bulldozer clearing land March 20 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Deuteronomy 19, 20, 21, 22

Removing Evil

In North America, the month of March is just about the time when land is cleared so houses and businesses may be built. Clearing physical land is similar to clearing spiritual land—there are barriers which need to be removed before the land can be leveled for building. Obstacles, like physical barriers, create confrontation. Most of us hate confrontation because it is sometimes difficult. People in a job or ministry who become obstacles may resist being removed from their positions; and children and teens in the home sometimes resist correction.

Many who know something should be done will not take action but instead tolerate their behavior, or maybe even work around them. What is the result? The lofty ideals we want for our family, business, or other organization become tainted or ruined. Parents who do not swiftly discipline the misbehaviors of their children will raise rebellious and spoiled children. Employers who do not deal with the treacherous actions or even laziness of their employees encourage further mischief and discourage industrious workers. Church leaders who do not deal with little offenses in the church let them become big offenses. This causes dissatisfaction, desertion, or possibly even a church split.

In a similar way, Israel must remove evil in the land they are to inherit or their inheritance will be spoiled. How are they to remove it? Deuteronomy 12-26 records specific stipulations God gives the Israelites, patterned after the Suzerain Treaties of that day (more…). From these we learn some principles for purging evil in our own lives and organizations.

Purging Social Injustice

For the Israelites, purging evil first means removing evil from their community. Murder, accidental deaths, malicious accusations, and theft of property have occurred since the beginning of civilizations. In Israel's theocratic society, God institutes regulations to address these crimes. To deal with accidental deaths in Israel, cities of refuge with paved roads are to be built and evenly spaced across their land. There someone might flee from an avenger. These are set up to protect the innocent, not the guilty. If a court of elders determines a person actually committed murder, he is brought out from the city and handed over to the avenger of the family (usually a male close relative) and killed. If a person is found slain, but there are no witnesses, the dead person is taken to the nearest town, and an animal is killed in symbolism of the punishment the slayer should have received, and it is accepted by God (Deuteronomy 21:1-9). Those who falsely accuse their brother Israelites of crimes will suffer the same punishment as they intend to pin on the accused. Those who move boundary stones so they might steal property will also be punished. Any crime requires at least two witnesses to have a conviction. If there is a conviction, Moses gives these instructions to the elders:

You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Deuteronomy 19:19b-21, NIV).

Our government must act with fairness and justice if we are to get rid of the corruption in our society. The innocent must be protected and the guilty must be punished. This principle is also true in our families and other organizations.

Purging National Threats

At this time of Israel's history she is in a holy war. Purging evil, therefore, includes the complete wiping out of all extremely wicked and idolatrous cities in Canaan. The Israelites are to destroy and dispossess them. If they do not destroy them, the Israelites will soon worship their gods, fall into sin, and lose their inheritance (Deuteronomy 20:18). America is not in a holy war, but our government should prevent evil influences from invading and corrupting our country.

Cities which are more distant from Israel are offered a peace settlement. If they accept the terms, they become a vassal of Israel. If they do not accept the terms of peace and surrender, then the Israelites are to wipe out all the men from that foreign nation but save the women, children, livestock, and the rest of the plunder. If they wish to marry some of the women, the women must first have their heads shaved (possibly symbolizing the removal of their old authority) and then be permitted to observe one month of mourning for their losses. Distant cities would have less of an evil influence on Israel than the cities in Canaan that Israel are to dispossess. A principle we might draw from this example is that we should measure the level of threat that needs to be purged so that we do not over-react with severity. We must at times act with mercy and grace.

Purging Evil in Families

Since the LORD is their God and will go before them into battle, Israel is to concentrate, not only on removing evil from their society and from the nations they are to dispossess, but they are also to purge evil practices in their own families. As the family goes, so go the worship centers, the schools, and even the nation. This is one reason we must first find forgiveness and peace with God—so we can be right with him and with each other (more...). The Israelites have a restored relationship with God. They are to act as good neighbors, looking out after them and being kind. They are to treat family members with fairness and equity. Parents who cannot handle a hopelessly stubborn, rebellious son, who wastes his life in riotous living and drunkenness, are to stone him to death. If a daughter is promiscuous before marriage, she is put to death. Transvestite behavior is forbidden (Deuteronomy 22:5). If men and women commit adultery they are both put to death. If a man rapes a legally married woman, he is put to death. If she is not married and he does this evil thing, he has to pay her father 1 ¼ pounds of silver, marry her, and never get divorced from her. No incest is allowed under penalty of death (Leviticus 18). To endure as a society evil must be purged.

A note of caution to those who might be over-zealous in applying these principles:

1. We must act lawfully and let our government handle legal and social matters. God instituted government for such a purpose (Romans 13:1-5)

2. We must deal with specific sin, but preferences in disputable matters that are not set forth in the Scriptures should be handled with grace.

Lessons to Live By

  • We must act with fairness and justice if we are to purge the corruption in our society. The innocent must be protected and the guilty must be punished.
  • We should measure the level of threat that needs to be purged so we do not over-react with severity. We must at times act with mercy and grace.
  • Purge evil practices in your family. As the family goes, so go the worship centers, the schools, and even the nation. This starts with a personal relationship with God. He gives us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...) .
  • Evil must be purged in a timely fashion. We must be strong and not afraid. We must act courageously and decisively and not have much sympathy for the offender.
  • Evil was purged in Israel because they were to be a holy people to the LORD. We do not live in a theocracy, where God instructs us to exercise judgment in the way he told them, but we should remember we also are to put to death (purge) our own lives of sin (Colossians 3:5) and live holy to our LORD (1Peter 1:15,16 ).

Focus Verses

Colossians 3:5 (NIV) “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

1Peter 1:15-16 (NIV) “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'”

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A Look Ahead: After we purge the evil so we can be wholly dedicated to God, we have his Policies and Rules to Follow so we might be blessed. Learn more in our Next Lesson.

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