BIBLE STUDY SERIES #419, 420 and 421

5 December, 1999

OCCUPYING THE PROMISED LAND - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land. Having passed out of Egyptian bondage through The Exodus, the children of those Israelites who failed forty years before to make good God's Word regarding His intent to give them the Promised Land as their inheritance, are being readied to claim it now, under the directives of The Almighty Whose Covenant it was to fulfil the matter.

Before actually entering The Promised Land, Moses was to review God's teaching for the people of Israel in matters such as national obligations under God's Law. We saw, in Numbers 30, that The Almighty requires of His people, that a vow, freely entered with a full understanding of consequences, once made, must be performed, even to the detriment of the one who makes the agreement. We saw that the establishment of a total commitment to God's Laws regarding covenant and truth, when broken, leads to grave dangers for the whole people, for the corruption which follows permits cheating and strife to afflict the whole body of that nation. In Israel's case, the nation had undertaken a Covenant, to be the national "wife" of God. In truth, God is the "husband" of the nation of Israel, and if we be Israel's descendants, as is the understanding of our British-Israel-World Federation, then certain obligations for ourselves follow directly upon such a commitment.

On our last study in this sequence, before we digressed to give some attention to the subject of "Remembering", we had been examining Numbers 31, a Chapter in which a war against the Midianites is ordered by The Almighty God of Israel. We saw how that military foray had resulted in a victory for God's nation. Now, as we begin the examination of Numbers 32, we will see how events came about which would mark somewhat divergent lines of history for parts of the Tribes. Indeed, The Companion Bible introduces the notes on this chapter with the heading "Division: East of Jordan" and points out that the first verse begins and ends with the word "cattle" to emphasise the first cause of this division. Let us now read today's Scripture portion, beginning with Numbers 32:1-5.

1. Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle;
2. The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying,
3. Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
4. Even the country which the LORD smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle:
5. Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.

Under the heading "XX. The Apportionment of Transjordan...", The New Bible Commentary states of this passage: "The two tribes of Reuben and Gad noticed that the land which had already been conquered was remarkably well suit Israel in a situation comparable to that which followed the return of the spies at Kadesh-barnea (8-13). In any great co-operative undertaking there is always a danger that those who reach their objectives first will desert the others. Moses rightly took measures to prevent this. He assured the petitioners that if they turned away from following God they would bring great misery on themselves and on all the people of Israel (14-15). Let us see what follows in verses 16-27.

16. And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones:
17. But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
18. We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.
19. For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward.
20. And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war,
21. And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him,
22. And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.
23. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
24. Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth.
25. And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth.
26. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead:
27. But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord saith.

The New Bible Commentary continues: "Immediately the Reubenites and Gadites replied that they would be glad to go over and take part in conquering the rest of the land, leaving their families in the walled cities of Transjordan (16-19). Moses agreed to this (20-24) but made absolutely sure that the promise would be well remembered. He insisted that it be solemnly repeated twice (25-27; 31-32) and declared very serious penalties if it should be broken (23, 30). What startling evidence of the weakness and frailty of human promises, that Moses should insist on this triple repetition! Satan is ever active, to tempt people for their own advantage to forget their promises. Even in dealing with God's people, it is desirable that important agreements be made explicit and clear."

12 December, 1999

OCCUPYING THE PROMISED LAND - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land, having passed out of Egyptian bondage through The Exodus. Before actually entering The Promised Land, Moses has reviewed God's teaching for the people of Israel in matters such as national obligations under God's Law, for the people of this nation have undertaken the peculiar obligations which had previously been arranged at Mount Sinai through a national acceptance of God's conditions for their national marriage to Himself. That this was, indeed, a true marriage arrangement is verified in Jeremiah 3:14, where God's word says "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion." Hosea, also, was given a similar message for the Northern House of Israel, for in Hosea 2, and specifically in verse 7, we find that God is pleading for the return of His adulterous national wife, Israel, "to her first husband", meaning "to Himself."

We learned that a vow, freely entered with a full understanding of consequences, once made, must be performed, even to the detriment of the one who makes the agreement. The nation of Israel had thus made bridal vows to Yahweh, the Almighty God, at Sinai, and Moses was commissioned to reinforce their understanding and firmness of commitment in these matters as they were beginning to come into contact with the lascivious religious lifestyles common in Canaan, their Promised Land.

The understanding of our British-Israel-World Federation, as we study the Scriptures, is that the present-day Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples in today's world form the literal outworking of the prophesied future developments to become manifest in the last days, among the descendants of the Tribes of Israel. If that is true, then certain obligations for ourselves follow directly upon such a commitment.

A most startling confirmation of the thesis has been available to our peoples since the year 1917, when General Allenby's British Empire and Allied forces took Jerusalem from the Turks. The story of the amazing prophetic exactitude with which the whole matter was carried out deserves to be inserted at this point, for it was the culmination of the campaign of General Allenby's forces during the months of 1917, and specifically marked with prophetic exactitude on the 9th, 10th and 11th of December of that year that the fulfilments of many prophecies occurred. That circumstance initiated an Annual Day of Prayer among British Israel believers in Canada from that day onward, so it is particularly fitting that we, on the appropriate weekend in our own generation should mark the occasion in a similar fashion.

Perhaps, in order to facilitate the unfolding of the story, it would be appropriate for me to read excerpts from some of several books which have been written concerning it. However, as the event is also marked by parallels which we might draw to the earlier taking of the Canaanitish city of Jericho by the Israelites under the generalship of Joshua, and the oversight of the whole strategy by The LORD of Hosts Himself, we might be getting ahead of ourselves, so to speak, if we introduce the matter at once, without first concluding our studies of those Scripture passages which bring us to that occasion of the actual crossing of the River Jordan, and the entry of Israel into the Promised Land beyond.

On the last study, we had seen that the men of the Tribes of Reuben and Gad, with a subsequent inclusion of half of the tribe of Manasseh, had made the request of Moses that they should be given their Tribal inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River, where there was excellent pasture for their cattle, seeing that they were particularly engaged in the herding of those beasts and had a great number of them.

Moses' wrath had flared at the suggestion, for he knew that such a development might fatally weaken the whole strategy of the invasion of Canaan in its entirety if nearly a quarter of the troops left the remainder of the Camp of Israel to forge ahead without their support. Numbers 32 gave the story, and we had read as far as verse 27. However it will be easier if we take the review from verse 20.

20. And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war,
21. And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him,
22. And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.
23. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
24. Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth.
25. And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth.
26. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead:
27. But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord saith.

So we see here that a commitment was made by those Tribes, which were to be given land which had already been conquered at the start of the campaign, that they would keep faith with the rest of Israel in the continuing invasion of Canaan. We will pick up our Scripture passage again, at verse 28:

28. So concerning them Moses commanded Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel:
29. And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the LORD, and the land shall be subdued before you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession:
30. But if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.
31. And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As the LORD hath said unto thy servants, so will we do.
32. We will pass over armed before the LORD into the land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side Jordan may be ours.
33. And Moses gave unto them, even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and unto half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, with the cities thereof in the coasts, even the cities of the country round about.
34. And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,
35. And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah,
36. And Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, fenced cities: and folds for sheep.
37. And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim,
38. And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.
39. And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it.
40. And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.
41. And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havothjair.
42. And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name.

Keil and Delitzsch point out that the Tribe of Manasseh does not seem to have been involved in the negotiating for the land east of the Jordan, stating "It appears strange that the half-tribe of Manasseh is included here for the first time at the close of the negotiations, whereas it is not mentioned at all in connection with the negotiations themselves... ." They go on to say, however "Moses did not overlook the fact, that some of the families of Manasseh had conquered various portions of Gilead and Bashan (ver. 39), and therefore gave these families, at the same time, the districts which they had conquered, for their inheritance, that the whole of the conquered land might be distributed at once. Thus this half-tribe was added to those who would occupy that side of Canaan. Keil and Delitzsch also give some detailed attention to the various walled settlements and among them they give mention to one city, Heshbon, the capital of king Sihon, "which was allotted to the tribe of Reuben ... but relinquished to the Gadites, because it was situated upon the border of their territory, and given up by them to the Levites."

We shall have to pick up our continuing Bible Study Sequence after we have a time of reflection for the next few weeks as the millennium draws to a climactic close. We are called again to meditate upon the passing cycles of our years and generations. Once again, we shall mark our own personal summation of life by the discard of a calendar that so recently was brim-full of hope-filled anticipation. Whatever it held for each, it is now our personal past history, and yet, for all that, worthy of record, for we know no other days than our own. We might have marked, for ourselves, a re-generation of our race, or yet again yielded to their place the milestones of our tombstones. The LORD gave us the lights in the heavens, the Sun, Moon and stars, which in their regularity caution us that those days, which were so recently the unknown future, are now past history, marked off upon our calendars. Of what is "time" made?, and how can we grasp a golden moment while the shadows pull it from us? Memory permits us to mark our steps, to see where we have been, and calls our minds to think upon what yet shall be before us. Until next week, then, we leave to you a thought. In Christ there is all knowledge, time and space reserved to us for ever, and concluded through a blood-smeared door of love.

19 December, 1999

A PAUSE FOR REFLECTION

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Today, departing from our usual sequence of Bible Studies, I wish to call to mind some more general considerations which focus upon the Christmas Season, and to that end I will draw upon certain thoughts to which I supplied words on a broadcast in December of 1996, titled "The Substitute" with editorial up-date.

Our present series of ongoing Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. It was that he should leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees, and follow the leading of The Almighty God to seek for "a better country", as Hebrews 11:14-16 shows us, and the motto of The Order Of Canada, which was recently added to our national coat-of-arms, reflects this statement of purpose. Eventually God's Call was to found a family, a tribal nation, and a constellation of nations from Abram's loins that would ultimately serve God's Great Plan for all peoples.

Our course of study has taken us down the centuries since that time and through the Bible Story of his descendants, Isaac, Jacob who was re-named Israel, and the tribal family of Jacob which was descended of his twelve sons, and which was constituted a national wife to Yahweh, (Jehovah) Himself at Mount Sinai after their emergence from the harsh school of Egyptian bondage through the miracles of The Exodus.

Aside from occasional interruptions for special topics our studies have progressed consecutively through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and now Numbers to our latest studies. However, as we have once again arrived at an occasion of significance in the Church calendar, it will be in order for me to make yet another digression from our normal pattern of studies. In Leviticus 14 we find the symbolic substitution of a bird which was killed for another which was then dipped in its life-blood mingled with running water and then released during the ceremony of the cleansing of the leper. Today's digression towards a First Advent theme can be associated therewith, for we have here one of the Old Testament prophetic rituals which looks down the centuries to the provision of the person Who would, in Himself, provide the true substitute for the sinner and take that sinner's death-punishment upon Himself.

We are, as I say, at the time in our calendar when we review the provision of the person Who was provided to pay the price of sin by substitution. Jesus Christ came, at His First Advent, in order to die for the Redemption of His kinsfolk once and, in addition, as in the parable of the one who bought the field to gain the hidden treasure within it, the Salvation of all who are willing to take advantage of His gracious offer through that same act of substitution. Thus we read the prophetic words of Mary recorded In Luke 1, verses 46-47 and 54-55 in answer to her cousin Elizabeth, saying "My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour..." and concluding with the words "He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever." We might, incidentally, note that Mary, herself, in these words admitted that she required a "Saviour", and hence that she was, along with the rest of humanity, a sinner in need of such a substitute to take the punishment for her sins. We might also note that Mary and Elizabeth were of those who descended of the "very good figs" of Jeremiah 24,1-7 which looked for the promised "Anointed One", (which is what the Greek word "Christ" means).

As we find ourselves again within the season of the year when we of the followers of Jesus Christ generally review the Scriptures relating these promises, we also find ourselves, along with the masses of the public, inundated by the secular child of Saturnalia which pays but scant lip-service to the true Reason for the Season. The Oxford Classical Dictionary states, of "Saturnalia", that this festival was "possibly linked to the ritual following on the completion of the autumn sowing", that it was observed on 17th December, and that, "in historical times, it was the merriest festival of the year." That reference adds that on it, "presents were exchanged, particularly wax candles and little pottery images or dolls." By about the fourth century A.D. much of this (festivity) "was transferred to New-year's Day, and so became one of the elements of the traditional celebrations of Christmas." Thus, we can see that resemblances between Saturnalia and our present pagan traditional Christmas observances are not to be laid to chance similarities!

We read in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, that the general acceptance of the current choice of date, 25th December, was not without arguments, for quite a number of dates in the year have been ascribed the honour by one or another of the various groups and factions, past and present, of the followers of Our Lord. There were those who opted for the 6th of January, or the 25th of March, and also the 20th of May, the 19th or 20th of April, the 17th of November, or the 28th of March. The Encyclopaedia states that "Certain Latins as early as 354 may have transferred the human birthday from the 6th of January to the 25th of December, which was then a Mithraic feast..." and "The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to the 6th of January, accused the Romans of sun-worship and idolatry, contending with great probability that the feast of the 25th of December had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus... to commemorate the natural birth of Jesus." There is also mention of the fact that, in Britain the 25th of December was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity, for Bede... relates that "the ancient peoples of the Angli began the year on the 25th of December..." which "they called in their tongue modranecht (modra niht), that is, the mothers' night..." In 1644 the English puritans forbad any merriment or religious services by act of Parliament, on the ground that it was a heathen festival, and ordered it to be kept as a fast. Charles II revived the feast, but the Scots adhered to the Puritan view."

Aside altogether from the fact that the birth date of Our Lord Jesus Christ is far more likely to have occurred at the Fall Season, about the time of the Feast of Trumpets perhaps, than in December, we may deplore the use of a Christian excuse for a very loose and casual connection to the story told and re-told on that date by the churches. The mercenary interests cram the mass-media with glossy ads which plead for Trade but not for The True reason for His Coming, for Santa, but not for His Salvation, for Toys, but not for The Theocracy of Our Lord which is as certain of fulfilment as was the First Advent, for Glittering Gift-wrappings, but not for The Greatest of Gifts. We find displays of Cartoon Cards in abundance, but scarce one which even hints at the Christ Who makes it all possible. We find beautifully decorated Christmas Trees with garlands of festive lights in many homes, but scarce mention of The Tree of Life. We hear "Jingle Bells" on the networks, but were it not for the annual singing of "The Messiah", little of the verities of Judgment and Joy connected with His First Advent. Our children know more of a fantasy reindeer than of the lowly beast which bore Him towards Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The mass media have, in the past, sought to transmit, through the general commercial blandishments of advertising, a strident misuse of the word Christ in the label "Christmas", and used the Spiritual verities as an excuse to thrust Christmas trees and lights, Santas and toys, and all the sparkle and tinsel of a fantasy before a host of buyers who were thus driven to the shop counter and the excesses of alcohol. Even the name used as an excuse in salutations through the mail has now drifted from "Christmas" to "Season's Greetings."

The Millennium celebrations likewise honour the world's transition to mankind's future multi-cult self-made glory, epitomised in spectacles like the figure of man in the Millennium Dome, while shunning any mention of Jesus Christ, the central focus of all history, as too politically incorrect for inclusion! Shades of Belshazzar's drunken royal feast hover near with a hand about to write the ledger on the wall!

How can we rectify the situation when the merchants make an occasion which is nominally held in honour of The Birth of the Saviour to be the day for opening their stores to customers against His Laws on His holy day? We may at this time find some common ground with our Christian friends and neighbours in deploring these signs of the times, and yet we who seek to truly honour Our Lord may, even at this time, digress once more from our common round to involve our thoughts and those of the people among whom we mingle and traffic, with matters spiritual. Thus, even using these associations with the general view of the season, however seasonally transient these may seem, we may bear loyal and true witness to the glory that is Christ, and the promise of His Return.

Thus, we may even take advantage of the crass commercialism of the hour, drawing it to our advantage in reminding each whom we meet of the reason for the season of festivity. Thus we may work to generate a more worthy understanding of the Greatest of Gifts, The Love of Jesus Christ Who came to die for us. We may ever link therewith the promise of His Return now surely almost upon us, though the world may live in ignorance of it as surely as did the multitudes in the days of Noah, of Lot, and of Jesus' First Advent. There is a world to win, and time is precious. Let us show in our lives and attitudes the true cheerfulness shown to us in Luke 2:10-11, at whatever time of year the event occurred, which tells of that "great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

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