From Lot’s Curse to Esau’s Blessing Deuteronomy 23 2017-09-17
After God ordered Abraham to leave from Ur of Chaldees and go to the land He directs to, He blessed him that he would form a large people. However, there were people who went to the paths of blessing although they were not the seeds of Abraham’s promise.
After entering Canaan, Abraham and his family escaped to Egypt due to a drought and afterwards they came back to Canaan, including his nephew Lot. Then, they had too many animals that they couldn’t live together so they decided to split. Abraham told Lot that if Lot were to go right, he would go left and if Lot were to go left, he would go right. When Lot looked ahead, he saw Gomora, which seemed like the Lord’s Garden and decided settle there.
And when God destroyed Sodom and Gomora, which were within sin, He thought it was justified that Lot, who went there due to his greed, was only able to escape from destruction with his two daughters without any property. However, in 2 Peter 2:6, God called Lot a righteous man whose soul was hurt by seeing the illegal acts in Sodom and Gomora. Then God let him have descendants with his two daughtes, with whom he escaped and the peoples that came from them are Moab and Ammon.
On the other hand, another who is not a seed of Abraham’s promise is Isaac’s eldest son, Esau. God chose his younger brother Jacob to continue the line of promise and the reason is recorded as:
Romans 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Esau was pushed out of the promise because he considered his birthright as the eldest son to be worthless and sold it to his brother. And Esau settled near Canaan and his descendants became to be called Edomite people.
Then we may think that good Lot’s descendants would be blessed and Esau’s descendants who aren’t the seeds of promise would be cursed but the Bible doesn’t record so.
In today’s scripture, God talks of those who can and cannot enter God’s council and considers the cases of Moab and Amon, the descendants of Lot, and of Edom, the descendants of Esau. God declared that good Lot’s descendants wouldn’t be able to enter God’s council but hated Esau’s descendants will.
We’ve been looking at the blessings God gives to those who keep His commandments through Deuteronomy and today, God speaks of the blessing of attending His community, the place of worship, or His council. The word “council” means “meeting or congregation” and we can call this “the meeting of God’s people.”
God recorded many examples, in which those who obey all of God’s words would be blessed on the earth, including prostitute Rahab, Jacob’s descendants salvaged due to Joseph, and the country Israel. Yet in the inevitably imperfect human world, God’s council changed its shape to and from corruption continuously and eventually into the shape of church today. We must realize that only the heaven Jesus prepared is the real and unchanging God’s council.
Today, I would like to see what kind of people receive blessings and kinds of blessings they’d get.
Those who receive the blessing to enter God’s council 1. Know how to embrace others’ flaws with love.
Deut 23:3, 7 3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever… 7 Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.
At the time, God declared His council to contain God’s people, Israelites, and suggested a qualification which was to keeping all 613 commandments at the same time as living a life of service at a consistent place and showing God’s qualities of justice and fairness. Besides Israelites, even foreigners who wished to be a part could go through circumcision and change into the faith of Jehovah Lord to enter the council. I have delivered a sermon in the past that Esau’s descendant, Caleb, is the most representative example.
Becoming a part of God’s community means to be always with God within its tents, receive water, manna, and quails, see God drive the enemies out, and after a period of training, receive His property to rule and control. God declared that those who cannot be a part of this council are exempt from these blessings as well.
First, those whose sex organs are damaged cannot become members and Lot’s descendants, Moab and Amon, cannot become members.
At the time, in Canaan and the surrounding nations, people went as far as to hurt their own bodies because they were the sacrifices during their idol offerings. But since our bodies were built along God’s image, hurting our bodies, especially hurting the organs producing offspring, is an act of disobeying God’s creation principles. Moreover, illegitimate children were isolated from the community because they born from incest or adultery instead of legal marriages.
Lot’s descendants came from the incest between Lot and his two daughters. Balak, who called a fortuneteller, Balaam, to curse Israelites when they were marching toward Canaan, was the king of Moab. Also, after Israel fell, there was a man called Tobiah, who exercised power and interrupted Israelites and Nehemiah’s reconstruction of Jerusalem city walls, and he was an Amon descendant. Certainly they did not hesitate to curse others for their own securities and to drive out the landowners from their lands by putting them under their authority and certainly they couldn’t enter Lord’s council.
On the other hand, Esau’s descendants Edom and Egypt could enter after three generations. Edomites, the descendants of Abraham’s eldest son Esau, did not let Israelites go across their land when Israelites were entering Canaan. They were not the children of promise either, but God had a reason to prevent Israelites from attacking them: they were Israelites’ brothers. Long time ago, when Jacob returned to his homeland after 20 years, he limped to Esau, bowed 7 times, and asked for forgiveness. Then Esau embraced Jacob, shed tears together, and forgave Jacob for stealing his birthright. And seeing how many animals Jacob had, Esau moved to Edom. Although he didn’t inherit the heavenly birthright, his merciful heart for his brother Jacob let him forgive. And his descendants, even 500 years later, still had God’s grace.
We all would remember when God sent the centurion Cornelius, who revered God and took care of the weak although he was a foreigner, to Peter and gave him salvation.
Acts 10:31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
Geopolitically, the nation in south, Amorites, and the nations in the north were stationed in Canaan and around it, leading dominance. Therefore, God, by stationing the sibling nations Moab, Amon, and Edom, not only prevented a total war between alliances but also presented evangelism of allowing foreigners to see God’s powers and return to His council.
Additionally, God let Egyptians enter the council after three generations. Although they were idolizers, their nation let Israelites don’t go starving for 400 years and provided the conditions for Israelites to form a big people; they didn’t ignore the straying travelers. Despite the harsh work demanded by them to us, those who served as the stepping stones to make stronger us today would receive God’s grace.
People who weren’t qualified to enter the council were disqualified due to physical, ethical, and historical conditions. Looking at their examples, let’s take a look on ourselves. We must reflect whether we are harming our bodies with our idols, alcohol, smoking, drugs, excess entertainment, love for things other than God, excess self-love, or illegal relationships to accomplish the pleasures of materials or greed. We should also see whether we are denying our past as the slaves of sin, uncaring about others’ circumstances, or even cursing others.
Remember that showing even the smallest love to others, covering their flaws, and allowing our abundant environments for others are all the paths to receive God’s blessings. I wish in the Lord’s name that we would live such lives and enter God’s council to take advantage of all the blessings He gives.
Those who receive the blessing to enter God’s council 2. Maintain their territories holy.
Deut 23:14 For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.
God has explained that those who can enter His council are those who have love and act love through physical, ethical, and historical cases. God claimed that after the communal life in the desert, the people would have the grave responsibility of 4 years-long conquest war. Specially, they were required to clean their surroundings to be able to enter the God’s council.
God spoke the cleansing must be carried out within all families. Those who had a nocturnal emission had to go out of the tents, wash their bodies at sunset, and come back and when they do, they must excrete outside the tents and not leave a trace behind. Especially, if they didn’t clean after themselves after excreting feces, the Israelite tents would be attacked by hungry wild animals and contagious disease born from the unsanitary conditions might critical to Israelites living as a community. Also, during wartime, the deceased and injured might appear and since Israelites had not settled yet, ignoring sanitation could mean self-destruction.
Mark 7:20-23 20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Another type of cleanliness was that of one’s territories. If a slave escaped into one’s territory, one was to send the slave back to the master so one’s territory would not be defiled. What would that mean? In the ancient society, if a slave ran away and was caught, the slave’s hand or foot would be cut off. The word used for “run away” also means “defend, save oneself” implying that the slave ran away, presumably from another country, not because he or she didn’t want to work but because he or she felt threatened by the excess abuse. In those cases, one’s home could be the refuge city for the slave and that is to clean one’s shelter. However, returning the slave who came to one means one wouldn’t consider one’s home as a place of holiness.
Another example is that to enter God’s council, one had to give holy offerings, which did not include materials earned by female or male prostitutes. These prostitutes earned money by participating in the idolatry. Another unclean money was interest earned illegally. God ordered to receive interest from foreigners and not from the brothers. When Israelites enter Canaan, they were to trade with surrounding nations and they would borrow money from Israelites to earn money for their businesses. However, to people who really need food or a way to make a living, Israelites were to lend money without receiving interest to earn wealth. Then God would give blessings on everything they do with their hands.
And people, who go into someone else’s orchard or farm to not only eat as full as they can get but also to bring more out in bowls or cutting crops with a sickle, must be able to value the properties of someone who let them get off starvation.
My family has gone apple-picking when we lived in Virginia; if we paid 20 dollars, we could pick and bring out as many apples that fit in a basket as well as eat as many apples we wished. However, after eating 2 or 3 per person, we couldn’t eat anymore. Coming back out, there were still countless number of apples on the trees and also on the ground that we were sorry to leave. In front of so many apples, we could feel our greed trembling to challenge our self-restraint and limits.
Taking care of those who ran away from abuse, being fair even to the poor, and valuing others’ properties are all acts of cleaning ourselves. Such people can enter God’s council, said Moses and continuously taught Israelites the 613 commands before entering Canaan.
When I was in high school, my partner who sat next to me was the “popular” kid. One day, he asked me to go to his friend’s house so I eagerly followed; when we got there, there were all the popular kids at school and all of them were smoking. I couldn’t make myself go into the group. I had a slight disappointment that I couldn’t be part of it but I decided it wasn’t a place for me. However, I began smoking, which I couldn’t do there, when I entered college and after 10 years of it, I suffered with bad coughs that bothered my sleep and I quit. In college, I had a belief that I was an adult and could smoke; that generalized and romantic but wrong circumstance of that era completely covered me. Yet, we sometimes become conceited that we overcame a small temptation. And that temptation will gradually approach us in another shape and try to destroy our cleanliness. The only one to protect us from it is God.
2 Thess 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
God acted within the tents. It means that God’s within His people’s tents and observed each’s circumstances. Among the tents of the Israelites was the Ark of Covenant and inside it were two stone tablets with the 10 Commandments written on, a sprouted staff used by Aaron, and the heavenly food manna they ate in the desert. This represented that God’s justice and fairness were always looking over Israelites right in the middle of their tents.
Jer 48:47 Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the Lord. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.
49:6 And afterward I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon, saith the Lord.
The people that began from incest, the people that sided with the idols to curse God’s tents, and the people from Lot who cursed to prevent the reconstruction of God’s nation were all saved and this salvation was prophesized by prophet Jeremiah. The way was the news of salvation in which such illegal peoples fell, became prisoners, and sought for God. Jesus, who came as the news of that salvation, resurrected the dead, and fed 5000 men with bread, always taught the heavenly words, finally died on the cross with all humanity’s sins, and resurrected. This was God’s will for those who believed in this not to fall into destruction but found and saved by Jesus.
Physically, ethically, or historically, we deserve curses and weren’t qualified to become members of God’s council. However, now with Jesus Christ’s blood, we were able to see the evils destroyed and to repent. I wish in the Lord’s name that the miracle of being able to act goodness and therefore receive blessings would occur within all tents we are staying in.