Formations lesson for Aug. 3: The Promises of God
July 25 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Numbers 34

Formations lesson for Aug. 3: The Promises of God | Friday, July 25, 2003

Friday, July 25, 2003

Formations lesson for Aug. 3: The Promises of God

By Tommy Bratton Numbers 34

"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand And cast a wishful eye To Canaan's fair and happy land Where my possessions lie. I am bound for the Promised Land, I am bound for the Promised Land; O who will come and go with me? I am bound for the Promised Land." (The Baptist Hymnal, 1991, page 521).

From Dream to Reality The text for today begins with instructions for the new generation of Israelites on how to enter the Promised Land. This new generation never lived in Egypt but had spent their entire lives wandering through the wilderness. They had heard stories and celebrated the memories of God's guidance of their parents and grandparents.

As they come close to entering the land God had promised so long ago, the dream that had guided them along the way was soon to become a reality. Because this generation was wanderers, there were no complaints of returning to an idealized Egypt. Instead, their eyes were focused on the future God had promised and their journey led them forward.

Boundaries Given A study was once done in which children were placed on different playgrounds, one that was surrounded by a fence, and one that was free of boundaries. In the fenced playground, children played all around, up to the edges of the fence, even playing on the fence. However, on the playground with no boundaries, the children huddled near the middle of the playground. Boundaries often give us a sense of security and freedom. The lack of boundaries often prevents us from exploring the edges for fear of not knowing our limits.

To prepare for entry into Canaan, the borders and boundaries are made clear to the Israelites. Because they had lived as nomads for so long, it was necessary to delineate the areas each tribe would occupy to prevent disagreements over the choices of land. These boundaries gave the Israelites the freedom to inhabit the land and to fill it without fear and fighting.

Leaders Appointed Numbers 34 also identifies the leaders who would help divide the land among the tribes. By this time, Moses had died and the torch had been passed to Joshua. After many years of faithful service to the Israelite people and to God, Moses' and Aaron's leadership had been passed on to a new generation of leaders.

Eleazer and Joshua, along with 10 other leaders (one being Caleb, the faithful spy who believed the land of Canaan could be taken with God's help) are identified in order to make it clear that God will continue to guide them into the Promised Land. The etymology of the names reveal this point: Shemuel means "name of God;" Elidad means "God has loved;" Bukki means "proved (of God);" Hanniel means "favor of God;" Kemuel means "raised by God;" Elizaphan means "my God protects;" Paltiel means "God is my deliverance;" Ahihud means "brother of majesty;" and Pedahel means "God has delivered" (The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. II, page 302). The new leaders will guide the people in the ways of God into the land God has promised.

Nation Building After years of wandering, the challenge to the new generation of Israelites will be the building of a new nation. For many years they had moved forward with vision of a new life in a new land. Now that they have arrived at the place God has given them, they must begin the quest to live faithfully within it.

It is important to have a dream that drives us forward, but it is equally important to live faithfully in the everyday moments God gives us. When the adventure passes and the difficult work of everyday living arrives, the temptation to become complacent becomes real.

The story continues for the Israelites, filled with ups and downs. The story also continues for us who dream of the Promised Land, yet who also find ourselves living in the ups and downs of life. May we, along with the apostle Paul, proclaim, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance." Let us go forth with joy into the Promised Land, sharing the story of God's goodness to us.

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7/25/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Numbers 34 | with 0 comments
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