The death of Joshua was the end of any semblance of faithfulness from the Israelite nation. Their façade crumbled just like the walls of Jericho, and the true nature of their hearts were revealed. Their first act of unfaithfulness: not clearing the Promised Land of all its inhabitants so they could live in peace. Sadly, there were many reasons why they may have failed: fear, weariness, a lack of discipline, intimidation, a spiritual decay that allowed pride and greed to blind their eyes and deafen their ears to the Lord’s voice. This list could probably go on, but suffice it to say, human nature overtook their devotion to the Lord. And their hearts became hardened to the Lord’s commands. As a result, they not only began to tolerate the wickedness around them, they began to revel in it.
God was not being ruthless, as it may have seemed, when He commanded the children of Israel to completely wipe out the inhabitants of Canaan. He obviously knew the danger that leaving them to co-exist presented. He obviously understood the treacherous condition of the Israelites’ hearts. After all, He’d endured their forty years in the wilderness. He knew how wayward they were. How willing they were to follow the grumbling of their flesh when things got a little uncomfortable, how quickly they wanted to return to captivity when His promises were long in coming.
When God chose the Israelites as His own, His desire was for them to be purely devoted to Him. Always acting in His will, set apart from the world around them, a shining example of His love and favor on the lives of those who are faithful to Him. They were to be a holy nation, a nation of priests, prophets and worshipers. Could they co-exist with a nation of demon worshipers and still maintain a steadfast grip on their calling? Time revealed they could not. When the leadership of Joshua passed to the judges who ruled the twelve, then divided, tribes of Israel scattered across the unknown land, the people began to flounder in their devotion to God. They began to reason that it would be more beneficial and profitable to keep the Canaanites around than to obey the Lord’s command to drive them out. They began to believe they knew better than God, and then, they did their own thing.
Following the example of the worldly nations around them, they began to set up pagan altars at high places, and there, they sacrificed to foreign gods. They poured out their offerings to gods of wood and stone, gods with no life, no authority, no ability, no sustaining power. They gave their gifts to demonic beings who could not provide. From that generation to the next, this practice became more rooted among the people until it no longer seemed a sin. Their hearts resisted the burning conviction that truth revealed in them until they were eventually numb to any leading of the Spirit. Even when the Lord raised up kings to rule the people, most of them missed the mark. Every one of them, except David and Hezekiah, and including Joash, failed to remove the high places that had been set up in the land. As a result, multiple generations of men and women chosen to be wholly devoted to the Lord, were led astray. They traded their destiny, their victory, for tree-like things.
Like them, there are things in our lives that keep us from being fully submitted to God in our callings. High places where we exalt our own will above the will of the Lord. Hidden, no doubt, by the traitor within us: our heart of flesh. People mistakenly believe that the heart will lead us to the path God has for us. But that is simply not true. The heart will lead us away from God every time if allowed to take the position of authority in our lives. Jeremiah said, “the heart above all things is deceitful and beyond cure. (17:9)” If you are used to following your heart, you are destined to fail in ministry. Because your heart can be manipulated so easily by circumstances and people around you. Your heart is prone to respond in fear, intimidation, weariness, and all kinds of dangerous emotional or physical maladies that will rob you of your victory if allowed. Just like the Israelites, you will find that when you give the devil an inch, he eventually becomes the ruler. It begins in subtle ways until he has you completely surrendered to him, intimidated by situations around you and afraid of the storm within you.
What then, if you cannot trust your heart? This, love, is why the Father placed His Spirit within you. “but just as it is written, “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.… (1 Cor. 2:9-11)” According to this verse, the deep things of God have not even entered your heart! Your heart knows nothing about them! The Spirit of God alone knows what the Lord has planned for you, and He has put this Spirit inside you so that you will know. If you don’t know yet, keep asking! Rest in the waiting time, sure of His great love for you. Trust His word and when you need to, tell your heart to shut up. It’s not about your feelings, your desires or your will. It’s about pleasing your Heavenly Father.
Here’s the catch: you can’t live in total victory, in submission to the will of God, if you have not torn down the high places in your heart. You will always bow down to lesser things and miss the divinity and majesty of Christ. Your treacherous heart has built many: It may be people, material possessions, or even ideas that have become castles in the air. You cannot have God’s desires and your own. You will eventually have to choose. This is why people fail in ministry. Because their hearts have not been fully conquered and surrendered to the Spirit. Instead of self-control, they live controlled by flesh. The Lord is not saying we can’t have these things in our lives, but we cannot exalt them. If you can’t look at that thing and say, “Jesus, I love you more than that. And if it’s taken away, I’ll still praise you,” then you do not own it. It owns you. You have exalted it and worshiped it and your heart is controlling you. Tear down that high place, and go back to the temple, back to the altar of the one true God. Lie at His feet in surrender and repentance. Don’t get up until you know that there is no one else or nothing else, besides Him, that your heart desires to worship.
Father, please, be merciful to us, your children. Send your Spirit in your power to obliterate the high places in our hearts. Help us to surrender fully to you, to completely annihilate the enemy in this land that you have given us, so that we will not be led astray in the desire and worship of lesser things. Raise up warriors in us, that we will be ruthless against the enemy and spread out in every direction with a passion to complete your Will. Let us desire nothing less than You and your Will for our lives. Help us to put to death the desires of our flesh that make war against your Spirit. I praise you for victory. May we not stop until we have obtained it. In Jesus’ precious name, amen!