Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: Let's have a word of prayer. Father, thank you that we have an opportunity where we in this country can have a freedom of assembly, and we have a privilege, as well as a right, to gather in the name of Jesus. We are, as of yet, free in our worship. We can worship according to the dictates of our heart, and more importantly to us, the dictates of your Word. We can worship in spirit and in truth and we don't have to worry about being invaded or curtailed or edited or silenced. We thank you for that, Lord.
And because we have that right and that privilege, we thank you for our men and women in uniform that are in places protecting and standing for those freedoms. We pray a special blessing on them tonight as we gather. We thank you, Lord, that we're able to not only have this meeting, but this is going out on the radio locally and on the Internet and will be archived. And we have the privilege, Lord, of living in an era in which truth is so accessible. And I pray it would become a passion of ours to hear it, to live it, and to give it to those who don't have it, in Jesus' name, amen.
Book of Numbers, named after a census, a numbering of the people. Chapter 1 and chapter 26, we've already gone through those chapters in detail and compared the two numberings of the people. Obviously God cared about the number that would be counted, but more than the number, the names of people behind the numbers. I suppose one of the messages God wants us to have in our hearts as we study the book of Numbers is that he wants your life to count, count for something, be numbered among God's people, be among the ranks that are being used by God. May our lives count. Well, we're coming toward the end of the book. We're in chapter 32 and it's been a long time.
Any parent knows what delayed gratification is. They understand the importance of not giving in to what a child demands at that time. We use skillfully the principle of delayed gratification. We know its importance; we understand it. And though parents understand it, kids can't stand it. [laughter] They want everything now. They don't want to wait for anything. They hate to wait: "You mean I have to wait till tomorrow? Oh, that's an eternity away." It has been a long delay for the children of Israel. They have not entered the land. The land has been promised, but there has been delayed gratification, a series of delays and disappointments, disillusionment, disorganization, discontentment---all of that that brought delays.
The book of Numbers tells us why that delay happened and why there were two numberings. One numbering because a generation that came out of Egypt was numbered. They all died because they complained. And so a new group in chapter 26, a whole new generation had to be numbered. But we should always remember why this happened. This happened because a few chapters back we read that a group went into the Promised Land on a reconnaissance mission to bring back a field report as to what the land was like. The report was a good report. "Yup, there's some giants in the land, but, oh, man, look at these grapes! This is what we have to look forward to. It's a land flowing with milk and honey."
In other words, "It's bountiful. It's abundant. Let's go take it." But ten of those men that went on that little reconnaissance spy vision mission disbelieved and that spread, that disbelief and that disunity spread throughout the camp. People began to be frightened, complaining, and so they wandered. But now that time has passed, now a new generation has arisen, now they're about to enter the land. And Moses has not died yet; he's still in control. But in chapter 32 it's going to feel to Moses like a rerun, a rerun of a bad movie. Because there are a couple of the tribes, two and a half tribes that want to stop short of entering into the land and it's going to immediately flash something in Moses' mind.
"Oh, I've heard these words before. I've been here before. Nooo! This can't be happening." The two and a half tribes are mentioned as we begin chapter 32 with these words; "Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw." Please notice that word. It's important to what we're about to read and understand. "When they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock, the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 'Ataroth, Dibon,' " [it would be pronounced Yazer], " 'Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh' "---
I should just say hard word, hard word, hard word, hard word. [laughter] These are all places that really mean nothing to us unless we were there on site. "'The country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.' Therefore they said, 'If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.' "You get the picture? They're still on the east side of the Jordan River. They have not crossed the river into the land God promised them. And there in that place where they happen to be, they have moved from south, they have moved to the north.
If we were in a bus, I could show you in a day. I could take you through the Jordan Valley where it's deserty, up into the heights of the Sea of Galilee, up into the Gilead Heights just beyond it where they had overcome their enemies and show you just how beautiful the land of Gilead is; it's lush; it's gorgeous. They saw that and they thought, "Why should we go any further? Forget crossing the river into the Canaanite land, we've already defeated some of the enemies right here. We'd like to just stay right here." I draw your attention again to the word "they saw." They saw something with their eyes and now they want to stop going any further.
The eyes, your eyes, your eye is the gate through which discontentment is bred and grows. You see something, you don't have that something, you want that something. Now suddenly you've seen it in a commercial, and you've heard what commercial said about it, and you can see how shiny it is or how beautiful it is. And now, now your life is incomplete. It was before you saw it. You were just happy. But now you saw that. "Man, that's the new model. I don't have that." Your eyes see it and eye is the gate through which discontent is bred and grown. You remember Eve, Eve saw that tree in the midst of the garden.
She saw it and when she looked at it she said, "It is pleasant to the eyes. It's good to look at. It's going to make one wise, and it's good for food." "Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life." Lot, remember the story of Lot in the book of Genesis? He saw the well-watered plain of the Jordan, and he moved toward Sodom because of what he saw. So they saw something, it looked good, and they were willing to stop short of what God had promised to them. Now, listen, what they saw was beautiful. What they saw was bountiful. But what they saw was not bestowed. It's not what God had for them. It was beautiful, it was bountiful, but it wasn't bestowed. It wasn't the gift that God had for them.
That was on the other side of the Jordan. At this point they were to cross over. God told them "Cross over. I'm giving you the land of the Canaanites." Sometimes we make decisions in life solely based upon what we can see. We see, as we're a young man, that beautiful girl. And we're willing to forgo the fact that her character is not very good, that her values are pretty rotten, but, "Boy, is she hot! So I will make a decision based upon what I see, rather than what I should find out." Or people will make a career move, a change based upon income or location. "Boy, that's a nice place. I'll go there." It may be beautiful, it may be bountiful, it may not be bestowed. You gotta find out is that what God has for you.
What they saw was not what God wanted them to have. Now, you're going to find out in the providence of God they will be allowed to have it under a certain criteria. Certain conditions have to be met, then they can have it. But they're willing to stop short. I just wonder how willing---I look at this and I reflect in my own life. How willing am I to stop short of all that God has for me? You know, I'm just like, "Oh, no, no. This is good enough. I want don't anything more. This is really good. I'll be, I'll be content with just this." Yeah, for a week or a month. But to discover what the Lord wants and to, with almost a reckless abandonment.
"Let's just cross over. Let's just go over that river. I know it looks good and I know we fought our battles, and it seems like a peaceful place now, and it's great for cattle." And, by the way, the land of Gilead is between two rivers; the soil is rich. I've been on many a farm in the Gilead area of Israel, east of the Sea of Galilee in those hills and mountains. It's filled with oak trees and pistachio trees and tall grasses for cows. I mean, holy cow, it's a great, great spot. [laughter] But hold that cow thought as we go through this. I'm going to bring out something that's interesting. It didn't become known as a place of cows, later on it becomes known as something far different.
So, they said in verse 5, I take you back there, "'if we found favor in your sight, Moses, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.' And Moses said to the children of Gad" ["Gadzooks!" He said. [laughter] No, he didn't. I'm sorry, wrong translation.] "And to the children of Reuben: 'Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?' "Now, you can understand, can you not, Moses' feelings at this point and the flashback, the rerun that this brings up to him? He has heard 38 years before, 37-some years before, almost 38, an entire generation, now dead, saying, "We don't want to go into the land. We don't want to cross over. We don't want to take that land. We're going to die. There's giants."
And he's thinking that. It's like bringing---opening up the wound again. Stirs up the emotions deep within him and he asks a question I want you to consider: "Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?" Just think in your own head, in your own heart about the tendency we have as believers to sit. We want to come to a place where we sit. You know, we know what it's like to have a busy schedule and work, and "I just want to sit now. You know, I want to come to a place in my life where I can just sit and cruise and not have to fight battles anymore." Right? I mean, we all look toward that. We call it retirement. The Bible calls it heaven. [laughter]
But here's the tendency, just because we are humans, saved, redeemed, but fallen flesh nonetheless; we want to sit. It's our nature to sit. God says, "Go!" "Ah, I just want to sit here." Moses said, "Why will you sit here while your brothers go do the work?" Are we content to sit while others do the work? "What do you mean you want me to come to a prayer meeting? What do you mean you want me to visit people in the hospital? What do you mean you're asking for volunteers in the children's ministry? I paid my dues. I tithe to this church. I'd like to sit and have others do it. Oh, but if, if there's a concert, if there's a special event, and I happen to really like that group, count me in. I'll show up and I'll, I'll sit."
You see but will you cross over into the land? And when you cross over into the land, there are some fights you're going to encounter, but you're going to have a lot of fun. There's an adventure waiting for you. "Why would you sit here?" he says. But the mentality is, "I know there are battles to fight, but look how fat my cows are getting over here; these are awesome; look at how fat they are. They're nice and happy in this grass over here in Gilead. Verse 7, "'now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them? Thus your fathers did when I sent them away from Kadesh Barnea to see the land.' "
See the word "discouraged"? Have you seen it before or do you remember? I know you have seen it before in the book of Numbers. Do you remember some of the other times that caused discouragement for the children of Israel? Let me refresh your memory. Back in chapter 13 the people of Israel were discouraged because of the whiners. Remember the ten spies came back and they were whining, "There's giants in the land. We're going to get eaten up by the giants." They were whiners. Only two guys had enough courage and faith to go, "Pfft! The bigger they are the easier they are to hit. Let's go!" So the people, however, were discouraged because of the whiners in chapter 13.
When we get to chapter 21, it says, "The people were discouraged because of the way." The way was difficult. It was hard, rocks, desert, heat, long distance. So they were discouraged because of the whiners, they were discouraged because of the way, now they're discouraged because of the waners. They're waning. "I don't know if we should go over. We just like it right here. We just kind of want to stay right here because we have fat cows. See? We got a lot of cows. See how nice. They like it here. So let's make our decision based on our cows." They're waning. They don't want to go forward.
Do you know, child of God, especially you who are a little bit older and seasoned, maybe you have some ministry experience, even volunteer ministry, you lead something, the position you are in as a model, and what your waning could do to a young believer. Let me describe it. If---let's turn it around, in fact. If somebody you know and respect---somebody older in the Lord that you have looked up to as a model for you, an example, a mentor, a woman of God, a man of God---when you see them sort of losing their zeal for the Lord, they're cooling off a bit. They're not as on fire. They're not as on target. They're not as passionate and pursuing. They're just sort of, "Yeah . . ."
What that does to the young believer looking at that older believer is to say, "Well, maybe I should just kick back and do nothing as well." There's nothing to aspire to. We need strong leaders, especially seasoned ones who have zeal and passion because, honestly, it's contagious. Faith is contagious, we've seen that. Fear is contagious, we've seen that. So when I cool off, when my zeal dies down, I am damping the enthusiasm of others who are watching me. When I'm fired up and I'm passionately pursuing Christ, I radiate that heat toward others around me. So that's---can you understand that's Moses' idea here: "You're going to discourage, you waners, just like the whiners did and the way did."
"You waners are going to discourage the people who have been told to cross over. God told us to cross over. You're setting a precedent of looking at the easy life, materialism or spirituality. That's the precedent you're setting. Verse 10, " 'So the Lord's anger was aroused on that day, and he swore an oath, saying, "Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and above, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me." '" Now, you know what he's referring to; he's referring to the last generation. Because the last generation complained and lost faith because of the whiners back in chapter 13.
Because they complained and didn't go in, God said everybody 20 years old and below---or and above will die. And it happened. He's recounting their history. "'"Because they have not wholly followed me," ' " verse 12, " ' "except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they wholly followed the Lord." So the Lord's anger was aroused against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone. And look! You have risen in your father's place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more the fierce anger of the Lord against Israel.' "
I would translate that: "This is a bad rerun. You're doing what they did. This is what they did, take two, second season. " 'For if you turn away from following him, he will once again leave them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people.' "I read something by C. S. Lewis, if I can remember it, I'll tell you what I read. C. S. Lewis said, "We are halfhearted creatures." See, what he tells them is, "Your forefathers didn't wholly follow the Lord, except for these two guys." In other words, they were halfhearted. So, C. S. Lewis said, "We are halfhearted creatures playing about," he said, "with drink, sex, and ambition, ignoring that God has some great, joyous, perfect plan for us."
He said, "We are like ignorant children making mud pies in a slum, not even understanding the invitation to come and have a holiday at sea." God says, "I've got so much for you." "Oh, oh, oh, oh, good. But I like it just right here, right where I'm sitting. I like sitting. I like watching. I like looking at the Jordan River, but I don't want to go over it and then have to fight some more battles." So Moses unloaded on them and they strike a deal now. "They came near to him, verse 16, "And said: 'We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed, ready to go before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place; and our little ones will dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
We will not return to our homes until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on the eastern side of the Jordan.' And then Moses said to them: 'If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war, and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven out his enemies from before him, and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterwards you may return and be blameless before the Lord and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the Lord."
"But if you do not do so, then take note, that you have sinned again the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. "He says, "Okay, I'll go along with this. We'll call this your possession on the eastern side of the Jordan. Reuben, Gad, half of Manasseh, you can take this whole strip from Og's kingdom and the area of Sihon's kingdom, all the way up to Gilead, to Bashan. That whole strip can be yours. However, if you do as you said, build enough enclosures and fortifications, go in, leave your families here, go in with us, help us fight the battles, make sure everybody else gets settled, then you can come back and you can have this land.
If you don't do that, however, if you're just saying, 'I promise to do this,' but you don't follow through, you're sin will find you out." It's a very powerful verse. You've heard it before. I just don't know if you know the context of it till now. "Your sin will find you out." Nothing is done in secret. Nothing is done in secret. "The ways of a man," Solomon said in Proverbs, "are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his goings." The writer of Hebrews said, "All things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Somebody once remarked these words: "Secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven." "Your sin will find you out."
"You're talking to God here. You can't pull the wool over my eyes. You might be able to put the wool over your cow's eye and everybody else, but . . ." But if you do this thing, fine. If you don't, "'your sin will find you out. Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep, do what has proceeded out of your mouth.' And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying: 'Your servants will do as my lord commands. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, all of our livestock will be there in the cities of Gilead; but your servants will cross over, every man armed for war, before the Lord to battle, just as my lord says.' "
Now, I do need to let you know there are a couple downfalls to this whole plan. I bet you'd like to know what they are. Downfall number one, when the children of Israel are attacked from the Assyrians, from the Babylonians, from Syria up north, the first ones to go into captivity are these tribes. They go first. They're unprotected. There's not that natural border of that river. It's not much of a river in some places today. It's still a border between Israel and Jordan. However, it is enough of a natural barrier that in ancient times it was still formidable. You slow down and an army had to cross it. So now they're unprotected. They're sort of up in highlands and on the border.
When they are attacked, they will go into captivity first. Unprotected, kind of on the edge. When you live on the edge, you can get picked off. Verse 28, "Moses gave the command concerning them to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel. And Moses said to them, 'If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben cross over the Jordan with you, every man armed for battle before the Lord, and the land is subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead as a possession. But if they do not cross over armed with you, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.'
"Then the children of Gad, the children of Reuben answered, saying: 'As the Lord has said to your servants, so we will do. We will cross over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, but the possession of your inheritance shall remain with us on this side of the Jordan.' Moses gave the children of Gad---to the children of Gad, to the children of Reuben, half tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of"---all these things that we just talked about. Hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name. Verse 40, "So Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he dwelt in it. Also Jair the son Manasseh went and took its small towns, and called them Havoth Jair." Named them after him.
"Then Nobah went and took Kenath and its villages, and called it Nobah, after his own name." Okay, one downfall was that they were living on the borders so they got picked off first. Something else happened. I just want to show you this was a bad idea. This was fraught with problems. The second problem is that when they come into the land and they settle it, right? And then these two and a half tribes go back and take the land east of the Jordan River, a misunderstanding breaks out. A civil war that almost destroyed these tribes almost is enacted and was stopped in the nick of time, because of a misunderstanding and an assumption. And it's actually a classic case in making assumptions.
Have you ever made an assumption about somebody? You don't have all the facts, but you assume. You know that assumption is the lowest form of communication, right? You don't have all the facts, you hear something, and so you make an assumption. And it's a classic story of a bad assumption and gossip. Because now they take what they've heard, misinformation, make an assumption, and spread that false assumption among all of their brethren, which causes almost a riot to break out and to fight against those two and a half tribes. I just want to read it to you. You can turn with me if you want. I'm going over to the book of Joshua, just a couple of book away. Two blocks to the right, Joshua, chapter 22.
Joshua 22, "Then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, and said to them: 'You've kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, you've obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you." So, you know, basically, without reading the whole chapter: "Go back and take your possession." Go to verse 10. "And when they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan---a great and impressive altar." They built an altar. So what? It wasn't an altar of sacrifice. There was only one of those one God, one place of worship, one altar of sacrifice.
This was an altar of memory, a memorial, memorial altar so that the next generation could be shown: "This is the covenant that was made and this is how faithful the Lord has been." However, the rest of the tribes of Israel, they didn't know that. So they assumed they're starting another church down the street, an alternate worship experience, another altar to worship at. "The children of Israel heard someone say"---verse 11. Hear that? "They heard someone say, 'Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, half tribe of Manasseh built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan---on the children of Israel's side.'
And when the children of Israel heard of it"---they heard the assumption---"the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh to go to war against them." "Let's fight them in the name of the Lord." That's what a lot of believers do. "I assume something. I'm going to fight you. And I'll call what I do 'righteous indignation.' I'll call what you do 'apostasy.' " [laughter] It's very convenient, these terms, for us to use. It was all a bad assumption. Phinehas and a couple others go and sort it all out, and the rest of the chapter tells us it's okay. They were just building a memorial here. This wasn't for sacrifice.
Now, this could have been avoided, but they're on the other side of the Jordan, they're isolated, they don't have good communication, and maybe they didn't hear what you're going to read when we get to it in Deuteronomy, chapter 12. By this time Deuteronomy's past. Deuteronomy, chapter 12, Moses speaks about the law of the central sanctuary. There's to be one God that is worshiped, in one place, on one altar. That will be at the tabernacle in Shiloh, eventually it will be in Jerusalem. They weren't there from that sermon. They were playing golf on that Sunday. The communication has been broken between them, and now an assumption is made by the rest of them, and a war is almost engaged in.
Something else, years later our Lord Jesus Christ will take a boat from the town that is his headquarters in Capernaum and go right across the Sea of Galilee and end up at the shores of this area which is technically Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, this area, to a place of the Gadarenes. But this time instead of believers and tribes of Israel and righteous people worshiping the Lord, and cows, there's pigs. There's an illegal industry in the land. It's a pagan culture. It has been degraded. It is not what God intended, just as God didn't want them at this time to settle that land. That wasn't his original plan. That wasn't his original plan.
Now some of you who are Bible students, I hope about now you're going, "Wait a minute. I have some questions. I have some big questions." And you're thinking about why then is the land allotment, when God gave the land to Abraham in Genesis, and told him the borders of the land---Right? Remember he said, "Your land is going to be from here to here, and here to there"? It encompasses not only this, east of the Jordan, but much further, all the way over to Iraq. Huge portion was promised to Abraham and his progeny. So why isn't this God's will? In you're thinking that, I want you to hold that thought, because I hope to answer it before we finish---I hope to. If I don't, you can punch me. [laughter] So I better hurry up.
Chapter 33 of the book of Numbers. I am not going to read it all. You can just skim over it and you can see why. Hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name. Let me tell you what we have here: we have a journal of places. Okay, it would be like this: you and I go camping, and after the camping trip I say, "And then on Tuesday we camp there, and then on Wednesday we camp there, and Thursday we camp there, and we camp there, and we camp there." There's 56 names that are mentioned in this chapter, 56. Forty-two of those 56 are names of camping spots. Eighteen of those 42 camping spots, we have no idea where they are. So I'm not even going to read them.
So we don't know where they are because they were just little outposts. They weren't really like bona fide cities. And their journey is for 40 years in the wilderness. When they left Egypt, they stayed at a place and stayed at a place and it's just mapped out. It's a journal of where they traveled. It's sort of like, if I may, the equivalent of a slide show. Have you ever been to somebody's house---remember the days of film? Maybe some of you don't remember, but there---they used to have these things called film cameras and you'd load this---anyway, um. [laughter] You'd make these little slides and you put them in a projector and you show them on a screen.
My dad used to do this and it just bored everybody to tears. Right? "Hey, come over and I'll show you slides of my family vacation." "Oh, boy!" Nobody wanted to come, trust me. We didn't want to come and we lived there and we were on vacation there. I have literally thousands of Kodachrome slides of different countries in the world. I could bore you all to tears, there are too many of them, thousands of them. All of us keep scrapbooks or boxes that are stuff from our children's growing up, pictures they painted, things they wrote, a work of art that you couldn't get a dime for at a garage sale, but nobody could pry it from your hands for a million dollars. Your child did it.
So what we have here is the Lord, through Moses, giving a slide show. Not important to those who are invited over for dinner, but really important to those who are on the trip. And as Moses would have read this to the children of Israel, all of them would have had special memories of these places, 18 of which we don't know where they are. But they would go, "Oh, I remember that night when we . . . Yeah, when that cloud stopped there . . . When the tabernacle . . . When that Shekinah glory stopped there, I was going, 'I don't know if God knows what he's doing?' But I remember that night." You know, they'd all have special memories of that. So this is sort of the equivalent of that.
Now, here's what's fascinating---what is included are names that I'm not even going to read through all of them, couple of them I will, but I won't. But what's most fascinating to me isn't what's here, but what's not here. There's no mention in this chapter at all of the 38 years of wandering. None of it. They left Egypt, they camp here, then they went there, then they went there, then they went there, and now here we are at the border of the Promised Land. Nothing about the curses, about the death, about the disbelief, about the wandering. It's as though God is editing the slide show. Or if this were a video, you know, he's in Final Cut Pro.
And he's just saying, "I'm going to take out this scene. I'm going to take out that scene. I see it as a family vacation. And their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more, no more." There's a verse that I have discovered long ago, I want to share with you. Let me just read it to you in the book of Micah. "Because God delights in mercy," it says. "He will again have compassion on us," says the prophet Micah, "and he will subdue our iniquities, and cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea." You've heard that verse. Some people say into the "sea of forgetfulness," or cast everything you've done wrong into the sea. Right before that, "He will subdue our iniquities."
The word means to trample underfoot. "I'm going to chase after iniquity and trample on them, like, stomp on them, cover them up with my feet and with the dirt around it. I'm going to hide it. I'm going to cover it. I'm not going to remember all the junk. I'm choosing to remember the places, not the imperfections." I love that. It's a fas---for that reason it's a fascinating chapter. Well, let's read a couple verses. "These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the Lord." So remember this is the Lord's slide show.
"And these are their journeys according to their starting points: They departed from Rameses," that's in Egypt, on the first day of the fifteenth---"in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month." That's the day right after Passover. That's the first day of Unleavened Bread technically. "On the day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians. For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had killed among them. Also on their gods the Lord had executed judgment." Pharaoh, do you remember, he had a question? Do you remember the question he asked when Moses came in and said, "Thus says Yahweh"---he used the term "the Lord," the covenant name Yahweh---" 'Let my people go' "?
What was his question? "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" Fair question. So God introduces himself in a very dynamic way through ten plagues that got his attention. And the last plague, the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn of the land, including his own son, was the crushing blow. "You want to know who I am?" You know why he asked the question? Because he was given a name nefer neter by the Egyptians, which means "the perfect God." "Our pharaoh is the perfect god. He is deity. He is god." They honored Pharaoh as being god, and so this god says, "Who is God, that I should obey him?"
So God says, "Allow me to introduce myself, Mr. Pharaoh. I can do this, this, this, this, this, this, this, that. Do we have an understanding?" And that's why it says they left "with boldness." After that tenth blow, that was Passover, the death of the firstborn, the blood covering the dwelling places of the children of Israel. "And the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn," it says in verse 4, and then it goes on. Verses 5 through 8 they go to the Red Sea, and then through the Red Sea. By the way, you know, people ask the same question today: "Who is the Lord? You've got your God, everybody else has their own god. Who is the Lord? Like, he's something special. Your God is something special?"
Now, you know when they ask that question, they don't understand the truth of what's going to happen to them anymore than Pharaoh understood the truth that was going to happen to him. The truth that will happen to everyone is this: "That at the name of Jesus Christ every knee will bow." You can bow now, or you can bow later, but you will bow. You can make it easy and do it voluntarily now, or you can do it by compulsion and admission that you were wrong then. "Who is the Lord?" The Lord will show everyone and give everyone an unmistakable clear answer to that question one day. So they go to the Red Sea, they go through the Red Sea.
Verse 9 through 15, from Marah to Mount Sinai where they receive the Law and the blueprints, if you will, of the tabernacle that we've studied in detail. Verse 16 to verse 36, from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. What happened in Kadesh Barnea? They dispatched that little party of 12 men to spy out the land. Verse 37 to 49, from Kadesh to the Jordan River. It says in verse 35, if you'll just notice, "They departed from Abronah and encamped at Ezion Gerber." Ezion Gerber is later on, FYI, where Solomon will have a fleet of ships. It is the Gulf of Aqaba today. On one side is the land of Midian or Saudi Arabia, on the other side is present-day Jordan and Egypt, Sinai Peninsula.
But there's a sliver of it---it used to, the Sinai used to all be owned by Israel. But there's one little sliver of it, and it ends up in that gulf, called Elath. And if you ever go to Israel and you want---especially in the wintertime---you want a nice kind of dry Palm Springs, Phoenix-like vacation, but an ocean, go to Elath. It's fascinating. It's beautiful. I mean, it's desert and it's dry and it goes down into the sea. And it's some of the clearest scuba diving anywhere. FYI. "They move from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the boundary of the land of Edom."
Then verse 50, "Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab at the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you" ' "---not if you,' " When you have crossed over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy their molded images, demolish their high places; you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it" ' "---and I just want you to notice this. I've underlined this in my Bible---" ' "For I have given you the land to possess." '" I want you to consider something with me. It's a political issue.
Our emotions get involved whenever we hear news reports or opinions about this issue. But I want you to hear this issue from a biblical perspective. The right to own land in that part of the world is hotly disputed. The right to build settlements in that land is internationally disputed. The right of Israel versus the Palestinians is a huge issue that former presidents like Carter have written books on and statesmen have spoken out on. It's not an easy dilemma to figure out. But when it comes to rights we talk about, "Well, I have the right to do this and the right to do that. And I have a right to own the land." Let me just ask you a question. I want you to think about it and then answer me.
Who, when you speak about rights, has the right to tell anybody who has the right to anything? I mean, what right do you have to have rights? It's an honest question. It's not facetious. I'll answer the question: God does. God gives us the rights to have rights, to organize into communities and nations and vote, and say this is right and this is wrong, and you have rights and privileges for this and for that. God gives us that. It's a common grace. When it comes to this land, who would give the right to be able to occupy it? It didn't belong to them when they got there. It was the Canaanites. God flatly said, I've been patient with them for 400 some-odd years and then another few hundred years.
So I'm booting them out and I'm bringing you into this land and I'm giving it to you. I'm giving it to you." Only God has the right to give that away. And here's why he has the right to give that away: because it doesn't belong to anybody but God. That's why we call it the Holy Land. Now listen carefully. In Leviticus 25 the Lord says, "This land," the land of Israel, "shall not be sold permanently, for it is Mine," saith the Lord, "and you are pilgrims and strangers in it." You hear---you hear that? "You don't sell it, it's Mine. I'm letting you occupy it." To this day you cannot own land in Israel. You can lease it for 99 years. The Lord says, "It's Mine." That's why it's the Holy Land.
If it belonged to Israel, not so holy. If it belonged to anybody else, not so holy. It's God's land, that's why we call it the Holy Land. In 1948 Jewish people flooded in, especially from Europe, and then all over the world. They continue to go there to this day. Cool story, if I could just tell you really quick. I won't take up much time, but it's a good story. I have a friend who became a tour guide. He's been my tour guide for years. When he was a young man in Israel, he emigrated from South America. Portuguese was his native language. When he got to Israel and immigrated, he became an assistant to an archaeologist, very well-known archaeologist named Yigael Yadin. You go, "Never heard of him."
Well, his dad was Professor Sukenik. You go, "Never heard of him." He was the guy that found the Dead Sea Scrolls, uncovered them. His son Yigael Yadin was digging archaeologically on Masada. You've heard about Masada. That was his dig. He was in charge of it. He was the professor uncovering Masada. This is just a few years after Israel is now in the land. My friend, who's now old, was a young man and he was his assistant. They're digging around on top of Masada and they go into the synagogue. There was a synagogue on top of Masada. And in the synagogue where there were scriptoriums and scrolls were buried---after scripture scrolls or not used, they're buried. And they're digging around---there it is, the Masada synagogue.
They're digging around in this dirt and they find fragments of the old text. But you know what they found? They text that they found wasn't just any old text. Now imagine what it would feel like after being Jewish, coming into the land, reading Ezekiel 37. I'll refresh your memory. Ezekiel 37, "Son of Man, can these bones live?" The prophet said, "I was taken by the Spirit of the Lord into a valley of many bones and they were dry, very dry. 'Son of Man, can these bones live?' "And Ezekiel said, "Lord, you know." The Lord said, "Son of Man, prophesy to these dry bones, and say, 'Thus saith the Lord, "You will live. And muscles will come upon you and you will live." ' "
And he says, "This is the house of Israel. I will bring them back into their land and they will live again though dispersed." Imagine being a Jewish archaeologist reading that in the land you have recently immigrated to and you realize the truth of what we're reading---"I'm giving you this land. It's my land." Wow! That would be very humbling. I mean, I get some goose bumps just recalling the story. It's outrageously cool to me. So God tells them to do that. Now we get into chapter 34. Chapter 34 are the borders of their land, the occupation. "You're going to come here, your land is going to be from here to here, from mile marker this to mile marker that, from this sea, you know, the Mediterranean, all the way to this border."
He tells them that. It's mapped out geographically. "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Command the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that should fall to you as an inheritance---the land of Canaan to its boundaries," ' " or borders. So, if you read through the chapter, it moves from south, the southern border, the western border, the northern border, and the eastern border. The western borders, of course, were the most part the Mediterranean Sea. The northern border is up in Lebanon, where I was last summer, about 50 miles north of Biblos where the first books were really invented, you might say.
The books as we know it, the codex was invented in Biblos. Fifty-miles north of that, way up in Lebanon, up in the mountains of Lebanon, all the way across north of Damascus, east of Damascus, Syria, all the way down to what is all part of Egypt. Now, these aren't the exact borders that God said to Abraham that his progeny would be given. But here's the deal: I believe, in fact, I can say I know, if they would have just obeyed God, taken the boundary and the border that he had for them---"I want you in this land, not on that side. I want you here"---And obeyed him, and then subsequently obeyed him, because God said "Every place the sole of your foot touches is yours."
Well, the sole of their feet didn't touch all those places. And then, moreover, they didn't kick out all the original inhabitants. And the Lord said in chapter 33, I'm sorry I didn't cover it all. But "If you don't do what I say, and you leave some of them in there, they're going to be briars in your side. I mean, they're going to hurt you. They're going to come back at you." So they never took all that the Lord had for them. They could have, but they never did. So the northern boundary, verse 7, from Mount Hor. That's a different Mount Hor than down south. This is way up north. Then in verse 16, to finish the chapter, there are a list of names. Some of these names we've already read.
These are names of the people who will be in charge of apportioning the land to the different tribes which we have already discussed. He's just saying, "When you get in there, these are the guys. This is to identify who is going to help you apportion the land by these lots." And so can we just look at verse 29, "These are the ones the Lord commanded to divide the inheritance among the children of Israel in the land of Canaan." And you have the freedom to go back and read all those names. I don't know how edifying it would be to go through hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name, because you won't remember any of them.
Okay, here's what I want to close with: all told, all told, get this, God promised Abraham in Genesis that he and his descendants would occu---would be given, not occupy, but be given as a gift 300,000 square miles. I've seen it mapped out. It's enormous. They didn't take that. They didn't occupy that much. Now once they got into land they took more land. King David becomes the second king, King Solomon becomes the third king, and they expand the borders of the land. But at the zenith of their history, at their maximum occupation under King David and later under King Solomon, they only occupied 30,000 of the 300,000 square miles. So here's the ratio: they only enjoyed one tenth of what God wanted them to enjoy.
Now, here's the lesson I want to leave with you. Do you ever wonder, "Lord, could there be more that you want to do in and through my life? Am I enjoying the inheritance you have for me, or am I content to sit on the other side of the Jordan? I'll do a little bit of work. I'll help you get settled, but this is all I want, this little piece, fat cows. You like my cows? [laughter] You're going to see a lot of pigs later on, but right now, fat cows." How much more does the Lord want to do in and through us? Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "Most Christians, as to the river of experience, only make it up to their ankles." While I'm finishing my message, I'll tie my shoe. I can do both at the same time.
"Most Christian, as to the river of experience, only wade up to their ankles." He said, "Some make it up to their knees; a few find what it's like to bring it up to their waist; but few---oh! How few!---" said Spurgeon, "find it a river to swim in, the depths of which they cannot find." So, I remember that quote, because when I first read it as a young Christian, I thought, "Man, I'm kind of like wading in ankle-deep water here. I got a Bible, go to church every now and then, like to sing the songs, but could there be something more? Could I swim in this thing? Could I just, like, make this everything in my life and watch the Lord do more than I anticipate?"
Now here's the deal for you, it's not just for me, it's for us. What does Paul say in Ephesians? And I will not take you through that book. I just want to put a thought in your mind as we're about to close. In Ephesians Paul talks about, "God, through Christ, has given us all, all spiritual blessings in heavenly places." It's like I picture God with a ton of gifts, like, you know, it's like mega Christmas and he's got all these presents. And it's like, man, all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus in heavenly places. "I'd love to get these down to you." Here's the deal: they're yours if you open them, if you appropriate them, if you put your soles of your feet on the ground and take it, walk through it. Believe God for big things.
"Oh, that's impossible." Forget "impossible," that's what the ten whiners said. Be the two that say, "Our God can give it to us." You realize what that could mean if 12 fisherman in one generation got the gospel throughout the Roman Empire, imagine what thousands and thousands of people at just one church in Albuquerque---through our mouths, our lives, our businesses, our ministries, besides social media and standard media---could do. What the Lord might do. Lord, is there more?
Father, we leave it with that, with that with you. The results are in your hands, Lord. But we imagine the possibilities because we're dealing with and have a relationship with the God who said, "I've given it all to you, just take it, enjoy it, and spread it around." Lord, teach us to take your Word and so internalize it, we make it our own. We take the principles, extract it, and walk in it, and say, "Now that's my verse. That's my truth. I'm gonna---I'm gonna enjoy that." What an adventure, Lord. It makes Gilead look like a wasteland. We want the adventure, in Jesus' name, amen.