DEUTERONOMY 3 – Spiritual Ebola
Unlike the old days when nurses experienced everything in their training, then specialized later in the field of nursing that best suited them, I found it unfair when the university asked our daughter to choose between paediatric nursing, adult nursing, mental health, midwifery etc., before applying for the degree course. What a wide choice! And if you’ve never experienced any, how can you be sure you’re making the right choice?
As it turned out, it wasn’t long before we could see that she’d be just fine. Her harrowing stories of vomit, dysentery, blood and maggot-covered ulcers, were enough to put me off eating for weeks! But she takes it all in her stride. I think it’s how doctors, phycologists, or social workers remain sane – they don’t get emotionally involved with their clients.
The need to look at the facts, access the current damage, ascertain an accurate prognosis of further damage if left or if stopped, has made me think about my last three Breadcrumbs. The stories during January of the global flood, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Ancient Egypt and now these kingdoms of the Amorites, aren’t about a destructive God. This isn’t barbaric genocide related to land and possession, power or wealth. I want to suggest to you that these stories are all surgical incisions that have been carefully planned to remove tumours. And that this is after taking non-invasive measures for centuries, in the hope that extreme intervention could be avoided. In this context, the Creator God gave a prophecy to Abraham six centuries earlier:
“In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” [Genesis 15:16]
I don’t understand how humans could have wilfully descended into such corruption that forced their Maker to intervene so shockingly. It’s like isolating a village infected to the core with a form of untreatable Spiritual Ebola. The only way to deal with it is to quarantine the group and stand back until they all die then disinfect the village – probably by burning it. In our medical age with treatments for almost every bacterium, I find such horrific scenarios unimaginable.
But if Moses was right, and the Creator God has shown us His greatness and His strong hand – such that no-one has been proven to do the deeds and mighty works that He has done [v24] – and yet He’s willing to carry us as a Father carries a son[a], then there must be a missing piece to any equation when it doesn’t add up. Surely these chapters were enough to break His heart for another couple of millenniums – His apparent recovery period between intervening measures so far.
Today’s chapter is the third in a recap given by Moses to this newly formed nation of Israelites. Currently homeless, they just spent 38 years in the wilderness, after escaping slavery in Egypt. All those who were 20 years old and over, when they left Egypt, have now died in the desert and it’s time now to enter into the “promised land”. But to move forward you need to fully understand the past. So Moses spent time telling the nation how the Creator God had cleared the way for them by not only killing Og (king of Bashan) and his sons but also destroying every one of 60 cities and many villages. No-one, not even children, survived! [v1-6]
Now many readers, at this point, will want to “get off the train”. They won’t understand how a text as clear as this, could be anything other than genocide, and all such killing (especially of children) is barbaric! There is absolutely no excuse for it and therefore the God who told them to do it, must not be followed under any circumstances.
I can’t force you to continue on this journey with me. I can only hope that you do, because there really is a good reason for it – just as there is a very good reason for doctors, who have no alternative, to cut off someone’s legs in order to save their lives. All I know is that the Creator God has a Global Plan. This plan includes Abraham becoming a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[b] Through his offspring all families on earth will be blessed, because of a commitment to obedience.[c] His descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and by this, will all nations on earth be blessed.[d]
Anything that looks like a contradiction to this global plan has to be carefully weighed before the Creator Himself is thrown out. The fact that the text clearly states that God Himself gave these orders (and that it wasn’t a group of humans doing their own thing), makes it all the more reason to find out why He’d do such a thing, after describing Himself as…
“The LORD, the LORD the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…” [Exodus 34:6-7]
The apparent discrepancy is in the second half of what He just said: “…maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”[e] He can’t leave the guilty unpunished. This would not be loving (or just) for their victims!
Just as a doctor can’t spell out every disgusting detail of the destructive process in a disease limb, but restricts his explanations to how amputation was the only way forward, so this epic storyline is about Father God, His Plan, and His relationship with those He created to be like Him. It doesn’t fill in the gaps with the disgusting behaviour, or horrific evil, that everyone else is doing – nor the harrowing stories from their victims. FAITH then, is trusting Him for the bits we do know.
So, for example, the Hebrew term for “destroy” refers to the “irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them”. That may not soften the blow when children have just been killed, but it shines light enough to take another step on this lifetime journey towards our Maker. For one thing, this isn’t about taking over a country out of greed. It isn’t hate-based genocide. This was about handing over a people group (at the Creator God’s command) to meet their Maker.
If King Solomon of Israel was right and that when we die the “…dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it…” then the story hasn’t ended. It’s very likely that none of this population died, but that they passed away in spirit, returning to God for final judgement. If so, we can’t get involved with limited judgements based on half the picture. As far back as Abraham, it was known that the Judge of all the World will do right.[f]
And so, just as the Creator predicted, the sin of the Amorites had reached its full measure and they were destroyed. They knew about the flood and they saw what happened to their neighbours (Sodom and the cities of the plain) just beyond the Jordan. And yet, in the next centuries, they made no effort to change. But this text gives a further clue: the mention of the Rephaites is hugely important over these last three chapters. [v11]
The Rephaites seem to have the DNA of the Nephilim before the flood.[g] From this ancient storyline, we can only deduce that they were a super race possibly birthed from an earlier species of ape after human relations. Whoever they were, they’re parent mix is notably different. Their presence seemed to cause a swift deterioration so that our Maker’s heart was deeply troubled, and He regretted having made human beings on the earth.[h] After the flood, the “infection” from their DNA, seemed to spring up again in this region – the land of the Rephaites [v13] – and was possibly handed down genetically through the family of Noah’s son Ham, the father of Canaan.
If these huge men became kings, as they did – Og’s double bed was 14 feet long [v11] – then of course they could rule aggressively as a law unto themselves. As kings, they could have many wives (spreading their DNA further) and their behaviour could corrupt their entire population. Whatever they did before the flood that was so incredibly bad, it’s happening again.
Like a strain of untreatable spiritual Ebola, the infectious corruption – that was evident in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah – gave way to untold horror stories from two neighbouring kingdoms. And, once again, divine intervention had become absolutely necessary.
What’s happening in today’s chapter isn’t a new thing. Other nations were moved into the area in the past[i], probably because of efforts to stem corruption. This section in this epic drama is, therefore, one of the Creator’s last moves in this region. With Og being the last of the Rephaites [v11], Israel is being given his land. [v12-20] Four centuries earlier, Jacob (renamed Israel) predicted this for his twelve sons.[j] So, to put into context this apparent diabolical behaviour from a seemingly barbaric god, today’s chapter closes with an interesting exchange…
The Creator had previously told Moses that he couldn’t enter this “promised land” but Moses pleads with Him to change His mind. [v23-25] And here I notice something more. Like any ancient king whose decrees are absolute and cannot be repealed or revoked[k], the Creator’s word is absolute. Hard as this is for Moses (or for us), I’d rather stand on a rock than shifting sand. Our Maker isn’t a puppet for us to toy with – disobeying one minute than asking for forgiveness the next. When He decrees something, He gives plenty of time before it comes to pass – Moses had known for 38 years that he couldn’t enter the promised land.[l] Depending on the situation, this time is often about giving us a chance to change, but His word cannot be revoked. This was why an end was pronounced, and judgement fell, on these two kings whose kingdoms seemed broken beyond repair.
From what I’ve come to hear and understand of my Maker’s over-all hope for humankind, is that, as Father God, He has an abundant store of grace and compassion. He’s wanting to mend, redeem and restore, and He’s willing to helps us through His discipline. And so, like any Father, He responds to Moses: “That is enough! Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.” [v26] And yet, like any loving father, He graciously gave Moses a substitute – to see with his own eyes every part of the land that he wasn’t to enter. [v27] Since it isn’t possible to see every part of modern-day Israel without being in an aeroplane, this is undoubtedly a supernatural empowering on the part of a compassionate God.
So, to end these three chapters with this, almost random piece of information, puts everything confusing over the last three Breadcrumbs into context. The one that Moses was following wasn’t some deranged killer bend on destroying whole populations. While His word is as true as steel, He’s willing to provide a substitute by His grace.
This is a moment that has no intrinsic value beyond simple satisfaction at the end of a forty-year journey. In light of this, the Creator’s other behaviour has to be processed through this same nature of patience and grace. If He is Father to Moses (and clearly shows controlled fatherly discipline sandwiched in grace) then He’s Father in this same way to us all – including behaving as both Father yet Supreme Lord, over nations in irreversible decline.
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Deuteronomy 1:31
[b] Genesis 18:18
[c] Genesis 22:18
[d] Genesis 26:4
[e] Exodus 34:7
[f] Genesis 18:25
[g] Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33
[h] Genesis 6:6
[i] Deuteronomy 2:10-12;v20-21;v23
[j] Genesis c49
[k] Esther 1:19 & 8:8
[l] Numbers 14:30