The goal is relationship. But what is that relationship going to look like? We get into all kinds of problems when we blur the lines of relationship. My relationship with my cat should look different than my relationship with my children. My relationship with my wife should look different than my relationship with anyone else. My goal in my relationship with my children is not the same as the goal in my relationship with my friends. The relationship is different. There are different expectations and responsibilities. I may be expected to encourage and help friends, but I am not expected to train them. And when we blur those relational lines we cause all manner of difficulties. You can try to train your cat (the beast thinks he’s training you); you can attempt to discipline your friends (and then say goodbye to the friendship); you can endeavor to be friends with your children (and then watch them turn into little tyrants), but you end up missing the glory of the relationship as it was intended. All of this to get to our relationship with God. God wants to be in relationship with you. Don’t miss the glory of that relationship by missing the relationship he is offering.
In Exodus 23:20-33 Yahweh is telling the Israelites about going into the Promised Land, but in that information is an expectation of relationship. First he lets them know that he is sending an angel, a messenger, that will be before their face, who will guard them and bring them into the land. The word “guard” means to have charge over. Yahweh warns them to guard themselves before the face of the angel; to listen obediently to his voice; to not be bitter or rebellious. There would be no forgiveness if they bitterly opposed him because Yahweh’s name was in this angel. Now, this has generated all manner of discussion. Some suggest that this angel is a theophany of Yahweh himself or the pre-incarnate Christ. But is seems best to let the Bible tell speak. This is a messenger of Yahweh and as such he had the authority of Yahweh behind him to protect and lead and to punish if there were any shenanigans. Do we need any other explanation than this? Sometimes we make the message more difficult than it needs to be. What is important here is that the Israelites understand the nature of their relationship with Yahweh and his messenger. He is to be their God; not their good buddy. He will guide and protect them but he expects obedience and will brook no bitter rebellion.
And as they come to the Promised Land the angel of Yahweh will go before them and destroy the people of the land. They are not to play around with their gods or act like the people or the gods. Either way, we know from archeological discoveries that the people of this land were evil; sacrificing their babies to their gods. Each house had a jar with baby bones in it under the foundation. This was a sacrifice to their gods so that the house would be blessed. This part of the Bible is still difficult, I know. But we do need to do our best to understand how evil the people were. The Israelites are commanded to destroy every last remnant of their idols. Unfortunately they do not. Unfortunately, they became guilty of burning their own children in order to worship the god Moloch. As difficult as this part of the story is, the alternative seems even worse. Again, the emphasis here is that their relationship with Yahweh was intended to be undivided loyalty.
The conquest of the land would be in stages so that Israel would be able to become numerous and strong enough to maintain the land. God promised to send hornets ahead of them to drive the people out. Some think this is literal, but it may refer to the fear we can read about in Joshua 2:9, 24. We have no evidence of God sending actual hornets, but fear can be like a swarm of stinging hornets can’t it? Again, they are told not to get cozy with the inhabitants God wants them to replace. If they do, they will become ensnared in the same sins and as I mentioned above, that is exactly what happened.
God is offering them a relationship that will benefit them with land, health and progeny. But Yahweh is not offering to be their buddy. He is God, the judge and ruler. He expects them to honor his messenger and his name; he expects them not to play around with the evil that has consumed the people of Canaan. It is the same for us today. Yahweh is not offering to be our buddy. He is offering to our God. If we are in relationship with him, the Promised Land is heaven and eternity; a relationship with a holy God that will shape us if we let it. Respect the relationship he offers then my friends. Peace, Walter.