Moses continued his speech to Israel before they made the final leg of their 40 year trek in the wilderness. He reminded them of what God had done and what they had done in that time. He now spoke to them about what happened after they refused to take possession of The Promised Land and God had turned them back to begin wandering. Verses 1-8 read,
“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as the Lord told me. And for many days we traveled around Mount Seir. 2 Then the Lord said to me, 3 ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward 4 and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful. 5 Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.6 You shall purchase food from them with money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink.7 For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years theLord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”’ 8 So we went on, away from our brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road from Elath and Ezion-geber.
“And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab.”
Esau was Jacob’s older twin brother, not chosen by The Lord to be the Father of His people. But The Lord had given his descendants a land of their own. God sent Israel through that land, peaceably and let them buy food and water. They were warned that He had put fear of them into their hearts and they should be careful. They were also told, this land was not for them, it had been given to Esau. Moses also reminded the people that though The Lord did not give them the land He had given to Esau, He had been with them and provided perfectly for them. They lacked nothing. They had no reason to envy the people or want what God had not given them.
Israel had refused the land promised to them and though God still was giving it to them, they had some learning to do in the wilderness. The first lesson let them see that Gracious God gave Esau a place even though he had sold his birthright and done nothing to deserve God’s mercy. He showed them that He can give to whomever He chooses. He taught them that He would provide for them and they had no need to take what was not theirs. He taught them that they would not expect the provision He promised to be given unfairly but that in the provision the buyer and seller, the giver and receiver would be blessed. But the journey and the lesson continued. Verses 9-23 read,
“‘Now rise up and go over the brook Zered.’ So we went over the brook Zered. 14 And the time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. 15 For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished.
16 “So as soon as all the men of war had perished and were dead from among the people, 17 the Lord said to me, 18 ‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. 19 And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ 20 (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— 21 a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22 as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23 As for the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place.)
Now Israel had to travel through land given to Lot’s descendants. Lot was Abraham’s nephew and also not chosen to be God’s people. He had chosen to follow The Lord when given the opportunity and God had graciously blessed him. The Emin who had possessed the land before Lot were Rephaim, literal giants. They were giants like the Anakim who lived in Canaan and scared Israel enough to make them afraid to take the Promised Land. Now The Lord showed them, He had overcome giants for Lot, He could overcome them for Israel. At this point, Moses also pointed out to the people, that when Esau took the land given to them, they had to defeat the Horites, who were a fierce people as well. Israel was given the same instructions for passing through Ar as they had been when passing through Seir; do not contend with the people, the land is theirs. God gave Israel a glimpse of what they could have had and of His great power. He did it with kindness and gently as He led them and provided for them.
He showed Israel how He blessed whomever He chose and that no nation was beyond His Sovereignty. He blessed Lot, Abraham’s nephew and spiritual son but not the descendent promised to him. He blessed Esau, Israel’s brother who had sold his blessing. The Lord wanted to bless His own people but they were too afraid to believe God could do it. But God was teaching them, and their next lesson would prove to them that God could do what He promised and they could be strong because He is strong. Verses 24-25 read,
“‘Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’”
So far, Israel had been told not to fight and not to take the land, but now they were told they would fight, they would win and they would take the land because The Lord willed it. Because of what God did with and for Israel, nations would be very afraid of the wandering band of ex-slaves. Verses 26-32 continue the narrative.
““So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon the king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, 27 ‘Let me pass through your land. I will go only by the road; I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left. 28 You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink. Only let me pass through on foot, 29 as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I go over the Jordan into the land that the Lord our God is giving to us.’ 30 But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.31 And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land.’”
Even before the first fight was fought, God promised the Land was already being given to Israel. He said, ‘start moving in now, it is yours.’ Sovereign God hardened Sihon’s heart and the adamant king refused to let God’s people walk through his land or buy food and water from the people of Kedemoth. Verses 33-37 read,
“Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. 33 And the Lord our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people. 34 And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors. 35 Only the livestock we took as spoil for ourselves, with the plunder of the cities that we captured. 36 From Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and from the city that is in the valley, as far as Gilead, there was not a city too high for us. The Lord our God gave all into our hands. 37 Only to the land of the sons of Ammon you did not draw near, that is, to all the banks of the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, whatever the Lord our God had forbidden us.”
Whatever God said they would have, He gave to Israel. They would not and could not take what He gave to Esau or Lot, but everything in the wilderness of Kedemoth was theirs. Israel was not made of warriors, it was made up of men and women who had built pyramids, farmed, and slaved away under the tyranny of Pharaoh. They didn’t have the skills to win battles. They had The Lord; they had His promises and His Might. That is all they needed at Kedemoth and The Lord taught them it was all they needed at Canaan. Kedemoth was not The Promised Land, it bordered Canaan. God gave it to Israel not for their permanent habitation yet but for their rest, growth, and understanding in order to show them He is The LORD (Deuteronomy 3:18-22).
Has The Lord promised you something? Yes, He has! If nothing else, Believer, He has promised you eternal life in union with Him. He has promised provision and gifts and blessings. I know he has promised you more. I know there are things He has given you beyond those wonderful promises. I know because He loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). Child of God, He adores you! Is what He promised impossible? For you yes it might be, but for God, nothing is impossible (Matthew 19:26).
Are you afraid to believe that His promise will come true because it is too hard? Let God teach you to have more faith and take possession of what He promised. God does not expect you to do the impossible without Him. He asks you to put your faith in Him and obey. He asks you to take the steps he tells you to take and let Him do the impossible. What glory and praise would there be to Him if the giant man defeats the smaller man? But what glory and praise does He receive when the child shepherd without even a sword defeats the giant warrior (1 Samuel 17:50)? Be encouraged, your weakness, your inability is what makes the promise that much greater! 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reads,
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”
I confess, God promised me something years ago. I wanted it very much but as time passed, I saw it was improbable and my hope faded. I tried to stamp out my desire for it but I couldn’t quench that fire. More time passed and it is now impossible. I believed until this morning that I was mistaken; I believed God did not promise me a daughter. I am an unmarried virgin going through menopause with no prospects of a husband. It is impossible for me to have a daughter. But this morning God reminded me of His promise, He reminded me of the step of faith He asked me to take yesterday (which I did), and He told me, “It is impossible for you but nothing is impossible for Me.”