As the journey of the Israelites continues – we continue to see the devastating effects of life choices apart from God. Right at the outset of Numbers chapter 20 we see Miriam die (without setting foot in the Promised Land) – and then Moses/Aaron are faced with a water crisis.

The people complain.

Moses gets frustrated.

Moses takes matters into his own hand – by striking the rock twice (instead of speaking to it as God said).

The end result of that choice is that both Aaron and Moses will also die without setting foot in the Promised Land.

There is much we could talk about in the above passages alone… but I would like to instead focus on something that happens in the middle of the chapter.

And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying, Thus says your kinsman Israel: You know all the adversity and birth pangs that have come upon us [as a nation]: How our fathers went down to Egypt; we dwelt there a long time, and the Egyptians dealt evilly with us and our fathers. But when we cried to the Lord, He heard us and sent an angel and brought us forth out of Egypt. Now behold, we are in Kadesh, a city on your country’s edge. Let us pass, I pray you, through your country. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink of the water of the wells. We will go along the king’s highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed your borders. But Edom said to him, You shall not go through, lest I come out against you with the sword. And the Israelites said to him, We will go by the highway, and if I and my livestock drink of your water, I will pay for it. Only let me pass through on foot, nothing else. But Edom said, You shall not go through. And Edom came out against Israel with many people and a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.” Num 20:14-21 AMP

Moses and the Israelites ask permission from the King of Edom (a powerful nation to the north) if they could pass through their lands, on their way to the Promised Land.  As we see – the Edomites deny this permission – despite Moses seeming to bend over backwards in graciousness.  In the end the Israelites are forced to turn away and find another route. But why? Why did they not go to war against the Edomites – especially under threat?
The easy answer to this question is found in Deut 23:7 – where God tells the Israelites to not engage the Edomites or the Egyptians in battle. But to really understand this… we must trace these Edomites back to their origins. This people group is a direct descendant group from Esau – the twin brother of Jacob. Do you remember their squabble in Gen 27:41? That feud was the result of Jacob attempting to bring about what God had promised him by his own strength. By stealing the Blessing from his brother – Jacob began a snowball of evil – which would be passed on for generations and would be responsible for countless lives lost. This seemingly “innocent” action of Jacobs would extend through the entire Old Testament and into the New – where King Herod, an Edomite himself, would attempt to take the life of the baby Jesus (a descendant of Jacob) by ordering the killing of every baby boy in Bethlehem (Matt 2).

James 3:5 tells us that a tiny spark can set a forest fire ablaze… and this is certainly proved true in this instance. God had promised Jacob (through Abraham) that He would give Him the Blessing… yet Jacob chose not to wait and allow God to bring that promise to pass – but instead use his own arm of flesh to “make it happen”. (Read Jeremiah 17 to see how this typically works out!). We will see the escalating effects of Jacob’s fateful choice as we continue through the Word.

But – what is the deeper point for you and I?

We are all given access to ALL of the promises of God spoken of in His Word. BUT – those promises will only come about by following Him and obeying His every instruction. When we make the choice to “go it our own way” and attempt to bring about this good life offered to us by God – the devastating effects are long-lasting and far reaching.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,