Tag Archives: Jordan River

No Other Gods

As the Children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses gave them final instructions in possessing the land and faithfully obeying God’s commands who was giving them the land. The Book of Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final words to those he had led from Egypt, through the wilderness, and on to their final destination. With Moses’ prohibition from entering the land flowing with milk and honey due to his disobedience of God’s command to speak to the rock to receive water, upon which Moses “smote the rock twice” in anger during the wilderness wandering (Numbers 20:7-13), his words to them were filled with great significance concerning the seriousness of obeying God’s Word.

God’s command to the Children of Israel entering the Promised Land after crossing the Jordan River was to destroy all the inhabitants that were occupied there: the Hitties, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; “Seven nations greater and mightier than thou… For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods. The Israelites were to “destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire,” all of which pertained to the idol worship that permeated the land (Deuteronomy 7).

The very first commandment given by God on Mt. Sinai forty years earlier had been, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” (Exodus 20:3-5). The commandment included not to make any graven image, bow down to them, nor serve them. The Promised Land they were about to enter was polluted with idolatrous images which were bowed down to and served by those who resided there. God’s judgment was about to be poured out upon those who dwelt there by His Chosen People in destroying the idol worship that God forbids.

Much is written in the Book of Deuteronomy concerning not following other gods, in addition to the Book of Exodus where God further commands, “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth,” (Exodus 23:13). In Deuteronomy 13 the Children of Israel were admonished, “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones… Because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you,” (Deuteronomy 13:6-10).

“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”

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Keeping a Promise

A whole chapter of the Bible is devoted to keeping one’s promise. It was Moses who wrote in Numbers 30, “This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded” and continues, “If a  man vow a vow… or swear an oath… he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” If God is the One who commands promises are to be kept, then breaking a promise or going back on an oath is sin.

The Children of Israel had reached the eastern shore of the Jordan River on their way to the Promised Land, avenging God’s wrath on the Midianites who for centuries had been idol worshippers and refused to worship the One True God. The children of Reuben and the children of Gad, two of Jacob’s sons of the twelve tribes of Israel, “had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land… behold, the place was a place for cattle,” (Numbers 32:1). The descendants of Reuben and Gad asked of Moses if they could remain east of the Jordan, settling their families and livestock in such a lush valley. Being a part of the Israelite army needed to cross the Jordan and continue in the Children of Israel’s quest to obtain the land promised to Abraham’s descendants, the soldiering men of Reuben and Gad promised, “We ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place… We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.” The men also vowed, “We will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward,” (vs.17-19).

Moses agreed with the men if they would go armed across the Jordan and lead the army against God’s enemies, they could return and possess the land east of the Jordan River as their inheritance. In his agreement, Moses also gave them this stern warning, “But if you will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out,” (Numbers 32:23).

Keeping a Promise obeys God;

Not keeping a Promise is sin.

 

 

Baptism – Identifying with Christ

Times were changing. The old was being replaced by the new. No longer would bulls and goats need to be sacrificed in the Temple as described in the Old Testament (Hebrews 10). As the New Testament opens John the Baptist declares while baptizing Jewish converts in the River Jordan, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” as Jesus made His way to the banks of the river. Although John requested Jesus baptize him, Jesus insisted John baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness. In this way Jesus was identifying with sinners who were trusting in Him for salvation.

As Jesus entered the water He demonstrated His death, burial and resurrection which was to come by being placed under the water and “straightway coming up out of the water (Mark 1:10). There was no just splashing Him with water or sprinkling a few drops on Him. It was total immersion signifying dying to self, being buried with Christ and being risen again to walk in newness of life. Peter tells us in I Peter 3:21 baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh,in other words the water is not for the washing away of sin, for only the blood of Jesus Christ is pure enough to do that. Baptism is a picture of identifying with Christ.

Just as the Jewish converts from Judaism who trusted Christ as the Promised Messiah took a bold step in following the Lord in believer’s baptism in spite of the pronouncements of the Temple rulers that those who did so would no longer be welcome in its synagogues, believers today upon placing their total faith and trust in Christ boldly identify with Him by dying to self, being buried in the baptismal waters, and coming up out of the water to walk with Him wherever He leads, just as Jesus portrayed for us.

No Admittance

Moses had led the Children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years. Time was drawing near for them to enter into the Promised Land. Just before their crossing of the Jordan River, God called Moses up onto Mt. Nebo to show him all the land that had been promised to Abraham’s descendants. As far as the eye could see from the mountaintop, the Lord pointed out to Moses the lands that the Children of Israel would possess northward east of the river, westward all the way to the sea, and southward unto Zoar, the city Lot fled to upon the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Finally they had arrived; all but Moses would enter.

Moses knew this was as close as he would get to the Promised Land. It was during their wandering in the wilderness that the people began murmuring and complaining because of lack of water to sustain them. Earlier in the exodus before the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, the wanderers were without water and God instructed Moses to strike a rock to bring forth water (Exodus 17). Twenty years later under the same circumstances Moses was told to speak to a rock and it would bring forth water. In his anger at the lack of faith of those under his leadership, Moses struck the rock twice with his rod and the water came forth. Because of his disobedience to what God had instructed him to do, the LORD spoke to Moses and said, “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (Numbers 20).

The Lord concluded His time with Moses on the mountaintop with these words, “I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He (God) buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (Deuteronomy 34).

How important it is obey God’s Word. Many wonderful blessings that could have been elude us when we disobey God. Surely Moses would have been the first to step foot in the Promised Land after all God led him to do after encountering the burning bush. But God is in control and when we do not obey His Word He will find others to do His Will. Upon Moses’ death Joshua was called of God to lead the people through the river Jordan on dry land, just as they had done in the crossing of the Red Sea during the exodus, and on to many great victories in the history of His Chosen People.