Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward. — Deuteronomy 2:3
My husband tells of a time when, as a young man on vacation with his family, he and his younger sister left their camping spot and began climbing the sand dunes nearby. He quickly became disoriented; after crossing the tops of a few dunes, he no longer could tell which way he had come. He felt very vulnerable in the vast wasteland. In the sea of sand with no compass in hand, he was doomed to wander until he could come upon something to give him his bearings. He felt nauseous and fearful in the pit of his stomach at being foolishly lost, while his little sister was angrily refusing to follow him any longer. Fortunately, after some time he stumbled upon some other hikers who directed them back to the safety of their camp.
The Children of Israel wandered for forty years. They had lost their forward momentum after doubting that God was able to lead them into their Promised Land. In today’s text, at God’s command, Moses challenged them, “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.” Finally, it was time to possess their land.
Sometimes we can “wander” in our spiritual walk. Days, months, even years can go by and we make no headway. We might be resisting God’s call to give up a certain thing, or perhaps we may “fail to head northward” because of refusing to do something or go where God is leading. Each time, while kneeling in prayer, this obstacle appears with God’s whisper, “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”
God would have us move forward spiritually. It is up to us to take the action that He is showing, and “move northward.”
Moses began this exhortation to the younger generation by recounting to them the principal occurrences of the forty years in the desert. All of the preceding generation had died in the wilderness according to God’s command that none of them, except for Joshua and Caleb, would enter into the Promised Land because of their disbelief upon hearing the spies’ report of Canaan. This was the first of Moses’ “sermons” that make up Deuteronomy; it retold the past, while later ones encouraged the people to prepare for the present, warned of the consequences of disobedience, and looked to the future as he told this younger generation of God’s great power to lead and deliver them.
In this chapter, Moses recounted how God told him to respect His promises to Esau and Lot and avoid conflict with their descendants. Even though those promises had been given hundreds of years before this time, God had not forgotten them. However, Sihon, king of Heshbon, was to be utterly destroyed. Verse 25 shows a bigger picture of how God intended to use this victory. He not only planned to destroy these Amorites, but He wanted to put fear into the hearts of the other nations that Israel would eventually fight against. The fame of their God-given victories would travel ahead of them.
Verse 7 contains a strong reminder to Israel of God’s faithfulness and power. Through all of their wanderings, they “lacked nothing.” A God who could take such excellent care of them was certainly able to help them win victories in the days ahead.
Some people may wonder why God chose for whole nations to be destroyed. Their religions were extremely wicked. Child sacrifice and prostitution were part of their rituals. Years before, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had walked through these lands, and by their lives had given a testimony of God. These people also knew about Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of those cities, indicating they were not without some knowledge of the true God.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The first discourse: Historical review
B. The wilderness sojourn
2. From Kadesh to Moab
a. The conduct toward Edom (2:1-8)
b. The conduct toward Moab (2:9-15)
c. The conduct toward Ammon (2:16-23)
d. The conquest of Sihon (Amorites) (2:24-37)
(1) The command from God (2:24-25)
(2) The obstinance of Sihon (2:26-31)
(3) The defeat of Sihon (2:32-37)
Could there be a situation or problem in your life that condemns you to wander in a spiritual desert? Yield to the Savior and do what He asks you to do. You will be “headed north” and coming into your “promised land” of blessings and answers to prayer.