Numbers 21:21-35 – What’s Your 2011 Auburn Game? … Those Turning Points in Life

Posted: October 7, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 21:21-35

Victory over Sihon and Og

If you look through the Old Testament, the victory spoken of here in this passage is mentioned over and over again by the Israelites going forward. It was their first victory that established them as real player in the ancient Middle East. Israel was not an established nation at this point, but this victory started it all. It is kind of like that first major victory for a football program that is trying to either establish itself as relevant for the first time or re-establish itself as a relevant program after years in the doldrums. For my favorite college team, the Clemson Tigers, that victory was the 2011 game against Auburn. It was that victory combined the victory over Florida State the following week and Virginia Tech (on the road) were signals that Clemson was back. After 20 years in the doldrums of mediocrity since the glory years of 1977-1991, you have to go back the Auburn game in 2011 that re-established the Clemson program as one on the national stage. Since 2011, Clemson is 61-12 including the first five games of this, the 2016 season. When you look at just since 2012, they are 51-8. If you tighten the window up since they lost to Florida State in over time in the third game of the 2014 season, they are 28-2. Not too shabby for a football program that once coined the term Clemsoning, which meant either wilting and getting blown out in big games or losing to a lesser team inexplicably. Sure, Clemson has laid a few eggs in the 12 losses during the past 5 ½ season but for the most part they have been the model of consistency. They were a couple of special teams plays away from winning the whole smash last year, the national championship.


It is amazing to me that the program has gone from being thankful for a big victory occasionally to now where we are complaining about how we are winning. So far this year, the Tigers have struggled at times on offense and have not played a complete ball game, yet. Though they have not executed to their level of talent for a full game yet, there still 5-0 and ranked 3rd in the national polls. How times have changed. During the seasons of the mid-90s through 2007, we would have been dancing in the streets for a 5-0 start to the season. But now, there is an expectation of perfection. Instead of mediocrity, there is an expectation that we will pursue excellence. Instead of hoping to win big games, the Tigers now expect to win big games. More times than not, now, they do. But it all goes back to that Auburn game in 2011 where we dominated a team that had won the national championship the year before (a team that we had lost to on a missed FG in overtime the year before). Getting over the hump started at that game. Behind the scenes though of that victory was a coach with a vision that Clemson could return to its former glory. Coach Swinney had been recruiting hard, establishing a culture of hard work, collecting good coaches and putting the building blocks in place for long-term success. He has built the program into a consistent winner and it started way back in the dark days of 2008 and it did not start really showing benefits until that Auburn game in 2011. That’s where the program turned the corner.


It was that breakthrough victory that started something big for Clemson that I thought of when I read of this first big victory in the taking of the Promised Land in Numbers 21:21-35 and how it was a breakthrough for the Israelites:


21 Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites:


22 “Let us pass through your country. 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.”


23 But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the wilderness against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel. 24 Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified. 25 Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements. 26 Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon.


27 That is why the poets say:


“Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt;

    let Sihon’s city be restored.



“Fire went out from Heshbon,

    a blaze from the city of Sihon.

It consumed Ar of Moab,

    the citizens of Arnon’s heights.


Woe to you, Moab!

    You are destroyed, people of Chemosh!

He has given up his sons as fugitives

    and his daughters as captives

    to Sihon king of the Amorites.



“But we have overthrown them;

    Heshbon’s dominion has been destroyed all the way to Dibon.

We have demolished them as far as Nophah,

    which extends to Medeba.”


31 So Israel settled in the land of the Amorites.


32 After Moses had sent spies to Jazer, the Israelites captured its surrounding settlements and drove out the Amorites who were there. 33 Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.


34 The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”


35 So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.


Here, we see that the Israelites have their first breakthrough victory as a nation. You might point back to the defeat of the Egyptians but that was all God. They were simply witnesses to miracles of God. They actually did not have do anything themselves. In their first attempt at taking the Promised Land, they were the first to act out what was the term that used to describe Clemson in big games, “clemsoning”. They choked and retreated from the spotlight. Just as the culture of Clemson football has changed since the hiring of Coach Swinney, you can see that the culture of the Israelites has changed, at least for now, here. They are ready for the battle and there is no apparent cowering away from the spotlight. The difference. They have a trust in God now that they did not have before.


Each of us has our “big games” in life. There are moments in time where we have to show what we are really made of. Those stressful situations where you have to come up big and make the right call in life. There are those situations where there seems to be no apparent victory in sight and every choice that we make is fraught with down sides and negatives. Here, in this passage, God assured Moses of victory even before the battles began. God wants to give us victory over our problems and tough life choices and situations. But, first, we must believe in Him and His power. We must firmly believe that God will deliver us from our sins and the deep dark pits in which we find ourselves at times. We must trust Him to help us as well. It is one thing to believe and the next step is to take His hand and trust Him. Put your hopes and dreams in His hands and submit to what His Holy Spirit guidance tells us to do. It is one thing to believe. It is another to trust. The final step is to take action on what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. When we do that, He will guide us to victory.


And when we do these things for the first time, the three phrases of believe, trust, act, we will have our watershed moment where we finally get it. Where we finally have the victory we seek. Where we have that breakthrough in our walk with Christ. That’s when we start growing up. Some time down the road, you will be able to look back at that moment as the 2011 Auburn game of your life, that breakthrough moment where you won in all three phases of the game – believe, trust, act – for the first time. In football, it takes victory in all three phases of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – to come out victorious. Though football teaches life lessons, it is not real life. In real life, we must connect in all three phases of God’s game – believe, trust, act. When we do that the first time, like the Israelites, we will have victory. And, we can point to that moment as the game changer. We can point to our 2011 Auburn game of our lives where we turned the corner and became not a relevant football program but a relevant Christian – one who believes, trusts, and acts. When we can fully believe in the might of God, trust in His provision regardless of circumstance, we are freed up to act upon His callings on our life without cowering away with excuses. That’s when you’ve turned the corner. That’s when you are positioned for eternal success. Look back, what was your Auburn game, that moment that you turned the corner? What was your victory of Sihon an Og where your Israel started becoming a nation? It all starts with belief, trust, and action – the three phases of the game.


Amen and Amen.

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