My Bible reading plan recently took me through the book of Deuteronomy. Fun stuff, I know. Who really wants to read the Pentateuch anyway? After you get past Genesis and some of Exodus, it’s all a bunch of boring laws that don’t even apply to us anymore, right? The great thing about reading something like the Bible multiple times, though, is that eventually you’re going to pick up on something you’ve never caught before.
As I read through Deuteronomy, trying to endure my way through a bunch of laws, I noticed a phrase that kept popping up in several chapters. After a section of different laws, God makes the statement, “purge the evil.” At first, I glanced over it because it was talking about stoning people who committed adultery and such, so I assumed the phrase was about getting rid of evil doers. While it’s true this phrase is used in connection with people committing terrible sins, there is a deeper level.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul uses this same phrase, “purge the evil from among you,” in connection with removing sinful people from the congregation of the early church. The reference to Deuteronomy is clear and gives us more insight into the Old Testament law.
The problem comes with our perception of what the law actually is. We tend to look at Old Testament law, and most any other law, as a set of rules we have to follow in order to keep from being punished. God, or any authority, is just some power-hungry being waiting for someone to fall out of line so that he can exercise judgment. The opposite is in fact true.
The purpose of the Old Testament law was not to be as strict as possible, waiting for someone to mess up. The law was there to help the Israelites experience God. Every instance of evil and sin took them further from the presence of God. Therefore, God put something in place to help them get rid of evil and sin, not because He wanted to punish them but because he wanted them to experience true holiness. He wanted them to experience a relationship with Him.
Jesus took it and ran with it when he said, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.” Maybe he meant it literally, or maybe he didn’t. That’s not the point. The point he made was that we should be doing everything possible to purge evil desires from our hearts.
Whatever it takes.
If you can’t get online without looking at porn, don’t get online. Or find some other way to stay accountable. If you can’t resist the temptation to get drunk, don’t go to bars or drink alcohol. If you become easily angered, seek peace that can only come from God.
Do whatever it takes to be holy and pure before God because the presence of God is far greater than any temporary pleasure sin can give us.
Purge the evil.