When we read Deuteronomy, we often evaluate it upon our understanding of life, nations, and ancestry. In many respects, Deuteronomy contains thinking that is alien to Western thinking. Part of this is tied into the relationship between peoples, their gods, and their places of habitation. There was a thought process that tied land to a particular god, and often to a particular bloodline.
This is portrayed here when Moses talks to the Israelites about the current inhabitants of the Promised Land. We look at Moses’ command as rather harsh, which it is (and will be a question of mine on the other side). Moses takes such a strident tone for the sake of the Israelites themselves. By this point in their journey, an entire generation has died wandering in the desert as a consequence of their sin. During this journey, they questioned, God, Moses, Aaron, the whole Promised Land thing. Moses was likely very concerned that were they to leave the peoples who didn’t worship God, they would be more likely to fall away.
The purity of blood and land was probably more due to faithful worship of God than anything else. The Israelites had already shown their struggles in that area over the previous 40 years, including allowing themselves to be married into some of these tribes and worshiping other gods. Thus, Moses was deeply concerned. Let’s also acknowledge that God knew the Israelites would turn from God again.
The corollary to this for Christians is also the world. In our case, it is the entirety of the world that isn’t Christian. This does not mean that we are to live in isolated communities sequestered from the world. It’s hard to be the light unto the world when you put it behind walls or under baskets.
For Christians, we are called to be in the world, but not of it. This can be a slippery slope. One person wrote that this is like walking along a very narrow path on the top of a mountain with the wind blowing in all directions. It is impossible to stay on top of the mountain by our own strength. It is only through the strength of God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the counsel of other Christians that we can stay on that trail.
Sometimes, the right choice (sorry, “I can do it myself”, and “I can do it alone” people) is to run away from whatever it is. Paul’s advice to Timothy isn’t cowardice. It is wisdom. Often our greatest strength is when we are together. Actually, other than with God, our only strength is with fellow believers in Jesus Christ.
Run away from sin? Yes. Run away from the world? Perhaps. When one runs away, one runs toward something else. To what or to whom will you run?
Lord, you called to be the light unto the world. Help us to keep each other’s light shining as the enemy tries to extinguish the light of your love and hope. Amen.