The Children of Israel had enjoyed a relative measure of success in their occupation of the Promised Land. They had followed the Lord’s commandments all the days of Joshua (Joshua 24:31), and the Lord had been faithful to perform His Word in giving them victory. However, there still remained much land to occupy after Joshua’s death, and without central leadership, the tribes of Israel tended to become factious (disagreeing, quarrelsome), and their military campaigns became skirmishes.
In our text verses the “House of Joseph” (Ephraim) went up to fight against the town of Bethel, formerly known as Luz. In a move that was reminiscent of Joshua’s earlier conquest of Jericho (Joshua 2:1-24), the Ephraimites sent spies to secure a strategic entrance into the town. This strategy paid off, and the Lord was with the Ephraimites to deliver Bethel into their hands.
However, we note a very important contrast between the reactions of Rahab and her family (Joshua 6:25), and the man in our text. In the taking of Jericho by the Israelites, Rahab and her family were delivered from the destruction and went to live with the Israelites, becoming part of the Covenant Community of God’s People. Here in our text, the man that helped the spies to conquer Bethel also experienced deliverance from the town’s destruction. But instead of joining his family to the Covenant Community, this man moved his household to the land of the Hittites.
A very important point is made by this man’s actions. We do well to note the significance of this point for ourselves, as well as those we minister to. We are told that the man in our text went on to build a town which he named Luz – the original name for Bethel. Apparently, this man’s deliverance from the destruction of Bethel did not deter him from the same wickedness that brought God’s judgment on the town. Rather than joining God’s People and realizing God’s goodness, as Rahab had done, this man went about to recreate his heathen life in a new environment.
So often we see this same attitude being held by those embarking on their “New Life.” When the euphoria and excitement of their salvation experience (when they experienced the Truth of God’s saving grace) has worn off, and they are faced with the everyday toils of living, many people are lacking in the understanding that our “New Life in Christ” is not a changed life, but an exchanged life – His Life for ours (Galatians 2:20). Subsequently, they look to God to make their old life better, but they never actually put off the “old man” (Ephesians 4:22).
The basic principle of substitution governs so much of life. In simple terms: when a thing is removed, it must have a substitution (or a replacement), or else we will eventually go back to the original, familiar thing. Through our identification with Christ, we have been once and for all delivered from our old sins, but we have to continually abide in Him and seek deliverance from our old life of sin. Otherwise, our old life will once again lead us to be ensnared by sin. We have to turn from our old works of darkness, to the works of righteousness.
Having been delivered from the destruction of wicked people, the man in our text went about to reestablish his old life, rather than walking in Newness of Life as one of God’s people. Rather than seeking a New Life in its fullest, he returned to his old life in its bondage. He returned to his paganism, rather than replacing it with the true worship of Jehovah.
I don’t know if this man was spiritually saved or lost. But the principle is true for the spiritual as it is for the physical. Our ability to live a victorious life in Christ is conditioned, or predicated, on our being brought out of the World and our abiding (dwelling, living) “in Christ.” When we’ve been delivered from the entanglements of the World through Christ Jesus, we have to replace the old life with the New Life.