Driving out of my community I pass a row of large Ash trees—all of them dead. My suspicion is that they have been attacked by a foreign predator called the Emerald Ash Borer. This insect is not native to the United States but to China. Our government officials unknowingly let the insect slip in on wooden packing material brought by cargo ships or airplanes. The borer is actually an exotic beetle that is less than half an inch in length. While the adult eats the trees' foliage, the larvae feed on the inner bark so that the tree cannot transport water and nutrients. The borer was first discovered in 2002 in southeast Michigan. It was found in New Jersey in 2014. As of October 2018, it has been found in 35 states. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, since the borer has no natural predators in this country, it has killed tens of millions of ash trees and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
What lesson does the Emerald Ash Borer teach us? I believe we can make an analogy between this foreign intruder and the foreigners who brought their idols into the culture of the Israelites. God knew that it would be important for His children to be holy and set apart from the world around them. He warned them about adopting the life patterns of other cultures.
In 1 Kings 11 we can read what happened to King Solomon because he did not follow the Lord's instructions concerning marrying foreign wives. (Deuteronomy 7:1-4) He married women from nations that the Lord specifically spoke against. "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." (1 Kings 11:2) Early in his reign, Solomon demonstrated great wisdom; however, as he began to accumulate riches, worldly goods, and foreign wives, his heart became hard. "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods...So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord..." (1 Kings 11:4, 6)
I would imagine that Solomon did not intentionally slide down the slippery slope of rebellion. Though his marriages were for political gain, he became attached to his wives and began to worship their gods. As the number of his wives increased and he became more intimate with them, his heart became hard toward the Lord. His actions eventually killed his own kingdom. Like the borer that came into the Ash trees unnoticed, so was the influence of the foreign wives.
Peter warned against false prophets and teachers and the way they would influence the thinking of believers. "They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them..." (2 Peter 2:1) God told the children of Israel after they entered the Promised Land that they were to be a people set apart from the nations. "You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own." (Leviticus 20:26)
We have an enemy who deceptively introduces us to patterns of sin. They start out small but send us down a slippery slope that lands us into full-blown sins. As we gradually succumb to the lusts of the flesh, we become trapped in a lifestyle that leads to death. Let's be diligent to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) before we are enticed into a worldly behavior that leads us into darkness and death. Be encouraged. "God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear..." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Joan E. Mathias