Wednesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Deuteronomy 2:16-37 (NKJV)
16 “So it was, when all the men of war had finally perished from among the people, 17 that the LORD spoke to me, saying: 18 ‘This day you are to cross over at Ar, the boundary of Moab. 19 And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot as a possession.'” 20 (That was also regarded as a land of giants; giants formerly dwelt there. But the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, 21 a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. But the LORD destroyed them before them, and they dispossessed them and dwelt in their place, 22 just as He had done for the descendants of Esau, who dwelt in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them. They dispossessed them and dwelt in their place, even to this day. 23 And the Avim, who dwelt in villages as far as Gaza—the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and dwelt in their place.)
24 “‘Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
26 “And I sent messengers from the Wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, 27 ‘Let me pass through your land; I will keep strictly to the road, and I will turn neither to the right nor to the left. 28 You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink; only let me pass through on foot, 29 just as the descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir and the Moabites who dwell in Ar did for me, until I cross the Jordan to the land which the LORD our God is giving us.’ 30 But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day. 31 And the LORD said to me, ‘See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to possess it, that you may inherit his land.’ 32 Then Sihon and all his people came out against us to fight at Jahaz. 33 And the LORD our God delivered him over to us; so we defeated him, his sons, and all his people. 34 We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining. 35 We took only the livestock as plunder for ourselves, with the spoil of the cities which we took. 36 From Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, and from the city that is in the ravine, as far as Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us; the LORD our God delivered all to us. 37 Only you did not go near the land of the people of Ammon—anywhere along the River Jabbok, or to the cities of the mountains, or wherever the LORD our God had forbidden us.”
Thirty-eight years has elapsed since the time the Israelites had rebelled against God. The generation that rebelled was gone except for Joshua and Caleb. Now things were different. The Children of Israel listened to God, followed His command, and Heshbon was given to them at the expense of King Sihon.
King Sihon had been given the opportunity for peace. Moses sent emissaries requesting safe passage and promising a great deal of commerce. But the king refused. Therein lies the key to understanding why God “hardened his spirit.” God only confirmed in King Sihon who the king already was—one who truly hated God. God gave the king what he wanted.
Contrast that with another king, a king who came many years later: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” King David was no better than King Sihon. Both were sinners. Yet, God was merciful to David and brought him to repentance.
Why David and not Sihon? God gives us the answer, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” We might think there was something about David that deserved mercy, but then it wouldn’t be mercy. Mercy is not earned but simply given. It is enough for us to trust in God Who is beyond our understanding and forgives our sins. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”