The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.” NIV
Sihon, apparently, had not been a very charitable person. The Israelites had politely requested leave to pass through his country. They had said that they would stick to the road, and, in verse 22, they even promised “We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s highway until we have passed through your territory.” NIV
Long story short, Sihon wouldn’t allow it and things did not end well for him or his family.
So, while the original plan had been merely to pass through the land of the Amorites (of which Sihon had been the king) once they conquered it, the Israelites settled there.
Now, Og, king of Bashan has shown up with his whole army, marching out to meet the Israelites in battle. This is where God says, “Do not be afraid of him.” Before the battle has even begun, God promises Moses that he already has handed Bashan over to Israel, along with his whole army and his land. At the end of the chapter, they strike down Bashan and take his land, too.
I”m not certain what there is here to learn … the Israelites are wandering in the desert because they were disobedient and they did not fulfill God’s original plan for them. But, even though they were disobedient, God is still clearly on their side, protecting them from these unpleasant rulers who wish to do them harm. More than protecting the Israelites, He’s actually exterminating their attackers.
Maybe that’s the thing — there is punishment for disobedience (the wandering in the desert part) but, God does not withdraw His hand, or His blessing from His children — maybe that is the point of this story.
I will think about that today.