Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Life is an adventure and rarely does the Lord let us take a straight shot to our dreams and goals. This is what the Israelites learned in the desert and what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us even today. After all that they had been through; slavery in Egypt, miracles, hunger, thirst, and everything else; God put up road blocks in front of the Israelites who were trying to make it to the land promised to them (on oath) by the Lord. Why would our God do that to the people he supposedly loved and protected? What sense is there for keeping those you love from what they want? Well, let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say on the topic and see what the Holy Spirit wants to say.
While wandering through the desert, the Israelites came upon a problem: between them and the Promised Land there was a fairly large nation, Edom. Not wanting to cause any trouble, the people of Israel decided to ask politely for passage through so they could make a straight shot to the land where they had been called to go. The Bible records their request in Numbers 20:14-17,
Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying:
“This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come upon us. Our forefathers went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers, but when we cried out to the Lord, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt.
“Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the king’s highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”
This seems like a simple request, and one easy enough to just say “yes” to. However, it was not to be, for we read, “But Edom answered: ‘You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword’” (Numbers 20:18). The Israelites asked again, but the answer was still no. It seems that sometimes God doesn’t want us to take a straight shot or in Paul’s case, go a particular direction,
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas (Acts 16:6-8).
Even super-Christian Paul found himself stopped by God from going the way he wanted to. You too may feel like you can’t go the way that seems right. Remember this too, the Israelites were called to go to the Promised Land, and Paul was told to tell the world about salvation through Jesus Christ. Yet, for some reason, they were blocked and rerouted.
The detours of life can lead to extra hardships as well. After not being allowed to travel through Edom, the Israelites got even worse news. Scripture tells us,
Since Edom refused to let them go through their territory, Israel turned away from them.
The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there” (Numbers 20:21-26).
After years of faithful service, Aaron was doomed to die in the desert, just like most of the other people. This would have been a huge blow to the people’s moral, since Moses and Aaron were the leaders of the Israelites and while condemning Aaron to death, there’s a hint that Moses may follow soon as well. Without their leaders, what would the people do? When we’re given detours by the Lord, sometimes it seems as though he causes added hardships in our lives. However, today we need to understand that this is all part of God’s plan. The passage continues,
Moses did as the Lord commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, the entire house of Israel mourned for him thirty days (Numbers 20:27-29).
Now this was a sad moment for Israel. Tears were shed and people had their worries. But while Aaron’s death further cemented that the entire generation that left Egypt would die before reaching the Promised Land, this event also marks the change of direction for the Israelites. You see, up until now, they were marching around the desert waiting for death (as a whole generation had been cursed by God in Numbers chapter 14). However, when Moses put Aaron’s clothes onto Eleazar, it symbolized that things were changing, for Eleazar was part of the new generation that would enter into the Promised Land. No longer were the Israelites walking toward death, they were walking toward their new life. And so through a detour and tragedy, the Israelites were actually in a better position than they were before all of this had happened.
The detours of life can also lead to greater victories in the end. Right after being turned away from Edom and losing their high priest, the Israelites ran into a hostile nation in the form of the Amorites and their king, Sihon. Once again the people of Israel asked politely to pass through the land. What happened? Our story continues,
But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the desert against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel. Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified (Numbers 21:23-24).
This time, a roadblock became a great opportunity, and because Sihon wouldn’t let Israel pass (and actually attacked them), the Israelites were able to capture his land. This happened again soon afterwards with one of Sihon’s neighbors,
Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.
The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”
So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of the land (Numbers 21:33-35).
Now, all because Edom refused to let the Israelites pass, God’s people faced tragedy and greater opposition than ever before. However, after finally making it to the Promised Land, aside from receiving Canaan, the Israelites still had Sihon and Og’s land left over, which turned out to be a huge blessing, because that land ended up holding two and a half tribes, letting the Israelites spread out even more in their new land.
Today the Spirit is telling us (as he told me when he pressed me to write the outline to this) that the road may be long and hard, but it is all part of God’s master plan. It is no wonder that we’re told by Solomon in all of his wisdom,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Today you might be facing very difficult times. Maybe you’ve run into roadblock after roadblock, detour after detour and you’re starting to wonder if what you thought God promised is really what he promised you. Maybe you misheard (or misread) him. …Or maybe, just maybe, it is just all part of God’s plan. For as people in the body of Christ we have to always remember, the Lord has a plan and a purpose for everything in our life. Paul put it like this,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28-29).
If your life seems like a roller coaster or an extremely confusing and dangerous road system, be comforted that this is by design. The Lord not only wants you to make it to your destination, but he wants to do it in a way that gives you more chances for victory as he molds you to be a closer representation of Jesus on this earth.
On the flip side though, if you aren’t in Christ and are doing everything on your own without God because you don’t believe in him or his son. Well, then your road is not so well cared for. Indeed, an unbeliever’s detours lead to dead ends. I mean, think of this logically, how can your road lead you anywhere except an eventual dead-end when there’s no Promised Land waiting for you? Without Jesus, your destination is the grave, my friend and every tragedy, roadblock, and detour is just another pit stop of suck on your way to the end of your meaningless life. -Ouch, that came off as really harsh. But it’s ok! You can get a Promised Land in heaven by coming to the Lord Jesus and trusting in his atoning sacrifice for forgiveness of your sins today (or when you are finally moved to do so). And not only will your destination be blessed by God, but so will your path thus far and to come. For Moses was told by God, “Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the western sea” (Deuteronomy 11:24). And the promise was repeated to Joshua before he set upon the Promised Land, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (Joshua 1:3). Only give your life to Christ Jesus and trust in him to lead you where you need to go.
No matter who you are, don’t let the road of life get you down. Rather, learn from it and grow on it in Christ Jesus. For Paul writes to us,
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
Even if the road is long and hard, know that you have a place ready for you when you get to the end. For our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 12:2). So rejoice, those who believe, for you are walking not toward death, but toward a new life.
If you would like to also change your path to be one toward life as opposed to one towards death. Then give your life to Jesus and start reaping the Lord’s promises today. Just read the following prayer out loud and believe in your heart that Jesus died for you and was raised from the dead as proof of his ability to save you from death as well.
I had no idea where my life would take me.
And yet, here I am.
I don’t really know what led me here,
Or if there is a plan for my life.
But if you can save me, please do.
Give me direction, purpose, and hope.
Forgive me for my disbelief
And the sins I have committed in ignorance to you.
What’s the phrase? “Jesus take the wheel?”
Take over in my life,
And lead me on the path you have set up for me.
Teach me, and help me to understand you better.
In your name I pray,