fall we were:

1) Not able not to sin. But when we were redeemed, we became

2) Able not to sin. Then, in glory, we will be

3) Not able to sin.

Zach Howard explains it well in context here. Near the end of the article he writes,

Although we are able not to sin, sin still plagues us. Scripture gives no promise of sinlessness in this life; indeed, it says the opposite (1 John 1:8). We’re never promised total victory over sin.

Instead, the renewal we experience in our life is a foretaste of future glorification. We will win battles against sin in this life, but we should not expect to win the war. We have the ability not to sin, but not the ability to eradicate sin…Our ability to achieve total victory over sin will never come in this life. But it will come. It will come because Christ will return.

As Christians we can live in hope — hope that God’s grace is sufficient for our fight against sin, hope that the Spirit is renewing us and restoring our ability to fight sin day by day, and finally, hope that we will one day be completely remade. 

Yes, battling our own sin and waging war on our weeds is exhausting! But God’s grace is sufficient and the Spirit of Jesus is with us to strengthen us day by day.

Our Joshua Is Jesus

Which brings us full circle to Joshua. Reading the book of Joshua started this two part post.

Remember that the Greek name Jesus simply translates the Hebrew name Joshua. The names are the same.

What Israel received in the Promised Land, they received through the hand of Joshua. What we receive from God we receive through Jesus Christ, our Joshua. For all God’s promises are “yes” in Christ. Joshua led Israel into Canaan. Likewise, Jesus goes before us.

So don’t go into battle against with a coexist mindset. For in this Land of Already and Not Yet we are, after all, able to not sin. Even if the burdocks stick us now and then, we will pluck them off.

Until one day, led by our Joshua, we will possess a glorious thornless and weedless land.

A land with a tree and a river.

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.

Revelation 22:2-3

8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

Not Mushy-Gushy

Others can tell the mushy-gushy marriage story. We don’t have that. Ours is much more a tenacious, cling-by-our-fingernails, cleave-by-grace sort of story.

This day last year marked 20 years of marriage. I condensed the first score in a post called, 3 Lessons for Incompatible Soul Mates. Number 1 was God gives us strong grace so we can share it. Lesson 2: Your real soul-mate is the one you’re married to. And Number 3: Incompatibility is not a deal breaker. It’s a grace-muscle maker.

So I won’t rehash more. Because this wedding anniversary is a milestone too. I’ve been Mrs. Wallace for as many years as I was not.

What’s changed in 21 years- besides those full cheeks and fringy brown bangs?

Easy. I rely way more now than then on God’s grace. Only by clinging to HIs strong forgiving, forbearing, speak-truth-and-keep-loving grace could we have possibly made it this far.  And we know this pleases God, because, after all, marriage is really all about that, about how Christ loves his church.

But there have been some quotes that have helped me get up and press on in the last 21 years since we two became one.

These are those: courage-making marriage quotations from those way wittier and wiser than I.

8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

  1. What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? -Gary Thomas
  2. Marriage is the greatest test in the world. It’s much more than a test of sweetness of temper…It is a test of the whole character and affects every action. -T.S. Eliot
  3.  Love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. -C.S. Lewis
  4.  One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!” -Gary and Betsy Ricucci
  5.  The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people. —John and Noël Piper
  6.  I have know many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible. – G. K. Chesterton 
  7. A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers. -Ruth Bell Graham
  8.  The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. – Tim Keller

Reflecting

The T.S. Eliot quote compares marriage to a great test. Well, we’ve failed a lot along the way. We’ve been irritable and downright discouraging to each other some days. There’s been anger and hurt. We still get tempted to lash out and to clam up, to let the sun go down on our anger and keep a record of wrongs and go our own way.

But love doesn’t do that and we love because God first loved us.  And God’s love is a tenacious and gracious, steadfast and covenant-keeping love and marriage was made to reflect the Gospel- the good news of God’s great love for flawed, sinful man. Jim knows my flaws the best and on, earth, he loves me most.

I’ve heard it said that to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. 

So today I pray that our marriage is more and more a reflection- albeit a smudgy one some days- of just that sort of love.

May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

3 Lessons For Incompatible Soul-Mates

We saw it coming. As much as a 21 year-old far-sighted new grad and a 32 year-old eye-doctor standing before the wedding altar can. Because every marriage starts sight unseen.

The wedding guests shook their heads. “They’ve met their match,” some said. The guests, the bride, the groom- all knew that sparks would fly as sure as love would grow. That the cakewalk would end the second we left the three tiers at the reception hall and entered the January cold.

No. We weren’t giddy. Weren’t head over heels. Our love was not blind.

Bound But Not Blind

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 6:8

We knew to keep our eyes wide open before the wedding and half shut afterward. But half shut’s not blind. Because, like GK Chesterton wrote, blind is the last thing love is.

Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind. And if we don’t love the unlovable it’s not really love at all.

We knew these truths. We could see that our love was not blind. We were quite aware of our different ways of seeing and doing and saying things.

Which is why we picked those those verses from 2 Corinthians 9 for our wedding text.

Pastor Berg asked us, Are you sure you want to use this? It’s really not a standard wedding text like 1 Corinthians 13. The context is actually grace to give money. Is that okay?

Oh, yeah. For sure. Because we two strong, determined types knew we’d need all grace, in all things, all the time to stay bound. Which is exactly why God gives this abundant grace. 

That’s lesson 1: God gives it, so we can give it. Because we all need it

And 20 years in we still need all God’s strong grace to make our marriage workEspecially when in the heat of the fight, we might be tempted to wonder, Did I make a mistake? 

Mistakes and Soul Mates

J.R.R. Tolkien was married for 55 years. Happily, from all accounts. He and Edith understood that real love means self-denial. That takes grace. And that in a certain way, most marriages are mistakes. He explains this in a letter he wrote to his son Michael.

Tolkien’s take on marital love is not sentimental. I think that’s why I like it so much. I’m not so sentimental.

If you take nothing else from this post, please take this:

The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called “self-realization” (usually a nice name for self-indulgence…); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.

When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think that they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only—. Hence divorce, to provide the ‘if only’.

And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates.

But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to. In this fallen world, we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean heart, and fidelity of will…(Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 51-52)

That’s lesson 2: Your ‘real soul mate’ is the one you married. (Yes. Love the one you’re with.)

Jim and I both may possibly have found a more suitable mate. May have. But as for soul mates: he’s mine and I’m his.

The Unquestionably Incompatible on the Practice Court

G.K. Chesterton, also happily married, once wrote, I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when the incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such are incompatible. Hear, hear and three cheers for Chesterton.

Have you been there? Are you now? Wondering if you made a mistake? Feeling how unquestionably incompatible the two of you are? If you do, please take heart. 

Because we have and we do and, I suspect, we will still feel our incompatibility until death do us part. Twenty years in and I still can’t believe he thinks that. He can’t believe I said that.

That’s lesson 3: Incompatibility is not a marriage breaker. It’s a place-for-grace given. 

Thankfully, we have the perfect place to practice grace; a practice court for love. That’s what Gary Thomas, in my favorite Sacred Marriage book, calls Christian marriage. On that court what makes a win isn’t getting your way  and achieving your dreams.  No.

A deny yourself, serve your spouse, forgive first love wins. A robust holy love that has contempt on contempt and picks gratitude over entitlement scores points. It’s a holy love that knows faithfulness matters because marriage is meant to mirror God’s faithful love for his bride and her glad submission to him.

But, good night! Who knew how grueling hard this test would be. T.S. Eliot called it the greatest test in the world. It’s much more than a test of sweetness of temper…it is a test of the whole character and affects every action. We fail lots of tests and we miss a lot of shots. But we do keep fighting through when incompatibility flares

Which, incidentally, takes all grace. All God’s strong grace for grace to abound in our house. 

I won’t say I didn’t think we’d come this far. 

We knew God could make all grace abound. We thought we would. He give it so we can live it. But I will say we had no idea how hard living it would be. We’ve both had some high hopes smashed and big dreams dashed. Some shattered in the hands of the other.

So, yes, there has been hard. There have been sparks. But no matter, how hard and the sparks. Game still on. Because God gives more grace, strong grace to get us back up so we can give and forgive, bear and forbear, respect and submit. He does. God gives it, so we can live it, to the praise of his glorious grace. 

We’ve been working grace out as God works it in for the last 7300 days and it’s one score us, score one grace. And I admit it. I’m getting just a teensy bit sentimental when I see how far, by grace, we’ve come now.

So, yes, Dr. Jim, I do take you. For sure. You’re still the one.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

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  1. That was great to read given our current situation. Thanks! Congratulations on your anniversary…

    ReplyDelete

  2. Thanks, Jackie. The way you and your beloved talk to each other and how he brings lunch and you listen so well is grace upon grace. You’re strong that way. I’ll pray for you to live your next chapter well. Luke 12:22-32

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Why I Don’t Tell The Boys They’re Smart & Handsome*


You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  

-David McCullough, Jr., You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements, p. 308

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.

-Romans 5:3-4

I pounced the moment it hit my inbox. What self-respecting parent could resist this subject line: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart? Sal Kahn wrote the article. He’s the genius founder of the online learning academy that bears his name.

Kahn describes reading with his newly literate 5 year old. His son labored over a word (“gratefully”):

He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.” But this wasn’t by accident. Recently…I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows… 

I get that. Early in motherhood I remember reading “process praise” is better than “person praise.” That is, telling Sam, “I like how you didn’t quit when your Lincoln Log roof fell in,” is preferable to, “You are such a clever little guy.” Praise persistence over natural success.

Maybe it’s intuitive that this is a higher quality praise. Or maybe not. Praising Jen’s silky long hair, Michaela’s long legs or Michael’s strong muscles comes naturally. I can live two months on a good compliment, Mark Twain said. Any kind’ll do. My happy meter rises as much if Jim commends a fetching smile or faithfulness to a troubled friend. Alas, charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. But (incoming “process praise,”) the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Kahn’s point is spot on regarding intellectual growth. My own tearful grappling with x and y left an indelible mark. Not the A in Ms. Beaumont’s Algebra I, but the process by which it came. To get over my Letters don’t belong in math mental block required Dad and I to mutually endure the kitchen table tutoring until until I could think algebraically. I finally understood that letters were symbols, and as such they could be manipulated with certain rules. Seeing through letters to symbols, I could solve once perplexing problems.

Praising perseverance and grit builds mental muscles more than praising innate traits. And embracing the “growth mindset” will help us take on, not turn from, challenge.

In Kahn’s words,

…the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

Our physical and emotional dimensions weren’t within Kahn’s purview. But we know “process praise” and the “growth mindset” it fosters undergird physical abilities and emotional resilience. Both are partly inborn, but both can be built with effort. Free throw percentage and fluency playing Bach’s Inventions, to dealing with long lines and flawed friends only improves with endurance. To grow, we must struggle along.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck…has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure

Can we also extend Kahn’s work to the realm of faith? Is a “growth mindset” prescribed in the Scripture? Does God encourage with “process praise”? How does Christ commend us? 

Divine praise and apostolic encouragement are not based on aptitude and innate traits. It’s man who looks at outward appearance. When God saw man that he had made, his very good is more a commendation of Creator than creature I think.

Scripture is replete with commendations of Spirit-empowered perseverance and persistence in the face of trials.  Perhaps the best known is Romans 5:3 where Paul rejoices in his sufferings. If that’s not a growth mindset, I don’t know what is.

As for “process praise”:

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance…(Revelation 2:2) 

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (2 Thessalonians 1:4)

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:3) 

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12) 

And the anchor verse for this blog:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12)

Is this picking process over product? Does “process praise” promote imperfection? Is it akin to “fuzzy” new math, where critics allege 3 times 3 can equal 10, as long as a student can explain how they reached the answer?

I don’t think so.  Here’s why.

When we consider Him patiently enduring and for the joy set before us press on amid problems, we are changed. Pressing on to perfection, we work out this salvation while Christ works it in us. Persistence becomes, at the great day of the Lord, perfection. He has perfected those who are being made holy, will all be past tense. It’s not just the process, then, that God will praise.

Our doing and being meld. So that after you have been faithful, you can be said to be faithful.

I stake my life on this praise. To hear my Master say,

‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 
Matthew 25:21

*Disclaimer: While I don’t tell the boys they’re smart and handsome I do occasionally tell others that they are. If you are one of those others, I beg your pardon. Maternal braggodocio dies hard