This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Read part 1: Circling the Mountain.
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
–Paul, Romans 15:4
Just as Paul says here and later on to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:14-17), all Scripture is a gift from God, given to us so that we might know how to live this life of faith in God. So these few verses in Deuteronomy 2:1-4b are not only recounting history as Moses speaks of the people of Israel circling the mountain, but they tell us something very important about God and how He relates to us.
From what I read in this passage, I see some themes that God consistently demonstrates throughout His Word:
1. God speaks!
It’s amazing, but true – God really does talk to us! By seeking God and listening for His voice, we will learn His plan for our lives, so it’s critical that we make room to hear Him. In following Christ, it’s too easy to get confused by our own wisdom and desires (because we’re fallible, fickle, and often short-sighted in our own wants) or taking in all manner of counsel from other people (because everyone has an opinion!) or getting swayed by the tricky lies of the enemy.
Thankfully, we’re not on our own! As the Good Shepherd, the Lord promises to speak to His children and guide them by the voice of His Holy Spirit (John 10:1-30,16:7-15; 1 Corinthians 2:9-15). God primarily speaks to us as we read His Word each day, spend quality time with Him in prayer (talking and listening), and obey all He’s already made clear…including the things that don’t make sense to us. He also reveals Himself through the world around us in nature, through other people, and even common, everyday things like that one fiction book you’re reading, a chance glance at a license plate frame, or a movie you’re watching. He’ll use anything to get our attention!
While it is part of your inheritance as a child of God (Ephesians 1:13-14), hearing God’s voice takes practice. Simply ask God to help you hear His voice more clearly, believe He’s heard you, then expect Him to respond and be ready to obey. And He will respond!
As you hear God’s voice and obey Him, write it down your experiences. Like our brothers and sisters in the days of Moses, we humans kind of have a tendency to forget (Psalm 106:13-15). 😉 By writing it down, you’ll not only have an opportunity to thank God for what He’s done, but also a whole record to remind you of God’s faithfulness when doubts try to undermine you. God will use every experience to build your faith and confidence in Him as the fully trustworthy, faithful, and loving God that He is, which is always His goal in our walking with Him.
Now, remember, in whatever we hear, everything must line up with the Word of God. It’s critical that we rely on the full counsel of God (Psalm 119:105). Any advice that contradicts what He’s said is not from Him. Any conversation that produces fear, discouragement, and worry rather than His peace, encouragement, and assurance is not of Him. And anything that leads you to rely on anything but God is not from Him. Plain and simple.
2. God leads His people in the practical, day-to-day details of life.
As we wait on Him, God will call us to action according to His will, not our own, giving specific instructions about how to live, where to go, how to go, and when (because timing matters!). For Moses and the people of Israel, they embarked on a journey to a place God would show them, but it meant they had to travel in the way that God showed them. In His wisdom, God didn’t just leave it to Moses or the people to figure out how to get from point A (Egypt) to point B (the Promised Land); He took them through it step-by-step, leading them the entire way and requiring the people to have 100% faith in His ability to lead them.
3. God always has purpose for mountain circling.
In Deuteronomy 2:4: and following, Moses recounts how God told them to “turn north” because it was time to pass through the region of the sons of Esau (their cousins a few dozen times removed). God gave them specific instructions on what to do, how the sons of Esau would respond, and how to remain faithful to God in this journey. But before He gave them this next command, the people of Israel had to circle the mountain. What was God up to?
From what I see in this passage and its larger context, God was testing the people of Israel. Would they be faithful and obey Him in circling Mount Seir as He commanded? Even after they’d done it, maybe, a dozen times already? Would they rebel (again) by refusing His instruction and choosing their own way? Would they get tired and give up? God was teaching them to trust Him and producing a fruit of character in His people that would enable them to endure anything on the road ahead.
At the same time, God was paving the way ahead of them in Seir. He was ensuring their protection by sending the news of the Israelites ahead of them so that the sons of Esau would be afraid of harming the people and treat them with respect. He was making provisions available to them by preparing the sons of Esau with enough food and water to sell to the people (remember, this was a crowd the size of a small nation!) so their physical needs would be met. In short, God was making ready all that needed to be in place for this next step in the journey and all the steps that would come ahead, and it took time to prepare the people and the circumstances accordingly.
And so, Moses reminds the people, “You followed the instructions that God spoke to me, circling the mountain again and again, and look at what good came of your obedience!” And just like the people of Israel, it’s up to us to be faithful, following Him and waiting on Him even when we don’t understand.
Read part 3: Faithfully Following.