Moses has come to the end of his road and the Lord tells him that he is to charge Joshua with taking the people across the Jordan into the land God promised to give them. Moses repeatedly tells all the people not to be afraid and tells Joshua in front of all the people, not to be afraid to go into the land or of the people there because God will go before them and destroy the people there, as he did with Og and Sihon.
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God tells Moses of the future, how the people will rebel against God and that he will have to punish them, which Moses relates to all the leaders. God also dictates to Moses a song which he is to write down and teach to the people so that when they fail to obey God and his instructions the song will be a witness for God that he warned them of what is happening.
As I was reading this parashah, I came to verse 4, where Moses says:
And the Lord will do unto them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom he destroyed.
and I thought to myself, “Surely there must have been someone who partook in those battles and was thinking, ‘I killed those men, myself. God didn’t kill them, I did!'” and at that moment I realized what I need to talk about today.
People, as a rule, are self-centered and usually don’t like to give credit for something they have done to anyone or anything else. Here we have a perfect example: the Israelites were the ones who fought a hand-to-hand battle against the Amorites, yet Moses is saying that it was God who destroyed them. How can that be if people were against people?
Now, with the Egyptians and the Sea of Suf (Red Sea), it was clearly God who split the waters and caused them to fall in on the Egyptians, and it was clearly God who caused the plagues, but when Israel fought against the people of Og and Sihon, it was man against man. How can Moses say God destroyed them?
The reason Moses said God destroyed the Amorites (and, for the record, he was right in saying it that way) is that more often than not God works through people.
The Bible is rife with examples of God’s plan coming to fruition through the actions of people. We have the case where the first king of Israel, Saul, had to be taken out of the way to allow David to become king. God struck him down by forcing him to commit suicide)because the Philistines were about to capture him on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4); when the house of Ahab was to be punished for all it’s evil, especially Jezebel, it was done through Yehu; the Northern Kingdom of Israel was punished by the Assyrians; and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was punished for their sins, especially the sins of King Manasseh, by the Babylonians.
Not all things God does through people are bad. He arranged for the timing to be perfect for Joseph to be freed from jail; he made sure that Samson’s strength returned to him in his last moments; he touched the heart of King Koresh of Persia and allowed the exiles in Babylon (under Ezra) to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the wall.
If we are doing our best to honor God in all we say and do and to follow the instructions he gave to us regarding worshiping him and treating each other, then he will bless us. He promises this to us in Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. He also promises that when we rebel and reject him and his instructions, we will be cursed. The difference between God blessing us and cursing us is that the blessings are actively given by God, and the curses come upon us when God no longer protects us, so they are passively allowed.
Blessings are given, curses are the result of not being under God’s protection.
And when wonderful things happen, even when we have worked hard to achieve them, it is still because God has worked it out for us by working it out through us.
If you are an artist and paint or sculpt a masterpiece, you may have been the one doing the actually work, but it was God who gave you the talent and the inspiration that allowed you to complete your task. If you are a teacher and you receive accolades for your work, it is because God has given you that talent and provided the proper students for you to make the best use of that talent.
Here is something that we all have to remember and be grateful for: God is behind it all, and when we do what is good we must first give the credit to God for making it possible. When I write or say something that is edifying and useful to spiritual growth, it is because God has given me the insight and the ability to do so.
It is as I always say: when I do something good, it is God working through me, and when I totally screw up, then I can take all the credit.
Always be grateful to God for all the good that happens in your life; not just for your successes, but also for your failures which he sometimes will orchestrate so you can learn a valuable lesson. When we are for God, he will be for us.
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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!