My parents never seemed to like the girls I dated. During my high school years, I had several girlfriends. My parents would meet them, and would be very nice to them. But I could tell that there was something bizarre. It would eventually come out that they were not crazy about me seeing this girl. I started to think they wanted me to be single and live at home all my life. They would explain to me that I needed to be very careful with the people I choose to associate with in the highest levels, because those that I had this level of relationship with would influence me. Like most teenagers, I didn’t want to hear it, and I went ahead and dated the girl. And, each time, the relationship ended with heartbreak, failure, and struggles. Yet, that would make me even more angry with my parents, “What did they know, anyway!” I would muse.
The truth, though, was that they were trying to help me make wise choices in choosing who would be closest to me, because close alliances will influence. God’s people struggled with this on a national level. Their story begins with a guy named Abraham, whom God called and promised that He would make Abe’s descendants a great nation. This nation would be blessed by God and loved by Him, and that blessing would make them a blessing to all the other nations. But Israel must honor, serve, and trust God to experience those blessings. God wanted them to be an influence on the surrounding nations, rather than being sucked in by the other peoples. They were to be a holy, different people, who showed the non-believing culture around them the true God.
This included trusting Him on a political level. God wanted His people to turn to Him when the nations around them attacked, or tried to influence them with evil. He constantly warned of making treaties and alliances with the idolatrous nations around them. God knew that if they embraced the ideas of surrounding nations, they would also accept their sin and religious views. Yet, this is exactly what had happened. The kings and leaders of Israel (or Ephraim) turned to treaties and alliances with the surrounding nations rather than trusting God to protect them. Often those treaties included accepting their gods and idols, and even included having the king marry the daughter of a foreign king, which involved bringing the different view into the house. Several decades of this had left the people of God living in a way that you could not see any difference between them and the nations surrounding them.
Friendships are important. Followers of Jesus, need to have relationships with people that are not part of the faith. Yet, it is very important to be careful not to allow those relationships to move you away from God and His purpose. Rather, it is important to realize that God has placed you in those relationships to be an influencer, and one who shares the good news of Jesus. It’s also very important to have some friends around you who love Jesus and can help you remain strong in your faith.