Scripture: And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it.” Numbers 33:50-53 ESV
Observation: Having confirmed the intent of the tribal leaders of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Moses approved their plan to settle in the Transjordan, provided they fulfill their promise to send their fighting men into battle to claim the rest of the Promised Land. Wasting no time, these clan leaders take action and dispossess the remaining peoples of Sihon’s and Og’s kingdoms, build fortified cities and settle their families (women, children, and elders) in the land (32:33-42). And in the journalistic style of this fourth book of the Pentateuch, the first forty-nine verses of Chapter 33 recount Israel’s journey from captivity to conquest.
The narrative then shifts to dialogue. Yahweh instructs Moses to commission the next generation to drive out the inhabitants, destroy their idolatrous symbols and ceremonial worship grounds (high places), and settle in the land (above verses). As to dividing the inheritances, the Lord adds a new detail: while clan population determines the size of the territory, the casting of lots will decide its location (v.54). The Lord concludes his mandate by reiterating a warning issued to the previous generation: Do as I command. Otherwise, the Canaanites will cause you much heartache, for I will do to you as I intended for them (vv.55-56).
Takeaway: The repetition of the mission to Moses nevertheless stood as a new command for all but Joshua and Caleb. It succinctly lays out action verbs that outline a five-step process:
- Pass over the Jordan.
- Drive out the inhabitants.
- Destroy all the idols.
- Demolish places of pagan worship.
- Take possession of the land.
And while the process of casting lots to allocate possession may sound contradictory to God’s sovereignty, this lottery system merely served as a means of revealing Yahweh’s divine will. As theologian Ronald Allen posits, no allegations of “influence peddling” could be lodged by clan leaders. Thus, Israel’s soon-to-be leader, Joshua, will be spared controversy regarding his discernment of God’s intentions.
The takeaway for us? Following the Lord’s directive for entering the Promised Land in light of our Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), we:
- Pass over the borders of our comfort zones into enemy territory.
- Drive out forces of evil by praying for those who persecute us and loving our enemies.
- Destroy the idols in our lives that render us ineffective.
- Demolish those places in our lives where we are prone to worship ourselves, others, and the world.
- Take possession of those areas of our lives that expand his kingdom.
Without elaborating on examples, suffice to say that if the habits we have developed draw us closer to Christ and his mission, then (with the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit) build on these to pass over, drive out, and take possession. But for all other unhelpful habits and traditions, destroy and demolish. And Christ will be with us always to the end of our mission.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who has commissioned us to take possession of his Promised Land and for your Holy Spirit who strengthens and guides us in fulfilling his commission. Would you please help us destroy and demolish any habits and traditions that get in the way and step out in faith to pass over into enemy territory and do our part in driving out evil and solidifying strongholds for your kingdom? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling