Deuteronomyby Ajith Fernando
Deuteronomy begins with Moses recounting the recent history of the Israelites. We begin with a strange time note: ″It takes eleven days to go from Horeb [that is, Sinai] to Kadesh Barnea″ (Deuteronomy 1:2). Here, Moses subtly reminds his audience that they were originally supposed to take less than two weeks to journey from Mount Sinai to the border of Canaan. But when they first arrived, they had rebelled against God's command to possess the land. The next verse offers the startling words, ″in the fortieth year″ (v. 3)! After all that time they were still at the border of Canaan in a more northern location near the Jordan River.
They would have taken about two years after the Exodus to reach Kadesh Barnea, which lay at the border of Canaan. God had told them at that time to go and possess the land. But they rebelled against that command, resulting in them wandering in the wilderness for 38 years (see Numbers 14 and Deuteronomy 2:14). That was the price they paid for disobedience! The people were forgiven and God was guiding them again, but their progress had been held back.
But they weren't the same rebellious people now. They had enjoyed recent victories over ″Sihon king of the Amorites″ and ″Og king of Bashan″ (Deuteronomy 1:4), and now had first-hand experience of God helping them defeat formidable enemies. Though their progress had been delayed, the Israelites were forgiven and God was guiding them once again.
Moses' account offers more than historical and geographical facts. Paul says that Old Testament history was recorded ″as examples″ and ″warnings for us″ (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11). The stories of the Israelites reveal who God is, how He acts, and how people should and should not behave.
The victories over ″Sihon king of the Amorites″ and ″Og king of Bashan″ are mentioned 5 times in Deuteronomy and 12 times in the rest of the Old Testament to assure the people that God can help them defeat formidable enemies. God does restore sinners and give victory after defeat, and those victories are constant reminders to help us trust God amidst hard challenges. Past victories can give us hope when we are discouraged by big challenges.
Can you recall experiences of disobedience that held back your progress? How did God redeem those experiences after you repented?
What victories have you experienced through God that can give you courage to face a present challenge?