Numbers 21:10-35 October 13, 2013
“God Gives, We Take, and We Worship” Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen BFC
In Num. 21:4-9, we saw the desperate situation of the people and how the Lord provided healing/ salvation for them, through the bronze serpent lifted high on a pole.
8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.”
Here is a picture of our situation: we are dying in our sin, but are saved by looking in faith to the dead body of a man hanging on a cross (he became accursed for us)
John 3:14-15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Israel Moves Forward: Now, in Num. 21:10-35, having been saved by God’s means of healing, through faith, we see the rapid progress of God’s people, triumphing over their foes.
When Christ is lifted up, His people move forward in victory over her enemies. For Israel of old, that was over the pagan nations. For believers in Christ today, our victory is over the power of sin, idols, and our addictions, over the power of Satan, and even over the power of death!
And as Israel moves forward and defeats her enemies, and as we live out our lives, we see both God’s sovereign power and human responsibility.
I. God Gives (God’s sovereignty/ God’s actions)
Look at v. 34a: The LORD said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land.
We read of this later in Ps. 105:44 “He gave them the lands of the nations….”
II. We Take (Israel’s responsibilities and effort -and ours):
Look at v. 34 again – the 2nd half: The LORD said to Moses: “Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”
Num. 21 speaks of Israel digging a well, moving their camp, fighting battles, and so forth. The people of Israel had to work hard and be strategic in their planning, and not only capture the cities God gave them, but also figure out a way to occupy them and to make them productive for their people.
And so we see that this passage is about God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.
The Lord is saying to His redeemed people: “The land is yours; now take it. I have given you the land; now capture it.” God repeatedly tells the children of Israel that He has given Canaan to them. He has given the land to them. He will give the kings and their armies and their cities, and their sons and their wealth to the children of Israel. But Israel has a responsibility to take the land which God has given to them: “The land is yours; now take it. I have given you the land; now capture it.”
It’s hard to keep these two truths in a balance tension, isn’t it? One minute we are tempted to think that it all depends on our effort, and the next minute we thing “Just let go and let God!” But God calls us to remain poised between God’s sovereign grace and our believing obedience. The Christian life is always the simultaneous embrace of both realities.
What Paul writes about in Phil 2:12-13 is helpful here: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
The Christian is working (v. 12) and God is working (13). There is human responsibility and divine enablement. We are called to activity by virtue of God’s powerful working in us.
Illustration: the counselor telling a married couple to “work at your marriage;” for marriage, once entered into, is possessed in full – you are fully married when the minister says “I now pronounce you…” but marriage deserves a lifetime of exploration, enjoyment, development, and discovery! So we are not working FOR our salvation; we are working out all the wonderful implications of it, which is our sanctification. Bottom Line: “Because God works in us, we work out our sanctification.” God gives, and we take.
III. We Worship Notice in Num. 21:23-26 and 32-35 how the two powerful kings, Sihon and Og, fall easily to Israel, as she moves forward in faith. God give Israel these victories to encourage her for the great work ahead in the conquest of Canaan, and so that future generations of believers will worship the Lord for His mighty acts!
Look at Num. 21:23-26 and vv. 32-35
23 But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the desert against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel.
24 Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified. 25 Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements. 26 Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon.
32 “After Moses had sent spies to Jazer, the Israelites captured its surrounding settlements and drove out the Amorites who were there. 33 Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan , and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.
34 The LORD said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.” 35 So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.
“Sihon and Og” How does that duo sound? Not exactly Simon and Garfunkel, Hall and Oates, or Brooks and Dunn, but in the Old Testament, the names of Sihon and Og do ring a bell.
Sihon had conquered the Moabites and took their territory as far south as the Arnon river
Og’s kingdom was powerful, having 60 walled cities (Dt. 3:4-5). So these were two powerful and feared kings. The names “Sihon and Og” had caused people to tremble and surrender… like Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan….but now Israel… or Israel’s God… had defeated them soundly and taken over their walled cities and their lands! Who was this YAHWEH? Who was this God of Israel?
Let’s listen in to three accounts of how God’s mighty victory over Sihon and Og caused people to fear and worship the Lord:
Joshua 2:8-11 Rahab says to the two Israelites spies: Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
Notice that the mighty acts of the Lord were the basis for Rahab’s faith in the God of Israel. God gave Israel victory over Sihon and Og so that even the hardened pagans would hear about it and put their faith in the Lord and worship Him!
B. The Psalmist
The Psalmist perpetuates the memory of these great victories over Sihon and Og in Ps. 135:5-12 and again Psalm 136:17-22:
17 “who struck down great kings, His love endures forever. 18 and killed mighty kings— His love endures forever. 19 Sihon king of the Amorites His love endures forever. 20 and Og king of Bashan—His love endures forever. 21 and gave their land as an inheritance, His love endures forever. 22 an inheritance to his servant Israel; His love endures forever.”
Question: How does the victory of Israel over these two ancient kings speak of God’s love enduring forever?
Answer: We experience His enduring love when we see His mighty power over our enemies, such as our addictions and our idols, over our problems, and over Satan and death.
And so we Christians, as we sing the Psalms, are still testifying about how Sihon and Og went down, and we will do so until the end of the world. It leads us to worship the Lord!
C. The Returning Exiles
About 1,000 years after these battles, when the Israelites return from exile, in a great confession of sin, the people recall God’s previous kindness in this regard
Neh. 9:5 sets the scene: And the Levites said: “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.’” “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.
Then in Neh. 9:22 the Levites recall God’s triumphs of a millennium ago: “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan.”
God’s previous faithfulness is always grounds for looking forward to His faithfulness to us in the future, and for giving Him the praise and worship due His holy name!
Summary and Application: We see how God gives (sovereign over all), we take (we are responsible to trust and obey), and we respond in Worship, and call others to worship Him, in response to His mighty acts of salvation and victory
He is the Sovereign King, worthy of all our devotion, faith, and obedience.
How are you responding? Is He your king? Are you taking what He gives you? Will you worship Him and no other?