Drive them out!

By Youval Yanay

In Joshua 17, we read of the allotments of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and where they settled in their God-given inheritance. However, they did not fully drive out the inhabitants from the land but instead drove them to forced labor. Their choice sharply contrasts God’s command to drive out all of the Canaanites from the land, showing a spiritual dilemma that still applies to us today.

“Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.” – Joshua 17:12-13

This scenario isn’t merely a historical account—it mirrors the profound spiritual reality faced by believers today. Like Ephraim and Manasseh, we often choose the path of least resistance in our spiritual journeys. We encounter areas in our lives where we have not fully surrendered to God’s authority. Whether overwhelmed by challenges or finding comfort in our unresolved issues, our full surrender to God’s command remains incomplete.

This story parallels another biblical event involving the tribe of Judah, who also faced powerful enemies in Jerusalem and could not drive out the Jebusites. This ongoing presence of adversaries symbolizes continuous spiritual battles that require physical strength, unwavering faith, and perseverance. 

When we look at the New Testament, Paul’s struggle with his “thorn in the flesh,” as described in 2 Corinthians 12, we are able to relate to themes of enduring spiritual battles and seeking God’s grace, which Paul found to be sufficient even in his weakness. This parallel with the “Canaanites” in our lives—those persistent habits or issues that, despite our efforts, remain entrenched—calls for a deep personal reflection and recommitment.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” –  2 Corinthians 12:9

For us today, these “Canaanites” could manifest as anything from minor bad habits to more significant challenges like addiction or excessive materialism. These issues, while not inherently destructive, can distract us from deeper spiritual growth and connection with God if not addressed.

The story of Ephraim and Manasseh calls each of us to self-examination and action. It invites every believer to diligently examine their heart and life to identify areas where we have not allowed God to take full control. It is a journey of constant reevaluation and surrender, ensuring that our actions align with God’s will, rather than settling for a compromised coexistence with our spiritual challenges.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 

In conclusion, the account of Ephraim and Manasseh serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing spiritual battles we face. It urges us to confront our weaknesses and areas of disobedience to God’s commands. By acknowledging these challenges and actively seeking God’s strength and wisdom, we can move towards a complete victory, embodying the fullness of life that God intended for us.

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