Bingeing and Purging
“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside,God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NAS)
The apostle Paul, in dealing swiftly and severely with the grievous sin of immorality between a man and his father’s wife in the body of the Corinthian church, quotes from the book of Deuteronomy as to how this wicked man’s behavior should be handled.
Paul quotes from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Here is a sample of how it is translated in the book of Deuteronomy in the NASB translation: “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.”
Israel’s spiritual eating disorder
The language referenced and highlighted above is found at least nine separate times in the book of Deuteronomy. The Hebrew word that we see translated as “purge”, is from the root ba ‘ ar. This word and its derivatives are found 95 times in the Old Testament. The primary meaning of the root is ‘to kindle or consume by fire’. In the Old Testament it’s also rendered ‘put away’, ‘removed’, ‘burned and consumed’ and ‘burning up’ to name a few. The essence communicated is of something that is consumed and removed from your presence. It conveys a principle the LORD inculcated through the Law among the second generation of Israelites who were about to enter the land of Canaan and take root in the land as His special people-put away the evil from among your presence or suffer dire consequences.
Many people, upon reading through the Old Testament, struggle with the picture that’s presented of a loving God exacting His judgment in such an apparent vengeful manner. They have trouble understanding the need for such severity in the handling of transgressions among His people, as well as the many times that He commands the nation of Israel to completely wipe out a race or population of people, including women and children.
What most fail to understand is the tremendous influence that spiritual darkness brings to bear upon those exposed to it. Idolatry was so pervasive and rooted in the peoples of the lands, that Israel had also succumbed to its power during their time in Egypt. In order for the LORD’s people to get a foothold in the physical land that God had given for the ultimate purpose of producing the prophesied Messiah, they would need to purge the evil from within the camp (among themselves), and remove all of the influences of the pagan peoples that had once occupied the land of Canaan. It may seem severe, but it was absolutely necessary for God’s purpose to be borne out.
The second generation, for the most part, was successful in the conquest of the land and establishing the physical nation of Israel. However, we know ‘the rest of the story’ of what happened to those generations that followed not long after being settled in the Promised Land. The idolatrous influences of the nations crept back in, seducing them, producing a pattern throughout the rest of the Old Testament of spiritual bingeing (upon idolatry) and purging (by means of the prophets, judges, and righteous kings) among the chosen people of God. See, the problem was the people forgot Moses’ warning concerning their diet. “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3b)
The lesson and example to the church
The book of Judges in the second chapter teaches us some great principles concerning this “eating disorder” in Israel. The LORD would allow them to reap what they had sown, then in His mercy, raise up judges. Once raised up, “the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge.” (Jud 2:18) However, here was the problem: “But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them..” (Jud. 2:19) Because “they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways” (Jud. 2:19b), the LORD in His anger ceased driving out all the nations before Israel because of their desire for the worldly diet of Baals and Ashteroth. He allowed some of the nations to remain to test them, to see whether “they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” (Jud. 2:22b). Another purpose in God allowing this to happen was “in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly.” (Jud. 3:2)
God has raised up the Judge or the church . This one has conquered death and will never die. God is with HIM and has delivered us from our enemy and will continue to do so if we humble ourselves to His word and abandon the worldly practices of the nations. In the church there are those who are given as leaders, judges, who remind us of the need to purge the evil among us so the body is not defiled. This is spiritual war for the souls of men! God is merciful, however, there is to be no spiritual eating disorder in the church of cavalierly bingeing upon wickedness without repercussions. This result in Corinth was the leavening of the body. Sound leaders judge rightly and insure the world’s influences that lead to unspeakable wickedness are purged from the body. There are times when you must judge and “remove the wicked man”.