Lesson 17: “Beware Lest Thou Forget”
A covenant forgotten usually means a covenant broken. This year’s lesson emphasizes the importance of keeping the covenants we have made by noting several episodes during the wanderings of the Israelites when Moses called on the children of Israel to remember the Lord and His sustaining hand.
A group of lessons from a seminary text of 1942 (Maude Beesley Jacob, The Message of the Old Testament, Salt Lake City: LDS Department of Education, 1942) covers in far greater detail than a single Sunday lesson could hope to do the same period of the Israelites’ wanderings to the point where they are ready to enter the Promised Land, and Moses bids them farewell. Although the constant reminder to “remember” is not as much emphasized as in this year’s lessons, the covenants to be remembered, the incidents that will help the Israelites remember, even the same caution on keeping the commandments despite the influence of surrounding cultures, are all present.
Providing for Israel in the Wilderness
Many new experiences awaited the Children of Israel as they journeyed towards the land of Canaan. For generations they had lived in Goshen, either as free tribes or as slaves. Now they were wanderers, there were deserts and a wilderness to cross, there were enemies to overcome. The problems were many and difficult and they were ill prepared. There is no doubt that the Israelites expected to be led at once to the land promised to them. But God had in His mind to prepare the Israelites for their first task, the journey to Canaan, and also for the greater task of becoming a nation of God’s children. thus God was directing their leader Moses in all that he did.
For three days Moses led his people along the rocky wastes of the land of Sinai. For three days they found no water to drink and they suffered great thirst. At last they came to water and shade. With eagerness they stooped to drink, but the water was exceedingly bitter and they were sore troubled because of the disappointment. But God instructed Moses how to sweeten the water with the leaves and branches of a tree that grew nearby. Then the people and the cattle drank freely and were refreshed. Before long they came to a beautiful valley named Elim, with green palm trees and wells of sweet water. Now the huge caravan could rest a while in comfort.
Once more the Israelites began to journey; this time the way crossed a barren wilderness. Now the food they had brought with them from Egypt was all gone. Then they began to cry out to Moses saying:
“Who shall give us food to eat? In Egypt we did eat freely of bread to the full and of cucumbers, melons, and onions. Now ye have brought us into the wilderness to kill us with hunger.”
Moses was sorely grieved at the ingratitude of the people whom God had delivered from bondage. Then Aaron pled with them to bow themselves in humility before God and ask for the things they needed. As the Israelites looked towards the wilderness they saw a pillar of cloud and they knew that God had not forgotten them.
The Lord spoke to Moses to relieve his great anxiety:
“At evening these people shall eat flesh and in the morning they shall be filled with bread.”
As the sun set upon the camp of Israel, huge flocks of quail came and settled upon the ground. And the people ate flesh as God had promised. In the morning the ground was covered with small grains that looked like frost. When they tasted it they found it sweet and know that it was the bread they had bee promised. Then Moses spoke to them saying:
‘This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. Let each gather enough for the needs of his household for one day, and on the day before the Sabbath a double supply. Let no man gather more than he needs.”
Whereupon the people called the sweet food “manna,” and they collected it fresh each day and baked it into bread. But some disobeyed the instructions of Moses and gathered more than they needed, and the next day they found the manna had soured and was unfit to eat. Throughout the journey of Israel the manna was on the ground each morning, except upon the Sabbath.
Now Moses led his people out of the wilderness towards the foot of the great mountain Sinai, where they came to rest at a place called Rephidim. At this place there was no water. Once again the Israelites began to murmur, forgetting all that had been provided for them before.
Moses went alone among the rocks of the hillside and spoke to God saying;
“What shall I do to this people. behold, they are ready to stone me?”
Returning to the camp Moses did as God had told him, taking his sacred rod in his hand he struck a great rock, calling upon the name of the Lord. Instantly water poured forth and the people drank and were satisfied.
While the Israelites were camped at Rephidim Moses had to prepare to protect his people from the robber bands of the Amalekites who roamed the desert in search of caravans of traders traveling between the cities of Egypt and the cities of Mesopotamia. Straightway Moses chose Joshua to be the Captain of Israel. And Joshua was instructed to gather and train a band of fighting men for the protection of the people as they traveled toward Canaan.
When Joshua and his warriors went out to meet the Amalekite robbers, Moses went up to a hill-top and prayed to God for their success. As the warriors looked back and saw Moses with his sacred rod raised high over his head their courage grew and they fought without wavering. The enemies were defeated and the children of Israel took the upper valley of Rephidim for their camp. Because it was a choice and grassy valley with wells of sweet water the people of Israel rested in comfort and were contented.
While at Rephidim, a great happiness came to Moses, for here he was reunited with his wife and his sons: for when the plagues began to punish Pharaoh Moses had sent his family back to Midian to the home of Jethro. Now Jethro came to the camp of Israel bringing with him his daughter, Zipporah, the wife of Moses, and her sons, Gershom and Eliezer.
The First Judges of Israel
When Jethro saw the problems of Moses and that which he had accomplished with God’s help, he marveled at the evidences that had been given to this people of God’s power and loving kindness. also Jethro saw how human were the people of Israel, how the problems of everyday living, food, shelter, possessions, and security bothered them. He saw their dependence upon Moses for every small matter, and that the patience and long-suffering of Moses was taxed greatly. So Jethro counseled with Moses to choose good men to become the leaders of groups of the people and to act as judges in everyday matters.
Moses selected able men and made them captains of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens to help him to look over the welfare of the people and to administer the affairs of everyday life. When problems were too great for the captains or judges, as they were called later, Moses became the counselor and judge. It was in this way that Israel learned to govern itself.
It was a great testimony that came to Israel in the journey from Goshen to Rephidim; a testimony that God had brought them from bondage to safety, had provided food and drink for them, and had helped them to conquer the Amalekites. never again could they doubt if they remembered God’s loving care in the wilderness that the promises made to Abraham would be fulfilled.
Obedience to God’s Commands
Ten Commandments Given to Israel
God chose the Children of Israel from among all the peoples of the earth to become a holy nation. But in order to attain this glorious destiny it was necessary that this people learn God’s laws and how they must be obeyed. Now when they were away from the rest of the world as they were traveling towards the land of their inheritance was the time chosen by God to teach them of Himself and His will.
During the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai the Israelites had come to know that God was always ready to answer the call of His servant, Moses, and to provide for the needs of the wanderers. But there was much more for the Israelites to learn, for life is more than food and shelter or than comfort and security. They had to learn to live righteously with man and with God. To live in peace and harmony with their fellows meant to deal with honesty and kindness; to live in mindfulness of God’s purposes for man’s happiness meant knowing and obeying the great laws of life.
Now the children of Israel had come to God’s school wherein they might learn these great lessons. It was indeed a strange school, but it was a glorious school, alone with the beautiful and majestic creations of God, led by God’s chosen teachers, and instructed by the Divine Creator of the earth and man.
The Ten Commandments Given
Exodus 19, 20
Three months after the deliverance from Egypt the camp of the Israelites was made on the grassy plains in the shadow of Mount Sinai. There they could rest in security and comfort and for a long period of time. Now Moses felt that his people must be taught how to live together in peace had harmony, that they must learn to know more of God and His purposes for them. So Moses went up to the top of the mountain to be alone and to pray for guidance so that he might be able to teach his people right.
The Lord told Moses to go to the people and to prepare them to hear His voice from the mountain. Moses did as he was commanded and instructed the Israelites to cleanse themselves and their garments and to be ready before the mountain on the third day to hearken to the voice of the Lord.
On the morning of the third day a dark cloud rested on Mount Sinai and thunder and lightning shook the earth. Then the voice of a trumpet sounded loudly. Below in the valley Moses had assembled all of Israel. It seemed as if the mountain burned with fire when from the cloud on the mountain peak the voice of Jehovah was heard speaking to Israel:
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice and keep my covenant then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine; and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
“I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the House of Bondage.
Thou shalt have no other goes before Me:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Honor thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness.
Thou shalt not covet.”
The hearts of the people were stricken with fear as they listened to the voice of the Lord God and they withdrew from the mountain, and cried unto Moses:
“Let not God speak to us in the voice of thunder. Be thou God’s messenger to us.”
Moses spoke to them so as to comfort their fears explaining God’s desires that they knew Him and how to serve Him, explaining to them that the commandments which had been given to them were for their good.
The next day Moses prepared a sacrifice to God and one of each of the tribes of Israel came to the altar to make a sacrifice of oxen. Then Moses spoke to the people repeating all that God had spoken the day before. And all lifted their hands and made a covenant with God:
“All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.”
Then the people left the sacred mountain and returned to their tents. Moses took Aaron and his sons and seventy of the elders of Israel and went up into the mountain to hallow the covenant which the people had made. there they saw the glory of God in all its brightness. Then Aaron and his sons and the elders came down from the holy mountain, but Moses remained that God might instruct him further as to how the Children of Israel should serve the Lord as they had covenanted.
For forty days Moses dwelt on the mountain with the Lord. And as he received the laws which were to be a guide to Israel to help them to be true to their covenant and to become a holy people. Moses wrote them into a book, the Book of the Covenant. Many other great and glorious things were also revealed to Moses at this time. Also God gave Moses instructions to provide a place wherein the Children of Israel might worship Him. All the details of the Holy place, the building and the furnishings, Moses saw in a vision; and Moses was instructed in the manner of worship to be held in this House of God.
Then Jehovah inscribed on two tablets of stone the ten commandments as He had spoken them to the Children of Israel. Each of the commandments was explained to Moses, so that he might know and these were the laws for all mankind in all times and places. Then Moses knew that if men would know God and serve Him by loving obedience to these laws they would love one another also, and that it was in this way alone that the Hebrews could become a holy nation.
Aaron and the Golden Calf
The Israelites waited on the plains before Mount Sinai while Moses remained upon the mountain with God. Day after day they looked at the clouds of fire and awaited the return of their leader. After many days they began to fear that Moses would not return so they turned to Aaron for guidance.
Now the Israelites had heard the voice of their God; they wanted to worship Him. they had helped to build great temples and statues to the gods of the Egyptians; they had seen the great festivals and sacrifices made in honor of the gods of Egypt. they knew, also, that the Egyptians believed that their gods had made them a great nation, strong enough to conquer many other nations and take their wealth in tribute and their people as slaves. So they gathered together the tribes of Israel and the Egyptians which had come with them out of bondage, and came to Aaron in great concern saying:
“Make us a god. How can we worship the God we have never seen? The people of Egypt have stone statues of their gods and they can see them when they worship. Make us a god that shall go before us, for as for this man, Moses, we know not what is become of him.”
Perhaps Aaron, too, feared that Moses might not return to lead Israel for he had been gone so long. Or perhaps Aaron feared what the people might do to him if he refused. But whatever was the reason, Aaron agreed to the demands of the Israelites and forget that the voice of God had said, “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image.”
Aaron commanded the people to bring to him all the ornaments of gold they possessed, their earrings and their bracelets. Then Aaron melted the gold and molded the image of a calf such as he had seen in Egypt. All the people gathered together for a great estival in honor of the golden image. Aaron built an altar for the golden image, burnt sacrifices were offered to the idol, and the people made merry with feasting and dancing.
God saw what was happening among the Israelites and spoke to Moses saying:
“Get thee down, the people have corrupted themselves. I have borne with their stubbornness long enough, now I will destroy them and of thy children, Moses, will I make a great nation.”
When Moses looked down upon the dancing and feasting of the people and saw the golden image, he had pity on them for he knew wherefore they had seen the worship of idols in Egypt. so he pled with God saying:
“Have mercy upon them, abate Thy anger. Remember the promises made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob to make them a great nation and to give them the Land of Promise for an heritage forever.”
Jehovah listened to the pleading of Moses and repented of the punishment he had thought to impose upon His people Israel. Then Moses came down the mountain to where the Israelites were dancing and singing before the golden calf. And his anger became very great. Flinging the tablets of stone upon which God had written on the ground they were shattered to pieces. then he cast the golden image into the fire and destroyed it. To his brother Aaron he cried:
“Why hast thou brought so great a sin upon thy people?”
But Aaron could find no good reason for his weakness but that he had done only as the people had begged him to do.
On the morrow when his anger had gone, Moses called his people to him and said:
“Ye have sinned greatly, yet I will beseech the Lord for you; it may be that I can make atonement for your sin.”
Then Moses went once more to the mountain to intercede with God, beseeching Him to forgive the sin of Israel. For now the anger of the Lord was softened by the willingness of Moses to suffer instead of Israel, and He spoke words of comfort to His servant Moses saying:
“Whosoever hath sinned against me, him only will I blot out of my book. I will not forsake Israel. Thou shalt lead them unto the place I promised. And I will go with thee. Hew then two tablets of stone like unto the first, that I might write my commandments once more for Israel.”
The Ten Commandments and the Teachings of Moses
When Moses came again to his people he brought the tablets of stone upon which God had written once more the commandments He had spoken. Also, he brought the laws which were recorded in the Book of the Covenant.
Then Moses began to teach the people the great lessons of God’s commandments and laws; to worship the only true God in spirit and in truth; to live righteously with all men; and to become a holy nation keeping God’s word alive in the earth.
The First Commandment, Thou shalt have no other gods before me, was a difficult law for Israel to learn. On all sides of them in Egypt they had seen the worship of many gods. Because they could see the sun, the moon, the stars, the rain, and the growing things of the earth they could understand why the Egyptians believed that there were many gods in the heavens whose business it was to govern all the different things of the earth. But it was much more difficult to think of one god over all the earth, the heavens, and mankind. All they had to help them was the testimony of Abraham and of Jacob until Moses became their leader.
Now before Mount Sinai the Lord Jehovah, the only true God, had made His presence known to Israel. Now they knew the source of the power given to their leader Moses for their deliverance from bondage and for their protection in their wanderings. How could they forget? But there were generations yet to come. What of them? Throughout the years the First Commandment stood as a challenge to Israel and to all mankind to accept one God, the Creator. It took Israel many generations to learn this first great commandment but when they did they carried the great truth to all mankind.
The Second Commandment. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, was also necessary for Israel to learn because of the forms of worship they had seen in Israel and were to see in Canaan. Because people thought of their gods as living things they made images of them so that they might see them. But what was more, it was the custom to worship such images offering sacrifices to them, thinking thereby to gain blessings and favors from them, also, to prevent the anger of the gods and the evil they might do.
Moses knew the human appeal of such worship, and the Children of Israel were very human, desiring to have the good things and fearing the hard, unpleasant things. But Moses knew also that worship for good gifts was not the true form of worship, so when he taught this great commandment to Israel he added an explanation, also a blessing and a penalty to the words spoken by Jehovah.
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
Moses taught Israel to worship as Jesus taught mankind: “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
The Third Commandment. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, had for its purpose the keeping of the name of the Lord God sacred. It was the custom to use a sacred name for emphasis or as a proof of one’s honesty. If the thoughts of God are to be kept sacred and exalted then the name of God must be kept sacred and used only in worship or with reverence. Thus it was that there was added a penalty to this great law:
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain.”
The fourth Commandment, Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy, was an ancient Hebrew law. Abraham had taught it to his children. Out of this holy observance of a day set apart for God Israel had become strong in spirit. But when they lived in bondage in Egypt the custom had to be abolished. In Egypt, the people held feast days in honor of their many gods but the feast days were not holy days; they were times of feasting and merriment.
The law of the Sabbath was the law established by God at the creation of the earth.
Now Israel was to return to the sacred law of the sabbath and keep it holy in every detail that they might be blessed with God’s spirit.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy son nor thy daughter, thy man servant nor thy maid servant nor thy cattle nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
The fifth Commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother, was the law upon which the racial integrity of Israel was founded. It was the law upon which God’s holy nation was to be builded. Out of the sacredness of marriage and family relations, purity and righteousness could continue in the earth, for when children followed the righteous teachings of their parents, truth is kept alive in the earth.
Now a great tribal law was to become a sacred commandment that the eternal progress and happiness of mankind might be assured. It was upon this commandment that a righteous nation could be built and could endure and thus it came to be recorded:
“Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
The Sixth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill, is the great law protecting God’s greatest blessing, the gift of life. Jealousy, hatred, and fear bred in the heart of man leads to violence and murder. Such was the experience of Cain. Moses understood these things and taught Israel to respect human life as a sacred thing, a God-given blessing to man that he might learn, and progress, and gain immortality.
The Seventh Commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery, is the great law of individual purity. To the Hebrews impurity was one of the greatest sins. The penalties that were laid down for the violation of this law were severe and merciless. Because of their knowledge of the sanctity of marriage and family life, adultery was a grievous sin, for the individual and for society. But what was more, Moses knew that the spirit of God could not dwell in impurity. There are no penalties or blessings attached to this great law, it is a commandment carrying its blessings or its punishments with it, inescapable and far reaching for good or for evil.
The great commandments of righteous living, the Eighth commandment, thou shalt not steal; the Ninth Commandment, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor; and the Tenth Commandment, Thou shalt not covet, are the laws upon which all social and righteous living must be built. As Moses saw the actions of his people day after day he saw the great need for men to curb their desires, to covet the things of another led to jealousy, to stealing, and to lying. If all these actions could be curbed Moses knew that everyday life could become a beautiful, kindly thing. He knew also until all men loved their fellowmen righteousness could not be established in the earth.
Moses also instructed the children of Israel to teach the commandment to their children, even to write the words of them on the posts of their houses that every household in Israel might know and obey them.
Into their sacred records the Hebrews wrote the commandments as they were pronounced by the voice of God and as they were taught by God’s great servant, Moses.
The Building of the Tabernacle and the Worship of Israel
Exodus 25, 26, 40
While Israel remained at Mount Sinai Moses revealed the vision God had given to him concerning the worship of Israel. and when they heard of the plans for the building of the Tabernacle or Tent of meeting, their joy was unbounded and the time of the building of the holy sanctuary was the happiest of all the years spent in the journey to the Promised Land.
Moses chose Bezeleel and Aholiah to direct the building of the Tabernacle because they were skilled craftsmen. The people brought of their treasures for the adornment of the building, gold, silver, bronze, and precious stones. the women under the direction of Miriam, the sister of Moses, wove the fine linens needed for the curtains of the inner and outer courts of the Tabernacle and the garments of the priests. All worked together faithfully and eagerly that the house of worship be acceptable unto the Lord.
All was done as Moses had been instructed by God. first there was made a box of acacia wood about four feet long, two feet wide, and two feet deep, overlaid within and without with gold. Inside the box the tablets of stone were placed upon which God had written the commandments. The sacred box and its contents was known henceforth as the Ark of the Covenant.
The Tabernacle was made on three sides of wood and bronze, the front or entrance was a curtain of fine linen richly embroidered, and the roof was of fine cloth of goat’s hair and skins of rams.
A veil separated the Tabernacle into two chambers, the first was called the “sanctuary,” the second was called the “holy of holies.” Around the Tabernacle was a large court surrounded by curtains of linen hung from sixty bronze posts. The Tabernacle and the court were so made that they could be take apart when it was necessary to move from place to place.
When all was completed Moses called the people together. The Ark of the covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies. A sacrifice of thanksgiving was offered before the door of the Sanctuary. To the sons of Levi was given the care and worship of the Tabernacle and Aaron was chosen and anointed as the high priest of the worship of God. In the words of the Lord used by Moses: “This anointing was to be an everlasting priesthood throughout all generations.”
Then Aaron spoke to those assembled in the court of the Tabernacle saying:
“The Lord bless thee and keep thee;
The Lord make his face to shine upon thee;
And be gracious to thee!
The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee
And give thee peace!”
Even as the high priest spoke a pillar of cloud from the heavens settled down upon the Tabernacle and the glory of the Lord filled the holy place.
And from that time forward when the children of Israel were to take up their journey the cloud was lifted; but if the cloud were not taken up they did not go forward but remained until it was taken up. And at night the Lord placed a pillar of fire upon the Tabernacle that all might see it and know that He was with them.
The Tabernacle and its worship with the priesthood of Aaron were very great blessings to be given to Israel. Now they went on their way in humility and obedience.
Living Above the Evils of Environment
The Israelites in Canaan Under the Judges
During the journeyings of Israel from Egypt to the borders of Canaan they had lived away from the rest of the world. It was a period of learning that God had planned for them, the people He had chosen to be His own.
In this school of experience God had chosen and directed the leaders of His people, Moses and Aaron; He had delivered Israel from slavery to the Egyptians; He had brought them unharmed across the Red Sea; He had provided them with food and water in the desert; he had spoken to them giving them the Ten Commandments, the great laws of life; and He had given them a sign of His spirit to go with them every day, the pillar of cloud over the Tabernacle.
All of these manifestations of God should have given the Israelites a testimony of God’s loving kindness, of His power, of His being, and of His spirit. When they made the holy covenant with God, He promised that He would never forsake them if they kept the commandments which he had given to them. It was a glorious promise and a great challenge was given to Israel.
Now that they were at the borders of Canaan, a new life confronted the Hebrews, another great period in their history. All that had gone before was but a preparation for the great task of growing into a nation.
It was not a beautiful new world to which they came, this Land of Promise. It was a world of man’s making. On every hand Israel was confronted with new customs, new ideals, and new values; for people of Canaan worshiped many gods thinking to gain thereby food, security, and possessions. Honesty, purity, and justice had little or no place in their dealings with their fellowmen. Instead of good, much evil abounded in the land of Canaan.
Israel had been taught during the wanderings in the wilderness God’s pattern of righteous living. Furthermore, it was God’s purpose that Israel grow into a righteous nation. The challenge that came to Israel in making a new home in the land of Canaan was one of grave import. In this new environment the people of Israel had many choices to make: whether to follow their own way of life or to adopt the ways of the Canaanites. But they had always a guide to follow, a testimony of the true God, and a knowledge of His commandments.
Through obedience to the Ten Commandments, Israel grew in strength and power but when they followed the way of the Canaanites they fell into darkness and sorrow. Many times during this period of Israel’s history they had to be taught the true meaning of obedience as God requires it from His children.
Preparing to Enter Canaan
The Promised Land lay ahead of the Israelites. Moses chose twelve men, one of each tribe, to enter the land of Canaan and bring back a report of the problems which lay before the people. and they did as they were instructed by Moses and the men searched the land from border to border. Then they came back to their people awaiting at Kadesh on the edge of the desert. And Moses called the Israelites together and they listened to the words of their tribesmen:
“Surely this is a land flowing with milk and honey. Look at the choice fruit we have brought, grapes, melons, and dates. but the land is occupied by mighty tribes who have built great walled cities, the Amalekites in the southland, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites in the mountains of the north, and the Canaanites in the valley of the Jordan.”
But Joshua and Caleb spoke out against the others saying:
“The land is a goodly land. God is with us and we can possess the land. They cannot match the strength of God. Let us go up at once.”
“Nay,” cried the other men sent by Moses, “we cannot take the land, the tribes are bigger and stronger than we are. And we saw the sons of Anak who are a race of giants. If we go up against them we shall be destroyed.”
When the Israelites heard these words they wept in their disappointment. then some of them became enraged and cried out saying:
“Would we had died in Egypt or in the desert. Why has God brought us here to die by the sword and our wives and children to be taken captives. Let us choose a captain and let us return to Egypt.”
Moses and Aaron were overcome with grief to see that this people should forget the goodness of God so easily. And the Lord spoke to Moses giving him words to say unto Israel:
“Ye shall not come into the land concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb and Joshua. But your little ones, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.”
On the next day many of the men of Israel came to Moses and begged to be allowed to enter the land.
But Moses refused them saying: “It is too late. go not up for the Lord is not with you; that ye may not be smitten and fall by the sword of your enemies.”
Nevertheless the men went. But the Ark of the Covenant stayed in the camp. The tribes of the Amalekites came down from the mountains and the Israelites who had ventured against them were driven back to the desert and many were killed.
The Wanderings of Israel
Numbers 20, 21, 23
Now Moses led his people away fro the Land of Promise to the wilderness. There they lived until God prepared the way for the conquest of Canaan. The years passed slowly and wearily. After almost forty years the wanderers found themselves once more at Kadesh. Suffering for food and water for themselves and their flocks and herds, they were rebellious and cried unto Moses for relief. And the Lord instructed Moses to gather the people together and to command the rock before them and water would spring forth.
But when the people were assembled Moses cried out in anger, “Hear, Now ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?”
Then Moses struck the rock twice with his staff and the water flowed out abundantly. The people and their animals drank and their suffering was relieved. but what was more their courage and faith were sustained at the evidence of God’s providence. However, the Lord was sorely grieved that Moses should have disobeyed Him and glorified himself, and He said to Moses and Aaron:
“Because ye believed Me not and did not sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore, ye shall not bring them unto the land which I have given them.”
When the fortieth year came Moses called the people together for now they were strong in spirit and ready to fight to possess the land of the inheritance God had promised their fathers.
So Moses sent to the King of Edom asking that the Israelites be allowed to pass through his land. Because the people of Edom were the descendants of Esau, Moses did not wish to shed the blood of the kinsmen of Israel. But the King of Edom sent his soldiers to keep the wanderers out of his land. Then Moses turned southward to find another way to Canaan. At this time a great loss came to Israel for Aaron the great leader died. This was a great sorrow because the people loved Aaron for his understanding and his loyalty. Now Eleazer, the son of Aaron, became the high priest of Israel.
When the Israelites came to the land of the Amorites, God was with them and they took all the land and the royal city of Heshbon. Also when they came to Bashan, the land of the mighty men, they were victorious and were able to take possession of the land. But when they came to the land of Moab, Moses took not a foot of the land because the Moabites were the descendants of Lot. So the Israelites pitched their tents on the plains near the waters of the Dead Sea.
Viewing the Promised Land
Now the Israelites pitched their tents on the plains of Moab near the waters of the Dead Sea. From the nearby hills the beautiful valley of the Jordan and the magnificent city of Jericho could be seen. It was a glorious sight for the wanderers. But what was more it was the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham and to Jacob.
And the Lord took Moses unto the mount to show him the heritage of Israel and He said to His servant:
“See the land I have given unto the Children of Israel. Now thou shalt be gathered unto thy people for ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zion.”
When Moses knew that his work was over he asked the Lord to appoint a leader for Israel that they might not be as sheep without a shepherd. The Lord answered Moses saying:
“Take thee Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him.”
And Moses took Joshua before the people and Eleazer, the high-priest set him apart as the leader of Israel.
The Farewell of Moses
Now for the last time Moses called his beloved people to him. Then over the people assembled Moses spread his hands in blessing; blessing first the tribes, each in turn, telling them which portions of the land of Canaan should be theirs. to Israel, the nation, he spoke saying:
“The eternal God is thy refuge. Be strong and of good courage. Jehovah, thy God, He will go before thee and he will not fail or forsake thee.”
And Moses spoke to them at length of the experiences of their fathers, even of Abraham and of Isaac, and of Jacob. Then he counselled them not to disobey any of God’s laws but to be faithful in all things that they might live long in the land of their inheritance. Then once more Moses reminded the people of the meaning of the great laws of God, the Ten Commandments, instructing the priests of Israel that the sacred records of the covenants and laws of God be kept in the Ark of the covenant and that they should be read aloud to the people at the end of every seven years at the Feast of the Tabernacle.
Now that he had come to the end of his counseling Moses proclaimed his testimony that all might remember.
“Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord … The Lord thy God requireth of thee, to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him and to serve Him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.
“I call heaven and earth to record this day that I have set before you life and death. Therefore choose life that thou and thy seed may live.”
After the great prophet and leader had spoken to his people for the last time, he went alone upon the mountain called Nebo, for he knew the time was near for him to die. Then God fulfilled His promise to His servant and showed him all of the Promised Land. And as Moses gazed upon its valleys and its hills and its plains, its palm trees and its date groves, even as far as the silver shimmer of the waves of the great Sea, he knew that the heritage of Israel was indeed a goodly one. Filled with thankfulness and satisfaction, Moses died on the lonely peak and the Lord buried His faithful servant in the valley of Moab, but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.
All of Israel mourned for their prophet and leader, who had led them out of bondage, who had guided them in all their wanderings, and who had taught them to know the true and living God.