Day 32

Instructions for Occupying Canaan

from the reading plan

Numbers 33:1-56, Exodus 23:20-33, Psalm 106:34-36

“In the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho,” (Numbers 33:50) a man—far beyond a century in age—surveyed the barren wastelands of the Sinai peninsula. Moses looked out over the desolate landscape, the decades of dust beneath his sandals, weary and ready to rest. He may not have had much left to give, but he had the glorious promised land yet to gain.

The first forty-seven verses of Numbers 33 offer a painstakingly detailed reminder of God’s faithfulness. Moses, the Israelites, and all future readers of this text can take comfort knowing that God’s love never fails.

As Moses beheld the windswept desert plain, God instructed him quite clearly: “You are to take possession of the land and settle in it because I have given you the land to possess” (Numbers 33:53). This unadorned statement reaffirms God’s faithfulness since the beginning of their dramatic exit from slavery and throughout their sojourn in the desert. He had delivered them countless times before, and He would deliver them again.

However, there’s more to the text than a celebration of what God has done. There’s a reassurance about what awaited beyond the Jordan—but it came with a distinct caveat. God exhorted Moses to beware the influence of the outside world. “You must not make a covenant with them or their gods” (Exodus 23:32) because “they will make you sin against me” (v.33).

As we know from our own times, it’s difficult to live in a culture where allegiance to God is awkward at best and anathema at worst. As the Israelites demonstrated throughout the Old Testament, it can be much easier—even beneficial—to relegate the memories of God’s faithfulness to the sidelines to create the illusion that the present world is more comfortable, more manageable, more convenient, and more pleasurable.

Have you ever stood on your own “plains of Moab” to look at what’s ahead? If so, then perhaps you recognize that all your monumental victories and searing losses together shape the moment at which you have arrived. You understand that trusting God is the only option that makes sense in light of what you’ve experienced in the past because He has held and maybe even repurposed your darkest, lowest moments for your good and His glory.

Just as God warned Moses on the plains of Moab, so He urges us today to remember all He has done, and to trust Him with all that is to come. It is imperative that we look back in awe of God’s faithfulness, that we trust Him unflinchingly in the present, and reserve our heart’s deepest loyalty and affection for Him alone as we look to whatever tomorrow has in store.

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