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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Learn From the Past, Embrace the Present

Finally Israel’s forty years in the wilderness come to a conclusion. Moses gives Israel a final “pep” talk.  

First, he reviews how Israel had responded to God’s leadership in the past. 
  • Instead of going up against the Amorites the Israelites request that a spy delegation be sent to determine which route to take and report back.
  • After assessing the goodness of the land, ten of the spies report back and Israel refuses to enter Canaan, in spite of Moses’ encouragement.
  • Ignoring Moses’ warning Israel attempts to go up against the Amorites and are defeated.
  • Israel wanders from camp to camp and avoids conflict with the Moabites and Ammonites.
  • An entire generation of adults die during the succeeding forty years except for Joshua and Caleb.
Secondly, Moses encourages Israel to step out in faith and God grants Israel victory over the opposing tribes east of the Jordan.
  • God gives the Amorites of Heshbon into Israel’s hands, “This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you” (Deuteronomy 1:25). This is exactly how Israel responded thirty-eight years earlier when they faced the Amorites!
  • Moses informs Israel that Sihon king of Heshbon refuses to allow Israel to pass through their land because God has determined to give them into Israel’s hands, “For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done” (Deuteronomy 1:30).
  • Israel totally destroys Sihon and plunders their wealth.
  • Israel faces the entire army of the king of Bashan and defeats them. They destroy and plunder the wealth of 60 towns in Bashan. 
Forty years in the wilderness have taught Israel a thing or two about themselves and God. They have learned that God does what He promises, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). They have also learned not to rely upon what they see and feel but to trust in the Living God, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 
A different Israel faces the land of Canaan from the Israel that faced them forty years before. This generation has never been in slavery, never expected men to take care of all their needs, and never lived in fear of evil masters. This generation has seen manna in the desert, water from the Rock, and fire fall from heaven. This generation has heard the voice of God, seen the power of God, and been taught the Word of God. This Israel has a big view of God, which is the only way to face the enemy!
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"You grumbled in your tents and said, "The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us" (Deuteronomy 1:27)

The children of Israel entertained unworthy ideas about God. They falsely believed that He determined evil against them. Here they are on the verge of moving into homes they had not built, harvesting crops they had not planted, and herding cattle in fertile fields they were given and they are complaining against God. God has proved over and over again that "He is good and does good" (Psalm 119:68). God has done nothing to earn such distrust from His people.

Fear drove their doubts. And, Moses had to address their fear, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert' (1:29-31).

Feeling powerless and afraid, they thought small thoughts of God. Fear does that. How often I entertain thoughts unworthy of the Lord. A Monday of "funk" (a negative state of mind) followed a weekend of illness setting me up to experience spiritual defeat. This "funk" colored my perception of every conversation I had and every circumstance I faced early in the week. I found myself being "moody" with the Lord as I entertained small ideas about God and suspicions about those around me. Feeling powerless made me afraid and fear drove my negative thoughts.

I stood at a mental crossroad. Would I trust His heart when I couldn't see His hand or succumb to being led around by my fickle emotions? Up to me. It is days like these that I turn to Psalm 42: 5, 11; 43:5 and ask, as did the Psalmist, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." Sometimes, when we find ourselves in a funk, we have to look in the mirror and grab ourselves by the imaginary collar and say, "Hope in God!"

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:11
  • Review Genesis 15:13-14. What had God promised Abraham nearly 700 years earlier?
  • Review Isaiah 46:9-10. God makes promises regarding future things. Though many years may pass God is ever at work accomplishing what He promised beforehand.
  • Review Daniel 4:35. What can prohibit God from fulfilling His promises?
  • What had Israel believed would happen to their children forty years earlier? (Instead, the parents remained captive to their unbelief)
  • Why does God not allow Israel to take the land of Seir, Moab or Ammon?
  • Why was Israel able to defeat Sihon and his country and Og and his country?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to root out thoughts you entertain that are unworthy of Him.