INTERESTING FACTS : "I am a creature of a day. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book."-- John Wesley [EVANGELIST; FOUNDER OF THE METHODIST CHURCH]
DAILY READING : [NUMBERS 33 - 34]
TEXT : Num 33:51 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Num 33:52 Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: Num 33:53 And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. Num 33:54 And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit. Num 33:55 But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Num 33:56 Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.
THEME : OBEDIENCE
In chapters thirty three and thirty four, we have a retelling of the journey of Israel through the wilderness and instructions for destroying the Canaanites. The precise boundaries of Israel's [new] borders are also given. Remember, God is speaking of the future as though it were present or perhaps past. The only One who can prophesy is God. He is the only One who knows the future. He also controls the future. Therefore He "calleth those things which be not as though they were." [Rom 4:17] This is the power and prerogative of God. That is, He foretells the future with accuracy. Again, only God can do this. This is what makes the Bible so imposing and formidable. It foretells the future with amazing exactness. Therefore, with about one third of the Bible being in the nature of prophecy [though most of the Bible's prophecies have already come to pass] we have confidence God wrote it. How fortunate we are to have such a Book!
We should note the statement made by God in chapter thirty three and verse four. It says - "For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the LORD had smitten among them: upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments." Here we see the judgments God laid on Egypt were not only designed to free Israel and make them a nation as God foretold in Genesis, but the judgments were also an indication of whose god was truly God. We have a similar display of God's judgment and power in the life of Elijah when he challenged the false prophets of Baal and queen Jezebel's prophets. At the time, all these false teachers were misleading Israel. We read in 1st Kings -
"Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. [1 Ki 18:22 - 24]
When the Lord answered by fire and consumed Elijah's sacrifice [doused with water] which success the false prophets did not have, Israel committed themselves to the Lord. However, Israel's dedication to the One True God was short lived, as it was with their forefathers in the wilderness. Therefore, God commands them to drive out all the nations of Canaan; otherwise they will remain "pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides." In other words - pain, frustration, and irritation would hinder their peace and blessing as Israel would habitually contend with the nations they allow to stay in the land.
John Gill comments on verse four.
Numbers 33:4 For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them,.... Which contributed much to the more easy and safe deliverance of the children of Israel; for their hearts were heavy with sorrow, and their hands were full, and they had other work to do, namely, to bury their dead, than to molest Israel; and besides, they knew it was for detaining them this stroke came upon them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments; they were moved at the presence, and by the power of God, and fell and were dashed to pieces, as the idols of the same land were in later times, see Isa 19:1 and this still the more intimidated and frightened the Egyptians, that they dared not attempt to hinder the departure of the Israelites from them. The Targum of Jonathan says, the Word of the Lord did this; and adds, their molten idols became soft, their strong idols were mutilated, their earthen idols were diminished, their wooden idols became ashes, and those of beasts died.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : TO OBEY IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE!
We see this truth concerning obedience [that is, being better than a religious sacrifice] in the life of Samuel and King Saul. Similar to what the children of Israel will do - allow certain nations to remain in the land contrary to God's command - King Saul does not destroy all the Amalekites as instructed. In 1st Samuel we read -
1Sa 15:18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. 1Sa 15:19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? 1Sa 15:20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 1Sa 15:21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. 1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
A great judgment fell on King Saul that day. He and his posterity lost their place as king[s] and shortly after, he became demon possessed. It was quite a high price for disobedience. Yet, as previously mentioned, stricter and more severe judgments are reserved for those who are higher in authority and influence than for those whose positions in life are not as lofty.
Concerning Israel's warning to completely depose the nations of Canaan and the judgment pronounced if they did not, Adam Clarke comments.
"Under these metaphors, the continual mischief that should be done to them, both in soul and body, by these idolaters, is set forth in a very expressive manner. What can be more vexatious than a continual goading of each side, so that the attempt to avoid the one throws the body more forcibly on the other? And what can be more distressing than a continual pricking in the eye, harassing the mind, tormenting the body, and extinguishing the sight?"
In the New Testament we have comparable warnings.
Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Heb 12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
Like Israel, we are instructed to "law aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us." If we do not, we will be vexed [as Israel was and is to this day] by those contradictory compromises to the Word of God. Remember, it is the small foxes that spoil the vine. The Bible is clear about the believer's sanctification. In 2nd Corinthians we read -
2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2Co 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 2Co 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 2Co 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 2Co 6:18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2Co 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Israel will fail in their attempt to completely expel all the nations of Canaan. We must learn from this, and conquer ourselves for the glory for God and for our own good. What is written in the Scriptures is there for us to learn. We must emulate the heroes of the faith, and observe and avoid the errors of the wicked and ungodly. If not, we will repeat the past in our own lives and in the Church as a whole. Such is the pronouncement of American philosopher George Santayana who said - "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."