Deuteronomy 2 – God as the Lord of history.
Posted: 15 February 2012 in Deuteronomy

…..command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession…. And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Eziongaber, we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab. And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession….. Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle….. Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day….. Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.

For me the interesting thing about this passage is the way in which it talks about God’s iron grip on history. It had been God’s will to give Edom and Moab to the children of Esau and Lot respectively, and the Israelites, on their way out of Egypt are told explicitly not to mess with them. But when it comes to Sihon, king of Heshbon, on the other hand, things are different. There it is the Lord’s will that Israel should dispossess the existing inhabitants. So God intervenes directly to harden the the heart of the king of Heshbon, and thereby ensures that Sihon comes out to battle with the Israelites and loses.

Christians sometimes talk as if God created the universe as a kind of playground for us. Thereafter we can do what we like in it, within reason, and his only role is to occasionally intervene to correct miscreants, and to ensure fair play, but otherwise he minds his own business. Sometimes we get angry when he falls down on the job we have assigned him. How dare he allow innocent suffering? The ancients were acquainted with suffering too, probably more so than us, but it generally did not occur to them to rail against God in the way that we tend to.

The God of the Bible, however, is not one whose primary purpose is to ensure our comfort. He created the universe, and everything in it, for his own purposes – not for ours, and we are here only to be his servants. The God of the Bible’s primary concern is to bring his plan for history to fruition. To that end he is quite prepared to preordain some to a life of comfort, and others to a life of suffering; some to eternal life, and others to destruction. Always he has in mind his ultimate purpose in creating the universe, and that is the furtherance of his own glory.

“The LORD do that which seemeth him good,” was Joab’s prayer prior to his battle with the Ammonites, because he knew that the outcome of the battle would depend solely upon that which God had preordained since before the beginning of the world.

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