Meditations in Exodus: 89. Clearing the Way
Num 20:14,17,18 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying… Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the king’s highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory….. But Edom answered: “You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.”
We have endeavoured in this lengthy series to cover the whole of the story of the Exodus from the deliverance from Egypt to arriving at the border of he Promised Land. Now the final outcome shows that actually some of the land to the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan river were given to the tribes of Gad and Reuben (see Num 32) and so technically they are about to enter the land that was to be theirs and so as we are in a transition stage, we will only cover it in basic outline form.
Kadesh Barnea, you will see from a map was in the far south of the Land, which is where Israel return to after the thirty eight years of wilderness wandering. To keep the story short we will simply summarise what follows:
- To move north towards the Land they had to skirt Edom but the king of Edom refused them entry (20:18) and the Lord forbade them attack (Deut 2) so they moved south east and in the process…..
- Aaron died on Mount Hor (20:22-29). They then skirted Edom and going north were attacked by the king of Arad (21:1-3) who they defeated.
- There was then yet another time of grumbling and when a plague of snakes broke out against Israel, Moses provided salvation through a bronze snake (21:4-9).
- As they approached the land of the Amorites that king refused them entry and fought them but was defeated by them (21:21-26).
- The same thing happened as they travelled further north and they defeated the king of Bashan (21:33-35).
- This brought them to the Plains of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho. To the east were the Midianites who had heard all that had happened and were fearful and so follows the bizarre story of Balak who hired the seer Balaam to curse Israel. Every time he went to do this he encountered the Lord and ended up blessing Israel, much to the displeasure of Balak (Ch.22-24).
- Failing in this, Balaam advised Balak to get his women to seduce the Israelite men to overcome them and lead them into idolatry, which is what happened (Ch.25), and God’s judgment on them was only averted when Phineas stepped in (25:6-18), although many still died by plague and the Lord decreed that Midian were to be destroyed (see ch.31).
- This is followed by settling Reuben and Gad in the land east of the Jordan, subject to their soldiers continuing to help the rest take the rest of the Land (Ch.32). This is really the last historical incident recorded in Numbers.
- Moses actual death is recorded, as we have noted previously, in Deut 34 which concludes the book of Deuteronomy and the Pentateuch.
Thus we have observed the final historical events involving Israel as they come to the end of this forty year period of deliverance from Egypt and their travels until the point in time where they arrive on the Plains of Moab to the east of the Jordan, opposite Jericho, and prepare to actually enter the Land. They have arrived! We will in one final study recap all we have seen of their travels but for the moment we might ask ourselves what these final events, recorded above, say to us?
In the previous study we noted Moses’ failure in respect of the water from the rock but also noted that this did not stop him remaining fully active in his final year(s) as he led the people up to the point where there were to cross the Jordan and enter the Land. We usually think of Joshua as the great general who led Israel into the Land, but actually Moses had led them in the first stages. He had been their leader and seen them through the lands to the south and then east of the Dead Sea and he had been the one leading them to defeat Arad, then the Amorites and then Bashan and eventually the Midianites. i.e. he had led them through their first four battles, helping them gradually gain confidence in being a fighting force. He had had to overcome the spiritual battle over Balaam’s deception and he had had to preside over various administrative issues about ownership and settling the Land.
There is a portion of a psalm that we should perhaps consider at this point: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12-15) This is the challenge for the believer in old age, and Moses sets an example for us to follow, being the perfect illustration of what this psalm says. For those of us of more mature years, will this be us? The writer to the Hebrews testifies, “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house.” (Heb 3:5) Will the same thing be able to be said of us when we are gone, that we have been a faithful servant of the Lord, who kept on to the very end? May it be so.