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Preparations for the Promised Land

The Land of Promise

When God completed His instructions governing the people’s social and religious life, He then turned to instructions relating to the conquest of the promised land of Canaan.  “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off” (Ex. 23:20-23).

Many scholars believe this angel is “The Angel of the Lord” who has been identified as probably the pre-incarnate Son of God.  God stated, “My name is in him,” and it appears He has power to pardon transgressions even though He will not at this time.  The law of God is harsh when man must obey it by the power of the flesh.  Because of their failure to believe and follow God’s directions, an entire generation will perish in the wilderness before seeing the Promised Land.

God specifically warned Moses and the people not to be misled by Canaanite influences. “You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.  So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days” (Ex. 23:24-26).  Notice how God promised to fully bless His chosen people.  He was to be inhibited only by their turning from Him.  Let us not forget that God’s greatest desire is to have fellowship with man; He pours out His live with blessings to meet every need of those who are dedicated to Him.

“I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.  And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.  Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you” (Ex. 23:27-31).

God is going to drive the Gentiles off the land and give it to the Israelites.  People often complain that God’s treatment of the Gentile nations was unfair.  Remember that there is a war going on.  The Gentiles turned their backs on God, and chose to fight in the army of Satan.  God’s plan for victory is through his chosen people – the nation of promise.

“You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Ex. 23:32-33).  God knew as He spoke that the Israelites were weak in the flesh, and that their sin nature would drag them down.  For years to come, the chosen people would struggle between being a nation under God and a nation yielding to the Satanic influence of the Gentile nations.  He knew that the day would come when the Israelites would succumb to temptation, and turn to the Gentile pagan gods.  It is tragic that this chosen nation, with such a bright future, will face the chastisement of God because of its sins against Him.

Wedding Vows

We now come to the marriage ceremony where the vows will be exchanged, and the marriage covenant will be sealed.  Moses has returned to his people with the promises of God.  “So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has said we will do.’ And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel” (Ex. 24:3-4).

“Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord.  And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words’“ (Ex. 24:5-8).

The wedding came to an end with a sacrificial ceremony of commitment and a communal meal.  Unlike the covenant God made with Abraham, this one was a conditional covenant between two parties.  God stated the terms and the people agreed to them.  The covenant was sealed by blood with the offering of a burnt offering and a peace offering. The burnt offering was a propitiation for sin, but the peace offering included a communal meal of thanks and fellowship.

There is one other question we need to address.  There are thirteen tribes (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, God, Asher, Issachar, Zebulum, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin) camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, but there are only twelve pillars on the altar that Moses built.  Which tribe was left out? We remember that Joseph was given a double portion through his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.  If we consider the tribes of Manasseh and Ephriam to be half-tribes, representing Joseph, then we do not have a problem with the twelve pillars.  The situation will change when they possess the land; Manasseh and Ephraim will each receive a full share of land allocation thus doubling the portion for Joseph.  The tribe of Levi, however, is destined to become a priestly tribe, and will not inherit any land of their own.  For this reason, we must review Scripture very carefully to determine which tribes are included in the twelve.  Scripture never refers to the thirteen tribes of Israel as a unit.

Upon God’s instruction, Moses returned to Mount Sinai with some of the leaders.  “Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.  Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank” (Ex. 24:9-11).  We must be aware that the elders of Israel saw only a representation of God for Jesus told us that no one has seen the Father at any time (John 1:18) .

At God’s request, Moses moved higher upon the mountain to meet privately with God where Moses remained for forty days.  During this meeting, God wrote the Ten Commandments on clay tablets, and gave detailed instructions relating to the religious ordinances and ceremonies that Israel should practice as they followed their God/husband into the future.

The Mosaic Law

Israel’s marriage to God consummated a relationship that was to reflect many of the great things God planned for mankind.  Even the daily lives of the people were to be filled with celestial patterns and shadows to remind them of their special place and to be a witness unto their Husband.  The unique nature and significance of everyday actions and things is most obvious in the area of religious affairs.

Multitudes of specific rules are discussed in Exodus, Leviticus and the first ten chapters of Numbers.  These passages are actually parenthetical to the Exodus account like someone is trying to make sure the full details are understood.  This becomes clear when we note that the wilderness march begins twice – in the last chapter of Exodus and again in the tenth chapter of Numbers.  So many details are given, in fact, that we often lose sight of specific subjects and miss much of the overall impact.  We will attempt to organize and draw into focus some of the details of the Levitical or ceremonial law as we observe the new nation camped in the shadow of Mount Sinai.

Just why did God choose to set up so many specific rules for the religious ceremonies of Levitical law?  There is no doubt that God wanted to clearly set the worship services of the Nation Israel apart from those of the Gentile Nations.  The Gentiles had elaborate ceremonies and offered sacrifices to many gods.  Israel was committed by marriage to one God who claimed to be the one and only God who created all things.  The Israelites had accepted His will to direct them and had promised to be faithful.  It was primarily through obedience to ceremonial detail that their faithfulness would be measured.

Aside from this, God’s nature is pure and holy.  His nature does not allow Him to fellowship with anything that is unclean.  Any person, animal, or object that is brought into His presence must be either properly cleansed or must be destroyed.  The rituals of purification that He alone established must ceremonially cleanse them.

God’s rules also made it clear to the people that He expected them to recognize Him as the sole source of their blessings.  His chosen people were given specific instructions about returning to Him a portion of all that they received.  God required a return of all firstborn sons, the firstlings of all flocks and herds, first fruits of the field, and one-tenth of all cattle and produce.  They were told to give Him part of the great wealth they took from Egypt to be used for constructing a tabernacle and for clothing priests.  God’s requirements served a practical purpose in supporting the priesthood, but His primary intent was to cause them to lay both their treasure and their hearts toward Him.

The religious ordinances are also very prophetic and rich in typical teaching.  The writer of the book of Hebrews makes it very clear that the tabernacle, priesthood, and animal sacrifices were prophetic shadows that are fulfilled in Christ.  Scripture clearly indicates that the national feasts were prophetic and at least four have been fulfilled.

Because we are following the golden thread of scripture, we will explore in summary form the typical teaching of the ceremonial law.  Many Biblical writers neglected this emphasis but it is essential if we are to see the unfolding eternal plan of God.

For a detail study of the Mosaic Law click: (A Portrait of Christ).

This completes our study of “The Birth of the Nation Israel”. Please return the the history section to continue your studies.

All quoted scripture is of the New Kings James version unless noted.