“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt: So God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.” – Exodus 13:17
As Israel triumphantly left Egypt, an interesting statement is made concerning them – the threat of war with the inhabitants of Canaan would provoke them to turn around and go back to their Egyptian taskmasters. That is quite ironic when we understand that they left “equipped for battle” or, in Hebrew, chamushim. This word is typically translated as “armed” or “fully armed.” In other words, they left Egypt armed for battle but were not prepared for the battle required of them. They appeared outwardly as if they were a mighty army but the Creator was not focusing on what they appeared to be but on what they actually were as revealed from the inside – i.e. what was (or was not) in their hearts. Scripture tells us:
“The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
Considering the word chamushim is derived from the root word chamash, which also gives us the word Chumash (a book containing the five books of Moses, i.e. the Torah), we could argue they had their “sword” in their hand but, apparently, it wasn’t in their heart. In their heart, they were still slaves to Egypt preferring to make bricks for Pharaoh than to fulfill their purpose as His people. Before all was said and done, the wilderness experience exposed their fundamental flaw, that is, they really didn’t trust Him. That is quite astounding when you consider that just the night before, observing the Passover, they apparently trusted Him. Upon receiving instruction to place the blood of a spotless lamb upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes, those who obeyed saw their firstborn delivered as the LORD had promised:
“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 12:13
It is important to point out that, in saying He would “pass over” them, it should not be understood to mean He was “passing by” them. In other words, the term Passover means that God passed over their homes as a mother hen would pass over her chicks, wings extended, to protect them from harm. Consequently, it was the Destroyer who had to “pass by.”
“For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.” – Exodus 12:23
Presumably, as they ate the Passover with the bitter herbs and matzah, they heard the cries of terror resounding throughout the land of Egypt. In fact, Scripture tells us that there was not a single home in Egypt unaffected by the plague (Ex. 12:30). Yet, because of their obedience, Israel was spared this horror, seeing firsthand how the Creator delivers His people from “the pestilence that stalks in darkness.”
“He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his truth shall be your shield and buckler. . . . A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked because you have made the LORD your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge.” – Psalm 91:4, 7-9
God set a distinction between Israel and Egypt to demonstrate to all – Israelite and Egyptian – that He alone was the Almighty. He alone could deliver His people in the midst of calamity and judgment. Still, I wonder how many of those Israelites, surrounded on every side by terror and death thought to themselves as they ate the Passover: “We obeyed His command; now we will have to wait and see if He keeps His promise.” In other words, they had to trust Him; to be more specific, they had to place their trust in the blood of a lamb. So, it strikes me as odd that, on this night, they trusted Him to deliver them from bondage but the next day they couldn’t trust Him to take them into the Land.
Let’s take it one step further. Let’s suppose that He did let them go straight to the Land – what would they have encountered? What was it that would have frightened them so that they would have returned to their bondage? To know that, all we have to do is look at what happened when the ten spies returned from their expedition bearing their evil report.
“And they told him, ‘We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.’ . . . Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’ ” – Numbers 13:27-28; 14:2-4
Moses later recounted the event this way:
“And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us He has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, the people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.’ ” – Deuteronomy 1:27-28
In short, the existence of giants and fortified cities prompted the people to claim that “the LORD hates us and has brought us out here to kill us and our children.” Translation – “our God is a harsh, cruel master.” Of course, as we know, this reaction brought on the sentence to wander through the wilderness until all of that generation was dead. Furthermore, He told them that the children they thought would perish in the wilderness would actually get to experience what their parents didn’t think possible – that God would bring them into the Land flowing with milk and honey. When that time came, the new generation would be exhorted concerning the giants and fortified cities with the charge, “Do not fear them.”
I believe it is important to see that this lack of trust on the part of those who hearkened to the spies’ evil report didn’t begin with the description of the Land and its inhabitants; it was present when they first left Egypt. It percolated and finally materialized as full blown rebellion when they heard of the giants and fortified cities. In the end, it was that lack of trust that kept them from the Land. Why is this important for you and me to acknowledge? Of that generation, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:
“With most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Messiah to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” – 1 Corinthians 10:5-12
There are a couple of points that need to be underscored here. First, Paul makes it clear that these events in the wilderness were written “as examples for us” and, so, we should not overlook what happened to them and why. Secondly, though we might convince ourselves that we don’t “desire evil as they did” or “indulge in sexual immorality” as they did, please note that it was common grumbling and complaining – something we all do – that opened the door for the Destroyer to enter their tents. What were they complaining about? In my opinion, anything that was not in their control, whether it was “where are we going to get water?” or “who should be in charge?”.
Notice also that, because of their complaining, the Destroyer, well, destroyed them – their bodies littered the wilderness. Mind you, this was the same Destroyer that was NOT permitted to enter their homes when they ate the Passover. Remember why? It was because the LORD had passed over them, not allowing the Destroyer entrance (Ex. 12:23). It was because they placed their trust in the blood of a lamb.
Yet, in the wilderness they complained. What was at the heart of their complaints? What prompted them to rebel against the LORD when they heard the spies’ report? I argue that it was simply a matter of trust, or should I say, a lack of trust. Ultimately, they murmured because they didn’t really believe God was able or was willing to bring them into the Land of Promise. This is critical for us to internalize because Paul said:
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” – 1 Corinthians 10:11-12
If you believe that we are living at the end of the age, then be aware that we are warned to take note of the mistakes made by this past generation. This, to me, means that we will be given the opportunity to make the same mistakes they made or to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. I am convinced that their fundamental flaw was a lack of trust – they didn’t believe He was able to bring them into the Land even though they trusted Him to bring them out of Egypt. So, if that is accurate, what should you and I be focused more heavily on – if the new moon is a sliver or the conjunction or how we pronounce YHVH? In my estimation, my focus should be “do I really trust Him in all things?” If not, Father, help me to trust you in all things.
Now consider what possessing the Land really entails. As they prepared to enter the Land, Israel was told not to harass Edom, Moab or Ammon but to utterly destroy Sihon and Og (Deut. 2 – 3).
So why did God tell them to rid the area of one enemy but let others, who would prove to be hostile towards them, remain? Here is something to consider – it was because of Israel’s mandate. Moses told Israel:
“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. . . . See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” – Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-8
We understand that, as a nation, Israel is called to be “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6) – in short, a light to the nations. Might it be that, in possessing the Land and keeping His commands to the degree that surrounding nations took notice of their prosperity and peace, this is how they would fulfill the purpose of being a light to the nations, e.g. Edom, Moab and Ammon? That is exactly what I think. Thus, I suggest that possessing the Land of Promise and living according to His commands was equivalent to fulfilling your purpose; rebelling against the LORD and refusing to go into the Land was equivalent to refusing to fulfill the purpose for which they existed.
Therefore, if we are going to fulfill our purpose we must be committed to “possessing the Land” and if you are going to possess the Land – if you are going to fulfill your purpose – sooner or later, you’re going to have to face the giants. Sooner or later you’re going to have to trust Him in ALL things – not just to deliver you from bondage but also to bring you into the fulfillment of who and what you were determined to be. If you and I desire to fulfill our purpose, then we must be resolved to this fact – it means war. It is not a war of bullets, bombs or ballots but of overcoming any and all obstacles that would provoke us to become immobilized or, worse, to turn tail and run. We simply cannot afford to make the same mistakes that the Exodus generation made. We cannot appear as if we are prepared for war (parading around with our “sword”) only to scatter at the first sign of trouble.
If His Word is truly hidden in our hearts as well as expressed in outward terms, then we will know that, more than anything, He desires that we love Him and trust Him. Those who run from the giants and fortified cities will not possess the Land! So, now is not the time to wring our hands in fear; now is not the time to run and hide. Now is not the time to obsess over chem trails, black helicopters and FEMA camps. If He was able to set a distinction between Israel and Egypt 3500 years ago – even though Israel was right in the middle of the judgments – then He is able to do it again. So then, now is the time for us to overcome our fears, focus our eyes on the Messiah and fulfill the purpose for which we were born – to be a light. I’ll have more to say in our next posting but, for now, I want to leave you with these words:
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” – Luke 21:25 – 28