In the face of relative peoples, Israel has had to respect their possession. They were not allowed to take possession of anything from their inheritance, for that those relative peoples have received from the LORD. There are also peoples whom they have met on their way to the promised land, to whom they have had to adopt a very different attitude. With those peoples they had to fight if they were not willing to give the land. These peoples, too, the Israelites were not allowed to approach with haughtiness.
Sihon first got the chance to surrender the land without battle. But he refused to, and thus, through his own fault, lost his land, his empire and his life. The hardening of his heart by the LORD is the affirmation of his inflexible attitude.
Sihon was the king of the Amorites. Heshbon originally belonged to the Moabites, but the Amorites had conquered it (Num 21:26-2926For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon.27Therefore those who use proverbs say,
“Come to Heshbon! Let it be built!
So let the city of Sihon be established.
28“For a fire went forth from Heshbon,
A flame from the town of Sihon;
It devoured Ar of Moab,
The dominant heights of the Arnon.
29“Woe to you, O Moab!
You are ruined, O people of Chemosh!
He has given his sons as fugitives,
And his daughters into captivity,
To an Amorite king, Sihon.
) and expelled the Moabites. Already in the area on the wilderness side of the Jordan the Amorites had to be destroyed and the land inherited.
The LORD has given his people the land. His people only had to take possession of it. What God gives must be conquered by us. He could have thrown it into our laps without a fight, but He has chosen that we have to conquer it. He wants us to show that we appreciate what He gives, by striving to acquire it. He also teaches us that we also depend on Him for the battle.
We must learn where to fight and where to avoid the fight. It is not a fight against believers, but against systems and teachings. The area before the Jordan is as much the inheritance as the promised land on the other side of the Jordan. There are more blessings than the actual blessings of the land. Besides the blessings of the land – for us: the heavenly blessings – there are also earthly blessings, such as food, clothing, health. Of these last blessings, the area before the Jordan, the area on the wilderness side of the Jordan, is a picture.
Also a spiritual blessing like born again is an earthly blessing, a blessing for the earth. Such spiritual blessings can be found for example in the letter to the Romans. When we read there about justification and other consequences of the death of the Lord Jesus, it has to do with our life as a righteous person on earth which has become a wilderness.
When the Lord Jesus speaks in John 3 of “the earthly things” (Jn 3:1212If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?), He does so in response to what He said earlier about “born again” (Jn 3:3-83Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”4Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’8The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”). Then He speaks of the “heavenly things” and then tells of eternal life (Jn 3:13-1613No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.14As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.). God wants us to receive the earthly blessings from His hand as well.
Taking possession of the area before the Jordan is presented here as the will of God. The end of the book of Ezekiel describes the division of the land in the future, when the Lord Jesus will reign. There we see that all tribes have a large part of the land and also a part of area in the wilderness side of the Jordan.
The problem of the two and a half tribe is not that they wanted the area before the Jordan, on the wilderness side thereof, but that they only wanted that area and nothing of the land. All the people despised the land eight-thirty years ago and because of that wandered in the wilderness all this time. The two and a half tribe didn’t learn anything and even now they didn’t want to enter the land. It is God’s intention that we own the ‘area before the Jordan’, but then as He has given it.
In the Reformation there was little eye for the heavenly blessings. Only the earthly blessings were seen. How about us? How is the relationship between enjoying the earthly blessing and the heavenly blessing with us? Our prayers give an indication of this. What are the topics? Are we praying primarily for health, work and family, or are we talking to the Lord mainly about the spiritual growth and well-being of ourselves, our family members and the members of God’s church? It’s not that hard to say anything about the two and a half tribe, but what about us?
We can possess the earthly blessings like Sihon and Og. Then we possess the earthly blessings as the world possesses them. Many disbelievers also have good health and clothing, while believers can be ill and suffer lack. Taking possession of the heavenly blessings begins with taking possession of the earthly blessings. Therefore the LORD says in verse 2424‘Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle. and in verse 3131The LORD said to me, ‘See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to occupy, that you may possess his land.’: “Begin to take possession” and “begin to occupy”.
God gives Sihon over to Israel. In this way we too can continue in spiritual strength in the awareness that no spiritual city is too high for us (verse 3636From Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon and [from] the city which is in the valley, even to Gilead, there was no city that was too high for us; the LORD our God delivered all over to us.). The Lord also makes everything available to us. That is not dogma, but something we learn in practice. Paul is at the end of his life, as it were, in the plains of Moab, looking back on his wilderness journey and can say: “I have fought the good fight” (2Tim 4:77I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;), where no city was too high.