In Moses’ time, the people of God were to “arm themselves before the Lord for battle” (Numbers 32:20). In Jesus’ time, His disciples were given “power and authority to drive out all demons ...” (Luke 9:1). In every generation, the Lord’s people are to sing “a new song ... a hymn of praise to our God” so that “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).
The sheer dimensions of what God was doing with His people, Israel, are most impressive. This was no small thing. This was a mighty work of God. The feeding of the 5,000 was a mighty miracle. It was impressive because of the sheer numbers involved in it. When we think of such mighty miracles, we know that their origin lies in God the Creator. He created the world out of nothing, His mighty work of creation is described in Proverbs 8:27-29.
To come to the end of the book of Numbers is to sense the great significance of the man, Moses. To read the transfiguration of Jesus is to realize that the glory of “Moses and Elijah … in glorious splendour” is nothing compared with the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of Christ alone, the Father says, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him” (Luke 9:35). We give thanks for men of faith who have played an important part in carrying forward God’s purpose of salvation. It is concerning the Lord alone that Scripture says, “may those who love Your salvation always say, ‘The Lord be exalted’” (Psalm 40:16).
We are to make progress in the life of faith. There can be no looking back. In Deuteronomy 1:6-8, the Lord calls His people to press on. In Luke 9:62, the Lord Jesus emphasizes that we must keep going forward. It will not be easy. There will be opposition. Nevertheless, the Lord gives His promise of blessing (Psalm 41:2).
When the people of Israel were brought to the promised land, this was a great fulfilment of God’s purpose. When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Father ... Your Kingdom come”, He is teaching us to pray for an even greater fulfilment of God’s purpose. The Lord sets us in His presence for ever (Psalm 41:12). The song of the redeemed will be “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen” (Psalm 41:13).
In Deuteronomy 5, we have the Ten Commandments. In Luke 11:28, we have Jesus’ words: “Blessed ... are those who have the Word of God and obey it.” “Blessed are those who keep My ways” (Proverbs 8:32). There is no blessing apart from obedience, and there is no obedience apart from Christ. He says to us, “Whoever finds Me finds life” (Proverbs 8:35).
God’s people were called to enter the promised land. They were called to live in obedience to the Lord who had brought them into the promised land. To those who refuse to enter into God’s land of blessing, God says, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52). There is a better way - “My soul thirsts for God, the living God” (Psalm 42:2).
As they entered the promised land, the people of God received this reminder of the undeserved grace of God - “It is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this land to possess” (Deuteronomy 9:6). In His free grace, God gave the land to Israel. To us, He has graciously given the Kingdom - “Your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). To Israel, the Psalmist says, “Put your hope in God” (Psalm 42:11). To us also, this comes as a Word from the Lord and, with the Psalmist, we make our declaration, “I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
The people of God lived in a situation where there was much idolatry. For them, there could be no compromise. We are to be watchful as the Lord’s Return draws near. We dare not live as the world does. We are to live in the Lord’s way. In the midst of “an ungodly nation”, we are to pray, “Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell” (Psalm 43:3). As we look at this “ungodly nation”, it is easy to become “downcast.” We must learn to say to ourselves, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 43:5).
In our day, there are many who say, “Let us follow other gods.” God says, “You must not listen” to such people (Deuteronomy 13:2-3). To follow the Lord’s instruction is not popular. Nevertheless, this is what we must do: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). Whatever the world may say, we must stand by the truth of God’s Word: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
The people of God had been blessed by God. They had much to celebrate. The Lord had brought them out of the land of bondage. He was about to bring them into the land of promise. As we celebrate the love of God, we give the place of highest honour to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Why did God give Israel the promised land? It was because He “loved them” (Psalm 44:3). We know the love of God in Christ. Concerning Christ, we say, with thanksgiving, “You give us victory over our enemies” (Psalm 44:7). In Him, we rejoice - “In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise Your Name for ever” (Psalm 44:8).
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet ...” (Deuteronomy 18:15). This prophecy has its greatest fulfilment in Christ. Jesus is more than a prophet. He is the substance of the prophecy concerning God’s Kingdom. The coming of God’s Kingdom is the coming of Christ - both His first coming (our foretaste of heavenly glory) and His second coming (the fullness of heavenly glory). In Christ, there is redemption - a redemption we have begun to know, a redemption which we will enjoy in its fullness when Christ returns. Then, we will know the full answer to the prayer of Psalm 44:26 - “redeem us because of Your unfailing love.”
Above all men, it can be said of Christ: “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever” (Psalm 45:2). When we read the parable of the prodigal son, we are reading the words spoken by the perfect Son. His lips were “anointed with grace.” In this parable, He points us to the heavenly welcome which is ours through returning to the Father. With the perfect Son of God, we will share the blessing: “God has blessed you for ever.” Blessed by Him, we are to fight for Him without fear and with the assurance of His victorious presence (Deuteronomy 20:1).
Holiness and honesty are two qualities which are to characterize the life of the Christian. The ‘laws’ in Deuteronomy stress the importance of holiness. Jesus, in His parable of the shrewd manager, emphasizes the importance of honesty - “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). We are not to put on a facade of holiness. We are to be honest in our seeking holiness. If we despise the way of honesty and holiness, we will go the way of folly against which we are warned in Proverbs 9:13-18.
Scripture speaks of both salvation and judgment. The Israelites were given “the land ... as an inheritance.” The Amalekites were to be “blotted out” (Deuteronomy 25:19). Lazarus received salvation - “carried ... to Abraham’s side.” The rich man received judgment “in hell” (Luke 16:22-23). We must seek to honour Jesus Christ our Lord (Psalm 45:11). This is salvation - confessing Christ as Lord with the mouth and trusting Him with the heart (Romans 10:9).
The Lord blesses an obedient people (Deuteronomy 28:2). Our obedience to God arises from our thankfulness to Him (Luke 17:16). With grateful hearts, we make confession of our faith: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). To His people, God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations” (Psalm 46:10). God is exalted among the nations when His people are obedient people (Deuteronomy 28:9-10).
Sadly, it is possible to be living in the promised land yet living in disobedience and thus losing out on the promised blessing. The Pharisee, in Jesus’ parable, lived and worshipped within the tradition which remembered God’s mighty act of redemption. Nevertheless, his heart was far from God. He considered himself superior, He was not justified, and he would not be exalted (glorified). Those who are justified, who will be glorified, rejoice in the Lord with much gladness: “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:6).
The Lord is looking for His people to stand up and be counted as His faithful servants. There is a commitment to be made, a commitment to be maintained. It is not only beginning with Christ. It is going on with Him. This is illustrated in the story of Zacchaeus. We are to walk securely as men of integrity (Proverbs 10:9).
A comparison may be made between Israel’s entry into the promised land and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Ahead of both, there lay conflict, but beyond the conflict, there was triumph. Their triumph is the triumph of God - “As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure for ever” (Psalm 48:8).
Moses was God’s servant. Joshua was God’s servant. The prophets were God’s servants. Jesus is God’s Son. He is the Cornerstone of our salvation. Without Him, there is no salvation. With Him, there is full salvation. Concerning Him, the Word of God says, “This God is our God for ever and ever” (Psalm 48:14). He loves us with an “unfailing love” and His “praise reaches to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 48:9-10).
The contrast between Moses and Jesus continues. Moses died. Jesus is the Lord: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet” (Luke 20:42-43). In Him, we have the promise of eternal life: “God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself” (Psalm 49:15).
Israel’s entry into the promised land was a highly significant event in the history of God’s redemption. ‘The momentous event’ is the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). We must be ready for His Return, for there is a great difference between the righteous and the wicked (Proverbs 10:16).
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5). Jesus shared the Passover with His disciples, while teaching them that something greater than the Passover was about to take place - redemption through the shedding of His precious blood. God says, “Gather to Me My consecrated ones, who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice ... Sacrifice thank offerings to God ... “ (Psalm 50:5,14-15).
Achan suffered death because of his own sinful disobedience. Achan died, and the judgment of God did not come on the whole people of God. Jesus suffered death as the sinless Son of God, who bore the sins of many that we might be saved through faith in Him. Achan died because he disobeyed the will of God. Jesus died in obedience to God’s will: “not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). As we look on what Jesus has done for us, we are to “sacrifice thank-offerings” to God that He might “show us the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).
In their opposition to Christ, “Herod and Pilate became friends - before they had been enemies” (Luke 23:12). The people of Israel had to battle against many nations - different from each other, yet having one thing in common: their opposition to the Lord. Everything which is displeasing to the Lord must be resisted, as we pray, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).
The Lord gave victory to His people, and the defeated enemies were hung upon trees (Joshua 10:25-26). When Jesus was hung upon a tree, this was not defeat. It was victory. Concerning Jesus, it was said, “Surely, this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47). Proverbs 10:25 tells us that “the righteous stand firm for ever.” This truth was mightily declared in Jesus’ resurrection, which demonstrated Him to be more than a righteous man. He is the Son of God.
Israel’s victory over the heathen nations was given to them by the Lord. The spiritual dimension in this military situation must not be overlooked, if we are to learn the lessons God is teaching us from His Word. God has much to teach us from His Word. Those who listen to Him will always have this testimony: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us” (Luke 24:32). Why does the Lord’s Word burn in our hearts? - so that we might pray to the Lord, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Although many victories had been won, there was still “the land that remains” (Joshua 13:2). The land which had been taken was shared among God’s people. There is strength in sharing. Some are called to leadership, e.g. Caleb (Joshua 14), but their leadership is not for their own satisfaction and benefit. It is for the blessing of the whole people of God. Those who had witnessed the appearance of the risen Lord were sent out to preach the Gospel (Luke 24:46-49). The testimony of the Lord’s people is to be: “I will praise You for ever for what You have done” (Psalm 52:9).
Each tribe had its limited allotment of land. Jesus Christ, “the Word” who “was God”, “became flesh” (John 1:1,14). He accepted the limitations of being human. He was human, yet without sin. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:1,3). This is true of every human being except Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God. In Him alone, there is “salvation” (Psalm 53:6).
Each of the tribes had their part in the promised land. Each of Jesus’ disciples, whom He called to Himself at the outset of His ministry, had his part in the work of the Lord. What God did with Israel and with Jesus’ first disciples will be surpassed when Christ comes in glory: “You shall see greater things ... You shall see the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:50-51). On that Day, there will be both salvation and judgment: “The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead” (Proverbs 11:8).