“Love’s Promises” – Deuteronomy 2:1-19

February 12th, 2017

Deuteronomy 2:1-19

“Love’s Promises”

Aux Text: Phil 4:10-13

Call To Worship: Psalm 107

 

Service Orientation: When we live trusting in the promises of God we can live free, unencumbered and joyous lives without  anxiety, bitterness, or any lack of provision or protection.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:19

 

Background Information:

  • In Deuteronomy 2, Edom is designated only by the personal name Esau, never by the geographical or national designation. The kinship factor is what counts in Deuteronomy’s understanding.  Further, the Deuteronomy account depicts Edom as afraid, in direct contrast to the Numbers depiction of this people as hostile and threatening.  In Numbers the Israelites are stopped and go around Edom, whereas in Deuteronomy Israel passes through and is aided (2:4, 6).  These differences press one to wonder what really happened.  But that is not so easy to determine in these reports.  They describe events from a distant time and are accounts more in service of theology than history.  Deuteronomy 2 and 3 by their very structure assume a theological intention that carries over into the presentation of events.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 37)
  • The Deuteronomic writer has no interest in reporting the sojourn in the wilderness. According to Numbers 20, the people remained at Kadesh for a time, where Miriam died (v. 1), the people had their infamous rebellion at Meribah (vv. 2-13), and then an embassy was sent to Edom requesting passage through its territory, which was refused (vv. 14-21; cf. Jdg 11:17).  The people then journeyed a short distance to Mount Hor, where Aaron died (Nm 20:22-29; 33:33-39).  In Numbers 21 the people are said to have had modest success in defeating the king of Arad (vv. 1-3; 33:40), but after leaving Mount Hor they rebelled once again against God and Moses, bringing upon them the plagues of the fiery serpents (vv. 4-9).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 188)
  • Centuries earlier Yahweh had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that their descendants would one day claim this land. While this plan may appear to have been forgotten for thirty-eight years, the progress of the Israelites from Kadesh Barnea to the Gulf of Aqaba, around Seir to the Wadi Zered, and on past the land of Moab demonstrates that Yahweh had not forgotten his oath.  He was setting the stage for their triumphant entry into the Promised Land from across the Jordan opposite Jericho.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 85)
  • (v. 1) Notice in Dt 1:43-46 the continual use of the second person “you.” Chapter 2 opens with the first person “we.”  Moses did not take part in Israel’s rebellion against God, but now, as their leader, he must walk with them into the wilderness.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 56)
  • (v. 4) Deuteronomy has a kindly attitude toward the Edomites (e.g., 23:8[7]), not reflecting Israel’s later hatred toward its kindred people (Amos 1:11; Jer 49:7-22; Obad 10; Ps 137:7-9; Mal 1:2-4). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 189)
  • (v. 4) This is an interesting reversal of the earlier meeting of Jacob and Esau, when Jacob was the fearful one. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 193)
  • (v. 4) The command not to attack the Edomites is prefaced by the words, “So be very careful” (2:4b). The Hebrew word translated “careful” is shamar, which appears sixty-five times in Deuteronomy (out of 440 in the OT).  We will look at this word in other studies.  But let me say now that the word essentially means, “pay careful attention to.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 87)
  • (v. 5) The Edomites were subsequently conquered by David, 2 Sm 8:14, but they were not deprived of their land. They afterward revolted and regained their independence.  2 Kgs 8:20.  (John W. Lindsay, Commentary on the OT: Dt, 434)
  • (v. 5) Nm 20:14-21 reports a time at Kadesh when the Israelites sent an envoy to Edom’s king, seeking permission to pass through his land, promising to leave it untouched. Instead of granting Israel’s request, Edom’s king dispatched his army in a show of force, and Israel took a different route rather than fight.  Here the Lord commanded Israel to avoid provoking the Edomites and to bypass their territory.  Although this account appears to conflict with the details from Numbers, a closer inspection reveals that these two events occurred at different times and different places.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 31-2)
  • (v. 6) The Late Bronze Age to Iron Age II (1499-600 B.C.) reveals silver as a medium of exchange. Often scrap pieces were weighed out in a balance pan and balanced by (a) stone weight(s) in another pan attached to a balance beam.  Long before coins (silver ingots were used as coinage in some Neo-Hittite city-states in the eighth century B.C.), pieces of silver properly weighed (or gold or copper), therefore, served as payment for various commodities.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 431)
  • (v. 12) These ancient nations are described as numerous, tall, and strong. Yet they were destroyed by invading brothers of the Israelites–surely a suggestion that Israel too would succeed in conquering the land they were about to invade.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 32)
  • (v. 12) The parenthetical, explanatory nature of vv. 10-12 and vv. 20-23 has been cited as evidence that these are later additions rather than part of Moses’ original speech. However, these speeches in Deuteronomy were made subsequent to the conquest of Transjordan (1:3-4), which (in 3:20) is called the “possession” of the two and a half tribes.  Perhaps v. 12 should be translated “just as Israel has done in destroying the Amorites under Sihon and Og in the land the Lord has given to the two and a half tribes in Transjordan as their possession.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 32)
  • (v. 14) Kadesh-barnea was the oasis in North Sinai from which the ill-fated excursion into Canaan was launched. When the people refused to go up into the land, Yahweh swore that an entire generation would die in the wilderness (1:35-36).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 197)
  • (v. 15) The expression “hand of God” is often associated with sickness and pestilence in the OT (Ex 9:3; 1 Sm 5:9; Jer 15:17-18; 21:5-6; Ps 32:3-4; 38:3-4 [2-3], also in Egyptian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic texts (J.J.M. Roberts 1971). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 198)
  • (v. 18) Numbers says nothing about an encounter with the Moabites, as in the case of the Edomites, perhaps because it fully reports the Balak and Balaam incident after the victories over Sihon and Og (Nm 22-24), also Israel’s romp with the daughters of Moab and Baal of Peor (Nm 25). Numbers reports only the encampments up to Ar, on Moab’s northern border (Nm 21:10-15; cf. 33:41-44).  Jdg 11:17-18 says that Israel sent an embassy to the king of Moab requesting passage through his land, but the king refused.  The people therefore did not enter Moabite territory.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 195)
  • (v. 19) After thirty-eight years of aimlessly circling the desert, Israel was on the march, passing successively through the territorial possessions of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 80)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is God teaching His people in Deuteronomy 2:1-19?

 

Answer:  God promises He will provide and protect His people if they will simply trust Him to do so in His good time and in His good way.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Provide

 

What are we to learn from this passage?:

I-  God promises to provide and protect the children of Abraham by faith even when family doesn’t.  (Dt 2:4-19; see also: Gn 18:19; 19:30-38; 36:8; 28:19; 50:24; Ex 3:17; Nm 20:14-21; Jdg 11:18; Ps 27:10; Acts 2:39; Rom 4:13-21; Gal 3:14-29; Phil 4:10-13)

 

The people who had insulted God by not trusting Him wanted for nothing!  The Lord gave them food, clothing, and protection.  He knew their path in the wilderness and for forty years He took care of them.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 57)

 

In the account in Numbers (20:14-21) we see what really happened with Edom.  The Israelites asked for food, water, and safe passage, but the Edomites refused.  In fact they came up against Israel.  But Israel obeyed God’s command not to attack them, even though they may have had a much larger army than the Edomites.  Instead they took a somewhat circuitous route north without going through Edomite territory.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 86)

 

According to biblical tradition, Ammon was another son of Lot, Abraham’s nephew.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 200)

 

Before this, as v. 7 shows, the Israelites had lived off the land.  The Lord had supplied manna and other food and water as needed.  Now they were to buy food and water as they moved through (and around) Edomite territory.  Manna, however, did not completely cease until the day after the first celebration of the Passover at Gilgal in Canaan under Joshua (Josh 5:10-12).  Perhaps the manna was gradually phased out.  Ex 16:35 says that the people ate manna “until they came to a land that was settled; . . . until they reached the border of Canaan.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 31)

 

The same historical ties that linked Israel with Moab also joined her to Ammon.  Like Moab, Ammon was descended from Lot through an incestuous relationship with his daughter (Gn 19:30-38).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 34)

 

Moses does not explain why Yahweh had the Israelites enter Canaan from the east across the Jordan rather than relaunching the campaign from Kadesh Barnea in the south.  But to get to the eastern shore of the Jordan, the Israelites needed to negotiate their way carefully through a series of states, all of which were related to the Israelites by blood and were themselves just coming into their own.  The Edomites living in Seir were the closest relatives, being descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob (cf. Gn 36).  The Moabites and Ammonites were descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot by his two daughters (Gn 19:30-38; cf. Dt 2:9, 19).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 80-1)

 

It might, indeed, seem wonderful that, since the memory of their origin was detestable, these two nations should have been so dear to God.  Ammon and Moab had been born of an incestuous connection.  It was, therefore, more reasonable that this tragical circumstance should have been buried by their destruction, than that they should have been distinguished by God’s favor from the common lot of other nations, as if their nobility rendered them superior to others.  But let us learn from hence, that since God’s judgments, like a deep abyss, are beyond our apprehension, they would be regarded with reverence.  Lot’s distinguished piety is expressly declared.  The disgraceful crime, which he committed when drunk, it pleased God so to mark with perpetual infamy, as still to impress upon it some signs of His mercy, although this was done especially for the sake of Abraham himself.  It is unquestionable, however, that God recommends the posterity of Lot to the Israelites on this ground, that they may more willingly exercise kindness towards them, and abstain from all injury, when they had to do with two nations whom they see to be cared for by God Himself, for the sake of their common relationship to Abraham.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 165-6)

 

Blessing in the OT is defined largely–though not entirely–in terms of prosperity (Gn 24:35), which is what is being lifted up here.  Yahweh provided food and water in the wilderness, increased Israel numerically (1:10-11), and promised it a land of its own, some of which has already been obtained. The people therefore had no need of Edomite land.  Besides, Yahweh was not giving it to them.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 190-1)

 

II-  God promises to provide and protect His people even when it seems impossible to do so.  (Dt 2:7; see also: Nm 23:19; Dt 8:1-5; 9:3; Josh 23:10; Neh 9:21; Ps 107; Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 1:37; 18:27; Acts 7:5; Heb 6:12; 10:23; ch 11)

 

As Charles Wesley says:  “Faith, precious faith, the promise sees, and looks to that alone; laughs at impossibilities, and cries, it shall be done!”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 164)

 

The explanatory notes (vv. 10-12) leave the impression that no enemy is invincible.  If the Moabites could drive out the people of Emim who were “great and numerous and tall” and if Esau’s descendants could expel the Horites, then surely God could give Canaan to Israel, regardless of the opposition.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 59)

 

You can’t break God’s promises by leaning on them!

 

. . . God often works by contraries:  when he means to give victory, he will allow us to be foiled at first; when he means to comfort, he will terrify first; when he means to justify, he will condemn us first; when he means to make us glorious, he will abase us first.  A Christian conquers, even when he is conquered.  When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security.  (Richard Sibbes; The Bruised Reed, 95)

 

III-  God is Lord over the Universe so there exists no obstacle preventing Him from keeping His promises.  (Dt 2:5, 7, 9, 19; see also: Gn 38-50; Israel’s bondage in Egypt; crossing the Red Sea; 1 Chr 29:11-12; Ps 24:1; 115:3; Isa 38:7; 40:22-23; Jer 27:1-7; Amos 9:7; Acts 17:24-26; Rom 4:13-21; Heb 6:18)

 

There’s nothing worse than insecurity.  So many people live in fear because they are uncertain about what comes next and their standing before God, if they even believe in God.  On the flip side, there’s nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child.  This is precisely the confidence the Holy Spirit offers us.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 103)

 

This text also teaches a profound lesson on God’s involvement in all human affairs.  In later times the Israelites would take pride in their unique election for covenant relationship with God.  However, as Amos will remind his hearers in Amos 9:7, apart from faith and covenant loyalty, the migration of Israel from Egypt was a migration like that of any other nation.  And as Paul would declare to the Athenians more than a millennium later, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” . . . Yahweh, the God of Israel, exercises sovereignty over all nations in all times.  Like pieces on a chessboard, he moves them around; he removes some and replaces them with others, and he determines their places.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 86)

 

It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.  —George Washington

 

Deuteronomy allows us at various times to see God’s faithfulness to other nations besides Israel.  This sovereignty should have encouraged the Israelites to enter their Land of Promise.  If God would honor Edom’s (v. 5) and also Moab’s (v. 9) right to possess their land, how much more would He honor Israel’s right to possess Canaan.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 58)

 

Yahweh has given the land of Seir to Edom, just as he has given Canaan to Israel, as their ‘inheritance’.  The theology of Yahweh’s gift of land is thus set in a broad context; Yahweh has power far beyond Israel, and controls the destinies of the other nations also.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 82-3)

 

The driving out of nations and the gift of land to Israel were a tremendous historical encouragement and also a tremendous historical warning.  God could and would do the same to Israel if they gave cause by following the ways of the nations (cf. Lv 18:24-28; 20:22-24).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 37)

 

For Lot was no less an alien than Abraham; Moses, therefore, states how by special privilege the posterity of Lot became masters of that land which giants had previously possessed.  For it was not by human means that, having driven out the giants, who were formidable to all men, they had obtained the peaceful occupation, and even the dominion of that land, which might have seemed to be invincible, from the valor and strength of its inhabitants.  He says, therefore, that the giants dwelt there, as also in Mount Seir; and that both were overcome and destroyed, not so much by the hand and arms of men as by the power of God, so that their land might be cleared for possession as well for the children of Easu as for those of Lot.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 164)

 

The complexities of the actual events present reality that the Lord gave the Israelites the land; divine power and intention affected and effected all the events along their way to claiming it.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 38)

 

The Lord gave Israel two reasons not to provoke Edom:  he had blessed Israel richly during their forty-year stay in the wilderness, and the Edomites were their brothers, descended from Jacob’s brother Esau (Gn 36:1).  Similarly, the Lord’s command that Israel not harass the Moabites is based on their ancestral relationship. The Moabites were descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot (Gn 19:30-38).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 32)

 

There are some differences between the account of Israel’s dealings with Edom contained in Deuteronomy and that in Nm 20:14-21.  Deuteronomy uses descendants of Esau rather than Edom, in order to highlight the claim of kinship (cf. Gn 36).  Deuteronomy omits the request of Moses to pass through Edomite territory and its outright rejection by the king of Edom, thus passing over the hostility implied in the Numbers narrative.  These differences doubtlessly stem from Deuteronomy’s overall theological aim to compare the fates of the five nations.  Conversely, the idea of Yahweh having given the land of Edom to Esau is not found in Numbers, but is Deuteronomy’s way of adding to the theological interpretation of history.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 35)

 

Moab was not to be conquered either, not because of a particularly benevolent attitude toward Moab (cf. 23:3-6), but simply because Yahweh had given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.  When Deuteronomy’s prominent land theology in relation to Israel’s possession of Canaan is taken into account, this direct statement that Yahweh had given other lands to other peoples, supported by the parenthetical notes that follow, is quite remarkable.  Three times this passage says that Yahweh had given land to other peoples–Edom (v. 5), to Moab (v. 9), and to Ammon (v. 9)–using the same vocabulary as is characteristically used of his land-gift to Israel.  On top of this, the antiquarian footnotes (vv. 10-12 and vv. 20-23) inform us that the processes of migration and conquest that lay behind the then current territorial map had also been under the control of Yahweh.  Not only is the same language used as for Israel’s settlement, but the comparison is explicitly drawn: other nations had conquered and settled just as Israel did in the land the LORD gave them as their possession (v. 12).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 35-36)

 

The affirmation of Yahweh’s gift of land to Israel in fulfillment of his promise to Abraham is one of the fundamental pillars of Deuteronomy’s whole worldview.  However, it was, in principle and at a purely historical level, no different from what God had done in other nations.  In the immediate context, Israel’s defeat and territorial takeover of the lands of Sihon and Og was no different from other nations’ earlier migrations and forceful settlements; all are attributed to the sovereign disposition of Yahweh.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 36)

 

As I have said, this was painful and burdensome, that they should cherish kindness and fraternal good-will towards those who treated them with hostility; but God desired in this respect also to prove the obedience of His people.  He did not, then, take into consideration what this nation had deserved; but, inasmuch as they were the descendants of Lot, and consequently of the race of Abraham, He desired to treat them with special favor.  For the division of the whole world appertains to Him, so as to distribute to its various peoples whatever part He chooses, and to fix the bounds wherein they should confine themselves.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 163)

 

The comment in verse 22, “The LORD had done the same for the descendants of Esau,” suggests we should view Edom’s displacement of the Horites as paradigmatic.  Just as Yahweh had destroyed the Horites and delivered their land into the Edomites’ hands, so he had done for the Ammonites, and so he would do for Israel.  While verse 12 has the Edomites destroying the Horites, verse 22 attributes the action to God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 82)

 

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”  I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the builders of Babel:  We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.  And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service. (Benjamin Franklin speech at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 as he made a moving appeal for prayer).

 

IV-  God’s promises are conditional in that He will not keep them if we (in our faithlessness) rebel and reject His care over us.  (Nm 14:23-35; 32:11; Dt 6:3, 18; 8:1; 28:9; Josh 23:14-15; 1 Sm 2:30; 1 Kgs 8:24-26; 2 Chr 6:15-17; 1 Cor 10:1-13; Heb 4:1-2; 10:36)

 

This part of Moses’ speech also demonstrates that God is faithful to his threats.  Because the faithless Israelites had refused to enter the Promised Land from Kadesh Barnea, Yahweh swore to destroy that generation in the desert and start over with a new people.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 85)

 

The punishment or discipline included negative consequences on earth.  Sin does hinder our progress.  But if we are open to God during this time, we know that he will look after us and meet our needs.  Discipline is a lonely time, and sometimes even God seems to be silent.  But God is working in the midst of these experiences.  Our job is to be obedient and to follow his instructions.  If we are faithful to his covenant, he will be faithful to us.  We must not attempt to bypass the discipline.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 87-8)

 

The Will of God will never take you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.

 

Wesley himself warned:  “Let, therefore, none presume on past mercies, as if they were out of danger.”  In other words, never take God for granted.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 60)

 

God established laws for family, society and culture to protect the weak, the vulnerable and the disabled as well as to protect families because these laws serve to protect society and culture.  To protect society and culture is to protect the nation in which they live.  To fail to protect family, society, culture, the weak, the vulnerable and the disabled is to fail to protect the nation and leave it  vulnerable and exposed.   In America, we are discarding these protective laws and we are just now beginning to see the resulting consequences of our discarding God’s protective laws.  If we continue in this direction we will find ourselves welcoming the beginning of hell in America where everyone does what is right in his own eye.  —Keith Porter

 

God parents us by hindering, and at times directly resisting, our ill-motivated actions.  God guides not by coercing freedom directly but by putting obstacles in the way of our hurting ourselves, like the parent who builds a fence so the child will not go into the street.  The child still may find a way to get into the street, but not without confronting the serious effort of the parent at placing an obstacle in harm’s way.  “It was I,” the Lord revealed to Abraham, “who held you back from committing a sin against me” (Gn 20:6).  Satan’s complaint to God in the prologue of Job asked:  “Have you not hedged him round on every side with your protection?” (Job 1:10; cf. 3:23).  (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 301)

 

We must realize that it is not Satan who defeats us; it is our openness to him.  To perfectly subdue the devil we must walk in the “shelter of the Most High” (Ps 91:1).   Satan is tolerated for one purpose:  the warfare between the devil and God’s saints thrust us into Christlikeness, where the nature of Christ become our only place of rest and security.   God allows warfare to facilitate His eternal plan, which is to make man in His image.  —Francis Frangipane  (Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word, 323)

 

The Moabites, we may say, had a “Given Land”; the big difference was that Israel received a “Promised Land”, since God chose to reveal his purposes to them beforehand.  The other peoples were out of touch with the true God, but that in no way diminished their rights before God.  In the same passage we see God giving lands to those who did not serve him, while denying land to a generation of Israelites who had seriously disobeyed him.  This is an interesting contrast, and warns us against any naive idea that God will automatically grant Christian individuals (or nations) every success in life, or that he will casually ignore the needs and rights of non-Christians.  None of his relationships with men and women is casual; they are all governed by his principles of working and by his purposes, although both may be hidden from us at the time.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 18)

 

The expression “[Yahweh] has blessed you in everything you have done.” (Lit. “The work of your hand”) recurs, with variations, several times in the book (14:29; 15:10; 16:15; 24:19; 30:9).  In these cases the context is always the promise of reward in return for faithfulness to the covenant; “the work of your hand” usually refers to the Israelites’ regular labors in an agricultural context.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 83)

 

The saddest words ever penned are these:  “What might have been.”  Now the children of Israel turn away from a dream to die.  In one of his songs, singer-songwriter Mac Davis said, “There is nothing to do but bury a man when his dreams are gone.”  That could have been said of the Israelites.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 56)

 

This lengthy narrative opens the Book of Deuteronomy with a history lesson whose focus is primarily on the persistent fearfulness and disobedience of a people in the face of an experience of the gracious love of God.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 36)

 

Elsewhere Deuteronomy warns Israel against reading any kind of privileged superiority or pride into their remarkable history, whether numerical (7:7-8), economic (8:17-18), or moral (9:4-6).  Amos shocked the people by putting Israel’s exodus on the same level as other migrations orchestrated by Yahweh (Amos 9:7), and Jeremiah risked a public lynching by suggesting that Yahweh could destroy his temple and revoke the gift of land by expelling the people (Jer 7:1-7, 26).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 37)

 

According to the teaching of our Lord, what is wrong with the world is precisely that it does not believe in God. Yet it is clear that the unbelief which he so bitterly deplored was not an intellectual persuasion of God’s non-existence.  Those whom he rebuked for their lack of faith were not men who denied God with the top of their minds, but men who, while apparently incapable of doubting him with the top of their minds, lived as though he did not exist.  (John Baillie; Our Knowledge of God)

 

We have a very interesting paradox here.  Verse 7 says that God was with these people and provided for them all this time.  Verse 15 says that at the same time he was “against them.”  They were still God’s people, but they will not get the blessing of entering the land.  Putting it in today’s language, they were saved people, but because of their disobedience they would not receive the honors and fruitfulness that should have been theirs.  They were disqualified from receiving the prize (1 Cor 9:27).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 91-2)

 

This passage has two paradoxes.  The first is that God provides for us but does not make us immune to wilderness experiences.  Life is not always easy.  But God is with us and will work out his purposes for us even through the wilderness.  Second, God will bless us and give us great victories for him but even after that we can disobey and forfeit his final blessing.  Let us be encouraged by God’s presence and power and be warned about the dangers of rebellion and stubbornness.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 92)

 

When [Richard] Baxter wrote his famous treatise on heaven, every time he looked down and saw his tumor he was reminded that heaven was drawing near.  It was easy for him to be enamored with heaven–his body wouldn’t let him forget it.  Our surgical and medical advancements lull us into a false security, causing us to forget that we are one missed heartbeat away from heaven.  When life becomes easier, faith, to the secular mind, becomes less important.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 166)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who  will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:19; Jam 2:5; 2 Pt 1:4)

 

The shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor.

 

The one who kneels to the Lord can stand up to anything.  —sent by Carole Jacobus

 

It is impossible to lose your footing while on your knees. —Sign on  Thomas Ramundo’s desk

 

My feelings are important for many things.  They are essential and valuable.  They keep me aware of much that is true and real.  But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God.  My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel.  Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not by what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people.”  The image that announces the dependable, unchanging, safe, secure existence of God’s people comes from geology, not psychology. (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 83)

 

Protection of a nation’s land,

Does not come from its mighty hand;

Security is just a fraud.

Unless the people trust in God.

 

Gospel Application:  Never forget it is by grace through faith in Jesus that allows you to enjoy the promises of God.  (Rom 4:13-21; Gal 3:14-29; 2 Cor 1:20; )

 

The promises of God are not given so that we can do and have, but so that we can be (found in Him).  That is why the promises of God are not made to us as individuals but to Jesus, as the apostle explains:  “for as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor 1:20).  Paul further clarified this to the Galatians: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one:  ‘And to your seed’ that is Christ” (Gal 3:16).  He reiterated this again in his letter to the Ephesians:  “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.  These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph 1:18-19).  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 67)

 

Because of Christ and his work God does not reckon or count our sin against us; he does not take our sins into account in his attitude toward us.  Similarly because God turns everything to good, we do not hold grudges against those who refuse to help us and oppose us.  We have no need to because the unpleasant action has become something that God used to benefit us.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 89)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  (Ps 119:50, 116, 162; 1 Pt 5:7)

 

The battle against despondency is a battle to believe the promises of God.  And that belief in God’s future grace come by hearing the Word.   And so preaching to ourselves is at the heart of the battle.  But I stress again that the issue is this chapter is not mainly how to avoid meeting despondency, but how to fight it when it comes.  (John Piper; Future Grace, 304)

 

Christians don’t keep grudges because they have no need to, considering that God turned the evil done to them into good.  Indeed, when love is rejected, there will be hurt.  But the hurt does not grow into bitterness because we know God will turn it into something good.  We may feel sorry for the person, we may be sad that our loving overtures were rejected, but we will not be bitter.  Some Christians live with the sense that they have been wronged.  They are carrying a huge and unnecessary burden that takes away their joy.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 89-90)

 

Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace.  As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety.  The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 54)

 

One way to be humble is to cast your anxieties on God.  Which means that one hindrance to casting your anxieties on God is pride.  Which means that undue worry is a form of pride.  Now why is casting our anxieties on the Lord the opposite of pride?  Because pride does not like to admit that it has any anxieties.  And if pride has to admit it, it still does not like to admit that the remedy might be trusting someone else who is wiser and stronger.  In other words, pride is a form of unbelief and does not like to trust in future grace.  Faith admits the need for help.  Pride won’t.  Faith banks on God to give help.  Pride won’t.  Faith casts anxieties on God.  Pride won’t.  Therefore the way to battle the unbelief of pride is to admit freely that you have anxieties, and to cherish the promise of future grace in the words, “He cares for you.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 96)

 

The presence of God brings with it all that God is.  He doesn’t leave pieces and parts of Himself behind.  He blesses us with the fullness of His partnership in our lives.  His presence guarantees His protecting power, His sovereign direction, His unsurpassed wisdom, His tender loving care, and His just involvement in our lives.  To be afraid, to permit fear to shadow our souls, is to deny His presence.  Yet, embracing by faith the reality of His presence convinces us that He will fully secure us–regardless.  (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series 23)

 

The essence of Satan’s strategy, however, is to weaken a Christian’s faith in such precious and great promises as, e.g., Rom 8:28 (“in everything God works for good with those who love him”), by means of the lie that the tribulations and misfortunes that befall Christians can deprive them of any hope for a bright future (1 Thess 3:2-5).  Satan’s game plan is to destroy the Christian’s confidence that God’s plans are “for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).  So to be victorious against Satan, Christians must understand the necessity of being armed with “the shield of faith” i.e., of having an arsenal of promises from God’s word (cf. Rom 10:17) ready for use as a shield to quench all the fiery darts of Satan (Eph 6:16).  According to 1 Pt 5:9 Christians must resist the devil steadfastly in the faith.  Since the promises of Scripture are the proper object of faith (Rom 4:20), Christians must use, against each temptation to become discouraged, at least one of God’s “many and very great promises” (2 Pt 1:4).  If tempted, e.g., to be covetous and despondent about not having enough of this world’s goods to be financially secure, the Christian must “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tm 6:12) by affirming that, since God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hef 13:5f.), covetousness is totally contrary to childlike faith in God.  By meditating on this and similar promises of “the faithful God” (Dt 7:9; cf. Heb 10:23; Ti 1:2) until filled by “all joy and peace in believing” (Rom 15:13), Christians perform the essential task of holding their “first confidence firm unto the end” (Heb 3:14).(The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Volume 4: 343)

 

So What?:  God made these promises so we could live life free from fear, anxiety, worry and stress and with courage, strength, hope and joy.   Trust in the Lord.  Do not lean on your own understanding.  Fear, anxiety, worry and stress are all indicators that you have begun trusting in your own understanding of your circumstances and are no longer trusting in the promises of God.

 

A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence.  Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.

 

• God’s presence — “I will never leave thee” (Heb 13:5)

 

• God’s protection — “I am thy shield” (Gn 15:1)

• God’s power — “I will strengthen thee” (Isa 41:10)

 

• God’s provision — “I will help thee” (Isa 41:10)

 

• God’s leading — “And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them” (Jn 10:4)

 

• God’s purposes — “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (Jer 20:11)

 

• God’s rest — “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28)

 

• God’s cleansing — “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9)

 

• God’s goodness — “No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly” (Ps 84:11)

 

• God’s faithfulness — “The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake” (1 Sm 12:22)

 

• God’s guidance — “The meek will He guide” (Ps 25:9)

 

• God’s wise plan — “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom 8:28)  (Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985)

 

God’s promises are greater than life’s problems.

 

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

 

JESUS:

PROVIDER/PROTECTOR

 

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