Archive for category Fear
The conquering of Canaan by Joshua and Israel means is covered in an overview in these chapters. There are some details covered in the southern campaign since it happens suddenly because 5 kings gathered together to kill the Gibeonites, who made a covenant with Israel, believing them to be traitors of Canaan.
Speaking of the Gibeonites, this event has always struck me funny because I haven’t experienced this culture. In our world if I made an agreement with someone who lied to me to enter the agreement, generally the agreement wouldn’t be binding, but Israel understood their word was binding even though they were lied to.
The conquest of the land seems really short, but remember Joshua and the army of Israel just conquered the armies of Canaan, they didn’t occupy the cities and territories of Canaan right away. In fact, God wanted Israel to destroy the armies out in the open areas so that the cities wouldn’t be destroyed, because God was giving Israel a ready to live in Nation. After conquering the armies, the land was divided by God among the tribes of Israel. Each tribe was expected to occupy their territory and destroy the local populations living there. Israel did not do a good job of this part. Joshua did everything God asked him to do, but individually the tribes lacked leadership and courage to conquer their territories. In fact the tribal area of Dan on maps is different from what God gave them because they were too afraid of confronting the inhabitants of their territory.
After the death of Moses, the Lord speaks to Joshua to encourage him and to remind him that he isn’t the one in charge, God is! God tells Joshua that following the commandments will make Joshua prosperous and successful. That is the purpose for all the commands in scriptures, that we might learn godliness.
The story of Rahab is one of the great examples of God’s love for all. She’s not from Israel, and she’s a prostitute, but her faithful response to God’s spies, brought her salvation from the destruction of Jericho, and her offspring (Jesus) will offer atonement to all the world. The requirement of the scarlet cord in her window to identify her home reminds me of blood of the lamb that had to be put on the door frame that the angel might not kill the firstborn in Egypt and of course the ultimate blood covering, our passover lamb, Christ.
With the circumcision at Gilgal, we learn that Israel was not circumcising their children in the period of wanderings. I’m not sure why, but there isn’t any sign of God’s displeasure that they did not circumcise their children, maybe He instructed them to do so during the wanderings that they could start anew in the promised land.
Joshua, one of the twelve spies sent into Canaan 40 years earlier, was chosen to follow Moses as God’s servant for Israel. He wasn’t a king or a priest but God’s servant to do what God asked. To lead Israel into the land God promised to Abraham approximately 400 years earlier. Joshua is told to be strong and courageous, because the Lord will never leave him. Christians are encouraged to live the same way in the New Testament, also remember that the Lord has promised He will never leave or forsake us as well.
The Song of Moses was given by God for Israel to learn and sing. It speaks about the purpose of the song, to be a witness against them. The song speaks to the righteousness of God and the unfaithfulness of the people. It encourages Israel to learn from the examples in the wanderings, but in the end it tells all nations to rejoice because God will make atonement for His people. Jesus’ sacrifice is the atonement promised by God for all nations. It is given because of God’s love and grace, what He asks of us is to learn from Him and follow. So what God told Israel to do in the song, to learn from what went before, is the same thing Christians are supposed to do, that we might walk in the light with our Lord.
The story of Balaam blessing Israel has so many interesting points that it could take 1000’s of words to bring them out. But I will mention briefly the points I find most fascinating and curious.
Balak, King of Moab, is terrified of a nation, larger in size than his own, moving along side his territory. Remember that Israel is related to Moab, they are both descendents of Abraham’s father. Israel is descendent from Abraham and Moab from Lot his Nephew. Now Balak could have reached out to Israel with a hand of peace and would have been blessed by God because of it, in fact Balaam reiterates the promise to Abraham in Gen 12:1-3 saying that those who bless Abraham will be blessed by God. Instead he seeks to curse them and therefore his nation is cursed by Balaam.
Balaam is a fascinating case. He seems to know and follow the LORD ( YHWH, the specific name of God is used here, not the general) even though he is not from Israel. This is a reminder that many people, in this time period, received messages from God through prophets besides Abraham and Israel. Even though this reading doesn’t bring out that Balaam taught Balak how to tempt Israel to fall into idolatry and sexual immorality, It is mentioned in Revelation 2 to the church at Pergamum. Why would God use a man to prophecy who was practicing divination, a practice God condemns? Why isn’t Balaam shocked when a donkey begins to talk to him?
Why did God tell Balaam to go with the men from Moab the second time they came and then tell us He was angry at Balaam for going? In fact the angel of the LORD says that he would have killed Balaam if not for the donkey moving. After the angel is revealed to Balaam, Balaam says he sinned, is he referring to going or something else? Some parts of this story seem to be missing. But we must remember that God does not reveal everything He could, but only that which we need for edification. And in this story we are reminded that God is in charge, and Balaam says well that he could only say what God had said, he could not go beyond God’s command. A good lesson for all of us, if only Balaam had followed his own advice!
Israel demonstrated their fear of men and dying, but they did not have a proper fear of God. They worried more about what might happen to their flesh rather than what God could do to their spirit. So they grumbled and complained when they were hungry and afraid, but did not respect the awesome power of God enough to honor Him and do what He commanded.
In this section of Numbers, 3 men along with 250 leaders of Israel oppose Moses’ and Aaron’s authority. They claim Moses and Aaron have taken their positions by their own power. However they were opposing God, not men. God demonstrates this to the nation by opening the earth to swallow up the households of the three men who lead the opposition and burning up the 250 men who followed them.
After witnessing the destruction of the rebellious men, what does the rest of the nation do? Why naturally they rebel themselves (sarcasm). This episode demonstrates, more than just about any other, the rebellious character of the adult Israelites who came out of Egypt. But even with Israel opposing Moses and Aaron, they made incense offerings to save the people. Finally, after 14,700 people died, the people finally realize they will die if they approach the Tabernacle of God and are willing to submit to the ministry of the priests.
How often have we rebelled against the commands of God yet we were not destroyed as we deserved, but instead we received grace because of the love of God and the offering of Jesus.
Jealousy comes out of Miriam and Aaron, it says because of Moses wife, a Cushite, which if memory serves correctly is from the area of Ethiopia. However, it appears the real issue is over Moses authority as a prophet of God. God tells Aaron and Miriam that the interaction between other prophets was different from that with Moses. Normally prophets received a message from God to speak, but with Moses God and he had conversations, back and forth communication, where Moses would plead with God to change His mind on occasion. How ironic they were reminded of this not long before Moses will have to plead with God to not kill Israel because of their refusal to enter the promised land due to their fear of the Canaanites. It’s funny that Miriam is the only one struck with leprosy, after we are told she and Aaron were rebuking Moses, maybe it’s because she was the instigator and Aaron was the follower as he also seems to be in the golden calf incident. She also had to be separated from the camp for 7 days while Aaron was not.
After the 12 spies return, 10 give a terrifying report of the land and 2 give a good report. Yes it was good, but 10 said the people were too strong for Israel to overcome them, they are discounting God’s ability to fight for them and this is just a little over a year after God freed them from Egypt, who was a stronger military power than any in Canaan. Joshua and Caleb also said the land was good and the people were mighty, but they could do it because God was with them. Of course the people of Israel sided with the 10 faithless spies and continued to reveal the faithless character of the majority of Israel. God wants to kill them and start over making a great nation with Moses. Moses pleads with God for Israel and God relents, but He makes them stay in the desert until that generation of adults died. Also the 10 unfaithful spies were struck down by a plague. I often wonder if God spoke to Moses about wanting to kill Israel, so Moses would act as a mediator on behalf of the people. Whether that was God’s plan all along I don’t know but it still serves as an example of Christ acting as our mediator, who has given his own blood to plead the case for our forgiveness.
Not long after the priests, Aaron and his sons, were appointed to serve the Tabernacle Nadab & Abihu were killed by fire from the LORD. They put fire in their censors that was different from what God had commanded, the literal meaning of the Hebrew word is that it was common. It is sometimes speculated that Nadab and Abihu were drunk when they did this because of the command God gives just after this incident to Aaron and his other sons. God commanded just after this that the priests were not to drink any alcohol when they go into the Tabernacle.
Because Aaron was the High Priest and serving the Tabernacle he was not allowed to mourn by tearing his clothes or any other outward sign of grief. How difficult it must have been for Aaron to go on living as if nothing happened. Especially when you remember that God did not deliver such a harsh punishment when Aaron made a golden calf for Israel to worship and lied about how it was created.