Put to Tribute

Last week I wrote about our struggle with sin…

In my desire to fight sin I realize that I have not taken the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews to heart when he writes that, In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. I realize that many times I am spending more energy managing my sin rather than killing it! Like ancient Israel we have put our sin to tribute rather than totally defeat it!

This week I wanted to explore the last sentence of that paragraph: Like ancient Israel we have put our sin to tribute rather than totally defeat it!

The LORD had promised to make Israel a great nation. They have wandered through the desert for 40 years and the time for finally entering the Promise Land is near, they are excited, and God is giving them some final instructions:

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it.

Numbers 33:50-53 (ESV)

They listen as God is promising total victory. They will claim a land that they did not plant and cities that they did not build! However, there is one warning:

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.”

Numbers 33:50-56 (ESV)

Easy right? God was going to go before them and bring the victory. We see this in the Battle of Jericho as God miraculously brings down the towering walls of the city! Yet, as we continue to read of Israel’s exploits in Joshua we see that they are not faithful.

However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.

Joshua 16:10 (ESV)

Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

Joshua 17:13 (ESV)

Instead of defeating their enemies, Israel put them to “tribute”: a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of protection. Instead of obeying the Word of the LORD they felt like they had a better solution. Why defeat them if you can have them work for you and to help make your life easier?

I would submit that that is what we have done with sin. Instead of killing it as God has commanded we are putting it to “good use”. We make sin work for us. Next week we will see how that worked out for Israel and the implications for us.

2 replies
  1. Tony
    Tony says:

    To defeat sin is to no longer let it have power over you. That is a hard victory to win. It is only a transformed heart that desires the goodness of god rather than the pleasure of sin who truly overcomes. Anything short of that is an ongoing battle waged against an enemy which if we are honest, we don’t really want to kill.

    In your analogy of bringing Israel into the land of Canaan and the Israelites not following God’s command to completely overcome them; God declared they would be a thorn in their side ever more.

    It is widely thought that a large portion of the modern day Palestinian population come from the Canaanite bloodline (http://www.rense.com/general48/Palestinians.pdf). I don’t think anyone would argue that each have been thorns in each others sides for a long, long time.

    Thanks Rob for another great article.


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