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What the Bible says about Canaanitish religion
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Notice how strongly God expresses the concept of separation from what is spiritually impure. The Canaanites, and all of the other nations that are mentioned, were to be completely wiped out on religious grounds. This is because religion has such a powerful influence on conduct.

Israel never did this, and the Canaanites were a constant thorn in their side through their false gods. Through Israel's social and business interactions with them, they were persuaded to follow the Canaanites' god's practices—even to the extent of sacrificing their children in the fire.

In order to properly understand this command to exterminate these peoples, it must be understood that, though God was their Ruler, Israel was a nation of this world. Israel was put into the place of God's avenging angels—His agents—to take vengeance on those nations. However, the key is that Israel was a nation of this world, which is something that the church is not. When Jesus was before Pilate, He said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36).

The lesson for us is that we are to be, as it were, this harsh with ourselves in getting rid of the sin within us. As Jesus says, "Pluck out your eye. Cut off your hand."We know that He does not mean this literally! He wants us to understand the spiritual principle that is involved. We have to be willing to go to that extent—to fight "tooth and nail" the contamination of sin that so easily besets us, which can so easily be picked up from contact with this world.

So the spiritual lesson for us is that God is equally demanding toward us—that we do not allow this world to influence us in any way that will contaminate our holiness, imputed as a result of Christ's sacrifice. Israel did not follow through, and soon no difference could be seen between them and the Canaanites. God's commands to be different make the witness and provide the means, the environment, for sacrifice.

In order to keep from being uncontaminated by the world, there must reside in us a strong measure of religious intolerance, or we will find ourselves compromising. What we call "human nature," and what the Bible calls "carnality," produced this world. It loves this world and is easily attracted to its practices and its attitudes. To attain the Kingdom of God, we cannot tolerate those things in ourselves.



2 Kings 17:33

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 35, it is clear God is no longer addressing Himself to the Samaritans, but to Israel:

… [T]he LORD had made a covenant and charged [Israel], saying: "You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods. And the covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. (II Kings 17:35-38)

In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 




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