Monday, March 4, 2013

Deuteronomy 2-3: Dealing with Fear

In this post, I'll write about my daily quiet times in Deuteronomy 2-3.  My focus will be on dealing with fear.  I'll be looking at the Conquest, which is a very grisly subject, to say the least.  But, in reading Deuteronomy 2-3, I thought of four insights that can help me in terms of my attitude and my day-to-day life.  I hope that you will agree with me that the lessons are valid, even if the Conquest understandably disturbs your moral sensibilities.

The Israelites were about to embark upon a new challenge.  The prior generation of Israelite warriors had died off, and a new generation of Israelites was taking their place.  This new generation did not have as much experience in terms of waging wars, and they were about to fight Amorites and Canaanites who were bigger and stronger than they were, all to take possession of a huge countryside that, according to the previous generation of Israelites, devoured its inhabitants (Numbers 13:32).  Would this new generation of Israelites be successful at such a daunting task?  Many of us can probably identify with them in that we ourselves have embarked upon challenging tasks and wonder if we're ready or equipped for them, or if instead they are too much for us.

One lesson that I got from the passage was that God may show us that the intimidating task can actually be done.  There is a lot in Deuteronomy 2 about the other peoples who have conquered the intimidating inhabitants of the Transjordan or Canaan: the people of Esau, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Caphtorites.  God declares that he gave land to the Edomites and the descendants of Lot (Ammon and Moab), which probably means that God helped them to defeat the inhabitants.  This is not said in Deuteronomy 2 about the Caphtorites, however, but Amos 9:7 affirms that God brought the Philistines from Caphtor, which perhaps implies that God had a hand in the Caphtorites' success, as well.

In my opinion, God was reassuring the Israelites that conquering the inhabitants of Canaan was possible, for God had helped other people-groups to defeat intimidating foes.  In short, the Israelites could win with God's help, as had the other people-groups.  Joel Osteen says in Your Best Life Now that, in order for something to become possible, you first have to conceive of it on the inside, which means your mind.  My problem is that I cannot always conceive of myself competently performing certain tasks.  Maybe I should start imagining myself doing those tasks, as well as draw inspiration and wisdom from others who have gone through their struggles (i.e., Asperger's Syndrome, or other challenges) and yet have managed to succeed.

The second lesson that I got from the passage was that God may help us to get our feet wet.  God brought Sihon, king of the Amorites, against Israel, even after Israel had made overtures of peace towards him.  Perhaps God was trying to get Israel's feet wet: to prepare her for her battles against the Canaanites by helping her first to triumph against a powerful king in the Transjordan.  It's one thing for Israel to see that other people-groups had defeated intimidating foes with God's help, but it was quite another thing for Israel to learn that she herself could do so.  Israel's war against Sihon gave her practice, competence, and confidence.  I think that, sometimes, God may use certain situations to get our feet wet.  Or we can get our own feet wet through baby-steps.  

The third lesson that I got from the passage was that we should do what we can and leave the rest to God.  I am often afraid that people will not like me, and I look back at my past and see people rejecting me even after I had tried to be nice.  In the case of Israel, she was actually nice to King Sihon: she asked him to let her pass through his land, and she would pay the Amorites for food and for water.  Israel was trying to be peaceful, but Sihon responded by launching a war against her.  We can try to be nice, but there may be factors beyond our control.  Sihon, for example, may have been intimidated by a massive group of Israelites on the move around his territory, for he wondered how they would affect him.  Would they attack?  Would they take his resources?  Moreover, there was God's role in all of this, for God had a plan behind Sihon's rejection of Israel's peaceful overtures.  I'm reminded of Romans 12:18, which states (in the KJV): "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."  We can only do our part in seeking peace with people, and we should leave the things that we can't control to God.

The fourth lesson that I got from the passage was that we should do the task before us with all of our might.  Deuteronomy 3:3 says (in the KJV): "So the LORD our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining."  The Israelites really dived into the task of fighting Og, king of Bashan, such that they got the job done.  Similarly, when we are met with an intimidating task, perhaps the way that we can get past our fears is to dive into the task.

2 comments:

davey said...

Hi James, I've just read 'Perfect Rigour' about Grigori Perelman, a Russian mathematician who solved the Poincare Conjecture, but has rejected all worldly prizes and withdrawn from the world, which doesn't conform to his standards of decency. He seems to have Asperger's Syndrome. Many other top class mathematicians have got stuck on maths problems and wasted their lives without success. Looks like we need to be not obsessive, even about the right things being done, and try to understand what we are capable of.

James Pate said...

That's interesting. It's like they're spinning their wheels.

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