Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Mill stream in Quimperle, France

Friday, February 24, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Feb 25, Num 33-34

Today's readings are Num 33-34.

God reminds Israel of the route they've taken from Egypt (Num 33:1-49). It serves as a reminder that He has been with them every step of the way. He is aware of all of their struggles, their suffering and has been with them in all of their victories. This will also become a record of their travel, giving an historical context to all that has occurred. It is a permanent reminder of His provision, protection, and presence for their entire journey, an enduring record of His promises and faithfulness.

God then gives them instructions before crossing the Jordan and occupying Canaan. They are to completely drive out the current occupants, tearing down all their idols and altars, leaving no remnant of their worldly ways and sinful behavior (Num 33:40-55). This guideline will become essential as they settle in.

God calls the land an "inheritance." This terminology establishes the nature of the relationship between God and His chosen people. The Land is His. They are His children. He is giving it to them to apportion among themselves. He is not a distant, detached god. He is not a god who demands tribute, as so many pagan gods are perceived. He is God, creator of the universe, who loves His people, cares for them and provides for them. He is in an intimate, familial relationship with His people. But God’s intention is to sanctify them, to make them a holy nation. With this in mind, we see that the bestowing of the land is also a picture of redemption! A new life, a new home, abundant provision, holy living -- God is redeeming His people and is now giving them a permanent place to live.

In Num 34, the map of the Promised Land is drawn. There is precision here. God wants Israel to know exactly which areas need to be cleansed and occupied. Furthermore, we learn that God’s destination for His children is an actual place, a physical home not just a concept or an ideal.

Notice, the land east of the Jordan River, where Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh want to live, is not within the boundaries God prescribes. God has promised Canaan to His people. The tribes to the east want to live outside of Canaan in Gilead, Bashan, and Ammon. Their desire to remain east of the Jordan does not make the decision of the two and a half tribes bad, but it does call it into question.



The land east of the river is not guaranteed to be a permanent allotment. The home God promised is west of the river. Yet, when God gave the victory in the lands east of the Jordan, before even seeing Canaan, those two and a half tribes decided the eastern areas were good enough. And, good they were! But the best of God’s promises lay west of the river. The eastern tribes exchanged the good for the best.

Their decision does not disqualify them from being God’s children. They still enjoy the blessings of being part of Israel. But, they now have placed themselves outside the area of God’s fullest blessing. The fullness of God’s blessing always lies within His guidelines, not within the temporal desires or reasoning of His children. So, we see that Canaan will now be divided between nine and a half tribes instead of twelve.

At the end of Num 34, Israel is standing on the banks of the Jordan. They can see the Promised Land. God has been faithful and true to His word. There is still work to do. But God has shown, time and again, that He will be with them in everything He calls them to do, empowering them, ensuring victory. The first generation balked at this. What will happen with this generation? They arrive on those banks a nomadic people of the wilderness with nothing in the way of worldly wealth other than what God has given them. God promises a lush land and an abundance of blessing.

What will happen to us, as God shows us the same type of faithfulness and empowerment? Can we walk in His promises? Can we do what He calls us to do to lead holy lives in His presence? Can we set aside the trappings of the world and walk in His power and peace? Are we willing to obey Him regardless of the circumstances, obstacles and intimidations along the way? Will we settle for good or strive for the best? Will we stay in the East? Will we be like the two and a half tribes, desperately holding on to the little we have and sacrificing the abundant blessings of God to avoid moving out of our comfort zones? Or will we move into the West? Will we be like the ten and a half tribes, boldly walking in the commands of our Lord and experiencing the fullness of His blessing and the deeper intimacy of surrender to Him and His ways?


Let's see how Israel handles this moment. There is still much to learn about them and, in turn, about ourselves.

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