Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deuteronomy 1, 2, 3 Do not Fear or be Discouraged

Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy ...Image via Wikipedia
Sometimes, when faced with a daunting or difficult task which I don’t really want to do, I might be reluctant to start it altogether.  If something about the task frightens me, then I really don’t want to do it.  And, if accomplishing said task depended entirely upon me, it just wouldn’t happen.

In the final days of his life, just before Israel was about to enter the land of Canaan, Moses repeatedly exhorted the Israelites not to be afraid or discouraged. It seems that he sensed their fear and anxiety about believing that God, the King of the Universe, had, in fact, given them the land of Canaan. 

While Israel wandered in the wilderness over the past thirty eight years, burying the generation that refused to enter Canaan when they rebelled at Kadesh Barnea, they probably had much time to speculate how things could have been different.  While some thought that it was a bad idea to leave their slave labor in Egypt, other Israelites saw God’s hand in delivering them from hostile nations.  This nation was divided in how they perceived God and the covenant promises given to them.

It seems that fear and discouragement prowled through the camp, ready to snatch the resolve of Israel.  Yes, God promised them the land of Canaan, but what if Moses was wrong? What if Abraham got it wrong? What if God can’t be trusted?  As Israel looked to Canaan, they saw the Promised Land as well as a land inhabited by numerous nations and even the Anakites, a nation of giants.  Many in Israel may have felt that they were on the brink of extinction.  And now, Moses was giving them their marching orders.

Deuteronomy 1:21 Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up [and] possess [it], as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 3:2  And the LORD said unto me, Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand; and thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.

Deuteronomy 3:22  Ye shall not fear them: for the LORD your God he shall fight for you.

In Dictionary.com fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”   God instructed Israel to enter the land of Canaan and to dispossess all of the inhabitants who were there already.  While Israel knew that the land was beautiful and that it was given to them by God, they were terrified that they would be slaughtered by the people who already inhabited Canaan. Viewing this through the eyes of our politically correct world in which we must tolerate the beliefs of all people, meaning that we must regard everyone as equally right, God’s directive to Israel seems barbaric and even embarrassing.  How can a righteous God who loves everyone order such a thing?

To put Israel’s assignment into a Biblical perspective, God, the Holy One of Israel, had earlier flooded the entire world, drowning all of its inhabitants except for Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives.  God did not choose to tolerate the sin of the world any longer – so, He flooded the world.

Even though God created the nation of Israel so that they might teach the world how to come to Him, He executed swift judgment on those who rebelled against Him. As this fledgling nation was learning how to worship God in an acceptable way, God enforced His position that there was no other way to worship Him other than the way He prescribed.  God was creating a chosen and pure line through whom the Redeemer or Messiah would come. 

Since the nation was so easily polluted spiritually, God told them to get rid of all that could possibly lure them away from Him.  Israel knew that God meant business.  Yet, when they looked at the giants and fierce warriors of Canaan, they became frightened. Probably, as most of the people saw it, they were between a rock and a hard place.  If they failed to do what God ordered, there would be a sure judgment against them.  If they entered the land of Canaan, they feared a whopping by the inhabitants.

So, Moses exhorts them repeatedly, “Do not be afraid or discouraged” (Deut. 3:21) He reminded them that they had to look to God for the ability to carry out the task He ordered.  Moses instructed Israel to trust in God for all of their needs; to trust God to effect His covenant promises.  Moses recognized that fear was Israel’s biggest stumbling stone.  Rather than to study their own weakness, Israel needed to focus on God, on His strength,  and on His provision for them. 

Moses was reminding Israel that God would enable them to do the tasks that he assigned to them.  They did not need to fear or be discouraged, because their God was bigger than anything problem they would face. 

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