Devarim
For the week of July 24, 2004 / 6 Av 5764
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22
Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27
Originally published the week of July 28, 2001 / 8 Av 5761

Point of Reference

At that time I commanded Joshua: "You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you" (Devarim / Deuteronomy 3:21,22).

There are two events in Israel's history that became reference points for them through the years. They are the defeat of two kingdoms that were situated to the east of the Jordan River the kingdoms of Sihon, king of Heshbon and of Og, king of Bashan.

It was following these events that this, the fifth book of Torah, begins. They appear to mark the end of their years of wandering and set the stage for their upcoming conquest of Canaan. Moses refers to these events to encourage Joshua as he prepares to lead the people in the conquest of the Land on the other side of the Jordan. Later Moses will tell the people that they will defeat the nations of Canaan just as they defeated Sihon and Og (31:4). These victories are celebrated as part of God's miraculous acts on behalf of Israel as recited in Psalms 135 and 136. They are also part of the great prayer of Nehemiah chapter 9 (Nehemiah 9:22).

What was it about these victories that made them stand out in the history of the nation? There were other battles, other victories, other great stories, but these became ones to especially remember. Why?

Now unless the Scriptures explicitly tell us why this or that happened, we may never know. But finding the unique qualities of particular events like these may help us discover their importance. 

As I already mentioned, these victories became reference points for Joshua and the people as they faced the future:

You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going (Devarim / Deuteronomy 3:21,22).

Israel was going to face incredible challenges in the days ahead. The opportunity to fear and to give up would arise again and again. But as they faced those challenges, they were to remember what God had done regarding Og and Sihon. The victories of the past were God's pattern for their future.

They would not necessarily find themselves in the exact same situations as they had been in the past. But their hope of future success was not based on how they handled the previous situations; it was based on what God did through them. God would take care of the future just as he took care of the past. They need not wonder about it.

It is likely that God will provide you with similar points of reference. God will take you through difficult situations, which will provide you with a basic understanding of how God will continue to help you in your life. Take the time to remember. And remember that even though the exact details of your present challenges may be very different from past circumstances, God who took care of you back then, will also take care of you now.

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