“Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. And the Lord our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people…Only to the land of the sons of Ammon you did not draw near, that is, to all the banks of the river Jabokk and the cities of the hill country, whatever the Lord our God had forbidden us.” –Deuteronomy 2: 32-33, 37
Moses is still delivering his sermon to the next generation of Israelites, those who would fulfill the promise given to Abraham (Genesis 15:12-21); it is important to remember that this is a recount of all that took place up to this point. In this recount Israel came to the doorstep of an Amorite king and his realm, one among those whom God promised to destroy for their wickedness. It is likely that Moses asked for trespass without provocation because he had not yet received permission from God to do so, and as before with the Edomites and Moabites Moses asks before presuming. This submission to God, to wait on Him to lead, is important for the people of Israel who when they rejected the promise of the land of Canaan the first time went in to conquer Canaan despite God’s command not to. God has already cultivated trust in Israel by showing how the Edomites and Moabites, a people not chosen as God’s allotment, conquered and inhabited the lands of the Nephilim without promise. He is now taking the time to teach them that He is both trustworthy and sovereign, both in securing victory where He gives it as well as failure where He prohibits conquest (v. 37). God does this despite knowing their failure to follow His command later when Israel fails to drive out all the Canaanites as they ought to have:
“Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ As soon as the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the Lord.” –Judges 2:1-5
Along with teaching His people His sovereignty over them He is also giving them something to recall when they go in to Canaan shortly. Defeating the King Sihon was the first step of fulfilling His promise made to Abraham, something they will need to recall when they gather their forces for battle over and over again in the days to come. We can be certain this is God’s intention because God is a God that calls and commands His people to remember what He has done; the remembering is the means of obedience for His people, and a practice we do today. We remember the death of Christ, the culmination of God’s work in man up to this point, and the promise of the Son’s return. But our remembering doesn’t stop there, we have been given ample evidences of God’s grace in our personal lives to recall when met with temptations to disobey and forget the Lord. Our birth, our personal salvation, the work of God within the Church, the personal memories of His grace in our small collection of years on this earth thus far. It is this remembering that drives us to the cross and obey God in where we cannot go as well as where we are called to go. He is Lord.