It never fails! Whenever you decide to wear a light or white outfit, there is a good chance you might spill or drop something on the outfit. Chocolate is especially dangerous. Ok, maybe the chocolate itself is not, but in my case, as a chocolate junkie, I sometimes manage to add a cocoa colored smear on my clothes. Not a pretty sight!
The key to taking care of any stain is to remove it as soon as possible. The longer you wait to take care of the stain, the more likely it will decide to stay. Now depending on where the stain is located on the outfit, it could be savageable. After several frustrating, unsuccessful tries, the outfit will either get tossed to the “only wear this around the house, never in public” pile or in the “this will make a good rag” pile. A perfectly good outfit has been downgraded, but still usable.
Most stains occur because of carelessness. I imagine when God observes us, He sees stains or blemishes due to our carelessness. At some point that ugly spot may turn more serious. The Israelites over the course of their history found themselves with a serious problem – one that could not easily be removed.
” ‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’ — Joshua 24: 11-13
Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel. — Joshua 24:31
The Lord gave Joshua and the Israelites victory over their enemies time and time again so they could possess the promised land. By the time Joshua had assembled the people, the land had been divided among the twelve tribes and many of their enemies had been driven out. God had brought them from Egypt to now owning land “flowing with milk and honey.” The Israelites promised to faithfully serve the Lord, but after Joshua’s death, a distinct pattern started to take place. (Note the bold words are my emphasis)
The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. — Judges 1:19
The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites. — Judges 1:21
But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. —Judges 1:27-35
The Israelites definitely had a problem. This problem was much bigger than removing a stain. They had a problem driving out or removing their enemies from the land they now possessed. God gave specific instructions to the people not to get involved with the neighboring nations. All those awesome victories like the walls of Jericho tumbling down (Joshua 6) and the sun standing still (Joshua 10). What happened? Why were the Israelites not driving out their enemies successfully? Let’s continue reading.
The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” — Judges 2:1-3
After Joshua’s death, it seems the people carelessly forgot about “as for me and my house, I will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15-16) declaration that they agreed to before Joshua’s death. It does not specify what happened but at some point the people compromised their covenant to serve God. Living comfortably in the promised land, they must have experienced “amnesia” and forgot their past victories were only possible by God. God went before the Israelites and literally handed their enemies over to them.
I talked last week about not praying or inquiring to the Lord. Each tribe sought to drive out their enemy, but no one went forward with the Lord’s guidance. Each tribe took it upon themselves to try to remove the enemy on their own. Also, before all the tribes worked together to defeat the enemy. Now it seemed each tribe fought on their own. No matter how hard they tried to remove their enemy, God allowed their enemies to remain. For years and years to come surrounding enemies like the Canaanites and Philistines would remain thorns in the side Israel. Even though God allowed the Israelites’ enemies to remain, He extended his grace to Israel. If you notice in the verses above, most of their enemies were subdued to work as laborers. God also appoints judges to lead the people down the correct path and towards reliance on Him.
If we are not careful to keep a heart filled with gratitude, we can easily compromise our walk like the Israelites. Like that clothing stain, we need to immediately remove anything that will keep us from growing closer in our walk with the Lord. If we don’t, God may allow a stain, blemish or a thorn to remain with us. He wants us to remember we can do nothing of real lasting value on our own. Paul talks about a particular nasty thorn that proved to be beneficial for his growth.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Maybe like Paul you have begged for the removal of a thorn. It is not hopeless, God can remove it. If God chooses not to remove it, He has a good reason. It might be there to keep you from being careless, to remind you who you serve.