Chapters Read: Numbers 21: 1 – 22:20
The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him [Og king of Bashan], for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.
So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.” ~ Numbers 21:34-35
The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde [Israelites] is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” ~ Numbers 22:4
Overcoming the fear in their hearts when they first saw the giants they would have to face in order to claim the promised land (Canaan), the Israelites went on and marched to obey the Lord’s command.
As I was reading through this story, I have observed a notable shift from chapter 20 to chapter 21. In the former, when Israel asked Edom to allow them passage to their country, promising to not touch anything, Israel turned away after seeing the large and powerful army that marched against them. It was only in the next chapter that Israel mustered enough courage to face the armies that stood in their way as they went on. And this courage led them to victory.
What caused the shift?
I think the pivotal point happened in Numbers 21: 2, after the Canaanites attacked and captured some of them on the way. It was when their helplessness led them to call upon the Lord, saying, “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.” And they had been invincible since. The Lord had granted them victory against the strong armies of Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan. This why Balak, the king of Moab at time, feared Israel so much that he ordered his messengers to summon Balaam and bring a curse upon Israel’s army.
If the Lord had not promised to be with them in these battles (Numbers 21:34), the Israelites would not have enough courage and will to face the armies that threatened them. They would have just turned away from their path, as they had done with Edom, and in turn make their journey to Canaan much longer than intended. Surrendering their fear and helplessness before the Lord granted them not only the courage and will to fight, but also the promise that they would be victorious over anything would have to face, and most importantly, the assurance that the Lord would be with them through these battles.
While reading through Israel’s victories, I was reminded of their past, and it made me pause and marvel at the greatness of God’s hand in their lives. They were born slaves. They labored in a foreign land day in and day out, beaten and starved. They had no idea who they were. That they were God’s chosen people. Who would have thought that these people who bowed before foreign masters would be able to wield swords and win wars?
The Lord knew what they were destined for from the very beginning. And despite their sinful and stubborn hearts, the Lord, in His mercy and faithfulness, still found a way to speak to them and lead them to become the people that He had intended them to be.
And that God who had been mighty enough to deliver Israel from his enemies is the same God who is at work in our lives today.
Maybe now you are in bondage (physically, emotionally, or spiritually), or maybe you feel like you’ve been wandering in the wilderness for so long, losing hope of finding the way out. Or perhaps you currently in the middle of a great battle, not knowing where to draw the courage and strength to keep fighting. No matter where you are today, always remember that there is a God you can call on to. Refuse to be enslaved by your situation, lift your head, and take His hand. Believe that as long that He’s at your side, there is nothing you can’t conquer.