Perfection or Perdition


The place and purpose of Israel is central to the correct understanding of the Bible. Philosophy is not a Biblical subject but the Bible contains a philosophy of life in the form of a "world view" that has different instantiations dependent on assumptions made. The particular world view adhered to and promoted by various expositors and "defenders of the faith" comes directly or indirectly through an understanding of Israel, its extent, demise or otherwise and future. These conclusions (posteriors) have developed throughout christendom in time and geography and have very informative "priors" which should be investigated carefully.

We seek to challenge many of these posterior conclusive world views by an appeal to the place and position of Israel as exhibited by the prophets in the old testament scriptures and the apostolic ministries presented in the new testament. Understanding Israel and how the present economy differes puts us in a place where we can learn from Israel's mistakes without taking what does not belong to us. The right division of scriptures "frees" us to see in Israel truths that are not unique to any particular age but which are universal in their scope.

It is with this premise that I would like to look at the time of "provocation" where Israel was tested in the wilderness. Lets look at some of her mistakes and find parallels in these three areas:

  1. This age where PAul the prisoner is the chosen vessel to bring us enlightenment.
  2. The Acts period when Paul was going to the Jew first with a Jewish hope.
  3. The National difference that comes to America through its founding generation.
    1. What makes America "different" and "exceptional"? 
    2. What is the federalist and anti federalist issue?
    3. Are states sovereign?
    4. Should we as christians be involved or is this another entanglement to avoid?

11 days becomes 38 years

There are 17 verses where Horeb is used in the scriptures, they start from Ex.3:1 and end with Mal.4:4

Ex 3:1  Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
Mal 4:4  Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

Horeb is the mountain of God, Mt Sinai and it is the place where God made a special revelation to Moses. It is intimately connected with the Law, Moses and the children of Israel and their oracles. In Deuteronomy there is an interesting timing presented that we should come to understand and gain some more appreciation of the extent of Israel's failure to believe and obey God:

De 1:1 ¶  (AV) These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
De 1:2  (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)

Not a great investment in time would be needed to make entry into the land. Perhaps on the 12th day they could enter the land. The following, however was recorded in the next chapter:

De. 2:14  (AV) And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them.

So what happenned? How did 11 days turn into 38 years? What mistakes did the Hebrews make? Why did they take so long to enter the land and how can we learn from this example? While we are addressing these issues we should also ask why "Deuteronomy"? How and under what circumstances did this book obtain the name "second law"? We will now back up a little and get some perspective from the book of Hebrews.


Paul says to the Hebrews:

Heb. 3:8  (AV) Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
Heb. 3:15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 
Heb. 3:15  ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι, Σήμερον ἐὰν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούσητε, μὴ σκληρύνητε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν, ὡς ἐν τῷ παραπικρασμῷ. (Heb 3:15 TBT)

This whole passage has some unsettling words about the consequences of unbelief and especially the hardening of hearts. There are those who use this passage as a means of supporting their belief that one can lose salvation. This is not the context but rather a reminder of the "provocation" when Israel murmered against God and His minister Moses. The word provocation is παραπικρασμῷ in the dative case and comes from the verb πικραίνω which means "to make bitter". It is true that the waters of Marah were bitter but the response of Israel was unwarranted and they hardened their heart with murmurings as the outward manifestation:

Ex.15:23  (AV) And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
Ex.15:24  (AV) And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
Ex.15:25  (AV) And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
Ex.15:26  (AV) And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.
Ex.15:27  (AV) And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

They were delivered from the hand of Pharaoh with great miracles, yet they quickly murmered against Moses because of  the bitter waters. Ex. 15:1-21 is the song of Moses which rehearses this great deliverance, but the people allowed their hearts to be embittered. This is the first murmuring which was proceeded with 7 more (Ex.16:2; 17:2,3; Nu.11.33,34; 14.2; 16:41; 21.5. Josh. 9:18). The Lord answered Moses' petition and promises conditional healing finally they arrive at Elim where there were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees.

They started well -- but quickly cracks appeared in their armour and once they approached Kadesh Barnea things were brought to a head when the 12 reprsentatives which searched the land of Canaan came back with their report:

Nu. 13:26 ¶  (AV) And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
27  (AV) And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it
28  (AV) Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
29  (AV) The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
30  (AV) And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
31  (AV) But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
32  (AV) And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33  (AV) And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

The grapes, pomegranates and figs were impressive -- but so also were the sons of Anak. The land was "just over there" but would they trust the God that brought them out of Egypt and sing the song of Moses?

Nu.14:1 ¶  (AV) And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
2  (AV) And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
3  (AV) And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
4  (AV) And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

Joshua and Caleb did their best to encourage them and declare Gods power to bring them into the land and warned them not to rebel against God, but the people did not hear it:

Nu. 14:10  (AV) But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
11 ¶  (AV) And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?

God was angry at their lack of belief in the face of all the signs He had shown them and NOW judgment will fall, however Moses asks God to do something:

Nu. 14:19  (AV) Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
20 ¶  (AV) And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:

Notice that the LORD pardoned Israel according to the word of Moses!

21  (AV) But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
22  (AV) Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
23  (AV) Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
24  (AV) But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

So -- Israel was pardoned BUT judgment would still fall. There could be NO place of repentance after this!

Nu.14:39  (AV) And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.
40  (AV) And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.

So now they wish to go into the land! Now they have belief? Now they want to act on their faith.

41  (AV) And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper.
42  (AV) Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies.
43  (AV) For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.

God would not permit them to enter the land after a legacy of unbelief. They can only look forward to 40 years in the wilderness.

44  (AV) But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.
45  (AV) Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.

To obey after the solemn pronouncement of God is "presumption" and "sin" -- it will not succeed.

The Acts Period

There is an obvious parallel here and one that Paul points us to in the book of Hebrews. The time of temptation in the widerness was repeating in the book of Acts. Signs and wonders, miraculous gifts and healings were well under way during the jew first economy of the Acts. Paul used the inclusion of the gentile to provoke Israel to jealousy but the time was short and Israel should learn from its fathers mistakes and not harden their hearts as in the day of provocation. The coming of Christ was near at hand, they were to be teachers and not babes, move on to perfection and not draw back to perdition Heb 6:1; 10:38,39. 

Heb.10:35  (AV) Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
35  (TR) μη αποβαλητε ουν την παρρησιαν υμων ητις εχει μισθαποδοσιαν μεγαλην

36  (AV) For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
36  (TR) υπομονης γαρ εχετε χρειαν ινα το θελημα του θεου ποιησαντες κομισησθε την επαγγελιαν

37  (AV) For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
37  (TR) ετι γαρ μικρον οσον οσον ο ερχομενος ηξει και ου χρονιει

38  (AV) Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
38  (TR) ο δε δικαιος εκ πιστεως ζησεται και εαν υποστειληται ουκ ευδοκει η ψυχη μου εν αυτω

39  (AV) But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
39  (TR) ημεις δε ουκ εσμεν υποστολης εις απωλειαν αλλα πιστεως εις περιποιησιν ψυχης

This is all about not repeating the same mistakes of Israel in the wilderness, having patience, doing the will of God and receiving the promise. It was but a "little while" and he that shall come will come and will not tarry. In Heb 3:8 "Today" if ye shall hear his voice! Time was running out for Israel -- God will allow them to repent and use them if they repented in time -- otherwise He would give No place for repentance -- just as Israel in the wilderness. God was calling them to move on to perfection as a pardoned people -- BUT time was ticking

3  (AV) And this will we do, if God permit.
3  (TR) και τουτο ποιησομεν εανπερ επιτρεπη ο θεος

They unfortunately repeated the same unbelief and finally Acts 28:28 rolled around.