Friday, May 6, 2011

Deuteronomy 3 - A Review of the Conquest East of the Jordan and a Reminder to Moses

LINK: Deuteronomy 3


BACKGROUND


Moses continued to review the history of Israel by talking about the conquest of Sihon and the distribution of that land for Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh that we discussed in Numbers 32.


It was also a reminder that Moses would not touch the land because of his unbelief at the waters of Meribah in Numbers 20 (he struck the rock twice with his staff instead of just speaking to it). It records Moses' plea to God to let him cross over into the land, but God told him that he would only see it from Mount Pisgah. God reminded him of his responsibility to prepare Joshua for leadership.


REFLECTION


Once, God gave me a big assignment, I entered into it and worked long and hard to see it get off the ground. It was not forty years of work, but after much trial and difficulty, I was on the edge of the "Promised Land." All indications were that I was to enter in, but it was not God's will for me to do so, and He made that very clear. It seemed like the death of a vision, but God spoke, closed the door, and I needed to obey. After all the time and effort I had put into it, was the difficult journey toward the edge really worth it?


Almost a year after God closed the door, one of the people I had discipled over the previous five years ended up leading the project that I started. The other person was one I had led for about a year. While I was supportive of them becoming leaders of this, there was something in me that was saddened because I would not "enter the land" or even be on a team with those two dear friends. I did not have a problem with them taking over what I had started, I loved them and believed in them, just as I am sure Moses loved and believed in Joshua too, but I can relate with his sadness that after forty years in the wilderness, he could not even touch one toe in the Promised Land. I felt a deep sense of loss for what might have been.


In the midst of my sadness, I wrote one of my spiritual mentors who had helped me through the rough patch of dying to this dream. I loved her response:
You haven’t "lost" anything, in fact you have multiplied yourself and your gifts by moving on. Our job is just to put our little 5 loaves and 2 fish into Jesus’ hands, His job is to multiply it to whomever He sees fit. You will probably not know until eternity just how much He has used even that short but significant effort that you invested. But it is nothing until He puts His hands on it anyway. Nothing is ever "lost" with Him. Keep on—with joy."
Moses was multiplying himself by investing in the life of Joshua. He put in his 5 loaves and 2 fish, and God made the increase. It was God's work, not Moses'. I get it.


Many years out from that initial sadness, I see God's sovereign plan in all of it. I have seen those two women grow in ways they would not have grown if I had been the one to lead. I also have seen my role to "encourage" and pray for and support them just as Moses did for Joshua (Deuteronomy 3:28). Most importantly, God had a different journey for me to the "Promised Land" that has been more rewarding than I ever could have dreamed! 

George met with his former mentor recently. This mentor receives our updates and prays regularly for us and our ministry. He told George, "It seems like you and Carol are working right in your gifting!" In addition, we gave a talk about our ministry at the place where God had closed the door for me, and a friend came up afterward and said, "You are right in your sweet spot, Carol!"  I immediately thought about this former situation, and I thought once again how glad I am that I did not continue with it. While parts of it were in my gifting, others were not in my gifting and not what I am truly passionate about. Today, I am smack dab in the center of His will for my life. If God had not closed that door, I might not be doing what I am doing now and be in the supportive church situation that helps us do what we do! He knows what He is doing. He really does!



APPLICATION


Have you set your heart on a "Promised Land" only to have a closed door? How have you handled it? Are you angry, frustrated, depressed? I am reminded of what Maria said in The Sound of Music, "Reverend Mother always says when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window."


That open window might include helping someone else develop and grow like Moses did for Joshua. Can you trust Him for that window to a new route to the Promised Land? Talk to God about it right now.


PRAYER



I praise You for the example of Your faithfulness and power displayed to the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. Help us to recognize Your faithfulness in our past, present, and future. You deserve our obedience even when You close a door. Help us to handle closed doors as opportunities for and not obstacles to growth and fulfillment. We trust Your sovereign ways. Amen.


MANY ASPIRE, FEW ATTAIN


On occasion, I will include excerpts from the booklet Many Aspire, Few Attain by Walt Henrichsen. I highly recommend picking up copies to read for yourself and give to people as you help them grow. George and I have used this booklet as a base for a series of talks. You can also download at PDF version HERE.

6. Beware the road of no return 
“But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me. And the Lord said unto me, ‘Let it suffice then speak no more unto Me of this matter’” (Deut. 3:26).

In this passage Moses is making his closing remarks and reviewing his life with the children of Israel. Remember, he spent the first forty years of his life in the palace, the second forty years tending sheep and squeezing sand between his toes, and the third forty years wandering around the wilderness with a rebellious people, waiting for a generation of them to die. Can you imagine the number of funerals Moses had to attend? Forty years of burying his own generation, and there was a slug of them. Now he’s reviewing his life and he says, “But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me”.

Why was God angry? In the wilderness, the children of Israel complained about the water (among many other things). God told Moses to strike the rock and water would come out. Moses struck the rock and, sure enough, water came out. The second time that the same incident occurred, God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would produce water. Moses, however, was angry because of the rebelliousness of the people, and he struck the rock instead. The water came out, but God said, “Moses, you’re all through. You will not go into the promised land”. Moses had lived over one hundred years of his life with one thing on his mind - getting into that promised land. Over one hundred years! Now he couldn’t go in because of one dumb mistake - not two or three or five, just one! Paul tells us that the rock was Jesus Christ, and that he should be smitten only once (1 Cor. 10:4). Because of that, God said, “You will not go into the promised land”.

Now Moses pled with God, “Lord, change Your mind. Give me another chance.” But, “The Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, ‘Let it suffice then speak no more unto Me of this matter.’” In other words, “Moses, don’t bring the matter up again.” When God says, “Don’t speak to me again of this,” it’s best that we drop it.
 
The sixth reason why people don’t make it through the battle is that they enter the road of no return. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Although this is true, it is not the answer to some wrong decisions.

Take courtship and marriage, for example. If you get married and then wake up some morning and find out that you are lying next to the wrong person, 1 John 1:9 won’t get you out of your predicament. God says, and you’ve promised that this is, “Until death do you part.” It was an irrevocable decision. No amount of pleading with God can change it.

If you don’t make certain decisions in the center of God’s will, you will automatically become disqualified from the race. Like Moses, you’ll be all through. God warns us that we cannot accurately estimate the price we must pay for sin, and so we are best served by obeying God in all things.
I just love this little booklet, and you will too! You will read it in its entirety over the course of the Bible Book Club, but download the PDF, and you can read the whole thing right now.
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