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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Scenic Route: A 14589 Day Delay
Text:Deuteronomy 1:2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Obedience
 
Added:2022-05-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Deuteronomy 1: 1-8; 19-46

Text: Deuteronomy 1:2

 

THE SCENIC ROUTE: A 14 589 DAY DELAY

  1. The Punishment of 40 years

  2. The Preservation through 40 years

 

  1. Psalm 105: 1, 2, 5

  2. Psalm 12: 4, 5

  3. Hymn 12: 1, 2

  4. Hymn 65: 1-4

  5. Hymn 85: 1-3

 

Words to Listen For: Winnipeg, inconceivable, shortest, robes, 3 feet high

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What are the two repeated lines in Deuteronomy?

  2. Why didn’t God accept the remorse and sorrow of the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea the first time?

  3. When do we stand at crossroads?

  4. Why is it a gospel message that Joshua, and not Moses, would be the one to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land?

  5. What two reasons did God have for having the Israelites wander for 40 years?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

What do you think of when you think of the book of Deuteronomy?

It isn’t the first choice typically for Bible studies, or sermon series.  But Deuteronomy is an amazing book.  Deuteronomy is a book that might surprise you as to its beauty, and its application to our lives.  Now, of course the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is GOOD.  From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, it is inspired, it is true.  The whole thing is FOR US from God.

But within the Book of Deuteronomy in particular, we get a very clear picture of who God is and who we are.  Because what is the book of Deuteronomy?  What exactly is it?

Deuteronomy is a farewell speech, or a farewell sermon.  Moses is nearing the end of his life...he has been told by God that his days are almost up...just one or two more weeks left until he will die on Mt. Nebo.  And so in this, his last act as leader of the nation of God, He reminds them of the two pieces of knowledge that they need to truly have wisdom: know yourself, and know God.

In Deuteronomy, we find the following two lines repeated, time and again:

          This is the land the Lord your God is giving you

          Go in, take it, and possess the land

And you see, these two lines work in connection with each other: God’s sovereignty, and our human responsibility.

God has given you the strength, God has given you the opportunity...now go, be brave, and do His will.

But, as we know, the Israelites didn’t get it right the first time, did they?

They disobeyed. They doubted.  They rebelled against God, and so there were consequences.  Their disobedience caused them to take:

THE SCENIC ROUTE: A 14 589 DAY DELAY

  1. The Punishment of 40 years

  2. The Preservation through 40 years

 

The Punishment of 40 Years

Our text this morning, Deuteronomy 1:2 is a rather strange choice for a sermon, I will grant you that.  But it has the benefit of being very memorable.

Of all the sermons I heard in my youth, growing up in Winnipeg, even though I’m sure I heard many of them, the only one that stays in my mind was this one.

Deuteronomy 1:2.  A passage that, in some versions of the Bible, such as the NIV, and the King James Version...this is a verse that is put in brackets.  Essentially inserting the words “by the way” in front of it.

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.  BY THE WAY, FOR THOSE WHO ARE REAL MAP PEOPLE, it is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea.

Not quite a verse that you would write on your wall, or have framed in your office.  Not a verse that you would put as a bumper sticker.  On first glance, it doesn’t seem to carry the oomph of a John 3:16.

But it is a verse that is so full.

And how is this the case?  How is this relevant?  If you do the math...you’ll see that 14 589 days comes just shy of 40 years.  11 days shy to be exact.  And even if we aren’t “map people,” let’s become these people for a second here.  Because we need to identify the start and the end of this 11 day journey described in this verse.

What is Horeb?  Where is Horeb?  Well, Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai.  The place where Israel received the law from God.  That one is pretty easy.

But Kadesh Barnea...where is that?  Well, Kadesh Barnea, sometimes just called Kadesh, is a city, just within the southern border of the Promised Land.  Is it coming together for you?

What this verse is saying, is that the journey from the people receiving the law from God, to where they were supposed to receive the land from God...was 11 days long.

But this 11 day victory march...it didn’t take the Israelites that long, did it?

IT TOOK THEM AN EXTRA 14 589 DAYS!

This short verse is the key to the entire book of Deuteronomy.

Why are we standing here, outside the Promised Land?  Why has an entire generation died off?

It is because God’s people refused to listen to God’s instructions.

And this wasn’t just about being confused on the road, pridefully telling your GPS that you know better because the streets are all numbered anyways, and you end up driving around in circles, and being late for a pastoral visit - an example that is, perhaps, based on a true story.

But this is far more than that.  The Israelites KNEW the way into the Promised Land.

But instead, they rebelled.  It was at Kadesh Barnea, a place on the southern border of the Promised Land that this rebellion took place, 40 years earlier.

We heard this story in our reading.

The Israelites travelled from Mt. Sinai, where they received the Law, to Kadesh Barnea, where they were meant to receive the land.  On this short journey (one that should have taken 11 days), the people had neither awe over the law they had just received, nor excitement over the land they were about to possess.  But instead, the people complained about the manna that God had provided them to eat.

Having a very selective memory, they wanted to go back to Egypt, a land that they now remembered as a land of feasting - fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.  Food, they said, that cost them nothing.

Had they forgotten so soon that this food from Egypt cost them EVERYTHING?  Their sons were killed at birth, they were slaves, working under the whip of stern task-masters.  This food cost them their freedom and the lives of their children!

But instead of thanksgiving, they rebelled against the God who set them free.  And what did He do?  He graciously provided them meat to eat, but also justly punished them with a plague.

And then, not long after, still on this first trip from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea, Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses’ leadership, and Miriam was struck with leprosy as a result.  After 7 days, she was healed, and allowed to be brought back into the camp with the others.  And they set out, once more, for the Promised Land, slightly fewer in number, slightly delayed.

But plague and leprosy, combined with feeding and healing, was not enough for the people to actually trust God.

For when they reached the border, and they sent spies out, a further rebellion developed.  A further rebellion...not because what God said wasn’t true...for with their own eyes, the 12 spies saw that the land was a good land.  They even took a cluster of grapes back - and they needed two men to carry that cluster on a pole.

Whether it was due to the unnaturally large size of grapes (after all, Canaan was the land of giant people, so it is not inconceivable that they would have larger fruit too), or just how heavy with normal sized grapes that one cluster was...this was a land flowing with milk and honey, just as God had promised.

Here was proof that God’s one promise was true...it was a good land.

But then, 10 of the 12 doubted God’s other promise - that He was GIVING THEM THE LAND.

Yes, it’s true what God says, the land is amazing.  Beautiful.

Wonderful.

 

But...is it true what God says...that the land is actually going to be

ours?  There are GIANTS living there.

 

But the other two spies: Joshua and Caleb, they saw with the eyes of faith

Yes it’s true what God says, the land is amazing. Beautiful.

Wonderful.

 

    AND it’s true what God says - the land WILL be ours!  There are

giants living there...but are they bigger than God?  Are they stronger

than the God who defeated the Egyptian gods with plagues, defeated

the Egyptian army with the sea, who guides us and guards us with a

pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire?  LET US TAKE THE LAND!

 

But the 10 outweighed the 2, and the people quaked with fear and refused to enter the land.

And so God responded justly, and harshly to this rebellion - Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb...and Joshua the son of Nun.

And then, the people were filled with sorrow.  It wasn’t godly sorrow over having disobeyed God...but rather it was worldly sorrow.  They didn’t want to die in the desert...they wanted to eat huge clusters of grapes and enjoy a good land!

And so, they further rebelled against God - disguising this rebellion as obedience.

We have sinned against the LORD, they said.  We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.

But God warned them - Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst.

And what happened?  They were chased away from the land like a swarm of bees would chase you away from a picnic.

This is what happened to the people of God about 40 years before Moses’ speech.

Essentially, Moses is saying here: 40 years ago, your parents were at a crossroads.  They were at the crossroads of fear and faith, and they chose fear.  Here we are again, a new generation, at the same crossroads...what will you choose?

Did you learn from your history?

Congregation, I have called this sermon series: Last Words to Begin By because Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell speech, his farewell sermon to the people of Israel, as they are on the verge of entering the Promised Land.  These are his last words, as the people are beginning their new life...at this crossroads.

And though we are beginning new in this season, a new year of school, of catechism, and Bible studies...even though we are beginning our second year together as pastor and congregation...we don’t just stand at a crossroads once a year, looking out over the edge, planning for the next 12 months...but instead, each and every day, each and ever hour, minute, and second, we are at a crossroads too.

We all stand, continually, at the crossroads of fear and faith.  Every action we do, is done, motivated by one of those two things.  There are many many many chances for us to turn off from the path of obedience.  For us to give control of our lives over to something other than God.  Giving our lives over to any other master - pride, lust, addiction, bitterness, stubbornness...each day of our lives, we stand at a crossroads, like Israel did.

And though God is completely sovereign, we still have the responsibility to choose who we will serve.  Joshua, one of the two faithful spies, the new leader after Moses, says this same thing after the people had crossed the Jordan River and were in the Promised Land, Joshua calls the people to renew their covenant with God and he says: Choose this day whom you will serve.

Choose for yourself this day.  Choose for yourselves today.

And this is the choice Moses put before the Israelites too - choose.  Are you going to be like your forefathers and rebel?  Will you receive the same punishment as they did, and wander this desert for another 40 years?  God CAN do this.  God HAS done it.  Don’t test Him.  Don’t rebel, but instead, obey.

Because obedience...in the long run...the path of obedience is, in the end, the SHORTEST path.  It is the EASIEST path.  The SAFEST path, and the HAPPIEST path. 

Now this path of obedience may cause us to walk in the Valley of the Shadow of death...but God will walk it with us, carrying us close to Him through the hardest moments.

And it is curious...if the Israelites made the right choice the second time...who would lead them in?  Would it be Moses, the man who represented the law?  No.  Moses, the law-giver was not the one to lead them in.  It wouldn’t be Moses, but it would be Joshua.

Joshua, the man of faith.  And here is where it gets amazing.  Not Moses, but Joshua, the man whose name in Hebrew was Yeshua...the name translated in the New Testament as Jesus.

What the law couldn’t do, faith can do.

What Moses couldn’t do, Yeshua can.

Because the law only had so much power.  The law could restrain sin, the law could convict us of our sin, but never save us from it.  The law is not what lets us enter the Promised Land.

The law did not serve to restrain Moses’ anger when he struck the rock and was therefore denied entry into the Promised Land.  Moses himself, however wise, however humble, however worshipful he was...needed faith, grace, and forgiveness.  THIS is how we are saved.  By faith in Jesus Christ.  This is how we enter the Promised Land.

Joshua, the man of faith brought the Israelites into the Promised Land.  And Yeshua, Jesus Christ, the OBJECT of our faith, our SAVIOUR, our Joshua will lead us into our Promised Land - He has already crossed the boundary.  He has already opened the way that leads to life eternal through the cross and the empty tomb.  Dying for us and rising again for us.

And He is waiting, with open arms, waiting for us to cross over, and be with Him forever.  Be with Him in the Promised land, where, one day, Heaven will come down to earth, and there will be true unity.

But for now, as we wait...we can live lives of hope.  More on that this afternoon.  We can live lives of hope because though God punished His people for 40 years, they were not utterly destroyed in the desert, due to enemies, or hunger, or plague.  But indeed, in the punishment, there was also preservation.  Our second point.

It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb, by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.

In our first point, we focussed on the 11 days, and how, due to the disobedience of the people, God caused them to wander an additional 14 589 days.  In short, we focussed on the cost of disobedience.  We focussed on the human side of things.  But now lets shift gears and focus on God’s side of things.

You see, God had a plan.  He planned their route.  From Horeb, they were to take the Mount Seir road.  And every step of that journey that should have taken 11 days...every step was planned by God.  He was there, leading them - in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

From Horeb, to Kadesh Barnea - by way of the Mount Seir road.

And even before this - God was the one who led His people out of Egypt.  He was the one who led Moses to the banks of the Red Sea.  He was the one who caused the sea to split in two and have them walk through on dry ground.

And then, from the Red Sea to Horeb - Mt. Sinai.  God guided their steps.

And was this all for nothing?  All this guiding and guarding...were the people of Israel like a stubborn horse - you can lead it to water, but can’t make it drink?

From a human perspective, God had wasted His time with the Israelites.

But God doesn’t think from a human perspective.  God wouldn’t give up on His people.  He wouldn’t shoot the horse because it had a broken leg or refused to drink.  Instead, as He does with us, He would gently persuade and convince, and soften the heart.

For the Israelites, it took 40 years and the death of a full generation.  But our God is patient.  He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

You see, the rebellion of the Israelites delayed the realization of the promise, but it didn’t remove it altogether.

Their rebellion delayed their realization of the promise.

The generation that rebelled would not enjoy the land.  They would receive only the small foretaste that the spies brought back.  Those grapes on that pole?  That’s all that they would receive of the land.

But that doesn’t mean that God’s promise of inheriting the land had failed - for the next generation WOULD enjoy the blessings of this land, flowing with milk and honey.  The promise was still there.  And the promise of the land continued after Deuteronomy - essentially the promise was this: You keep the land as long as you keep the law. You keep the land as long as you keep the law.

If you rebel, if you disobey the commandments of God, and pridefully refuse to be reconciled, pridefully refuse to repent...then God’s blessings will start to slip away.

Think of the parable of the prodigal son.  Did he ever stop being a son?  Did he ever outsin the grace of his father?  No!  When he came back and tried to earn his way into the family by being a servant, his father would hear none of it!  Instead, what did he do?

Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet...let us eat and celebrate...for this MY SON was lost and now he is found.

The son never stopped being a son, but when he was away from his father, in the far off-foreign land, he did not receive the benefits of being a son.  He wasn’t wearing the robes of sonship.  He wasn’t eating the family feast.

When you rebel, there are consequences.  The blessings start to slip away.  But these blessings are always there for you, waiting.  The promise was still there for the second generation of Israelites in the desert.

Now, God being who He is, COULD have let the original generation into the land.  But would they have learned?  Would they have learned their lesson, or would they have heard that whatever they do, God will bless them.  Obey or disobey, its all the same...and lapse into the dangerous belief that the only thing that matters is being born into the people of God.  That the only thing that matters is having the right upbringing, being circumcised on the eighth day, and having the blood of Abraham coursing through your veins.

But it is obedience that is God’s love language.  Obedience, not heritage.

By denying them entry into the land, God was caring for them.  God was preserving their souls.  Their eternal life.  For God disciplines those He loves.  God’s punishment, God’s rebuke, always comes with love.

And for 40 years, the Israelites felt God’s love.  It was love that promised them the land.  It was love that prevented them from entering it, and it was love that brought the next generation in.

It was love tempered by justice, but our God knows no other love.  His love will not override His justice, nor will His justice override His love.  Everything God is, He is completely and perfectly.

Deuteronomy 8 gives us this amazing description of the preservation of God: You shall remember the whole way the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you...He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna...your clothing did not wear out...and your foot did not swell these forty years.

Whatever God brings you to, He will bring you through. Whatever God brings you TO, He will bring you THROUGH.

And that is what He did for His people in the wilderness.  During this time, the people of Israel were rarely COMFORTABLE. They were rarely RELAXED...but they were always PROTECTED.  All those years, God provided for His people and protected them from all that would seek to take their lives.  Both four-legged predators and two-legged ones.  Both animals and hostile nations did not have victory over the Israelites.

God gave His people manna from heaven.  Each day He gave them what they needed, and even let them rest on the Sabbath by giving them extra the day before.

When they wanted meat, God sent a wind to bring down a flock of quail...so many that they covered the ground in stacks 3 feet high.

When they thirsted, God provided them with water out of a rock.

Under God’s watchful eye, the people survived the oppressive heat of the desert during the day, and the frigid temperatures during the night.

They needed no new clothing, shoes, or tents, even while walking for 40 years.

And God even gave them victory over enemy after enemy.  The great king Sihon, of the Amorites...and the last of a clan of giants - Og King of Bashan.  This group of wanderers were victorious over mighty warriors.

This wilderness trek, taking the scenic route, meant that God’s people had to depend on Him for everything.  But is that truly different than their life before?  Or their life after, in the Promised Land?  Or even our lives now?

Beloved, the last few months have caused us to realize how weak and needy we really are as human beings.  But it hasn’t really changed anything...we have always been weak and needy.  All that the wilderness journey did for the Israelites, and all that COVID-19 has done for us is to open our eyes to the reality that was there the whole time.  We are helpless and we are hopeless without our God at our side.

If God would take away His mighty hand of protection, even for a moment, we would be gone.

And we can have confidence that He will never do that to us. He will never leave us or forsake us...for there is one who was forsaken on our behalf.  There was one who was banished, outside the gate of the city for our sake.  He died, forsaken by men and forsaken by His Heavenly Father.  And He did it for you.  He did it for me.

Our Joshua.  Our Yeshua, Jesus Christ.  He was forsaken.  God’s protection turned away from Him on the cross, and He was left with nothing but God’s wrath.  He was forsaken by His Father, and the only one left was the judge.  The judge who had to punish sin in His righteous wrath.

We celebrate this terrible day every time we eat the Lord’s Supper.  We remember, with sorrow the cost of our sins...but we remember with joy the payment of those sins.

The reminder that Jesus Christ was forsaken on the cross so that you and I will never be forsaken on this earth.  Our lives, from cradle to grave are lives protected and guided by God.  That doesn’t mean that our lives will be comfortable.  Or relaxing.  But it does mean that God will see us through, until the day He calls us home.  Those He loves, He will preserve.

He may lead us on paths that we would never have chosen.  Places that we think we should never go.  But if we let Him guide us, if we rely on His faithful provision for our needs, then we will enter the Promised Land.  One day.  In His timing, by His grace.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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