"The Briar Patch"

The other day at work I mentioned to a co-worker that he was caught up in a "tar baby". It never occurred to me that he, being from Pakistan, had never heard of Uncle Remus, Brer Bear, Brer Fox, Brer Rabbit, the briar patch, or even the "tar baby". Well, after a little education on the finer points of Southern culture, he came to realize that he was in a whopper of a predicament.

Just like Brer Rabbit, most folks today don't realize what kind of mess they've gotten themselves into, until it's too late. But unlike Brer Rabbit, the briar patch is not our hope of salvation. Instead, it represents what may be our undoing. Please recall the following Old Testament illustration:

Upon entering the land of Canaan, the Lord commanded the Israelites to drive out the idolatrous inhabitants of their new land. God even promised to help them, but they were still ultimately responsible for the initiative (Exodus 23:27-33). He even warned them that if they failed to complete their task, then "those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell" (Numbers 33:55). However, their punishment would exceed this, for He added, "Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them" (Numbers 33:56). You would think with that kind of promise and warning that the Israelites would have been highly motivated to follow through on their mission. Unfortunately, that is not how history unfolded. After dominating most of Canaan, the book of Judges records multiple unfinished "loose ends" (Judges 1:17-36). Following the recitation of these remaining inhabitants, Judges records this message from God:

"I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.' " (Judges 2:1-3)

Although the Israelites were initially zealous, when met with resistance, their zeal waned, and they tried to become comfortable in the "briar patch". Instead of peace, they found constant irritation, but possibly even more detrimental, they made themselves vulnerable to temptation:

"Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs." (Judges 3:5-7)

Not unlike the Israelites, we have found ourselves in the "briar patch" of the world. But, it is not a place of security. If we cozy up too close, we may find ourselves like the seed that sprang up, but was choked out by the briars, thorns, thistles, cares, worries, and love of this world (Matthew 13:22; I John 2:15-17). The question for us is, "Are we gonna' get caught up in this her' tar baby?" Or, are we going to instead, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and … run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1; II Timothy 2:3-4)? If we fail to do so, we should not be surprised when the briar patch entangles and overcomes us, just like it did the Israelites (II Peter 2:20-22).

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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