Wanderings in the Wilderness
2 “Then we turned and set out for the wilderness by the way to the [a]Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me, and circled Mount Seir for many days. 2 And the Lord spoke to me, saying, 3 ‘You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north, 4 and command the people, saying, “You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful;5 do not [b]provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even as little as a [c]footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6 You shall buy food from them with money so that you may eat, and you shall also purchase water from them with money so that you may drink. 7 For the Lord your God has blessed you in all [d]that you have done; He has known your [e]wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”’
8 “So we passed beyond our brothers the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road, away from Elath and from Ezion-geber. And we turned and passed through by the way of the wilderness of Moab. 9 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of [f]their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot as a possession.’10 (The Emim lived there formerly, a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim. 11 Like the Anakim, they are also regarded as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12 The Horites formerly lived in Seir, but the sons of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did to the land of [g]their possession which the Lord gave to them.) 13 ‘Now arise and cross over the [h]brook Zered yourselves.’ So we crossed over the [i]brook Zered. 14 Now the [j]time that it took for us to come from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed over the [k]brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. 15 Moreover the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from within the camp until they all perished.
16 “So it came about when all the men of war had finally perished from among the people, 17 that the Lord spoke to me, saying, 18 ‘Today you shall cross over Ar, the border of Moab. 19 When you come opposite the sons of Ammon, do not harass them nor provoke them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot as a possession.’ 20 (It is also regarded as the land of the Rephaim, for Rephaim formerly lived in it, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin, 21 a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim, but the Lord destroyed them before them. And they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22 just as He did for the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them; they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23 And the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the [l]Caphtorim who came from [m]Caphtor, destroyed them and lived in their place.) 24 ‘Arise, set out, and pass through the [n]valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you [o]upon the peoples [p]everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
There is something that pervades through this whole passage, and that is the act of God “giving the land”. It would be easy to look at this and think that it is just tribes warring against tribes. One comes out on top, takes the land, and the surviving losers slink to some forgotten corner, if there are any remaining.
But this is a reminder that nothing happens without God knowing it. He is ultimately on control, and though we don’t always understand why He does things, ultimately it is for the good of all humanity. God desires to draw as many people back to himself as possible, and sometimes that requires tragedy and sacrifice.
For it is seldom that blessings push us towards God. Too often, we think it is our own skill, we are so amazing that we just did it all ourselves. But when we are struggling, when we are hurting, we cry out to Him, and seek refuge and restoration. In all of it, blessings and pain, He is in control. Perhaps if we sought him more on the mountain, we wouldn’t have to travel through so many valleys. Perhaps…