When I first read this passage, I wondered why Moses recorded the escape from Egypt and the journey to Canaan at this particular point where the Israelites were poised to enter the land. It seemed like a repeat, with less detail of the accounts of their journeys which we can read in Exodus (Ch11-40) and Deuteronomy (Ch1-4). Then little details began to jump out at me.
33:3, the Israelites “marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians who were burying all their firstborn”.
33:9, “they left Marah and went to Elim where there were twelve springs …. “
33:48, “they left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab”
Other events mentioned are the death of their faithful leader Aaron and the little snippet of information in 33:40 that the Canaanite King Arad had heard that they were on their way.
I think that the Israelites were looking back over the way God had provided for them, first of all by protecting them from the death of the firstborn; and then by the provision of water for them and their herds and good grazing land. It’s the kind of story told as they sat in circles around their campfires. It inspired them and gave them confidence.
It’s good for us to remember the testimony of our lives, particularly at times when we are moving into a new season where more will be required of us. As the Israelites would have told of deliverance and possession of their land, we and our hearers will be encouraged when we trace God’s hand through our lives.
Then we read God’s instructions for the occupation itself. They are to drive every person out of the land and destroy all religious relics and idols. Then they are to inhabit the portion of land given by their appointed leaders.
As we live in the promises given to us by God, we are constantly tempted to forget that it is the Lord whom we have decided to follow and we start to build our own kingdoms. God’s ways are often not our ways and I for one have on occasions assumed that I know where I am heading; only to be pulled up sharp and turned around. Just as the Canaanite King was waiting to see what the Israelites would do: “our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”.
Spend some time today looking back over a part of your life story where God provided for you or was particularly real to you.
Then, in prayer, allow yourself to rededicate your life to Him, wherever He may lead.