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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 3

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-29

Turning Backward

Deuteronomy 2:1-37 and Deuteronomy 3:1-29


Last week we closed with God's refusal to permit the Children of Israel to go into the land of Canaan. They had come up to Kadesh-barnea; they had sent spies into the land, but they had rebelled against the Lord and had not believed Him. For this cause, and because of their murmurings, the Lord said, "Turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness."

Last week we saw that God had told them of how they started to go into Canaan, after God had commanded them to return into the wilderness. This effort of theirs was presumptuous, and the result was most disastrous. The Amorites came out against them and chased them "as bees do." They returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord did not hear them.

Perhaps, to some of you it may seem strange that God refused to hear the prayers of His own children, We must remember, however, that there is a time when tears and pleadings are of no avail. This is true today in the lives of the ungodly.

In Romans 1:1-32 we read thrice that "God gave them up" and "God gave them over." In the 6th chapter of Genesis there is a statement which reads like this, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man."

What is true of the unregenerate, is likewise true of the believer. There comes a time when disobedience, prayerlessness, murmurings, and strife causes God to refuse to restore him to the place of service. He does not, and will not, hear his prayer. Let us present to you three reasons why the Lord will not hear.

1. God does not hear our prayers when we regard iniquity in our hearts. It does not matter how earnest we may be, nor how beautiful the words we may utter. If there is iniquity in the heart, God will not hear. The hands, as well as the heart, must also be clean. Sin in the life is forever a barrier to answered prayer.

2. If we waver in our faith, God will not hear. Have you not read, "He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed"? Let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord. It is written, "According to your faith be it unto you." He who doubts is condemned. Prayer cannot reach the Throne of God if unbelief rules the heart and life.

3. God will not hear if we ask amiss that we may consume it upon our lusts. When we pray we should say, "Thy will be done." We should never ask something merely to satisfy our own personal longings or ambitions. This is doubly true when, in our prayer-life, we begin to ask something of God that we may spend it upon our lusts our fleshly appetites. Acceptable prayer must be for the sole purpose of glorifying God.

I. TURNING BACK (Deuteronomy 2:1 )

Our verse is one of the saddest in the Bible. It reads: "Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea." Think of it!

For two years and a half the great multitudes of Israel had been journeying toward the promised land; then when they arrived, because of their fear, their unbelief, and their rebellion, God turned them back. These were wasted years so far as any real progress toward Canaan was concerned. Let us see to what they turned back.

1. They turned back to their wilderness wanderings. Did you ever see a little boy riding a hobbyhorse? He moves, but just back and forth, without going anywhere. So it was with the Children of Israel. Because of their sin they were doomed to wander in the wilderness.

Have we made any real progress in our spiritual life since the day we first knew the Lord? Beyond a doubt, every day we have lived since, should be greater, and hold better things.

God never put our heads on backwards so that we would always be looking to the days gone by. We should live looking toward the days to come.

2. They turned back to sorrows and sighings. The wilderness life was a life without joy. It was a life full of deprivations, lack of water, and lack of bread. Besides, there were all kinds of beasts, snakes, and pits. Alas, too many Christians are forever living in this atmosphere.

3. They turned back with the women and the children. It would not have been so bad had merely the six hundred thousand men gone back into the wilderness. It is the more pitiful when we think that their sins dragged back with them nearly nine hundred thousand women and children. How true it is! Every one who sins brings sorrow and suffering upon all of those near and dear to him.

II. THE DANGER OF WORLD MIXING (Deuteronomy 2:4-5 )

As the Children of Israel went back into the wilderness, they compassed Mount Seir many days. Then, it was that God said to them, "Ye have compassed this mountain long enough; turn you northward." Then He commanded them saying, "Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; * * meddle not with them."

1. There was legitimate trading that they might do with the Esauites. Deuteronomy 2:6 tells us that they were allowed to buy meat for money. They also might buy water for money. However, they could not enter into any fellowship with these people. The children of Esau would have proved a snare unto them.

Young people must remember that they are called to separation. We may see much of sin around us, but we are not to linger where it lies. In Proverbs we read, "Enter not into the path of the wicked." We are to turn from it In another place we read, "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."

In Ephesians and in Corinthians, both, we are told to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness," or with anyone who is called a brother if he is sinful.

We cannot have fellowship with God if we insist on having fellowship with unsaved sinners, or with sinning saints. God says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, * * touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."

There is a little expression we read years ago: "Others may; you cannot." There are many things that the world may do, but the representatives of a Heavenly Court who are holding up the honor and the glory of their Lord's holy Name, dare not do such things.


This remarkable verse may be divided into two statements:

1. "God hath blessed thee." It makes us think of that song we love to sing: "Count your many blessings, name them one by one." We are ever prone to count our disappointments, our failures, and our losses. Are we as anxious to count our blessings?

"Praise (unto the Lord) is comely." Let us stop every now and then to consider how the Lord hath led us, how He has supplied us in the hour of our need, how He has healed us in our bodies. "The Lord is good" and "worthy to be praised."

2. "He knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness." This suggests that He knows us. There never was a day in all the journeyings of these people when God was not near them. It did not matter how dark it was, or what the testings were; God knew it all.

Another Scripture says, "He knoweth the way that I take." He does know.

"The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him."

Not only does He know, but He cares. He watches us with a sympathetic eye, and with a considerate heart does He yearn after us. Has He not said, "Lo, I am with thee alway, even unto the end of the world"?

It is for this cause that we may cast all our care upon Him. He walked with His people throughout a great wilderness. He will walk with us through fire and flood, through wind and rain.

IV. GOD'S GIFTS OF LAND (Deuteronomy 2:9 )

Our verse does not seem to carry much significance at first reading, and yet when we take it in the light of the context, it is revealing, indeed.

1. God is described as having given unto the Moabites a land for a possession.

In the same chapter other nations were given lands for their possession. All this brings to our mind a statement of Scripture which runs something like this: When God divided unto the nations their inheritances, He divided them according to the number of the Children of Israel.

Our Scripture plainly discloses the fact that God Himself rules among the children of men. He divides unto them lands and inheritances; and He appoints even their kings and rulers.

There is no nation that lives to itself, any more than there is any man who lives to himself. All live under the great command and will of God.

2. God, also, gave to His own the possession of a good land. To Israel He gave Canaan for their possession. The seven nations which possessed it were usurpers. The land did not belong to them. In God's eternal archives that land was set aside for Israel. It is still theirs, and though now much of the land is under the power of the Turks, God's people shall yet inherit their possessions and dwell in their own land.

3. God commanded the Children of Israel that they should not war against the people who held the adjoining lands. He knew that if they sought to dislodge the Moabites, or any of the other people who lived near by they would only delay their own inheritance, God had something better for His own.

Let us never be satisfied with anything short of the perfect will of God.


"And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them."

1. Thirty-eight years wasted. In God's perfect will the Children of Israel should have all passed into Canaan at Kadesh-barnea, but the elders refused to go in; the men of war rebelled. The result was that thirty-eight years of rest, peace, and plenty were lost to them.

Beloved, what time we ought to be enjoying the rich, spiritual blessings of God, we are often living on the husks of the swine herd. Why should we to whom God says, "All things are yours," live on the onions and garlic of Egypt?

2. Thirty-eight years of darkness and death. During the thirty-eight years of wanderings and deprivations "all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host." We read in one of the Corinthian Epistles that their bones were strewn in the wilderness.

There were only two of the elders who ever entered into the land. The others passed away under God's pronounced curse.

3. Thirty-eight years of trials and testings. In Deuteronomy 8:1-20 Moses reminds the Children of Israel of their wilderness wanderings. "Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no."

"He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not." Thus it was that two years and a half before Kadesh-barnea, and thirty-eight years afterward, they knew trials and testings when they might have been rejoicing in their Canaan possessions.

VI. THE FINAL JOURNEYINGS (Deuteronomy 2:24 )

The time had now come for the Children of Israel to enter into the land. The men of whom God had said, "There shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land," were all dead. The rest were now ready to enter in.

1. Happy was that day when they came out of Egypt. How much happier was the day that they came to their possessions. We can remember with joy when we first saw the light, the day when the presence of God came in and flooded our soul. That is a day never to be forgotten; but what will it be when we hear our Lord shout as He descends from the skies? What will it be as, later, we descend with Him to the earth, as we enter into His Kingdom, into His reign?

Beloved, the song of the Children of Israel as they came up to the Red Sea at the hour of their flight from Egypt was a great hallelujah shout. How much greater will be the shout when God's chosen people crown Him King, and they enter with Him into their glorious Canaan rest?

2. Happy was the day when God undertook in their behalf. Our key verse tells us that God said, "Rise ye up, take your journey, * * behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, * * and his land: begin to possess it." Thus it was that the actual conquest of the enemy now was upon them. This battle, and the leader of the battle against Jerusalem, and against the inhabitants of Canaan, presents that wonderful hour when, as the battle of Armageddon rages, the Lord Jesus Christ will come down and fight for His own as He fought in the days of battle, even as in the day when the Children of Israel first possessed the land.

VII. JOSHUA ENCOURAGED (Deuteronomy 3:21 )

We pass so much of the details of the earlier events as they approached Canaan. We come now to that time when Moses committed unto Joshua the leadership of the people. It was Joshua, the unswerving, the faithful, the believer, who was chosen to take up the leadership which Moses was to lay down. Therefore, Moses gave unto Joshua this command from the Lord, "Thine eyes have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto these two kings: so shall the Lord do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest. Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God He shall fight for you."

1. Victory brings encouragement. On one occasion a nation was being beset by its enemies, and they sent envoys to a greater nation than theirs. They did not plead any worth of their own, any of their own valor. They did plead the greatness and the might of the nation from whom they sought assistance.

When we come to God, let us plead past mercies. Let us remind Him of all that He has done, telling Him that He who has wrought will surely work again.

2. God's presence brings encouragement. What should Joshua and Israel fear? God had already shown His greatness and His mighty hand in the past; He had also said to Joshua, "I will be with thee." Turn for a moment to Joshua 1:1-18 , and hear God speaking. "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Again, God said to Joshua, "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Has not God promised us the same? "If God be for us, who can be against us?"


"Rev. Frank Fax tells of a foggy day spent on the ocean on one of the great liners. Cautiously, throughout the entire day they crept along to the mournful sounding of the foghorn, until 6 P. M. At that hour the fog lifted for just three minutes and the captain found that they were exactly opposite the port, but some of the men were not at their posts and before they reported for duty the fog had again fallen and a whole night of peril followed just outside the harbor.

There are a great many Micawbers in the world always waiting for something to turn up; but when it does turn up, they are often not ready for it. If we take no share in the manufacture of opportunity, we cannot expect opportunity of its own accord to manufacture us. It is not a nurse that carries mankind in its arms. It may exist in a certain sense apart from us, like a substance held in solution, or a negative in a dark camera; but we are the artists who must develop it.

And in order to do this, we must abstract our gaze from an imagined future which is going to give us a better chance, and learn to see more in the present moment. If we are for crossing bridges before we get to them, however beautiful the fields may look on the other side, we take so much away from the energy which is required of us now. We know what road is said to be paved with good intentions. But the real need is good performance."

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Deuteronomy 3". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/deuteronomy-3.html.
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