In our study of Deuteronomy chapter two, we look at the fact that God will take care of the giant problems in our lives and this will build us up in our faith.
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Then we turned back and set out toward the wilderness along the route to the Red Sea, as the Lord had directed me. For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir. Then the Lord said to me, 'You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north.'
Moses' parting words continues as he reminds the people of their wanderings in the desert. This lasted about thirty-eight years and then God had them turn to go towards the promised land.
'Give the people these orders: "You are about to pass through the territory of your relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own. You are to pay them in silver for the food you eat and the water you drink."'
As Israel headed toward their place in this world, they had to pass through an area that belonged to Esau. This land had been given to Esau by God and Israel was reminded of that fact. This reminds us, as Christians, that the first step in facing our giants is recognizing the enemy. Although Esau had not been the one chosen by God to inherit the promises of Abraham, he had been given an inheritance. He had been a man focused on the material things of life and yet God had provided a place for him and his relatives. This also reminds us that it is God that sets the boundaries of the nations. In our world today, it seems that there are conflicts all around us concerning national boundaries especially in the Middle East. Unless and until man accepts the boundaries that God had prescribed, there will continue to be these struggles among men. As the Creator of all things (including the land), God has the right to give them to whoever he chooses.
The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.
Moses reminds the people that, even though they were in the wilderness, God was still in control and that He had watched over them. The same thing holds true for those of us who are in Christ. We may be in some difficult times and places but God is right there with us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So we went on past our relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. We turned from the Arabah road, which comes up from Elath and Ezion Geber, and traveled along the desert road of Moab. Then the Lord said to me, 'Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.'
As Israel headed north, they came to the land of the Moabites. These, too, were relatives as they were descendants of Lot through his daughter. Once again, Israel was not to mess with them but to pass through peacefully.
(The Emites used to live there - a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. Like the Anakites, they too were considered Rephaites, but the Moabites called them Emites. Horites used to live in Seir, but the descendants of Esau drove them out. They destroyed the Horites from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did in the land the Lord gave them as their possession.)
Moses reminds the people of the giants that were driven out of the lands of Seir and Moab. The Rephaim were a group of men that were controlled by demons and evidently were made to be huge by them. Moses reminds Israel that those giants were driven out by men. This is a reminder to us, as well, that no problem is too big to be overcome. God had decided to give these lands to these people and no giants could stand in the way.
And the Lord said, 'Now get up and cross the Zered Valley.' So we crossed the valley. Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. The Lord's hand was against them until he had completely eliminated them from the camp.
The Zered Valley surrounds a stream that flows from the east and goes into the southern end of the Dead Sea. This was the border between the lands of Edom and Moab. The Israelites had wandered around for thirty-eight years so that all of those fighting men who had not trusted in the Lord would perish. At that time, God called Israel to cross the valley and to continue on their trip to the promised land. That is a reminder to us that it is only by faith that we can enter into the promised land. That promised land is walking with God on this earth as we wait for the coming new heaven and new earth.
Now when the last of these fighting men among the people had died, the Lord said to me, 'Today you are to pass by the region of Moab at Ar. When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites. I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.'
Once again, Moses reminds the people that they had passed through the land of their relatives the Ammonites. They had not fought there because it was not a part of their promised land. The Ammonites were relatives because they were descended from the relationship between Lot and his daughter.
(That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; but the Ammonites called them Zamzummites. They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The Lord destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place.
Moses reminds the people that God had cleared the land of its giants and given it as an inheritance to Lots' descendants. That is a reminder to us, as Christians, that we all have our different giants to face but God will handle them all.
(The Lord had done the same for the descendants of Esau, who lived in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites from before them. They drove them out and have lived in their place to this day. And as for the Avvites who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorites coming out from Caphtor destroyed them and settled in their place.)
Why are the details like this included in Moses' parting words to Israel? We, like the Israelites, are strengthened in our faith as we see God do things in our lives. But, what do you do when you do not have those past experiences? You hear the testimony of others and what God has done in their lives. This, too, can strengthen you and help you stand strong in facing your giants. The Israelites were on their way to face their first battle. As they passed through the lands of their relatives and saw what God had done for them, They would have had a stronger faith and hope that He would be with them. Moses reminded the people that it was God that had done the work and secured the victories.
'Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle. This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you.'
The Arnon Gorge is in the modern country of Jordan where the locals call it the "Grand Canyon of Jordan". At this time, it was the boundary between the land of the Ammonites and the Amorites. We see that, before they crossed this massive gorge, God assured them that He had already gave them the land on the other side. They had already passed through lands that God had taken from others and given to their relatives. Because of that fact, they would have had a stronger faith and trust in the Lord. We also see that their victory was going to be a testimony of God's power to the nations of the world and a reminder that, as the Creator of all things, He has the right to set the boundaries of the nations.
From the Desert of Kedemoth I sent messengers to Sihon king of Heshbon offering peace and saying, 'Let us pass through your country. We will stay on the main road; we will not turn aside to the right or to the left. Sell us food to eat and water to drink for their price in silver. Only let us pass through on foot - as the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, and the Moabites, who live in Ar, did for us - until we cross the Jordan into the land the Lord our God is giving us.'
Moses continues his parting words to the Israelites by telling of his shortcomings in following God. As we see here, he did not do as God said and simply lead the Israelites against Sihon and his army. Instead, he did what seemed safe and right to his thinking by sending messengers to the king. Moses' actions may seem like a good thing but they were not what God had told Israel to do. We often forget that Moses was a simple man much like we are. He had his own weaknesses and failings in faith but God still used him in a mighty way. In the same way, God can use our failures as a testimony to others.
But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the Lord your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done. The Lord said to me, 'See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land.'
God knew what was in the heart of Sihon even though Moses did not. Therefore, when the offering of peace was presented to him, he refused and the true nature of his heart was revealed. This is a reminder to us, as Christians, that we are to seek God's guidance in our dealings with the people of this world. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 7), we are to seek God's guidance before we end up casting our pearls to pigs. In a sense, Moses was casting the pearl of peace to the pig and it was trampled underfoot.
When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, the Lord our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army.
Moses reminds the people of Israel that God had did what He said He would do with Sihon. They are reminded of the past faithfulness of God to prepare them for the future struggles of walking with Him in the promised land.
At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them - men, women and children. We left no survivors. But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves. From Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the gorge, even as far as Gilead, not one town was too strong for us. The Lord our God gave us all of them.
Moses reminded Israel that the victory over Sihon was a complete victory. They did not have to compromise or settle for a partial victory as God had given them all that He had promised. That same promise is ours in Christ. God has given us the total victory and we can have it all as long as we do not settle for less.
But in accordance with the command of the Lord our God, you did not encroach on any of the land of the Ammonites, neither the land along the course of the Jabbok nor that around the towns in the hills.
Moses reminds them (and us) that their success in the campaign was due to the fact that they had stayed within God's plan. They did not get proud because of their victory and then try to take what God had not given them. This is the same for us as Christians and speaks of our contentment in Jesus Christ. We trust that God is good, He knows what is best for us, and that He wants the best for us. With this in mind, we can accept what He gives us and not envy those that have been given something different.