Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
Deuteronomy 2 is a summary of the events recorded in Numbers 24:14- 31:54, describing the people of Israel defeating the nations and kings in the Promised Land. Moses gives no details of what Israel experienced while wandering thirty-eight years in the wilderness. During these years, Israel was out of favor with God. There is no record that they observed the Passover or even circumcised their sons. After Joshua led the nation across the Jordan River, he took care of those responsibilities and Israel was back in God’s covenant blessing (Joshua 5). The people in Moses’ congregation, who were nineteen years old when the wonderings began, were now fifty-seven. They would certainly remember those difficult years and hopefully tell their children and grandchildren.
First, they pass by the Edomites. They were not to meddle with them. They could buy food and water from them but they were to watch carefully (Deuteronomy 2: 1-4). The Edomites should have shown brotherly love, but instead they perpetuated the ancient feud between Jacob and Esau. Family feuds are not soon forgotten. It does not matter whether it is the nuclear family, spiritual family or societal family. Hatred, rivalry and bitterness die hard. One more thing, God had graciously provided for Israel during the years of wandering. They had no need to attack or exploit their brothers (Deuteronomy 2:7).
Second, they were to avoid the Moabites and Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2:9-23). These two tribes were descendants of Lot. Thus, relatives as well. The Lord had helped them defeat their enemies and take their land (Deuteronomy 2:20-23). Neither the Moabites or Ammonites deserved this kindness from God, but sometimes the Lord blesses one people because of their relationship with another people, in this case Israel. All these relationships go back to Abraham. It was a turning point when Israel crossed into the Zered Valley. Now the older generation was gone, except for Moses, Joshua and Caleb (Deuteronomy 2:13-16). Israel could now look forward to defeating their enemy.
Third, was defeating the Amorites (Deuteronolmy 2:24-3:11). Sihon and Og were powerful kings in the region of the Amorites. Israel’s defeat of them was especially important because it would send a message to the other nations in Canaan and bring fear to their hearts. As he did with the Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites Moses made an offer to Sihon to pass through their land peacefully and pay for their food and water. Shihon’s heart was hardened and when he and his army attacked Israel, God gave Moses the victory. This victory gave Israel encouragement to confront Og. Og was a giant (Deuteronomy 3:11), but even though the walls were high and Og was a giant, Israel defeated them to. God is bigger than the giants and the walls.
God would provide for His people as they conquered the land. None of their adversaries stood successfully against them. Even so today, the Lord is our strength and our salvation. He gives us the victory!
Once again Israel had arrived at the promised land. They are 11 days journey out (v. 2). It’s been 40 years since they were here before (v. 3). God’s words come loud and clear, “You’ve stayed long enough at this mountain.” (v. 6) It’s time to go on. It’s time to enter the land. It’s time to fulfill this promise. Though a generation had died in the wilderness due to disobedience, God had multiplied the Israelites – they had become a great nation (v. 10).
The question for them to consider is, “What’s going to be different this time?” The first few chapters of Deuteronomy is a walk through history – reminding this new generation of where they came from, and how their parent’s generation failed.
They didn’t trust the Lord (v. 32), they would not listen (v. 43), they rebelled against the command of the Lord (v. 43). Despite God’s miracles, His goodness, all the ways He demonstrated His power and that He was on their side – they didn’t trust in Him (v. 29-32). Thus they were punished. They would not be allowed into the promised land (v. 34-36). They had everything they needed to believe and trust in God, but they turned against Him.
God was willing to take this new generation into the land – to let them fulfill the promise – but they needed to learn from their parent’s mistakes – they needed to walk by faith – not by fear; they needed to trust in God to bring the victory – not in their own strength.
What’s this have to do with us? Hear how the words of Hebrews 4 fit with this context: “Therefore, let us fear, if while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had the good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” (Heb. 4:1-2). Through His words we have everything we need to believe and trust in God – to see His power, be convinced of His goodness, to know His will and submit to His rule – will we walk by faith or by fear? Will we trust in His strength or our own? Will we submit to God’s will or go our own way? Will we enter the land of rest, or follow in the same steps of those of old?
Like Joshua’s generation – the choice is up to us. The enemies won’t be different from before. The challenges won’t be different. The temptations won’t be different from before. What will be different? Me. My heart. I will choose to trust in God and walk by faith. And thus my outcome will be different than Israel’s – I choose to enter the land of rest by the grace and strength of the Savior.
Wonderful Savior, this chapter in Deuteronomy reminds us of Your patience, Your strength, Your love, Your mercy. You were there for Israel – You led them, provided for them, rescued and redeemed them, promised them victory and a land of abundance – and they didn’t trust in You. I recognize that I can be just like Israel – forgetting all You have done for me, all the evidences of Your goodness, power, love, mercy, patience – all the answered prayers – and yet I too fail to put my trust in You. Forgive me of my sins. I believe – but help my unbelief. I trust in You – help me to trust more. Help me to listen. Help me to follow. Help me to learn from the mistakes of the past to choose a better future. You promise victory – help me to claim it through my Glorious Lord Christ – who deserves all honor, all glory, and all praise!
God Is Faithful
As each tribe is given their land, that land was not to leave their tribe. God intended for it to remain in the family to which it was originally given (Numbers 36).
So what happened when a daughter married? Once again, God left nothing to chance. She could only marry within the family. Therefore, no inheritance would be transferred to any other tribe.
The nation is poised to enter the land of Canaan. God had brought this new generation safely through the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The task ahead was for them to conquer the land and continue to thrive in the land. God was faithful to His promise.
The lesson we learn is no matter how long it takes, God is always faithful to His promises. It may seem to us that God takes forever. But, in His time all things He has planned and purposed for His children will receive what He has promised. There is great confidence for us knowing God is faithful.
God has given us a picture of what He wanted Israel to be (Numbers 26-36). He wanted a God-centered people. Unfortunately, Israel failed to live up to that expectation. Today, God holds before us serious standards from the New Testament. He has high expectations is for His children. He wants us collectively and individually to live God- centered lives.
In the 35th chapter we continue the discussion over how the promised land was to be divided. In this chapter we find what the Levites were given. Though they didn't get a portion of the land as did the rest other tribes, they were given 48 cities. 6 of those cities would be known as "cities of refuge" to be a place for those who had killed another accidentally. They could flee and find safety in these cities.
There's something to that thought - finding a refuge, a place of safety. That's an image which is found throughout the OT - God is our refuge (Ps. 46:1; Ps. 61:3; Ps. 91:9; 2 Sam 22:3; Ruth 2:12; etc.). A refuge is a place one goes for protection, for security, for comfort, for strength. So often we make things such as money, possessions, occupations, success, family and friends our refuge - just like building a house upon the sand. When the storms of life hit (and they will), that house will come crashing down. The house that stands is the house built upon the rock (Matt. 7:24-29). It's the one who makes his God his refuge. He turns to God for strength, for comfort, for security, for joy. He looks to God's words for guidance. He models his life after Christ's example.
Do you have a place to turn when the hard times come? Do you have one to turn to for comfort when your heart breaks? Do you have a place you go for safety, security, and hope? Let God be your refuge. Put your trust in Him. He will not fail. When it seems like everything is crumbling and falling to pieces, turn to God. Give your life to God. Seek shelter under His wings - a life led by His wisdom and guidance - There's hope. There's comfort. There's confidence. God has provided a city of refuge - come make your home in Him!
Great God and Father, I praise You this morning for all that You are, and all You have provided. I wake the dawn singing Your goodness, amazed at all You are to me. You are my Strength, my Rock. You are my Shield, my Strong Tower. You are my Help, my Redeemer. You are my Safety, my City of Refuge. You are my Salvation. You are my Hope. You are my Source of Joy, the Smile on my face. You are the Song that I sing. You are Love. You are Good, and the Giver of all that is Good. You are my Father, My King, My Creator, My Friend, My God. Thank You for giving me all that I have - for giving my life meaning, purpose, joy, comfort, and hope. I give You this day, my wonderful God. I give you my words, my thoughts, the best I have to give. I love You and praise You - my Lord and my God!
In ancient days there were no survey crews with instruments for determining property lines. People cited towns and geographical features to identify boundaries. The children of Israel are ready to enter the land and Moses now gives them the boundaries of the land they will possess (Numbers 34). At the beginning Moses had appointed twelve men to help him with the census. Now he appoints ten men to help Joshua and Eleazar with dividing the land for the people to live in.
First, notice God left nothing to chance. How many times do families squabble over inheritance? No room for that here. God is specific about who gets what. God had planned and promised. How many times do we live our lives catch-as-catch can? How often do we get up and wherever the wind blows us that day is the direction we go? Is there a lesson to be learned of the value of planning and preparation? Is there a lesson to be learned about the value of boundaries in one’s life? Certainly we are not able to plan for every contingency and the unknown that comes. But, for that which we can, why not imitate what God has done?
Second, God had promised the land, a large portion, to the Israelites. Wherever they put their foot they would claim the land. God offers us great spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3-13). Do we leave them unclaimed? God offers us the opportunity of prayer. Do we leave that great privilege laying on the table? He offers us the encouragement of each other. Do we claim the blessing we can receive from each other? How many times do we, like Israel, leave unclaimed all God has promised and offered to us? Are we putting our feet on the promises of God?
I am impressed as we have worked through this book about how God plans, purposes and defines what He gives and wants. It is no different today. We operate at our best when we live as God designed for us to live. There is great peace, confidence and harmony in our lives and the lives of others with whom we interact.