Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#88. Numbers xx. - xxv. The twofold opposition encountered by Israel and its relation to Eph. vi. 12.

     Israel, as they press on from Kadesh, meet with opposition in various forms.  The Edomites, who were related by blood, refuse passage through their territory and even the purchase of drinking water.  The Moabites, who were also related to Israel through Lot their father, sought to curse Israel, and succeeded in entrapping them in evil practices.  Arad the Canaanite, Sihon King of Heshbon and Og King of Bashan, in no way related to Israel but rather the seed of the Serpent, oppose, too, in different ways.  A careful consideration of these contests will throw light upon the conflict of the Church to-day, and especially upon the meaning of the apostle in  Eph. vi.  where the armour of God is specified and the contestants indicated.  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers” (Eph. vi. 12).  Edom and Moab represent “flesh and blood”;  Arad, Sihon and Og the “principalities and powers”.  Two distinct lines of action are indicated to deal with these two types of opposition.

     Edom, of course, is Esau the brother of Jacob, and so the message sent to the King of Edom opens with the words:  “Thus saith thy brother Israel” (Numb.xx.14).  The request was for permission to pass through the country, and the request was accompanied by a promise that neither fields, nor vineyards, nor wells of water should be touched, but that the King’s highway should be kept “until we have passed thy borders”.  This modest request was refused.  The children of Israel sent again saying:--

     “We will go by the high way:  and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then will I pay for it:  I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet” (Numb. xx. 19).

     Edom again replied, “Thou shalt not go through”, but  Deut. ii. 28, 29  suggests that the request to purchase food and drink was granted.  Neither Edom nor Moab, however, would allow Israel to pass through their territory.  Jephtha’s summary of the time shews this clearly:--

     “Then Israel sent messengers unto the King of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land, but the King of Edom would not hearken thereto.  And in like manner they sent unto the King of Moab:  but he would not consent;  and Israel abode in Kadesh” (Judges xi. 17).

     Deuteronomy xxiii. 3, 4  shows that Moab refused what Edom granted:--

     “They met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt:  and because they hired against thee Balaam the Son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.”

     The Companion Bible note to  Deut. ii. 28  suggests that Moab sold too, but the very clear-cut distinction made between Moab and Edom in  Deut. xxiii. 3, 4 & 7  is rather opposed to this suggestion.  However, be that as it may, Edom and Moab both refused permission for Israel to pass through their territory.

     What did the Lord say?  Did He command, “Arise, O Israel, manifest by conquest that you are the redeemed of the Lord”?  No;  Israel’s attitude was to be the reverse of this.  All that is written in  Numbers xx. 21  is:  “Wherefore Israel turned away from him”.   Deuteronomy ii.,  however, makes very clear what Israel’s attitude was to be:--

     “Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren, the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir;  and they shall be afraid of you:  take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore.  Meddle not with them;  for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth” (Deut. ii. 4, 5).

     Much the same is said of the Moabites:  “Distress not the Moabites neither contend with them in battle” (ii. 9).  Here is no uncertain sound, and the spiritual analogy is not difficult to perceive:--

     “We wrestle not with flesh and blood” (Eph. vi. 12).
     “Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (Heb. x. 34).
     “They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews.xi.13).
     “No man that warreth entangleth himself in the affairs of his livelihood” (II.Timothy.ii.4).
     “Let your moderation be known to all men” (Phil. iv. 5).
     “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content (or independent)” (Philippians iv. 11).

     Passages like these bear out the analogy.  We are not citizens here.  This world is partitioned out to others;  brothers indeed in the flesh but, alas, not in the line of promise.  We leave them their inheritance, we do not meddle with them, we shall not possess one foot of their territory, and we are forbidden to enter into conflict.  “From such turn away” is the apostle’s echo of the words, “Israel turned away from him”.  If the rebuff of the world hurts our pride, we must remember that we should have no pride left to be hurt.  The redeemed of the Lord should have no “rights” in the world.  Their citizenship is not here;  they are at best pilgrims seeking a pathway home.

     When we come to the consideration of the Canaanite opponents, we are on entirely different ground.  The first is King Arad the Canaanite.  We read:--

     “And when King Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by way of the spies;  then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners” (Numb. xxi. 1).

     The spies had originally entered the land by this route (see Numb. xiii. 17), and this early act of unbelief (as we have seen the sending of the spies to be) not only brought disaster upon those who lived at the time, but upon their children forty years afterwards.

     The Canaanites are delivered into the hand of Israel and are utterly destroyed.

     A request is next sent to Sihon, King of the Amorites, couched in terms almost identical with those used for Edom.  The request is refused, Sihon comes out and fights against Israel;  and Israel smites him with the edge of the sword, and takes possession of his territory.  What Israel took from Sihon had originally belonged to Moab (Numb. xxi. 26), who had become idolatrous, as we see from  xxi. 28, 29:  “The lords (baalim) of the high places of Arnon . . . . . O people of Chemosh” (Chemosh being an idol,  II Kings xxiii. 13).

     This was a legitimate conquest on this side of Jordan before the land of promise was reached;  and the Church to-day, while not forgetting the restrictions associated with Moab and Edom, can win back territory which was lost to Satan and his hosts, which once belonged to the outer circle of God’s people.

     Og, King of Bashan, also went out against Israel, and he, too, was overcome and destroyed.  This king was the last of the Rephaim;  his bedstead (or tomb) was nine cubits long, “after the cubit of a man”.

     The destruction of Sihon and Og is commemorated in a psalm of praise, which specially emphasizes the mercy of God.

“To Him which smote great kings:
            For His mercy endureth for ever:
And slew famous kings:
            For His mercy endureth for ever:
Sihon, King of the Amorites:
            For His mercy endureth for ever:
And Og, King of Bashan:
   For His mercy endureth for ever”  (Psa. cxxxvi. 17-20).

     This seed of the giants, the Rephaim, were the tares sown by the Wicked One;  it was mercy utterly to destroy them.  And so, when the day arrives for the Church to ascend into the heavenly inheritance, the principalities and powers, the world holders of this darkness and the “spiritual wickednesses” that have, under the authority of Satan, for so long barred the way, shall in like manner be destroyed.  Already by the cross they have been “spoiled” and “triumphed over” (Col. ii. 15).  For the present time our orders are to “stand”, to “stand against” and to “withstand”.

     If it was vital that Israel should follow out implicitly the instructions given them in their passage from the wilderness to the promised land, it is surely equally important that we also should neither exceed nor fall short of the instructions given for our own guidance.  The teaching that some hold regarding “warfare” to-day, is as though Israel, long before the arrival at Kadesh, marched forward indiscriminately with sword in hand, simply because they knew that over the Jordan lay their inheritance and that even then they were really “more than conquerors”.

     We have touched, in passing, upon each of the opposing forces met by Israel, but so much is involved in the action of Balak and Balaam that this must be reserved for separate study in a subsequent paper.

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