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Three Wandering Jews

Two songs. When I was singing pew packers and teaching children's ministry there were two songs that were requested. Every time we sang. They wanted to sing Father Abraham and Wandering Jews. I preferred the Lord's Army or Habakkuk 2:20. Besides the "Booster Song," I can't think of another song that could bust the ear drums faster than Wandering Jews. What do we know about the "Wandering Jews"?

The three wandering Jews were Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. Each died in the wilderness. After 400 years of waiting in Egypt, the Lord finally released their descendants to take the Promised Land. Did they succeed? No. In fact, they failed miserably.

Within days of receiving the Law, Israel began a downhill slide into all kinds of sin. The golden calf and the accompanying immorality were just the beginning. After the Israelites spent a year at Mount Sinai, the cloud lifted and the people began their journey toward the Promised Land. 


From Kadesh Barnea, Moses sent out twelve leaders to spy out the land. They returned with a negative report that spread fear throughout the populous. Only Caleb and Joshua believed God’s promise to give them the land. God’s anger became a major motif in this chapter sparked by the sin and unbelief of His chosen people. He punished Israel by confining them to the desert for forty years until the unbelieving generation died out. They would never enjoy the benefits of the Land. Those forty years were marked by a cycle of sin, punishment, and repentance. Just as God had said in the Garden, sin led to physical death.


After the old generation died in the desert, God and Moses began to prepare the new generation to enter and conquer the land. This new generation continued in the same cycles of sin as their fallen fathers, including idolatry and immorality at Shittim. Israelite men indulged in immorality and Baal worship with Canaanite women. But unlike his grandfather Aaron, who willingly participated in the golden calf incident, the priest Phinehas was zealous for the Lord and put the idolaters to death. Again, their sin was directly tied to the plague that killed 24,000. This is the context of Moses’ farewell address to Israel. 


As the actions of the Israelites show, being righteous under the Law was impossible. This nation was far from holy. And yet Israel was God’s chosen nation by covenant. They were chosen to be a blessing to all nations. Moses had to remind the new generation of all that God had done for them since Abraham’s call. After leading this people through the wilderness and investing his life in them, Moses imparted his God-inspired message: Choose life. They were to believe and obey God. 

Belief and obedience carried covenantal benefits of prosperity and life in the land. Unbelief and covenantal disobedience carried the consequences of cursing and death. Two choices, but only one leads to life. 

The original patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, would have been frustrated at their children. It looks as if poor choices would keep them wandering forever. What would you choose? How would you respond to the same circumstances? Think about it. Have a great week!

You are loved.

Ray Reynolds, PhD

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