“For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 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.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you ever tried clearing a path for the first time? I haven’t, but before we moved into our new house, we rallied some men from the church to come and help us clear the backyard. No one had touched it for what was likely several years and it was a mess. The patch of trees and branches and vines was so thick that you could just barely see through to the land behind us. It took the group of us several hours, several chainsaws, a tractor, and two different days, but we got it done. With all the mess and poison ivy (which I discovered the hard way I can get…twice) now gone, it’s well on its way to be a great space. Eventually. I can’t imagine how much work it would have been to have tried doing all that work on my own.
Do you know what helped see this project through to completion? A vision of what could be. It was tough to see at first, but when we looked at it we could see a stoned patio with a fire pit surrounded by comfortable chairs. We saw rope swings and a zip line. We saw a screened in porch with an extended open air deck.
Imagine if we had started work that first Saturday morning, though, and we had wandered over into the next yard, piddled there for a while, then hopped in the car and left while the rest of the guys continued working? How much longer do you think they would have kept at it? Probably not much longer. The branches and brambles and vines would have been left for us to try and clear on our own.
God was blazing a path for the people of Israel. They had a part to play, but He was the one who was going to do most of the work. As long as they were committed to continue to go with Him, He was going to keep clearing the path ahead of them. If they started heading off in other directions and checking out the scenery on the other paths, though, He was going to stop clearing the way for them. He wasn’t going to stop taking them down the path He wanted for them to go, but it wasn’t going to be easy for them any longer. Instead, it was going to be hard almost beyond the point of comprehension.
God is clearing a path for us through this life. We have a role to play, to be sure, but He’s going to be doing the heavy lifting. If we start checking out other paths along the way, He’s going to stop clearing the way for us. And why wouldn’t He? Why clear a path for someone who isn’t going to walk it? If we’re going to go with God, we’ve got to stick with Him. He won’t give up on us or the path He wants us to walk, but unless we walk with Him, it’s going to be harder than it will be otherwise.