Sunday, May 14, 2017

Invasion of the Sweet Violets

"But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live." Numbers 33:55

As the cool evening air started creeping in, I found myself not only pulling weeds but also pulling a plant I originally planted at the front of my house.  The flower bed outside my front door is filled with bulbs, perennials and a few annuals.  In the fall, I like to plant Dianthus and in the spring, they come back more beautiful than before.  In the same patch of garden, I planted bulbs that transform into daffodils, hyacinths and beautiful lily of the valleys that always make me think of my mom because she had lily of the valley in her wedding over 50 years ago.  Scattered between the lilies and the Dianthus are wild violets. 

The violets have a special story because many years ago my sweet little four year old wanted to dig up some violets from the natural area behind our house.  They were so sweet and beautiful and he was so earnest so the two of us carefully transplanted a small clump. Over the last eight years, those violets have been busy doing what God made them to do and filled up my flower bed. Unfortunately, they have also jumped the sidewalk and have migrated into our lawn. 

The last time our weed man came to treat our lawn, he checked violets on his list of uncontrollable weeds.  I was shocked and sad.  This sweet little plant that seemed so innocent and lovely had become an uncontrollable weed that had invaded our grass and even flower beds far from where I originally planted it. So as I was pulling the dreaded Poa Annua weed, I was also pulling rampant violets. Unfortunately I have only scratched the surface of the problem by confining them to a section of the garden.  This is a temporary solution that means every year I have more violets. 

As I have been trying to decide what to do with the violets, I couldn't help but think of how easily sin can creep into our lives and seemingly start out so sweet and innocent.  A bit of curiosity, a fun gift from a friend or even a habit passed down from our parents and before we know it, we are caught in an addiction and something small and manageable has taken over vast parts of our mind and heart.

When God called his people into the Promised Land, He gave then very specific instructions, in Numbers 33:51 he told Moses,“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan,f 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.g    This was a refresh for the Israelites beause he had commanded them in the first two commandments given in Exodus 20, "“You shall have no other gods beforea me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 

Get the picture, God is leading his people into the Promised Land, He knows if they are not diligent in getting rid of the idols and places where people worship them, they will lose their focus on Him and fall into the patterns of sin that are prevalent in the land.  

So God warned them in Numbers 33:55:56. "But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thornsm in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.  And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.n’ 

God is telling his people- if you aren't diligent in removing the sin and idolatry in the land.  It will infect you like a virus.  I will have to remove you from the land because you will be just as contaminated as the people who are there now.  

In Colossians 3:5-6, Paul wrote a similar message to believers who hadn't gotten rid of the sinful weeds in their hearts and lives.  He wrote "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming." In both Numbers and Colossians, God is warning His people to beware of tolerating sin in their lives. If they aren't diligent in removing the sin, the wrath of God is coming.  Wow.  

This warning resonates with me and my garden of violets.  There is only one way for me to stop the spread of violets into my lawn and every inch of my garden. I have to destroy it.  I literally have to dig up every inch of it and every plant.  I have to dig up every daffodil, narcissus. and lily of the valley bulb.  I will have to take them out of the soil and then remove every inch of the soil contaminated by the violets. Then I will have to put in brand new soil and replant all the bulbs.  I won't get all the violets and  I will lose some of the bulbs I have carefully planted over the years.  But this is the only way.   It won't be easy. 

Cleaning up my flower bed will be a lot of hard work that could have been prevented if I had realized there was a reason violets aren't sold at my local home and gardening store. I didn't know but I still have to live with the consequences. Sin is the same way.  In my ignorance, I have tolerated behaviors I grew up with or my friends were doing and now years later, I realized how destructive they are.  

Eradicating them takes work but the benefits are magnificent.  God promised Joshua as he was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses  gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:7-9

Don't be afraid, the blessings are so great, God will be with you and you will be able to enjoy life rather than spending your days pulling weeds and dealing with the consequences of on going sin.
Has God shown you sins in your life that you need to eradicate even if they are something that your friends do or that you grew up with? Take the time to pray and ask God to set you free.  Be strong and courageous. 

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