Friday, April 30, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 16, The Family Of God Must Help Each Other

For the past several days Moses has been recounting Israel's defeat of two Amorite kings: Sihon and Og. Israel took the land of these kings, which lay on the east side of the Jordan River. Today we'll see how that land was divided up after Israel conquered it.

"Of the land we took over at that time, I gave the Reubenites and the Gadites the territory north of Aroer by the Arnon Gorge, including half the hill country of Gilead, together with its towns." (Deuteronomy 3:12) You'll recall that in Numbers 32 the Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large flocks and herds, saw that the land in this area was suitable for livestock. The men of these two tribes went to Moses and Eleazar and the leaders of Israel to request that their inheritance be the land on the east side of the Jordan river instead of on the west side, which was in the promised land proper.

Moses was angry with their request and asked, "Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them?" (Numbers 32:6-7) But the men answered, "We will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance. We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan." (Numbers 32:17-19) Moses agreed that they could possess the land on the east side of the Jordan as long as they helped their fellow tribes take possession of the land on the other side of the Jordan.

We were not told in Numbers 32 that half the tribe of Manasseh made the same request as the tribes of Reuben and Gad but they must have because the Bible says, "Then Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan---the whole land with its cities and the territory around them." (Numbers 32:33) Our text today backs this up, saying, "The rest of Gilead and also Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh. (The whole region of Argob in Bashan used to be known as a land of the Rephaites.)" (Deuteronomy 3:13) As we've already learned, the Rephaites were people of larger than normal stature, such as King Og of Bashan whose bed was approximately 13.5ft long according to Moses in yesterday's passage. The whole region of Argob in Bashan used to be known as the land of the Rephaites but it is renamed once it comes into possession of the half-tribe of Manasseh. "Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, took the whole region of Argob as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maakathites; it was named after him, so that to this day Bashan is called Havvoth Jair." (Deuteronomy 3:14) This verse corresponds to Numbers 32:41 in which Jair captured the settlements of this region.

"And I gave Gilead to Makir." (Deuteronomy 3:15) Manasseh had a son named Makir and his descendants were known as the Makirites. In Numbers 32 we learned that the descendants of Makir went to Gilead and captured it and that Moses gave Gilead to them and they settled in it. 

"But to the Reubenites and the Gadites I gave the territory extending from Gilead down to the Arnon Gorge (the middle of the gorge being the border) and out to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. Its western border was the Jordan in the Arabah, from Kinnereth to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), below the slopes of Pisgah." (Deuteronomy 3:16-17) The Israelites took nothing across the border in the Ammonite territory because the Lord commanded them not to touch anything He had given to the Ammonites. 

Moses reminds the Israelites that the land on the east side of the Jordan was parceled out to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh on the condition that their soldiers help the remaining tribes to conquer the land on the west side of the Jordan. "I commanded you at that time: 'The Lord your God has given you this land to take possession of it. But all your able-bodied men, armed for battle, must cross over ahead of the other Israelites. However, your wives, your children and your livestock (I know you have much livestock) may stay in the towns I have given you, until the Lord gives rest to your fellow Israelites as He has to you, and they too have taken over the land that the Lord your God is giving them across the Jordan. After that, each of you may go back to the possession I have given you." (Deuteronomy 3:18-20) 

It was only fair that the tribes who inherited land on the east of the Jordan would have to help the remaining tribes take over the land west of the Jordan. The kingdoms of Sihon and Og were conquered by all Israel's soldiers together. It wouldn't be right for the Gadites, Reubenites, and half-tribe of Manasseh to remain in the land taken from the Amorite kings and say to their fellow Israelites, "Well, good luck on the other side of the Jordan. Thanks for your help here. We're just going to stay on this side of the river in these fortified towns and we're going to graze our flocks and herds in these pastures. But we wish you all the best." 

The men who inherited their land first must go first across the Jordan River and must charge first into battle on the other side. The land on the east side wasn't fully earned until they had helped their brothers get their own land. This is a beautiful example of the Lord's people working together and being concerned for each other's wellbeing. As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12, the Lord's people are all members of one body. If one member is hurting, we should all feel their pain. If one member needs help, we should all want to give assistance. Just as our whole body knows it when we stub our toe on the bedpost in the night, and just as our whole body wants to do everything possible to make the toe stop hurting, we should minister to the other members of the body of Christ. In this same way, when one member has something to rejoice about, we should rejoice with him. The victory of one of our brothers or sisters is a victory of our own, just as the healing of a broken toe makes the whole body feel better. 

All the people of all the tribes of Israel were members of one body. Moses reminds them that they must care about each other, help each other, and work together to make sure every tribe fully inherits what the Lord has promised. No one is to say, "My part of the land has already been conquered. I'm not going out with the army anymore. I'm going to stay home and plant my crops and tend my herds." Instead each man is to say, "I'm going to help my brothers be victorious in battle. They helped me conquer my portion of the land; I will help them conquer theirs. We are all in this together. My brother's victory is my victory. My brother's happiness is my happiness." We'd have far more love and unity and victory in the church as a whole and also in each of our individual lives if we followed the principles we find Israel following in our text today.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 15, Recalling The Slaying Of A Giant, Part Two

Moses reminds the Israelites that they fought a giant and his fierce army and won. With a victory like this behind them, they need not fear anyone or anything they'll face after they cross the Jordan.

Yesterday Moses recounted how King Og (a giant) of Bashan and his entire army met them in the roadway and attacked them. The Lord instructed Moses at that time, "Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon." 

Sihon also came out against Israel with his entire army but the Lord enabled Israel to win the battle and to take over everything that had been under Sihon's rule. Now a similar situation is upon them, only this time the king is a giant, but the soldiers are to think back on how the Lord gave them victory over Sihon and be encouraged. The appearance of King Og was frightening and I believe that's why the Lord had to say, "Do not be afraid of him," but the Israelites knew He helped them win the victory against Sihon and they are to trust that He will help them win the victory against Og. 

In this life we'll face small battles and we'll face giant battles. If our first battle was with a giant we might lose heart and go running for the hills. But the smaller battles train us to fight the bigger battles. If the Israelites had met up with King Og before they met up with King Sihon, even the Lord urging them not to be afraid might not have been enough to rally the troops. But because the Lord had already taken them straight through Sihon and his army, Israel's troops trusted Him to take them straight through Og and his army too. There are times in this life when the Lord removes obstacles from our paths and there are other times when He tells us to keep marching forward straight through the obstacles. It may look like there's no way forward but He will make a way, just like He made a way for Israel time and time again.

The Lord told the men not to be afraid. I can't say whether or not any fear lingered in their hearts asthey went into battle but it would be human nature to feel anxiety while charging ahead against a giant and his terrifying army. But, as the saying goes, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear." Whether or not the men still felt any lingering fear as they forged ahead, they didn't let it stop them. They trusted in the Lord's promise. They trusted in the Lord's strength. If He said victory was assured, victory was assured. Period.

"So the Lord our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors. At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them---the whole region of Argob, Og's kingdom in Bashan. All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages. We completely destroyed them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying every city---men, women and children. But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves." (Deuteronomy 3:3-7) What was it the ten faithless spies had said about forging forward toward the promised land? They said, "The people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak (giants) there...We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." (Numbers 13:28,31) These men weren't wrong when they said there were huge fortified cities or men of great stature. That was the truth, both inside the promised land and also on the way to the promised land. Where they went wrong was claiming the job couldn't be done. If it depended solely on human strength and ingenuity, then possibly it couldn't have been done, but with God all things are possible. If He says a thing is going to be done, victory is assured.

Moses continues, "So at that time we took from these two kings of the Amorites the territory east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge as far as Mount Hermon. (Hermon is called Sirion by the Sidonians; the Amorites call it Senir.) We took all the towns on the plateau, and all Gilead, and all Bashan as far as Salekah and Edrei, towns of Og's kingdom in Bashan. (Deuteronomy 3:8-10) Their victories against these two kings acquired them much territory on the east side of the Jordan. After they cross the Jordan, and when they face more giants and more armies and more fortified cities, they'll be able to think back on the victories the Lord gave them on the east side and this will bolster their faith to believe the Lord is going to give them all the victories He promised on the west side.

To conclude our portion of Scripture today, Moses provides this interesting bit of trivia regarding Og, king of Bashan: "(Og king of Bashan was the last of the Rephaites. His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide. It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites.)" (Deuteronomy 3:11) 

Og was the last of the Rephaites on the east side of the Jordan. Later in the Bible we'll find there were still some descendants of the Rephaites on the west side of the Jordan. You'll recall from Deuteronomy 2 that the term "Rephaite" is synonymous with "Anakite", "Emite", and "Zazmummite". Different tribes referred to these men of extra tall stature by different names. You'll also recall from Deuteronomy 2 that the Ammonites had driven all the Rephaites from the region of Ar and had settled in their place sometime before Israel emerged from Egypt. Now we learn that Og's enormous bed ended up on display in Ammonite territory. Did the Ammonites come and get it from Og's palace at Bashan? Did the Israelites give the bed to their relatives the Ammonites? We don't know but it's interesting to think about why the Ammonites would have wanted the bed to put on display. When we convert cubits into feet we find out that the bed was approximately 13.5 feet long which indicates Og may have been somewhere between 12ft and 13ft tall. I think the Ammonites enjoyed having this bed on display so they could point to it and say, "We once fought giants just like the one who slept in this bed! We drove them out of Ar and took what was theirs. What mighty deeds we have done!"

In contrast to the Ammonites, the Israelites had no interest in taking Og's bed with them. I think perhaps this is because Israel gave all thanks to God for the victory. The Israelites felt no need to point to this oversized bed and say, "What mighty deeds we have done!" Israel's troops felt no need to brag on themselves; they knew the victory was won only because the Lord was on their side, for Og and his people were fearsome foes. Instead of pointing to a huge iron bed and boasting about their military prowess, I think the Israelite troops pointed toward their God and boasted about His military prowess. They gave credit where credit was due whereas the Ammonites, in my opinion, likely gave all the credit to themselves. We were told in Deuteronomy 2:21 that it was the Lord who enabled the Ammonites to drive the Rephaites out of Ar, but we don't know whether the Ammonites (who had fallen into idolatry) gave the Lord any credit for this victory. 

Whenever we're facing a battle, it helps to think back on battles the Lord already helped us to win. And when we win this current battle, we owe it to the Lord to give Him all the credit for it. That's what we find the Israelites doing in our passage today and we could learn a lot from their example. They encouraged themselves in the Lord by remembering how He came through for them in the past. This helped them to move forward in faith and win an even greater victory. Then, once the victory was won, they gave all the praise to Him. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 14, Recalling The Slaying Of A Giant, Part One

Yesterday Moses retold the story of Israel defeating King Sihon of the Amorites, but he told the story with more detail than we had previously been provided with. He reminded the Israelites that none of the towns which had belonged to Sihon had been too difficult for them to capture. In our passage today and tomorrow he reminds them of their defeat of another Amorite king, King Og of Bashan, who was a giant. This man who was so big that his bed was 13.5 feet long was no match for Israel. That's because he was no match for Israel's God. 

Moses is proving to the Israelites that the things said by ten of the spies who looked over Canaan nearly forty years earlier were uncalled for. Those ten men said the cities were too difficult to capture and that the giants in the land were too big to fight. Yet before they ever crossed the Jordan the Israelites fought the tallest giant described in the Bible. Great victories are already behind them, and as they stand poised on the brink of their great destiny in the promised land, Moses encourages them for the battles ahead by reminding them of battles already won.

I want to stop a minute and point out, as we discussed earlier in our study of the Old Testament, that there have been many well-documented cases of gigantism in more recent history. Most of the male giants in these cases stood somewhere between seven feet and nine feet tall. This is not out of line with the presumed height of the most famous Biblical giant, Goliath, who is believed to have been around nine feet tall. King Og of Bashan could potentially have been as much as twelve feet tall, considering the length of his bed, which Moses will mention in the portion of Deuteronomy 3 which regards the defeat of King Og. 

There is no need for us to doubt that there were literal giants in the Bible days, considering there are so many well known and scientifically verified cases over the last several hundred years. What we do not  need to believe are stories of giants from pseudo Scriptures/false gospels which are included in some writings such as the Book of Enoch where you'll find claims that there were giants who stood as tall as a mile high, which is one of many good reasons why this book and others like it have been rejected as being the holy word of God. Nothing in the Holy Bible supports the belief that any giant was ever this tall. In addition, we can look around us and easily see that everything the Lord created on this earth was created on a size scale to serve humans of average height. How would a man a mile high navigate a world designed to fit adults who generally range in height from 5ft to 7ft tall? How would an entire race of people that tall not use up so many resources that they'd render themselves extinct? I can believe King Og stood 12ft tall, based on what Moses will say about him in Deuteronomy 3 and based on an invitation he will issue to any doubters to go and view a piece of evidence of Og's height, but there is simply no Biblical evidence or archaeological evidence that a race of people with absolutely fantastic heights ever existed. 

Og is the tallest man whose height has been recorded in the Bible and in tomorrow's passage we'll find Moses saying something like, "If you don't believe me about how tall he was, his bed is still on display in Rabbah. We fought the tallest man on earth and won, with the Lord's help. Don't just take my word for it that he needed a bed 13.5ft long. Go see it for yourself." I think this information about Og's bed was recorded in the Bible because he actually was the tallest giant Israel ever fought. Perhaps he was the tallest giant who ever existed. His stature was so remarkable that his bed ended up becoming a tourist attraction. This was like being listed in an ancient Guinness Book Of World Records because apparently it was the largest bed anyone had ever seen or heard of, likely because its owner was the largest man anyone had ever seen or heard of. 

This is what happened after the Israelites defeated King Sihon of the Amorites. "Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei. The Lord said to me, 'Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.'" (Deuteronomy 3:1-2) 

I am of the opinion that when we find the Lord telling someone not to be afraid it's because they are afraid. Israel has already faced down the army of Sihon and won, but Sihon didn't stand a dozen feet tall. Imagine how intimidating it was to see a man of such great stature with a whole army coming behind him! Kings in those days were the generals of their armies and they typically rode out in front or marched out in front. When these men began coming into view, the first thing Moses and the Israelites would have seen was King Og, and I imagine their knees started knocking together. They couldn't help experiencing a stab of panic in their hearts. When the leader of this Amorite army first came into view, the Israelites didn't know whether every man coming behind him was going to be as tall as he was. Even if his army was made up of averaged sized men, the sight of the king was a fearsome thing to behold. It was intended to be fearsome. It was intended to send Israel running for the hills or running back to Egypt. Instead the Lord---the general of Israel's army--issued this order: "Stand your ground and don't be afraid. This battle has already been won. The giant is already defeated; he just doesn't know it yet."

The Lord says these words to our hearts so many times as we walk through this world. He says, "Stand your ground and don't be afraid. It may not look like it right now, but this battle has already been won. I've won it for you. With Me on your side, you'll trample giants in your path as easily as you'd step on a bug. With Me on your side, mountains are going to move and seas are going to part. With Me on your side, no weapon forged against you will prosper. I'm fighting for you and I've never lost a battle. It's not possible for Me to lose a battle."

Monday, April 26, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 13, The Amorites Reap The Wages Of Sin

Yesterday we talked about the tipping point of sins. There are a number of occasions in the Bible where we'll find that the full measure of sins has been reached, or we'll find that the Lord is waiting for the full measure of sins to be reached. It's only when that last drop overfills and tips the bucket that judgment falls. Moses has been recounting the time when the full measure of an Amorite king's sins (King Sihon of Heshbon) reached the tipping point and the Lord gave Israel victory over the king and his soldiers in battle, giving to Israel also the lands of this king. The Lord foretold such victories over the Amorites a long time ago when He said to Abraham, "In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (Genesis 15:16)

When King Sihon refused passage to Israel, and when he came out with his entire army and attacked Israel, it was the tipping point. The king's sins reached their full measure at the same time the sins of the Amorites as a whole reached their full measure. Judgment fell on the king and his people. For centuries the Lord tried to draw their hearts away from idolatry and back to Himself. For centuries they refused His overtures, His love, His forgiveness, and His mercy. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Countless times the Amorites refused to repent, preferring instead to remain in their sins, so at the proper time the Lord paid them the wages they had earned.

Moses retells the story of the Amorite king's defeat. "When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, the Lord our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army." (Deuteronomy 2:32-33) No one with any clear claim to the throne survived the battle. The king was killed, along with his sons and all the men of his territory who were of army age and fighting condition. This effectively destroyed his dynasty. No son, nephew, brother, or cousin of an age to rule was left. 

But there were still wages of sin to be paid. "At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them---men, women and children. We left no survivors." (Deuteronomy 2:34) The Lord had said He was going to uproot the tribes inhabiting the promised land and plant the tribes of Israel in their place. This is what the uprooting looked like. When you uproot something from your flower bed or your vegetable garden, what happens to it? It perishes. This is what the Lord meant when He said He would uproot the heathen idolaters from the land, and difficult as it may be for us to contemplate, the uprooting included not only the royal family and the soldiers but the women, children, and elderly citizens too. 

This type of thing could only be done upon command of the Lord. I believe this situation was something unique for the peoples and for the time period involved. We will see later on that Israel does not always completely uproot tribes and clans from the promised land, and when she does not, it always turns out to be to her detriment. Those whom they spare end up being either a military threat or a spiritual threat to them. 

What would have happened if the Israelites had not killed all of the people who were formerly under the rule of King Sihon? It's difficult to imagine how the women, children, and elderly people would have survived without all their able-bodied men who were killed in battle. Who would provide for them? Most of them would likely have starved to death. And if the Israelites had taken the women, children, and elderly people captive and had incorporated them into their own society, doubtless idolatry would have come into Israel along with these Amorite people. That's something that will be proven later on in the Old Testament when some Israelite men take foreign wives who have not and do not convert to the God of Israel. And what if the Israelites had simply driven all the women, children, and elderly people away from the region? These surviving Amorites would have been forced into the territories of other tribes and nations where they would not have been welcomed and would almost certainly have been put to the sword, although some might have been seized and sold into lives of  slavery and abuse instead. Either way, the outlook was not promising for them.

There was no solution to the problem of the Amorites that would have both spared the Amorites and would also have protected Israel from them at that time and in the future. We may not understand why the Lord allowed the Israelites to kill all these people but we must trust that the Lord did the only thing that could be done. We don't know what He knows. We don't think the way He thinks. But we might be able to use an analogy that will help us understand it, at least a little bit. The Israelites are His children; the Amorites are not. The Amorites represent a threat to Israel, both at the time King Sihon came out against Israel and also in the future. If you knew someone was a deadly threat to your child, would you not rather see that person lose their life instead of your child? If that person physically attacked your child, wouldn't you do everything possible to protect your child, even if that meant taking the life of his attacker? If a person was a spiritual threat to your child, drawing his heart away from the Lord and pulling him into occult practices that will ruin his life and endanger his eternal soul, wouldn't you want that person out of your child's life somehow? Wouldn't you want the wicked influence removed? That's what the Lord was doing when He uprooted the tribes of Canaan. He was removing the physical threat of their presence and He was removing the spiritual threat of their presence. His children must be protected at all costs, and that cost means paying out the wages of sin upon the Amorites.

The Israelites took the spoils of war following their military victory. "But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves. From Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the gorge, even as far as Gilead, not one town was too strong for us. The Lord our God gave us all of them. But in accordance with the command of the Lord our God, you did not encroach on any of the land of the Ammonites, neither the land along the course of the Jabbok nor that around the towns in the hills." (Deuteronomy 2:35-37) What did ten of the twelve men who spied out the land of Canaan say about the people in the region? They said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." (Numbers 13:31) They were wrong, because with the Lord on Israel's side, no one is too strong for them to conquer. The other two spies, Joshua and Caleb, spoke words of faith regarding taking over the promised land, saying, "Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them." (Numbers 14:9)

The Lord protected the Amorites until their sins reached the tipping point. Until their bucket of judgment was full, the Lord didn't allow it to be poured out upon them. But as He promised Abraham, at the proper time Abraham's descendants came to take the land away from them. At the proper time He removed His protective hand from the Amorites who rejected Him century after century and He gave all they had into the hands of Abraham's descendants. Joshua and Caleb were right when they declared in faith, "The Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them." Moses reminds the members of the new generation, who are about to fight more battles, that not one town has been too strong for them to take. The Lord has been with them and will continue to be with them. They must encourage themselves for the days ahead by remembering the victories the Lord has already given them.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 12, The Tipping Point Of Sin

Moses has been recalling the time when Israel defeated King Sihon the Amorite. On their way to the promised land, the Israelites requested to pass through his territory, but instead of allowing them peaceful passage he attacked them. 

Moses describes how he made the request of King Sihon. "From the Desert of Kedemoth I sent messengers to Sihon king of Heshbon offering peace and saying, 'Let us pass through your country. We will stay on the main road; we will not turn aside to the right or to the left. Sell us food to eat and water to drink for their price in silver. Only let us pass through on foot---as the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, and the Moabites, who live in Ar, did for us---until we cross the Jordan into the land the Lord our God is giving us.'" (Deuteronomy 2:26-29) 

We have something interesting here. In Numbers 20 we were told that Esau's descendants rejected Israel's request to pass through. We were never specifically told that the Moabites didn't allow passage but we know the king of Moab wanted to drive the Israelites away and that he hired a prophet to curse them. We might infer from this that the Moabites didn't allow passage either. 

How do we resolve this issue? Scholars offer several possible explanations. We know Israel has come full circle in the wilderness during the past four decades. It may be that they were rejected the first time they wanted to pass through the Edomite and Moabite territories but not the second time. Another explanation is that the Hebrew words rendered as "pass through" in verse 28 are the same Hebrew words rendered as "pass by" in Genesis 18:3. If that's the case, then Moses may be saying that the Edomites and Moabites allowed them to pass by (but not through) unharmed and that they also sold them food and water. Yet another explanation is that the king of Edom and the king of Moab rejected Israel's request but that some of the citizens who lived on the outskirts of those territories were sympathetic to the Israelites and let them pass through on the fringes of the land and also sold them food and water. Some scholars believe, if you read our passage today in the original Hebrew (which I cannot), that Moses isn't saying the Edomites and Moabites allowed them to pass through but that the Edomites and Moabites were willing to sell them food and water in exchange for silver. 

I don't know the answer but I don't believe the Bible contradicts itself anywhere. I don't believe there is a single error on the pages of God's holy word. If Moses says the Edomites and Moabites helped Israel in some way, then we can be sure they did. It may not have been a majority of the citizens who helped. It may be that they were willing to take Israel's money but weren't willing to let Israel use their major highways. But I do not believe there are any errors in the Scriptures. I think in this case it's simply a matter of us not having all the information at hand. We don't know every detail of Israel's time in the wilderness; Moses is simply hitting the highlights. The people he is talking to would have known all about whatever the Edomites and Moabites allowed and Moses doesn't go over that here because he's talking about their interactions with King Sihon. In the context of our chapter there's no reason for Moses to go back over Israel's dealings with the Edomites or the Moabites. He just tells King Sihon that the Edomites and Moabites showed some form of kindness or lenience to Israel at some point and that the Israelites were peaceful toward those peoples. He's telling the king this so he will know he has nothing to fear from Israel.

Sihon has nothing to fear from Israel until he makes himself her enemy, that is. If he had merely refused entry, he wouldn't be doing anything others hadn't done. It wouldn't be an act of war to tell them they couldn't pass through. But he's a wicked man and, for whatever reason, he hates Israel. He wants to attack her. He welcomes the opportunity to fight her. Like the king of Egypt, his heart is hard toward the Lord and toward the Lord's people. As He did with the king of Egypt, the Lord allows him to be who he wants to be and the Lord allows him to do what he wants to do. Sihon wants to be cruel and hard-hearted and the Lord lets him have his way so he can be defeated. "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 2:30b) The Lord doesn't force anyone to be stubborn and hard-hearted. But He doesn't force anyone to have a willing spirit and a loving heart either. Sihon works himself up into a rage and the Lord does nothing to stop it because He's going to use Sihon's wickedness to bring him down. The Lord is going to let Sihon attack Israel so Israel will have the right to fight him and take his territory.

The Lord hasn't always prevented people from being mean to us, has He? I definitely believe there are times when He keeps people from carrying out their bad intentions toward us but I also believe there are times when He allows them to be the sinners they are and do the wicked things they want to do in order to bring about something good for us through those circumstances. And He uses it as a means of bringing down judgment or discipline upon our enemies. In the Bible we can find several references to people's sins being complete or filled up, meaning they reach a point where they bring the Lord's wrath upon them. I've heard this referred to as a tipping point, with this analogy being used: They've been filling up their bucket of sins one drop at a time for a long time but then suddenly one last drop tips it over. That's what I believe happened to King Sihon. We don't know all the wicked things he's done in his life but attacking Israel is the tipping point for his bucket of sins. His time is up. The Lord has given him decades to repent and change his ways but he has grown progressively more evil. We can know that the Lord gave him many opportunities to see the error of his ways because the Bible tells us that He is not slack concerning His promise to bring judgment against wickedness but that what may appear to us as slackness is actually a display of His patience with mankind, for we find Him "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance". (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord was patient with Sihon because He didn't want him to perish. He wanted Sihon to come to repentance but he never did and never will. As a result, Sihon is going to lose not only his territory but also his life, and when he stands before the great and holy Judge he will not be able to accuse Him of never giving him opportunities to be a better man. Sihon refused all the Lord's overtures, causing the shell around his heart to grow harder every day. In the judgment, this king will have no one to blame but himself.

When Sihon refused to allow Israel safe passage, and when he amassed his entire army against Israel, Moses must have felt dismayed. But the Lord encouraged him that this was all part of His good plan for Israel. "The Lord said to me, 'See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess the land.'" (Deuteronomy 2:31) What looked like a terrible situation was actually a blessing. That's why the Lord says something like, "Don't be afraid of this wicked king or his vast army. Don't look on this situation with human eyes; look at it with spiritual eyes. I'm using this man's sin to take what belongs to him and give it to you. He just put the final nail in his coffin by coming out to fight and try to kill My people. I won't allow his wicked intentions toward you to come to pass. Instead I'll use his wickedness to bless you. Trust in Me, no matter what your eyes are telling you. I know the situation looks bad according to human understanding but I am the one who is in control here, not the wicked king of the Amorites. Pharaoh of Egypt thought he was in control too, and look where that got him! I showed him who the true King is and I took enslaved Israel away from him. I'm about to show Sihon who the true King is and I'm going to give all that he has into your hands."

Our circumstances in this world sometimes look bleak but if we could see them from God's perspective we'd know He's in control of them and has a purpose for them. He never allows anything to happen to us that is not for our ultimate good. Our situation may be difficult, we may not understand it, and it may not be what we wanted. It may, in fact, be a bitter pill to swallow. We may not know the reason for it until this life is over and we stand in the presence of our Lord. But I believe when that day comes we'll be able to look back over our lives and see how all the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly. And, difficult as our circumstances were at the time, we'll be able to thank Him for them once we see them from His perspective.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 11, No Weapon Prospers Against The Lord's People

When we studied the book of Numbers we found Israel's progress toward the promised land being hindered by some of the tribal leaders of the regions Israel needed to pass through. One person who opposed Israel was Sihon, an Amorite king, who not only refused Israel's request to pass peacefully through his territory along the highway, but who also mustered his entire army and came out in battle array against Israel. This wasn't merely a display of military might. He went on the offensive and attacked Israel. The book of Numbers didn't supply us with many details regarding this battle, simply saying that Israel "put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok". (Numbers 21:24) In our passage today Moses describes this incident in more detail. Some of his listeners were too young to recall the incident, or they weren't even born yet, and it's important for Moses to encourage them in the Lord for the battles ahead. The same God who gave victories to Israel in the past will give Israel victories in the future.

We are told that, prior to being opposed by King Sihon, the Lord gave Moses this assurance about the coming battle: "Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle." (Deuteronomy 2:24) We were told in Numbers 21 that Sihon fired the first shot, so to speak. I think when the Lord told Moses that Israel was to "engage him in battle" He meant Israel was not to be surprised or frightened when Sihon made his aggressive move. Israel was not to turn back or take a different route when Sihon went on the offensive; Israel's soldiers were to fight back fiercely. This was a declaration of war. Sihon started it but Israel was going to finish it. Deuteronomy 2:24 does not contradict Numbers 21:23 where we were told that Sihon "mustered his entire army and marched out into the wilderness against Israel" and that "when he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel". The Lord was telling Israel, "Do not fear when Sihon attacks. I am going to give you victory in battle, along with his territory. Fight back with all your might because I am with you to ensure your success."

The tribes and nations surrounding the territory of King Sihon heard about Israel's victory. I think these tribes and nations were surprised when they heard of it. I believe Israel's soldiers, numerous as they were, were outnumbered by Sihon's troops. Also the Israelites were facing battle-hardened men who had many years of military experience. The Israelites had little military experience at that time, yet in spite of being outmanned and outgunned, they defeated an army so powerful that no one else in the region had dared to fight against Sihon's men. I think the other tribes and nations were forced to conclude that Israel's army was powerful because her God was powerful. This conclusion caused them to fear Israel and to fear (although not worship) Israel's God. The Lord said to Israel before the battle with Sihon's troops, "This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you." (Deuteronomy 2:25)

Some of the tribes in the area dared not make any aggressive moves toward Israel for fear of being defeated like Sihon and his army. I firmly believe there are times in this life when people who dislike us would like to carry out ill intentions toward us but are afraid to. I think they possess just enough spiritual discernment to get a bad feeling about doing anything against us. Even though they don't worship the Lord, they get the sense that engaging us in battle means engaging Him in battle too. They may not serve Him but they fear Him. They'd like to do us wrong but they don't want to get on His bad side. There are others, however, who lack the spiritual discernment to recognize that there is symbolically a "Do Not Touch" message written upon the children of the living God. Like Sihon, they  fear neither man nor God. Like Sihon, they'll go on the offensive against us only to be met with the wrath of God sooner or later. But, as the Lord promises in His word, no weapon forged against us will prevail and we will refute any tongue that accuses us. (Isaiah 54:17) No matter what method our enemy uses to try to harm us, it won't have the effect on us our enemy hoped for. Sometimes the Lord allows someone to do us wrong, but when He does it's for a purpose---to do us good---not for the purpose of allowing our enemy to be victorious over us. The Lord allowed Sihon to attack Israel but it was so Israel could say, "Okay, this means war!", and to allow Israel to defend herself and defeat Sihon's army and take his land. Anytime the Lord allows an enemy to do us wrong, it's because the Lord intends to do something good for us through those circumstances. 

I told you the story a few days ago about how my husband's former employer treated him and several others unfairly and let them go in a manner that prevented them from being able to draw unemployment. This man lied in order to save himself the employer's cost of laying people off. But my husband now has a new job with a better boss, a better work atmosphere, better pay, and better benefits. At the proper time and in the proper way the Lord will deal with how my husband's former boss mistreated his employees and lied about them. When this man lied about my husband in order to save himself some money, the person who actually prospered was my husband with the help of the Lord. But the man who lied and cheated will have to answer to the Lord for his actions. Lying and cheating never brings about prosperity for the liar and cheater, although temporarily by the world's standards it may appear as if the liar and cheater is getting away with his behavior, but the Lord judges such things. The Lord vindicates His people against those who treat them poorly. 

Sihon treated the Israelites poorly and, as Moses recounts for us in tomorrow's passage, the Lord vindicated His people.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 10, Moses Uses Heathen Giant-Slayers As Examples For Encouragement

Yesterday we learned that the Edomites and the Moabites had, at some time in the past, driven giants from the region the Israelites passed through in the wilderness. Today we see that the Ammonites, as well as a group of people of Egyptian heritage, had also defeated giants and taken their territory.

But first Moses is still recounting Israel's wanderings in the wilderness. "And the Lord said, 'Now get up and cross the Zered Valley.'" (Deuteronomy 2:13) The Zered Valley was mentioned in Numbers 21:12. The Israelites camped in the Zered Valley after breaking camp at Iye Abarim, "the wilderness that faces Moab toward the sunrise" (Numbers 12:11) and before moving on to camp by the Arnon River.

"Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, the generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. The Lord's hand was against them until He had completely eliminated them from the camp." (Deuteronomy 2:14-15) The peopled rebelled at Kadesh and would not move forward because ten of the twelve spies provided a negative report about the promised land. The ten spies testified that it was a good land but said there was no way the Israelite soldiers could overtake the fortified cities or successfully fight men of tall stature who lived there. 

When speaking of the giants in the land, I believe the ten spies exaggerated when they said they felt like grasshoppers in comparison to these men. The giants were indeed tall but not so tall that they could step on normal sized human beings in the way a person might step on a bug. Goliath, the most famous Biblical giant, is believed to have possibly been nine feet tall, judging by the descriptions of the size of his armor and spear, but imposing as he may have looked, he could not have squashed a man under his foot. When we studied giants in Genesis we spoke about the medical causes of gigantism and we looked at the well-documented heights of several modern day giants. I talked about how I had stood beside a statue of the late Robert Wardlow, a giant who lived from 1918 til 1940, who was eight feet eleven inches tall. Did I feel small standing next to this statue? Yes, I'm three and a half feet shorter than Mr. Wardlow was. Would I have wanted to engage in hand-to-hand combat with someone that size? Not if I could help it, and in that sense we can understand why ten of the spies, who probably entered Canaan in the same hopeful spirit as the other two spies, felt their hearts drop down into their stomachs when they laid eyes on not one but an unspecified number of giants. Stricken by fear at the thought of fighting men of such stature, they deliberately discouraged their fellow men of Israel from going up to take the promised land. 

On the other hand, we've already learned that the Edomites and the Moabites drove giants out of Seir and Ar and took their place, and the Edomites and Moabites didn't have the Lord on their side in quite the way the Israelites did. The Edomites were related to the Israelites through Jacob's son Esau, and the Moabites were related to the Israelites through Abraham's nephew Lot, but these two groups of Israel's relatives had already fallen into idolatry by Moses' day. I think they believed in the God worshiped by Abraham and Jacob, but they did not serve Him, at least not as their official state religion. There may have been some of their citizens who still worshiped the Lord, either as the one true God or as one of several deities they recognized, but they were not the Lord's people in the way Israel was the Lord's people. And my point is that, if idolaters such as the Edomites and Moabites were able to rout giants and take over their territories, then certainly Israel could rout giants and take over their territories.

Moses now provides another example of people who drove out giants. These people are the Ammonites, descendants of Lot. "Now when the last of these fighting men among the people had died, the Lord said to me, 'Today you are to pass by the region of Moab at Ar. When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites. I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.'" (Deuteronomy 2:16-19) You'll recall from Genesis that Lot fathered a son by each of his daughters after he and the two young women escaped from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. His two daughters, not believing the Lord's word that only those two cities were on fire, believed the entire world was being judged and burned up. In their sinful ignorance they decided that saving the human race was up to them and that, since every man on earth but their father must be dead, they had to have incestuous relations with him in order to conceive children. They got their father so drunk on the occasions when they lay with him that he had no idea where he was or what he was doing. He ended up fathering Moab and Ben-Ammi, whose descendants became the Moabites and the Ammonites.

This wasn't a very auspicious beginning for those two tribes and in Moses' day they were serving false gods and bowing down to idols and indulging in various sinful pagan practices. Yet the Ammonites, like the Moabites, managed to send giants packing. Moses adds this footnote regarding the Ammonites: "(That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; but the Ammonites called them Zamzummites. They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The Lord destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place. The Lord had done the same for the descendants of Esau, who lived in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them. They drove them out and have lived in their place to this day.)" (Deuteronomy 2:20-22)

If the Lord fought on the side of people whose hearts weren't fully committed to Him, imagine how powerfully He was going to fight on the side of Israel! The Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites weren't good examples of people wholly faithful to the Lord but they were related to the patriarch Abraham and the Lord showed them mercy---I believe---for Abraham's sake. If you'll recall, Lot didn't particularly want to leave the region of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot wanted to live a life of spiritual compromise. Lot wanted to live a life of comfort and prosperity. It was for Abraham's sake, more than for Lot's sake, that the Lord sent angels to rescue Lot and his family from the coming destruction. The descendants of Esau were also related to Abraham and I think the Lord showed them mercy for his sake more than for their own sake. Abraham's prayers for his descendants continued to live on long after he had passed away. The Lord heard and honored his prayers and this ought to encourage us to keep praying for our loved ones. The prayers you pray today for your children, grandchildren, and beyond will keep paying off long after you have gone to be with the Lord.

The Lord not only gave help to Abraham's descendants against the giants, but He also allowed people who were not related to Abraham to defeat powerful warriors. The Caphtorites, who were of Egyptian heritage, successfully fought the Philistine group known as the Avvites. "And as for the Avvites who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorites coming out from Caphtor destroyed them and settled in their place." (Deuteronomy 2:23) Were the Avvites giants? Possibly so, or at least some of them may have been, for we know from the Bible that there were some giants among the Philistines. Goliath, was a Philistine from the territory of Gath (Goliath is sometimes referred to as a "Gittite" which was simply what persons from Gath were called; this doesn't mean he wasn't a Philistine). I think there must have been some giants among the Avvites because of the context of our passage. This whole section has been about defeating giants and it makes sense that the war between the Caphtorites and the Avvites is mentioned here because it was a war between average sized men and men of greater physical stature.

If unbelievers can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and be successful in great endeavors through sheer willpower, then believers in the Lord can certainly expect victories in this life. If a person can do big things through mere human strength, how much more can a person do when operating in the Lord's strength? I think this is the point Moses is trying to make. The first generation of Israelites to come out of Egypt were too fearful to believe they could take a land containing giants even though nations who didn't even serve the Lord had successfully driven giants away from lands they wanted for themselves. (We could spend a lot of time speculating about why they were so fearful but I think their former status as slaves had seriously affected their sense of self-worth and their ability to believe in the awesome territory the Lord wanted to give them. Perhaps they couldn't imagine themselves inheriting such greatness after being treated like sub-humans by the Egyptians.) But Moses is asking, "If the Lord enabled idolaters to defeat giants, how much more will He enable you?" The pagans took a town here or a town there for their own, but the people of the Lord are going to take an enormous amount of territory away from fierce giants and from idolaters who have no scruples whatsoever. You've heard the saying, "All is fair in love and war," and the Israelites can hardly expect that the idolaters of Canaan will fight fairly or observe any rules of combat. At times Israel will be outnumbered and outgunned, so to speak, but with the Lord on her side she can't lose. The same can be said of you and me. We are the children of the living God. When the Lord tells us to move ahead, we better move ahead no matter how much self-doubt we may feel. The victory doesn't depend solely on our own strength. It depends on the strength of a God whose power has no limits.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 9, Israel Benefits From Her Enemies' Actions

Moses has been speaking of the years Israel spent in the wilderness. The wilderness years are about to come to a conclusion because all the men who were twenty years or more who came out of Egypt have passed on with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. 

You'll recall that the Edomites, relatives of the Israelites through Jacob's brother Esau, did not treat the Israelites kindly when they requested passage through Edomite territory on their way to the promised land. The Edomites refused them entry and the Israelites had to go the long way around. But the Lord made sure the Israelites had everything they needed, as Moses pointed out yesterday, saying, "These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything."

Moses continues, "So we went on past our relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. We turned from the Arabah road, which comes up from Elath and Ezion Geber, and traveled along the desert road of Moab." (Deuteronomy 2:8) 

The Lord told the Israelites that none of the territory inhabited by the Edomites was to be theirs as part of the promised land. Although Esau lost his birthright due to his own foolish decisions, his descendants are still the kinsmen of the descendants of Jacob. The Lord didn't give Israel permission to take anything from them.

The Lord also told the Israelites that the land of their kinsmen the Moabites won't be part of the promised land either. "Then the Lord said to me, 'Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession." (Deuteronomy 2:9) They aren't to try to take Ar from the Moabites because the Moabites are related to them through Abraham's nephew Lot.

The Moabites were a people who didn't treat them kindly. As you'll recall, the Moabites and their neighbors the Midianites wanted to drive the Israelites away and they hired Balaam the prophet to curse Israel. But Balaam was unable to fulfill their request so the Midianite women seduced some of the Israelite men into idolatry through sexual allure, hoping to bring about their military downfall through a spiritual downfall. Still, the Lord marked out a specific territory for the Moabites and instructed Israel not to touch it.

At one time giants lived in the region of Ar. The following footnote about them has been added: "(The Emites used to live there---a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. Like the Anakites, they too were considered Rephaites, but the Moabites called them Emites.)" (Deuteronomy 2:10-11) The Rephaites (Rephaim) are believed to have been men of more than average height, and they are often referred to as "giants" in the Bible although their name can also mean something like "terrible ones" or "great ones". In addition, the word "rephaim" is sometimes used in the Bible to describe a disembodied spirit or a lost soul because this word became synonymous with something to be feared. I do believe it's proper to translate references to the Rephaim as "giants" because otherwise Moses would not point out their tallness, saying they were "as tall as the Anakites". The ten Israelite spies who brought back a negative report about the land of Canaan said they saw Anakites there and that these people were "stronger and taller than we are" and that in comparison to the Anakites "we seemed like grasshoppers". 

The Emites used to live in the territory of Ar. What happened to them? Apparently the Moabites drove them out and took their land, although the Bible doesn't specifically say so. I believe this is implied because this same passage mentions a group of people the Edomites drove out. "(Horites used to live in Seir, but the descendants of Esau drove them out. They destroyed the Horites from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did in the land the Lord gave them as their possession.)" (Deuteronomy 2:12) Verses 10-12 seem to be saying, "The Moabites drove the Emites out of Ar and settled in their place, just as the Edomites drove the Horites out of Seir and settled in their place." 

We know very little about the Horites as they are mentioned only in the books of Genesis and Deuteronomy. It's possible they were giants since they are mentioned in the same passage as the Rephaites. If this is the case, even though the Edomites and the Moabites treated the Israelites poorly, the Israelites benefited from some of their actions. If the Rephaites and Horites had not been driven out of the hill country of Seir and the plains of Moab at some time prior to Israel's emergence from Egypt, these giants would almost certainly have attacked the Israelites as they passed through the region. Several times now the hardships of the journey have caused a large number of Israelites to want to turn back to Egypt. Imagine how much more they'd have wanted to turn back to Egypt if giants opposed them in the wilderness! It's one thing to fight giants once Israel is already across the border of the promised land; it's a far different thing to face giants before they ever lay eyes on the land flowing with milk and honey. Once in the land they'll know what they're fighting for but right now it's hard to picture the goodness of the land in their minds. The people will have far more incentive to fight with all they've got once their boots hit the ground in Canaan. The Lord lovingly spared the Israelites from dealing with the Rephaim and the Horites on their way through the wilderness and He used people who aren't kindly disposed toward them (the Moabites and the Edomites) to do it.

I'm reminded of something King Solomon once said, "When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone's way, He causes their enemies to make peace with them." (Proverbs 16:7) The Moabites and Edomites were not friends of Israel and did not make a peace treaty with Israel, but they accidentally did good things for Israel by driving giants from the area before the Israelites got there. The Lord can cause us to profit from the actions of our enemies, even in cases where our enemies deliberately set out to harm us. As Jacob's son Joseph said to the brothers who once hated him and sold him into slavery, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." (Genesis 50:20)

I'll close with a personal story. Earlier this year my husband and several other employees at his workplace were unexpectedly let go. Now, a thing like that is understandable in these hard times because apparently the company had lost revenue several months in a row---significant amounts of revenue---likely due to the pandemic which brought about tough economic times and caused people to not buy nearly as much of the product that this company makes. Vast numbers of our fellow citizens have been laid off work since the arrival of the pandemic. But what was different at my husband's workplace is that the owner (a person who regularly demonstrated his unscrupulous character and who spoke to the employees in ways no one should ever speak to anyone) didn't want to incur any of the expenses of unemployment benefits. If you have time and are unfamiliar with how layoffs cost employers money, you can google how this works. I was somewhat aware it cost money but didn't understand how it works til I did an internet search about it. This employer made up reasons to let the employees go so he wouldn't lose any money; losing money was the one thing on his mind all day every day already. He fired all the people he let go instead of laying anyone off, writing up weird and unfounded reasons for their termination. For example, he claimed my husband was looking for other employment while he was on the clock, which was absolutely not the case at all. My husband never did any such thing and couldn't have if he'd wanted to, not having access to his personal email and personal phone, etc. during the workday. Another employee, who had been given permission to work from home because all of his IT duties actually could be done from home, was written up for "working from home too much", claiming they had told him he couldn't. If that had been true they wouldn't have kept paying him during all the months he worked from home, but it's hard to fight claims like this with the unemployment bureau. I could supply other examples of things that happened but you see where I'm going with this. The intent was to lay off a number of employees without it costing the employer a dime because if you're fired you can't draw unemployment benefits.

But what this man intended for evil, the Lord used for good. The Lord gave my husband a new job where the management treats employees with respect. The Lord gave my husband a job where there's a pleasant and helpful atmosphere. The Lord gave my husband a job that pays more and has better benefits. I hope the same is true for all of my husband's former co-workers. My husband's unrighteous former boss did him a favor without meaning to and I think that's probably going to be the case with everyone the man treated poorly. 

This was the case with the Moabites and Edomites. They never intended to do Israel a favor. If they could have gone back in time and not driven the Rephaites and Horites from Ar and Seir, perhaps they would have left these giants alone so they could have attacked the Israelites and sent them running back to Egypt. But what's done is done and the very thing the Moabites and Edomites would have liked to see happen (the Israelites driven away) was actually prevented because some time in the past the giants were driven away instead. 

Isn't God good? He makes a way for His people. He opens up a way forward where previously there was no way. He parts seas. He moves mountains. He sends giants running out of our paths. When the Lord intends His children to have something, He does whatever has to be done to make sure His children get it, and sometimes this means even our enemies do things that benefit us. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 8, Protection And Provision For Forty Years

Moses is looking back on Israel's forty years in the wilderness and he speaks some words to encourage Israel for the work that will be involved in taking over the promised land. 

Almost four decades earlier, after being defeated when trying to go up to the promised land after the Lord said that first generation out of Egypt had forfeited entry into it, Moses says, "Then we turned back and set out toward the wilderness along the route to the Red Sea, as the Lord had directed me. For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir." (Deuteronomy 2:1)

Seir was a mountainous region occupied by the Edomites, the descendants of Jacob's brother Esau. The Israelites were the kinsmen of the Edomites. Because of this the Lord didn't intend to give any of the land of the Edomites to the Israelites. "Then the Lord said to me, 'You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north. Give the people these orders: 'You are about to pass through the territory of your relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put their foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own. You are to pay them in silver for the food you eat and the water you drink.'" (Deuteronomy 2:2-6) The Israelites weren't to take anything from the Edomites for free, either by force or by compelling the Edomites to provide refreshment due to familial obligations.

You'll recall that the Israelites never got a chance to pay the Edomites any money in exchange for refreshments. The Edomites treated them unkindly and refused to allow them to pass through their territory even though they could have profited monetarily from granting them safe passage.

Next we come to a verse that means something personal to me. The Lord used it to give me a spiritual victory over discouragement and depression one dark winter morning. As Israel stands poised to enter the land of promise, the Lord reminds her of the way He's always protected her and provided for her in the past. She can trust Him to continue protecting and providing. Moses assures the people they can trust the Lord by saying, "The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything." (Deuteronomy 2:7) 

How did the Lord use a verse regarding Israel to make me feel better about my own life? I woke up the morning of my fortieth birthday feeling heavily burdened down. Several things in my life weren't going well at that time and I recall frequently thinking to myself, "How did I get here?" I'd made very careful choices for my life. I'd been certain that my big decisions were made according to the will of the Lord and yet things had happened that I never saw coming. We've often talked about the fact that we can bring a lot of trouble upon ourselves by not seeking the Lord's counsel when making decisions, but sometimes we can be living smack dab in the Lord's will and still have troubles come into our lives. We live in a fallen world, surrounded by fallen mankind, and things can go wrong even when we're trying our best to do right. I haven't always made the right choices, but in that season of my life I knew I had made those particular choices prayerfully and with the guidance of the Lord, and still my circumstances had become nearly unbearable. While it's true that some of our hard times in life are the consequences of going in the wrong direction, it's also true that we can be going in the right direction and the Lord will allow us to enter a difficult season in order to accomplish some purpose other than correction. Whenever trouble comes, it's smart to get alone with the Lord and to search our consciences to determine whether our situation is the result of sin so we can repent of it and get back on the right track. But there will be times when we'll come to the conclusion that troubles have come upon us for some other purpose, even though that purpose may not be clear to us at the time or even in this lifetime.

I felt very discouraged on the morning I woke up forty years old. I felt little had been accomplished by my life because at that moment everything I'd worked hard for seemed to be turning to ashes. I was disappointed and somewhat bitter at how things had turned out for me. I could look around me and observe several people close to me who didn't care whether they were in the Lord's will or not and things seemed to be going along fine for them. I had the same attitude that morning as the psalmist Asaph who was distressed by the way the wicked prospered and by the way he---who was trying to live right---was going through hard times. He said to himself in his disappointment and bitterness, "Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments." (Psalm 73:13-14) He said, "Why did I bother to do what was right? Where did it get me? It didn't spare me trials and tribulations. Yet I know people who are living in sin and living it up. They're getting along great without a care in the world." If you have time to read the entirety of Psalm 73, you'll see how the Lord lovingly gave Asaph an attitude adjustment. By the end of Psalm 73 you'll find Asaph's perspective completely changed and you'll find him praising the name of the Lord for His goodness. The Lord gave me an attitude adjustment too.

On the morning I turned forty I hopped on my exercise bicycle in an angry mood with an ugly scowl on my face. I figured things were going wrong for me but that neglecting my health wasn't going to help anything so I might as well get some exercise. I reached over to the bookcase near my stationary bicycle where I was in the habit of keeping the Bible and also a fictional book so I'd have reading material while I exercised. That morning I grabbed the Bible, thinking, "Maybe this will improve my mood," but not really believing it. I need to point out that I'm not a proponent of randomly opening the Bible and taking the advice of the first verse your eye or your finger lands on; that's not how the Bible is meant to be studied. It's not a Magic 8 ball. If we could ask the Lord questions and then flip the Bible open and ram our pointer finger down onto a page and immediately find the answer, we'd never do any in-depth studying and as a result we would maintain only a shallow relationship with the Lord. But on the morning of my fortieth birthday I grabbed my Bible in my hand and just started reading on the page where the book naturally flipped open and the first verse to meet my gaze was, "The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything." (Deuteronomy 2:7)

I have never had my attitude adjusted so fast! I've never gone so quickly from crying the blues to shouting hallelujahs as I did when the Lord said to me, "I've protected you and provided for you thus far. I've watched over your journey through this vast wilderness of a world and have kept you safe. I've never allowed you to go hungry or thirsty or without clothes on your back or without a roof over your head. These forty years I have been with you, and you have not lacked anything you needed." Did I have everything I wanted in that moment? No, several things in my life weren't at all the way I'd have liked them to be. But did I have everything I needed? Yes! I was in a warm house on a cold January morning with clothes on my back, with water I could turn on at the tap, and with food in my refrigerator and in my cabinets. I had family members and friends who loved me. I had pets who loved me. I had a job to get ready to go to after I finished my exercise. There were a lot of things that seemed wrong in my life but there were a lot of things that were right, and those things were the things I needed---the things that were sustaining me. 

I'm fifty-one years old now and on every birthday since my fortieth I've remembered the way the Lord used Deuteronomy 2:7 to give me victory over intense feelings of sadness and discouragement. I've remembered the way He took my focus off myself (the way I was moaning about life not turning out the way I expected and about not having accomplished as much as I felt I should have) and put my focus on Him (on all the ways He had protected me and provided me for forty years). If we're feeling down and we keep focusing on ourselves, our mood isn't likely to improve very quickly. But if we fix our thoughts on the Lord and on all the ways He's taken care of us up til now, we'll find ourselves encouraged. We may not always find it easy to encourage ourselves this way; I know sometimes it feels easier for me to wallow in self-pity. But I'm reminded of the time David encouraged himself in the Lord even though his family had been abducted, his settlement at Ziklag burned, and all his property stolen. The same things had happened to the band of men with him and they blamed him for their predicament and wanted to stone him to death. Even in those trying circumstances, the Bible tells us, "But David found strength in the Lord his God." (1 Samuel 30:6b) David was facing more troubles at one time than probably you or I will ever face at one time. So how did David find strength in the Lord? I think he did it by thinking back on all the times the Lord had helped him before. This gave David the strength to believe the Lord would help him again.

Moses is reminding the Israelites of how the Lord has helped them during their forty years in the wilderness so they will have the strength to believe the Lord will help them in the promised land. The road ahead won't always be easy but the Lord has brought them through a lot already. He's still as powerful as He ever was. He will give Israel victory, no matter how fierce the battles ahead may appear.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 7, Defeat Due To Disobedience

Moses has been warning the new generation not to make the same mistakes their fathers did who were too afraid of the report of ten of the spies to enter the promised land. Their fathers accused Moses (and by extension, the Lord) of bringing them to the borders of Canaan just to let them to fall to the enemy sword and to allow their wives and children to be taken captive. But just the opposite was true. The Lord brought them to the borders of Canaan to give them a great blessing, but it was going to take faith to take hold of the blessing. 

Because the generation who came out of Egypt didn't trust the Lord to give them victory in Canaan, He said to them, "And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad---they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea." (Deuteronomy 1:39-40) If you'll recall from the book of Numbers, they didn't turn back. The people wanted to turn back until the Lord told them to turn back. Isn't that just like human beings, though? As long as something is our own idea, we want to do it, but when we're told we must do it, we don't want to. After hearing the negative report of ten of the spies, most of the Israelites wanted to turn back all the way to Egypt, but now they don't want to turn back even as far as the Red Sea. Now that the Lord isn't giving them a choice, they realize they've lost out on a blessing by being weak in their faith. They won't see the promised land. They've forfeited their God-given right to this blessing. Their children will receive it, but they themselves will miss out on it.

When the Lord told them to turn back from the borders of Canaan, they saw the error of their ways. They repented, which was a good thing, but in their distress over their mistake they made another one. "Then you replied, 'We have sinned against the Lord. We will go up and fight, as the Lord commanded us.' So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country." (Deuteronomy 1:41)  Their reaction is the type of reaction we've all had at one time or another when we realize we've made a big mistake. We make a mess out of things and then try to fix the mess in our own strength, often creating an even bigger mess. The best thing to do when we realize we've gotten out of the will of God is to confess it to Him and repent of it and then ask Him what we must do next. We need to get back into His will as quickly as possible, not make more wrong decisions. Repenting is a good thing but trying to fix our mess in our own strength and by our human way of thinking can actually make a bad situation worse. What looks like the correct route to us may be completely wrong. That's what happened to the Israelites. They said, "Okay, we see we've really messed up. We're so sorry about that. We sinned against You and failed to believe You would do what You said You would do. Now we're ready to go up and fight." But the Lord had already issued the command to turn back. If they go up, they go up in their own strength, not with the power of the Lord behind them.

Moses tried to talk them out of this idea, to no avail. "But the Lord said to me, 'Tell them, 'Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.'" (Deuteronomy 1:42) The people sinned against the Lord, and He was angry with them over it, but He didn't want to see them defeated in battle. Like any loving father, he wanted to spare them from the consequences of mistakes. He warned them not to go up because He wouldn't be fighting on their side. If they go up they will reap the consequences of doing the wrong thing because, again like a loving father, the Lord knows that sometimes the only way to teach a lesson is to let a stubborn child experience the natural consequences of disobedience. The lessons we tend to remember most are the lessons we learn the hard way. 

The people were still in the frame of mind that, "We can fix this! We know we messed up but we can fix it. Just give us a do-over and we'll make it right." That's why they went up anyway. "So I told you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against the Lord's command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country." (Deuteronomy 1:43) If in our own strength we can't help messing up from time to time, what makes us think that in our own strength we can fix our mistakes? The best thing they could have done at this time was obey the command to turn back, even though this command wasn't what they wanted to hear. I've missed out on blessings because of disobedience. I've had to turn back. It's not pleasant. It's a bitter pill to swallow when I realize I'm the one to blame for missing out on something good and for causing myself hardship at the same time. But it's far better to turn back at the Lord's command than to charge ahead without Him. That only causes more hardship. And I've made that mistake too! There have been times when I've gotten ahead of the Lord and times when I've gone places He never intended me to go. That always makes a bad situation worse. When we realize we've sinned, we need to repent and get back with the program fast. We need to say, "Lord, I'm sorry. I disobeyed You. I've made a mess out of things and I can see that now. What would You have me do next? I want to get back in Your will and do what You want me to do."

The army experienced defeat because they were not in the will of the Lord. "The Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you; they chased you like a swarm of bees and beat you down from Seir all the way to Hormah. You came back and wept before the Lord, but He paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you. And so you stayed in Kadesh many days---all the time you spent there." (Deuteronomy 1:44-46) When the soldiers brought defeat upon themselves by acting in disobedience to the Lord, He was not sympathetic to their plight. Instead He said, "I told you so." This too reminds me of a parent who has warned a child not to do a particular thing, then the child did it anyway, and upon seeing that the child was upset over the consequences of his mistake, said, "I told you not to do that." 

I'm reminded of a particular time when I was a little girl and my mother warned me to stop doing something. A neighbor child and I were running madly up and down my gravel driveway and the gravel dead end road in front of my house while my mom and the other child's mom sat in the front yard. It had rained recently and there were some pretty large mud puddles and I was running awkwardly in my slightly too large rain boots. My mom called to me, "You're going to fall!", but I ignored her and fell headlong into the biggest mud puddle out there, completely soaking myself head to toe. Nothing was hurt except my pride, especially since my little friend was laughing at me, and my mom commented drily from her chair in the front yard, "I told you not to do that." We can see why she wasn't sympathetic to my plight and we can see why the Lord wasn't sympathetic when the army forged ahead, against His will, and suffered defeat. 

Time and time again we've talked about how necessary it is to consult the Lord on all our big decisions. While we are all going to experience hardships in this life that are beyond our control, a great deal of the hardships we endure in this life are hardships we bring on ourselves by either going in the right direction at the wrong time or by going in the wrong direction altogether. We need to daily pray for the Lord's protection and guidance. He knows the path we should take and He knows when we should take it. The last thing we should ever want is to go anywhere without Him.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 6, Moses Announces His Successor To The Congregation

Moses has been talking about Israel's previous sojourn at Kadesh when the Lord told them it was time to go in and begin taking hold of the promised land. But the people wanted spies sent in first and ten of the spies came back with a very negative report, influencing the majority of the congregation to want to turn back to Egypt. 

The Lord was so angry with the faithlessness of the congregation in Numbers 14 that He declared no one who was over the age of twenty who had witnessed His signs and wonders in Egypt and in the wilderness would enter the promised land except the two spies who brought back a positive report: Joshua and Caleb. At that time the Lord did not specifically say that Moses and his siblings Aaron and Miriam would not enter the land, but it was implied by His statement. Now, as we study the book of Deuteronomy, Miriam and Aaron have already passed on and the Lord has already told Moses plainly that he will not be the person who leads Israel into the promised land. Moses begins our passage today by remarking upon how the Lord became angry with him because of how he reacted to the way the people accused him and quarreled with him when they ran out of water. "Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, 'You shall not enter it, either.'" (Deuteronomy 1:37)

Can Moses rightly blame the people for his own actions? Well, I think we always have a choice as to how we react to someone else's behavior but I also think Moses was driven to the breaking point a number of times. The job of leading over 2,000,000 people in the wilderness would have been hard even without any grumbling or complaining, but Moses' authority was challenged many times (once by his own brother and sister). His life was overtly threatened once and several other times he had reason to believe his life was in danger. He had a lot to deal with and in his place I'd have lost my cool a lot sooner and a lot more often than he did. I also believe that that, as faithful a man as Moses was, the Lord needed a different type of leader to take the people on into the promised land. 

My pastor preached a sermon last week about the differences in Moses' and Joshua's leadership styles and it demonstrated how Moses was the right leader for the wilderness years (he was the mediator of the first covenant between God and man and he helped the people work on their spiritual relationship with God) and how Joshua was the right leader for the years of combat (he taught personal responsibility and helped the people to toughen up physically and emotionally). As my pastor said, when the people under Moses' leadership were thirsty, Moses brought water out of a rock for them. But when they became thirsty under Joshua's leadership, Joshua told them to dig wells. 

King Solomon famously said that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) There was a time for Israel to heal from several centuries of slavery in a pagan land. There was a time to learn the commandments and laws. There was a time to build the tabernacle and to make all its furnishings. There was a time to learn about the sacrificial system and to begin using it. But there is also going to be a time for war, and Moses is not the man to lead Israel's army in battle. Joshua is the man with the skills to do that job. As Solomon said, "There is a time for war and a time for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:8b) In the wilderness years the Lord laid out the terms for being at peace with Him and now it's time for war with the pagan tribes of Canaan. The Israelites are not to make peace with or blend in with the heathens of Canaan. They must drive those tribes, and their sins of idolatry, from the land. 

The Lord told Moses some time back that Joshua would be his successor, saying, "But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it." (Deuteronomy 1:38) Moses is talking to the entire congregation here in Deuteronomy 1 and this may be the first time he's formally announced to them that Joshua has been chosen by the Lord to succeed him. I believe Joshua is the man Moses would have chosen himself but it's important for the people to know that Joshua is not being appointed solely by Moses. As God's chosen man to lead Israel's army into the promised land, the army is to follow Joshua's orders unquestioningly because Joshua will be receiving the battle plans from the Lord. Just as Moses received the commandments and the law from the Lord and passed them on to the people, Joshua will be receiving marching orders from the Lord and will pass them on to the people. 

I love the way the Lord instructs Moses to encourage Joshua. It would be understandable, to the human mind, if Moses felt bitter about being denied entry to the promised land. It would be human nature for Moses to feel resentful or envious toward the man who will take his place. But the Lord tells Moses to help Joshua in any way he can and I believe Moses did so to the best of his ability. Moses wants Israel to be successful and that means Israel's leader must be strong and courageous. It means Israel's leader must be a man of faith who trusts and obeys the Lord. I think Moses did everything he could to set Joshua up for success. Joshua's success is Israel's success and Moses only wants the best for Israel. 

Moses wasn't a perfect man but we can learn a lot from the examples he sets for us on the pages of the Bible. He never lost faith. He never lost heart. He never considered quitting. He never stopped caring about the people under his leadership even when they wanted him dead. He never stopped interceding for them with the Lord. He never stopped loving them. Whose attitude does Moses' attitude remind us of? The Lord's! Moses was a human being who sometimes made mistakes but he loved the Lord so much that he couldn't help behaving like Him. He couldn't help having a heart like the Lord's for the people. No wonder Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord and to love our fellow man. If we truly love the Lord, we can't help loving the people He created. The closer we draw to the Lord, the more we'll care about those around us. Moses beautifully demonstrated this principle for us by the way he led and loved Israel in the wilderness.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 5, Trusting The Word Of God

Yesterday Moses talked about how the generation of Israelites that came out of Egypt believed the negative report of ten of the spies who were sent to look into the land of Canaan. He spoke of how he encouraged the people to trust the Lord because the Lord would fight for them. Today we pick up there with the reaction that generation had to his words and with the reaction the Lord had to the people's words.

"In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go. When the Lord heard what you said, He was angry and solemnly swore: 'No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.'" (Dueteronomy 1:34-36) Caleb wasn't the only one of that generation to see the promised land, as we'll see in a minute, but above we see that the Lord was angry when He heard what the Israelites said. What did they say? They said, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?...We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." (Numbers 14:2-4)

They said, "It would have been better if we'd all perished together in Egypt without ever experiencing freedom from slavery. Tasting freedom only makes our coming defeat in Canaan more bitter. Or if only we'd died of hunger or thirst in this barren wilderness. That would have been more merciful than having our sons fall by the sword and our women and children taken captive by the enemy. We mustn't go any further. We cannot take Canaan. The best thing to do is get rid of Moses and Aaron and elect a leader who will take us back to Egypt. We'll submit ourselves to Pharaoh and take whatever abuse he chooses to dish out. At least in Egypt we won't lose our families. Whatever fate befalls one of us there will befall us all."

Have you ever heard the expression, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't"? I'll paraphrase it like this: "Better to stick with what you're used to, even if it's bad, than trade it for something else that may end up being worse". The Israelites have something bad in their past: slavery in Egypt. But when they heard the report ten of the spies gave, they viewed moving on into Canaan as being worse than slavery. Why? Because their confidence failed them when they listened to the words of man instead of to the words of the Lord. After hearing the discouraging report about the large fortified cities and the men of giant stature in Canaan, the people felt their odds of survival were better in Egypt than in the promised land. They said, "We'd rather go back to Egypt and spend our lives under the yoke of slavery, and consign our descendants to slavery, than have our men wiped out in battle and our women and children taken by heathen foreigners." That would have been a valid point if indeed they were going to face defeat in Canaan. If these bad things were truly going to happen to them there, then going back to Egypt with their families was the better choice, even if that meant they would never be free. At least they'd be alive. At least they'd keep their families together. Slavery in Egypt was a bad thing, but if defeat was certain in Canaan, Egypt was preferable. 

As we said earlier in the week, when we take God out of the equation, the difficulties of this life can appear pretty hopeless. But God is part of the equation of taking over the promised land; in fact, He's the biggest part of the equation. Could the people have taken the land on their own? I think not. If it had not been the Lord's will to uproot the pagan tribes and plant Israel in their place, Israel could not have been successful on her own in driving the tribes out of the land. Israel couldn't even have rescued herself from Egypt without the Lord, much less have survived in the wilderness long enough to reach the borders of Canaan and then attempt to take it over. Pharaoh and his people were too strong for the Israelites to face down. The Israelites could not have risen up against the Egyptians and won their freedom in battle. Freedom from Egypt was the Lord's doing, just as winning the land of Canaan will be the Lord's doing. With Him in the equation, victory is assured. 

This is why it's so important that we study and learn the word of God. Then, when we hear negative words from our fellow man, we won't falter in our faith. We won't lose our confidence. Has the Lord ever told you to do something in particular and then someone expressed doubts about the success of the plan? I can recall a time of major distress in my life when almost everything that could go wrong was going wrong. Someone I am required to deal with on a very regular basis kept telling me to give up. She kept saying my circumstances would never change. She kept saying people would never change and that it's impossible for people to change. It was a near-daily assault, those negative words. But you know what else was happening daily? I was immersing myself in God's word, not because I'm some great "super Christian" but because I literally had nowhere else to turn. It was the only place, in that season of life, where I could find words to lift my spirits. If it had not been for memorizing and clinging to certain Bible verses at that time, I probably would have agreed with the person who kept telling me things were hopeless. I would have been defeated. But I knew God was part of the equation and I could not accept that He might not turn things around. I'll admit, I only gave my situation a 10% chance of turning around. I was 90% certain some aspects of my circumstances were not salvageable. But I wasn't 100% certain of that because I didn't know what God might do. I knew He was capable of parting seas and moving mountains. I knew He could open up springs in the desert and supply nourishment for a hungry soul, and my point is that if I'd done nothing but listen to the negative words of my fellow man I'd have given up. That's why so many of the Israelites gave up at Kadesh: they listened only to the negative words of ten of the spies and not to the promises of the Lord. 

Not all of them gave up. Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, firmly believed the Lord would do for Israel in the promised land exactly what He said He would do. Moses and Aaron also believed this. Why? Because they placed more emphasis on what the Lord says than what on man says. Because they kept the Lord in the equation, and as we said yesterday, when the Lord is on our side we are in the majority. It doesn't matter who disagrees; if the Lord says a thing can be done, it can be done. 

What happened to the person who kept telling me my circumstances were hopeless, that I needed to give up, and that I wasn't going to receive a miracle? Well, I guess she had to eat her words because the Lord performed a miracle. The change He brought about in my circumstances was as dramatic as the difference between night and day. He suddenly started moving the mountains and parting the seas. Things that should have taken years to straighten out, by human standards, made a complete turnaround within a few short months. But what if I'd given up and given in because of the negativity of someone around me? Maybe I'd have never experienced this miracle. Maybe I wouldn't have learned things about the Lord I never knew before. Maybe my faith would have weakened instead of growing. But one thing I know for sure: it was the word of God that kept me from giving in. It wasn't due to any inner human strength of my own. It wasn't because I'm a person who never doubts or makes mistakes. It wasn't because I'm anything special at all. It was because God's word can be counted on. It was because God's word is a firm foundation under our feet when it seems like the whole world is falling down around us. If we don't fill our minds with the truth we will fall for lies. I guarantee it. We will fall into discouragement and turn back, just like the Israelites fell into discouragement at the borders of Canaan and wanted to turn back. We can't fill our minds with the garbage of lies and have victory in this fallen world. Even if studying and memorizing God's word only enables us to give our circumstances 10% odds of working out, that may be all we need to see God do great things for us. 

What giants are you facing today? What circumstances would you like to see changed? Turn all those things over to the One who has never lost a battle. Allow His words to sink deep into your minds and don't give heed to anyone who tries to tell you the Lord isn't going to do anything for you. That's the kind of words the devil speaks. No matter who is giving us a negative report, behind every negative report about God is the slimy voice of the enemy of our souls. This enemy is the one who says, "You should just give up. God isn't going to change your circumstances. Who do you think you are that the Lord would do anything for you? Look how weak and frail you are. Look how often you fall into doubts and fears. Why should He reward your pitiful faith with miracles? You're a nobody. Your prayers are falling on deaf ears. The Lord isn't going to do a thing to help you." But, in contrast, what does the Redeemer of our souls say? He says that we are worth dying for. Does Someone who thinks we're worth dying for not have any interest in our prayers? Does Someone who thinks we're worth dying for not want to help us in our times of trouble? The next time a negative report comes to your ears and someone (or even your own mind) asks who you think you are that the Lord would come to your rescue, on the authority of God's word you may answer, "I am the child of the living God through the Lord Jesus Christ. My Father loves me. My Father wants good things for me. My Father hears me when I call to Him." 

We'll close today with a link to a song that has been my theme song so far this year. It talks about how the Lord makes a way when it looks like there is no way. Every time I've needed encouragement this year, the words of this song which are based on God's holy word have encouraged me. I hope they have the same effect on you.

"Graves Into Gardens" by Elevation Worship