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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Deuteronomy 2:24-35 - The Destruction of Heshbon
‘Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’

So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon the king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, ‘Let me pass through your land. I will go only by the road; I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left. You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink. Only let me pass through on foot, as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I go over the Jordan into the land that the Lord our God is giving to us.’ But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land.’ Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. And the Lord our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people. And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors. Only the livestock we took as spoil for ourselves, with the plunder of the cities that we captured.
- Deuteronomy 2:24-35 [ESV]
Dear reader, please note the text in blue above.  In the first blurb God let's Israel know (through Moses) that He has given the Israelites victory over the Amorites.  In other words God let's Israel know that He has [1] ordained that Israel will go to war with Heshbon and [2] that Israel will win that war.

Immediately following this, we read (again in blue) that Moses offered the king of Heshbon the opportunity to let Israel pass through the land (sticking to the road), paying for whatever food or water they might consume along the way.  Reading this we wonder whether Moses was really giving Sihon a "genuine" opportunity to escape the (waiting) wrath of God, or if it was just an empty offer.

I put this question to us in order that we may answer another question of some concern to believers today: How legitimate is the offer of salvation when it is given to someone whom God has not chosen for salvation

Instead of charging into the land with drawn swords Moses offered Sihon (the king of Heshbon) an alternative:  Let us pass through the land, we won't leave the road, and we will pay for anything we consume as we pass through.  Two questions come to my mind when I consider this: [1] why would Moses make this offer if he knew God had ordained the destruction of the Amorites?  And [2] was the offer legitimate?

Starting with the first question.  Either Moses is acting in accord with God's instructions, or apart from them.  Let's be fair: the command to offer to pay for food and water is not explicitly stated.  On that basis one might argue that Moses was acting on his own accord in this instance.  In this way, God can't be "blamed" for making the offer, since it was Moses making the offer without authority to do so.  We reject this explanation on the grounds that had Moses made an offer to the Amorites that God had not ordained, Moses would have been punished for it - as he was in the incident at Meribah-Kadesh.

Another argument is that perhaps God hadn't yet informed Moses that He was about to utterly wipe out the Amorites, so that Moses, acting in good faith, was making what he believed to be a legitimate offer, being ignorant of the fact that God had devoted the Amorites to destruction.  But this falls flat on its face.  The Amorites were devoted to destruction from day one.  We see them listed in Exodus 3:8 as one of the peoples whom the Israelites would displace upon coming into the land of Canaan.  Moses had known for 40 years that the Amorites were devoted to destruction - the idea that Moses did not understand or know that God had ordained these people for destruction is biblically untenable.

Still some might argue that although the Amorites had been marked for destruction, it is not unthinkable that God would give them a legitimate opportunity to change their stripes, as it were.  Thus they contend that God hadn't so much as ordained their destruction as threatened it.  The idea here would be that God had promised to devote them to destruction if they continued on the course they were on.  In this way, the offer Moses made was their last opportunity to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and do right by God.  The problem with this is that scripture elsewhere teaches that no one can repent apart from God's grace.  That the leopard cannot change his spots, nor the Ethiopian his skin, anymore than a sinner (or a nation of sinners) can change into godly people.  In other words, they could not possibly have allowed Israel to pass through their lands unless God gave them the grace to do so.

Given that the Amorites were devoted to destruction before the offer was ever made, and given that they could not, apart from the grace of God, respond to the offer in any positive way, we must conclude that God was not attempting to find some way (other than devoting them to destruction) to get Israel across their land.  In fact, we are hard pressed to suggest anything other than God using this offer to provoke the military response that followed.

Now onto the second question, was the offer legitimate?  In other words, was there any possibility that these Amorites could change their spots? 

We already know that without the grace of God the Amorites could by no means respond in any way other than the way in which they eventually responded, and we conclude, given that God hardened the heart of Sihon, that this was not going to happen.   When the scriptures record God as "hardening" a heart, the imagery is of clay hardening, and being set forever into the shape it was already in at the time it was hardened.  It wasn't that God formed a rebellious heart in Sihon, then set it that way - it is rather that God allowed Sihon to continue in his sin to the point where there Sihon, and by extension, the Amorites, could find no place for repentance.  Their hearts were rebellious hearts hardened into the shape they had always pressed them into.

Given this, do we conclude that God was supplying these (condemned already) Amorites with a genuine offer to turn away from their sin?  To answer that, let's ask a few questions of the scriptures, and use the principles we find in the answers to this question. 

Remember how God gave Noah the plans for the ark?  Did the ark include provision for every man, woman, and child upon the earth, or was there just enough room for the animals, the provisions, and Noah's family?  Noah preached righteousness to the sinners of his day all through those long decades wherein he was building the ark - an ark that made no provision for any converts to righteousness.  God knew before He supplied Noah with the plans that no one would repent.  Noah (assuming he wasn't daft), would have concluded, given the lack of provision, that no one would repent.  So why did Noah bother preaching righteousness?  The author of Hebrews tells us that Noah, in building an ark to same himself and his family condemned the world (cf. Hebrews 11:7).  Likewise in the context of condemnation, Peter tells us that God did not spare the angels, or the ancient world (ie. the people in Noah's day) in spite of Noah being a herald of righteousness (cf. 2 Peter 2:5).  That is Noah preached righteousness - not for the purpose of converting souls, but rather to reveal through the preaching that these were deserving of the condemnation they were earning. 

In the third chapter of John we read that the light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather than the light, and refuse to come to the light because doing so would expose the fact that they are evil.  Did you catch that?  The light exposes their evil, that is why they do not come to it. 

When Moses set an opportunity before the Amorites, an opportunity to come to the light, as it were, they rejected it in order that their evil would be exposed for what it was.

The offer was genuine in the sense that the same offer had always been there: ie, here was an opportunity to humble themselves before God.  They had rejected every opportunity up to this point, and their rejection of this final offer served the purpose for which the offer had been proffered: judgment.

Do you get that?  The offer was part of God's judgment against them.  They had no opportunity to repent apart from God's grace, and their condemnation was already pronounced, and had been pronounced decades earlier - the offer was made in order to illustrate the righteousness of God's long awaited judgment against them.  

I expect that not too many people imagine the gospel offer in terms of judgment, but that is how scripture paints it, even in the New Testament.  Consider the words of Paul (2 Corinthians 2:15-16a), "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life." - the gospel preached by Christians will have only one of two effects - it will condemn those who are condemned, and give life to those who are granted life.  As difficult as it is for some to accept: the gospel cannot serve both purposes in the same person - it serves one or the other.  It is the words of life to those who called to life, and to the rest it is an herald of death.

If we think of the gospel as nothing more than the offer of life, we are only understanding half of it, and our theology is going to suffer for it.

Questions?
posted by Daniel @ 11:53 AM  
3 Comments:
  • At 9:29 AM, July 05, 2012, Blogger donsands said…

    No questions Daniel. Thanks for your hard work in the Word and truth.

    I have tried to share the Gospel within the sphere of the OT, and many don't want to hear it.
    They say, "I believe Jesus came to love us all. Love your enemies. The OT doesn't apply any longer."

    Even Barak Obama said he disregards the latter books of the NT, and lives by the Sermon on the Mount.

    Thanks again for your teaching here. I shared you on my Facebook. I pray God will use it for His glory. Amen.

    Gal. 6:14

     
  • At 9:43 AM, July 05, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    Don,

    Thanks for the feedback, and it's good to hear from you!

     
  • At 7:38 AM, July 07, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I believe this is why the Day of the Lord is called both great and terrible. It's the same day - great for those who love and serve the Lord - terrible for those who don't.

     
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