Israel and the Promised Land (IV)

December 13, 2010

It was not just the “iniquity of the Amorites,” however, that was a factor in regard to the possession of “the promised land.”  It was just as true for Israel, and even before they arrived to take possession.

As I begin this post, though, I have an additional element to add to the mix, that will be seen over and over—the counterpoint to sin: faith—often displayed as obedience and not recognized as faith until the inspired lens of the New Testament states it to be such.  At this early juncture in our safari through Scripture in regard to Israel and the promised land, I dare suggest that it will be noted along that the way that the warring sin and faith factors are almost as dominant in the movement as the underlying unconditional promise made to Abraham and his descendants.

For example, after Israel’s prophesied (Gen. 15:13) 400 years in Egypt was completed—when “the iniquity of the Amorite was full” (15:16), it was two great acts of faith that set them on their way in the exodus.  One was attributed to Moses: the instituting of the Passover (Heb. 11:18).  The other was attributed to the people of Israel: the parting and crossing of the Red Sea (11:19).

However, something very different happens when the same people arrive at Mt. Sinai.  After making a solemn binding bilateral covenant (i.e., pledging their ongoing obedience to the provisions of the covenant) with the Lord in Exodus 19, the bulk of the people fall into rank idolatry, to the point where Moses destroys the tablets of the Decalogue.  Only Moses’ intercession with the Lord caused Him to relent, including these words: “Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel—You swore to them by Your very self, and declared, “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and I will give your offspring all the land that I have promised, and they will inherit it forever” (Ex. 32:13).

You would think take kind of reassurance from the Lord would take care of the sin problem for quite a while, right?  Wrong!  Israel is back at it again soon and the Lord acts in regard to their sin.

In this case, it is the unbelief of the people (see Heb. 3:17-18) in regard to going into the promised land, after the report of the spies in Numbers 13-14.  As a result—and also due to Moses’ own distinct individual act of disobedience (Nu. 20:12-13)—the only Israelites over the age of 20 allowed to enter the land were Joshua and Caleb, the believing presenters of the “minority report” about “a land flowing with milk and honey” to the nation (14:26-38).

But, before even the younger generation was finally allowed entry to the land after a period of 40 years in which the unbelieving responsible adult generation died off, something else had already happened in the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai (see Lev. 26), which Moses would reemphasize in the climactic section of his “swan song” preaching series (see Deut. 28-30), as he asked for the recommitment of that generation to the Mosaic Covenant.  God laid down very clear promises of blessing for obedience and discipline for disobedience in regard to Israel’s presence in the land.

More on that in my next post.

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