Taking Matters into Our Hands


Have you ever tried to make something right, and in doing so, only made it worse? As I was reading this week’s portion, one specific account caught my attention:

Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will indeed go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ And every man of you girded on his weapons of war, and regarded it as easy to go up into the hill country. And the LORD said to me, ‘Say to them, “Do not go up, nor fight, for I am not among you; lest you be defeated before your enemies.”’ So I spoke to you, but you would not listen. Instead you rebelled against the command of the LORD, and acted presumptuously and went up into the hill country. And the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you, and chased you as bees do, and crushed you from Seir to Hormah. Then you returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD did not listen to your voice, nor give ear to you. So you remained in Kadesh many days, the days that you spent there.
Deuteronomy 1:41–46

I previously wrote about this incident in my blog Parashat Devarim (Words), yet, as I re-read this account, I had another perspective about the children of Israel’s motive here. While we are to understand Israel’s acting in haste as ultimately an act of disobedience to God, as the verses above suggest, I would like to consider why they acted in such a way. Were they truly rebellious in their hearts? Or what if they were motivated by a fear of God, which caused them to take matters in their own hands and disobey Moses’s warning not to fight the Amorites?

Perhaps they greatly feared God after they saw His judgment firsthand. Is it possible that in the midst of that fear, they were convicted or simply wanted to do what was right in their eyes in order to demonstrate their commitment to God and, therefore, tried to bring about their own redemption by going into war without God’s instruction and blessings?

This is something I am sure we have all done in our walk with the LORD. Sometimes, when we’ve sinned, we try really hard to do the right thing in order to prove to Him (and to ourselves) our repentance and heart’s desire to please Him. Not only that, but once we confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and turn from our sinful ways, we continue to “beat ourselves up” as though His forgiveness is not enough.

There is another important point I’d like to bring up. In this Scripture portion, Moses told Israel in no uncertain terms not to go and fight in their own strength, yet they did not listen to Him. The principle here is still true for us today — we cannot do anything in our own strength, but need His power in all things!

My dear brothers and sisters, we have to do things in accordance to God’s ways and not our ways. God does not need us to prove anything to Him! We are to simply walk in His ways and do things in accordance to what His precepts. Finally, if we do fall, let us accept His forgiveness and stop beating ourselves up. His redemptive work is more than enough for you and me, and we do not need to take matters in our own hands beyond what He asks of us.

This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.