PRINCIPLE: “When the irritants irritate, drive!”
There are many things in life which irritate me. I’m irritated, for example, by the driver ahead of me on a two lane road, who keeps speeding up and slowing down – all because he’s paying more attention to his cell phone conversation than his driving. He’s a danger to others. I’m irritated when someone calls for tolerance but refuses to listen to my viewpoint. She’s a divider, not a unifier. It’s irritating when someone says “If I were you…”, because they’re not me. I imagine you have things which irritate you as well.
But there’s another kind of irritant that has grabbed my attention. It’s not something someone else has done or is doing that irritates me – it’s what I’m doing or not doing that causes the irritation. The nation of Israel was troubled by these irritants. In Numbers 33:55 God tells them “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.” God knew their hearts – He knew that if they allowed temptations and evil to be among them, they would cave under the pressure and turn their backs on Him. So as they moved into enemy occupied territories God told them to drive out the inhabitants, to get rid of all evil that could potentially turn them in the wrong direction. If they did not, God warned, they would become barbs, splinters, pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides. These tempting evils would irritate them to the point where they give in and give up.
What temptations, what habits, what tendencies towards sin are irritating you? What are the ‘pulls’ on your life that that fill you with guilt or cause you anxiety? You’re tempted to click on that porn site, to take that one extra drink, to have that one ‘romantic’ fling, to lie on that application, to seek revenge on that person who hurt you…Whatever it is, drive it out. “When the irritants irritate, drive!” When someone or something other than Christ is controlling your desires and passions, when someone or something other than Christ is controlling your time and energy, when someone or something other than Christ is your focus drive it out. “When the irritants irritate, drive!” Or the irritants will become barbs and thorns that trouble you everyday. As the NLT puts it, “…they will harass you.”
But what does ‘driving’ look like? The primary action that will help you begin to drive is to put and keep God’s Word in your heart. Ps. 119:9-16 is clear and powerful: “How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed and keeping watch [on himself] according to Your word [conforming his life to it]. With my whole heart have I sought You, inquiring for and of You and yearning for You; Oh, let me not wander or step aside [either in ignorance or willfully] from Your commandments. Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Amplified Bible) Eugene Peterson, in The Message, paints this picture for the same verses: “How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, God; train me in your ways of wise living. I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth; I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it. I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it. Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life; not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road. Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. I’m a stranger in these parts; give me clear directions. My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!— insatiable for your nourishing commands.” “When the irritants irritate, drive!”
There is more to do to drive away the irritants, but this is where it begins. Remember Jesus used the Word of God to drive away Satan in the wilderness. “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Mt. 4:11) It can be so for you. “When the irritants irritate, drive!”