Monday, June 30, 2008

my portion thoughts, findable later

Deut 3:21-29

v 21 - the two kings were Sihon, King of Heshbon (Deut. 2:24-32) & Og, King of Bashan (Deut. 3:1-11).

With Sihon, Moses offered peace for safe passage through the land, but Sihon refused because God had made his spirit stubborn. (v 29) I find this interesting because Moses offered the 'right' or peaceful alternative but God arranged the spirit of his advesary to offer war instead. Then Israel passed through the land and destroyed everything - men, women, children. The saved the livestock and took it with them. They did not touch the land of the Ammonites.

Og's kingdom met with the same fate and again Israel took the livestock with them.

Both victories were examples of God's provision for Israel in the face of unthinkable odds. 3:5 mentions that the cities were fortified - not easily conquerable as nomadic settlements might be.

v 22 - "Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you."

v 23-25 - Moses pleads with God for entry into the promise land.

v 26-29 - God told Moses that he should stop asking; however, God did grant Moses a view of the land and told him where to go to see it. He instructed Moses to commission Joshua to lead the people to inherit the land that God had promised them.

In the early 1700's Matthew Henry wrote a commentary on the Old Testament, The Gospels and Acts. Here is what he had to say about the text:

Verses 21-29 Moses encouraged Joshua, who was to succeed him. Thus the aged and experienced in the service of God, should do all they can to strengthen the hands of those who are young, and setting out in religion. Consider what God has done, what God has promised. If God be for us, who can be against us, so as to prevail? We reproach our Leader if we follow him trembling. Moses prayed, that, if it were God's will, he might go before Israel, over Jordan into Canaan. We should never allow any desires in our hearts, which we cannot in faith offer up to God by prayer. God's answer to this prayer had a mixture of mercy and judgment. God sees it good to deny many things we desire. He may accept our prayers, yet not grant us the very things we pray for. It God does not by his providence give us what we desire, yet if by his grace he makes us content without, it comes to much the same. Let it suffice thee to have God for thy Father, and heaven for thy portion, though thou hast not every thing thou wouldst have in the world. God promised Moses a sight of Canaan from the top of Pisgah. Though he should not have the possession of it, he should have the prospect of it. Even great believers, in this present state, see heaven but at a distance. God provided him a successor. It is a comfort to the friends of the church of Christ, to see God's work likely to be carried on by others, when they are silent in the dust. And if we have the earnest and prospect of heaven, let these suffice us; let us submit to the Lord's will, and speak no more to Him of matters which he sees good to refuse us.

The part that puzzles me here is why Moses is told to stop asking for what we assume is the desire of his heart - to enter the land. After leading the Israelites out of Egypt and then wandering for 40 years, you would think that Moses 'deserved' to enter the Promised Land. But Moses had disobeyed God's instruction because of lack of trust (stated by the text) so God denied him entry into the Promised Land. (Numbers 20:1-13). I do not understand why Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it as commanded levied upon him such punishment. God's accusation against Moses is that Moses did not trust God enough to honor Him as holy in the sight of the Israelites. (v. 12) Matthew Henry's commentary points us back to v. 10 and the pride of Moses:

Verses 1-13 After thirty-eight years' tedious abode in the wilderness, the armies of Israel advanced towards Canaan again. There was no water for the congregation. We live in a wanting world, and wherever we are, must expect to meet with something to put us out. It is a great mercy to have plenty of water, a mercy which, if we found the want of, we should more own the worth of. Hereupon they murmured against Moses and Aaron. They spake the same absurd and brutish language their fathers had done. It made their crime the worse, that they had smarted so long for the discontent and distrusts of their fathers, yet they venture in the same steps. Moses must again, in God's name, command water out of a rock for them; God is as able as ever to supply his people with what is needful for them. But Moses and Aaron acted wrong. They took much of the glory of this work of wonder to themselves; "Must we fetch water?" As if it were done by some power or worthiness of their own. They were to speak to the rock, but they smote it. Therefore it is charged upon them, that they did not sanctify God, that is, they did not give to him alone that glory of this miracle which was due unto his name. And being provoked by the people, Moses spake unadvisedly with his lips. The same pride of man would still usurp the office of the appointed Mediator; and become to ourselves wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Such a state of sinful independence, such a rebellion of the soul against its Saviour, the voice of God condemns in every page of the gospel.

Perhaps Moses was told to stop making his request to enter the land because it was in response to a punishment handed down by God because of Moses' pride and lack of faith. We are told to bring all things to God in prayer and make all requests and petitions known to Him, but perhaps once He has spoken definitively on the issue we are to accept His answer.

I appreciate Matthew Henry's summary of the Deut. text. This beginning of my Torah Portion reminds me again of the provision of God and the necessity that I accept my portion even when it does not appear to be what I desire. God still provided hope for Moses - though not of actual entry. Moses saw the land that God promised to give to Israel. Moses' eyes beheld the fulfillment of that promise, and in faith He believed that God would do all that He said that He would.

Hebrews 11:26 says,
"He[Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

And he saw his perceived reward (if only from a distance) but did not receive his reward (in a sense) because his story (his portion) was bigger than his single life. His portion stretched through the kingship of David, the captivity in Babylon, the time of the prophets, the promise in Malachi 4 and the promise of a Messiah, the Mount of Transfiguration, all the way through Hebrews 11:40 where the writer says, "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." And in some sense, I share my portion with Moses and he with I in the inheritance we have been promised that has not yet seen fulfillment.

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