Moses was THE MAN! (Deuteronomy 34:1-12)

We occasionally hear stories of someone who, in whatever field or endeavor, worked their whole life toward a goal, only to fall just short of it at the end. Moses was like that in many ways. He was jealous for his kindred people and led the new nation of Israel out of Egypt, right up to the very door of the Promised Land, only to be unable to enter into it himself. But God in his grace made it possible for Moses to see it from afar. And in the moments before his death, God took him to a place where the land could be seen – an incredible view from Mt. Nebo, then and now (see illustration). Moses saw it, died at that spot, and was buried by the Lord himself!

The ending paragraphs serve as a bridge to the next book – the book of Joshua and the conquest of the Promised Land. The account here records that Joshua was successful in the leadership of Israel because God was with him, and because Moses had transferred the leadership to him by laying hands on him.

The final paragraph is an amazing eulogy. The text says that there has not been another prophet in Israel like Moses – he was the #1 guy!  Pretty impressive!  Moses knew God face to face; there was no other one who had quite that same relationship. The final words speak of how God used Moses powerfully to release the people from Israel and to guide them all along the way.

For those who have made the journey with us through Deuteronomy, I hope you have been even marginally as blessed as I have been through this great piece of the Scriptures. Moses (pictured) and I both thank you for reading our stuff! I hope you have been revived! I believe we have been as a church.

In two days we begin a new series entitled “Cross Words” … and again there will be Monday-Friday devotionals throughout the six-week period. I encourage you to sign up for these by going to www.CrossWordsTSF.org … and follow along with us again!

The Death of Moses

34 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

5 And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.

9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.

10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Advertisements

Final Words of Blessing (Deuteronomy 33:1-29)

In this penultimate devotional before ending with the death of Moses tomorrow, we come upon one of the most cryptic and difficult of biblical passages. The text is full of very unusual words and constructions that are difficult to translate and understand without getting into some pretty deep Semitic language family weeds.

Here are some general things we may say about it:

These are final words of blessing from Moses over the nation of Israel and its tribes. The chapter opens with some poetic references to the manner by which God’s blessings came to Israel from over the Sinai – as Moses led the nation out of Egypt, receiving the Law, etc.

The tribe by tribe blessings anticipate some of the challenges and blessing each would experience. Simeon is strangely not included, perhaps in anticipation as to how it would be absorbed over time into the tribe of Judah.

In the culture of the times, it was customary for fathers to impart blessings just before death. We might especially recall the scene of Jacob and his pronouncements in Genesis 49 … or also Isaac with Jacob and Esau. Final words are important ones and often remembered – especially when the person uttering them is of a good mind, while knowing the end is near.

In any event, by application, it may be a very healthy exercise for us to consider how we leave a verbal legacy to our children and those beyond them. There can be tremendous impact in this effort. Since we cannot usually guarantee how that scenario may develop – how sudden it may be or how compromised our minds may become – there could be some great benefit in having some kind of written record of thoughts, values, perspectives, blessings, etc. that is prepared to be left to those coming behind us. This is a way of discipling generations – of having an impact even after we are gone.

Moses Blesses the Tribes

33 This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death.He said:“The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with[a] myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes.[b]

Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction,the law that Moses gave us, the possession of the assembly of Jacob.He was king over Jeshurun[c] when the leaders of the people assembled, along with the tribes of Israel.

“Let Reuben live and not die, nor[d] his people be few.”

And this he said about Judah: “Hear, Lord, the cry of Judah; bring him to his people. With his own hands he defends his cause. Oh, be his help against his foes!”

About Levi he said: “Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful servant. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah. He said of his father and mother, ‘I have no regard for them.’  He did not recognize his brothers or acknowledge his own children, but he watched over your word and guarded your covenant.10 He teaches your precepts to Jacob and your law to Israel. He offers incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar.11 Bless all his skills, Lord, and be pleased with the work of his hands. Strike down those who rise against him, his foes till they rise no more.”

12 About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”

13 About Joseph he said: “May the Lord bless his land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; 14 with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield;15 with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills;16 with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among[e] his brothers.17 In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth. Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim; such are the thousands of Manasseh.”

18 About Zebulun he said: “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and you, Issachar, in your tents.
19 They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer the sacrifices of the righteous; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sand.”

20 About Gad he said: “Blessed is he who enlarges Gad’s domain! Gad lives there like a lion, tearing at arm or head.21 He chose the best land for himself; the leader’s portion was kept for him. When the heads of the people assembled, he carried out the Lord’s righteous will, and his judgments concerning Israel.”

22 About Dan he said: “Dan is a lion’s cub, springing out of Bashan.”

23 About Naphtali he said: “Naphtali is abounding with the favor of the Lord and is full of his blessing; he will inherit southward to the lake.”

24 About Asher he said: “Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil.25 The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days.

26 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’

28 So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell[f] secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew.29 Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.”

Footnotes:

  1. Deuteronomy 33:2 Or from
  2. Deuteronomy 33:2 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
  3. Deuteronomy 33:5 Jeshurun means the upright one, that is, Israel; also in verse 26.
  4. Deuteronomy 33:6 Or but let
  5. Deuteronomy 33:16 Or of the one separated from
  6. Deuteronomy 33:28 Septuagint; Hebrew Jacob’s spring is

Moses, the Rock Star (Deuteronomy 31:30—32:52)

In the history of Israel, Moses really is a rock star character. This is evident in debates that Jesus had with the Pharisees – who venerated Moses above all characters. And Moses was the rock star in bring water out of the rock – supplying for Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings. And here in today’s passage, Moses becomes a sort of rock star by writing a song that will, by its nature, become #1 on the charts in all Israel. As well, it is interesting to see how often in this song the idea of a rock is pictured to communicate a truth – even calling God the Rock! (Did you notice how the worship team did a postlude with the song “Rock of Ages” on Sunday… very fitting choice!)

You will certainly look at this song and think it is not likely that sing-able, as it has a lot of words. It would be interesting to be able to hear what it might have sounded like in ancient Israel.

The song starts with praise for the perfect God – the Rock! It rehearses the history of Israel, how God had blessed them and selected them among all peoples. Israel was special, selected, preserved, protected and blessed. But the nation grew fat on the blessings God had given – ultimately forgetting the one who saved them. They were therefore rejected and subjected to God’s judgment. This could only happen if God had rejected them for their rebellion, because the rock of their enemies was not like Israel’s ROCK, and the only way Israel could lose is by God abandoning them because they had first abandoned Him (vss. 30-31).

And though this judgment would be severe, ultimately Israel would be purified and preserved. God’s enemies will be defeated. And Moses and Joshua remind the people, as the song is given to them, that these are not idle words. God is just, and these words would be their life. That is indeed a timeless truth.

The Song of Moses

31:30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:

32:1  Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.

I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.
Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,[a] who made you and formed you?

Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.[b]
For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.

10 In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.
12 The Lord alone led him; no foreign god was with him.

13 He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields.
He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag,
14 with curds and milk from herd and flock and with fattened lambs and goats, with choice rams of Bashan and the finest kernels of wheat. You drank the foaming blood of the grape.

15 Jeshurun[c] grew fat and kicked; filled with food, they became heavy and sleek. They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior.
16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.
17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear.
18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.

19 The Lord saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters.
20 “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.
21 They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.
22 For a fire will be kindled by my wrath, one that burns down to the realm of the dead below. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains.

23 “I will heap calamities on them and spend my arrows against them.
24 I will send wasting famine against them, consuming pestilence and deadly plague; I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts, the venom of vipers that glide in the dust.
25 In the street the sword will make them childless; in their homes terror will reign. The young men and young women will perish, the infants and those with gray hair.
26 I said I would scatter them and erase their name from human memory,
27 but I dreaded the taunt of the enemy, lest the adversary misunderstand and say, ‘Our hand has triumphed; the Lord has not done all this.’”

28 They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them.
29 If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!
30 How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up?
31 For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede.
32 Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters with bitterness.
33 Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras.

34 “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults?
35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay.  In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them.”

36 The Lord will vindicate his people and relent concerning his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free.[d]
37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in,
38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings?
Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter!

39 “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.
40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear:  As surely as I live forever,
41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders.”

43 Rejoice, you nations, with his people,[e][f] for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people.

44 Moses came with Joshua[g] son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. 45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Moses to Die on Mount Nebo

48 On that same day the Lord told Moses, 49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession.50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites.  52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

Footnotes:

  1. Deuteronomy 32:6 Or Father, who bought you
  2. Deuteronomy 32:8 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls (see also Septuagint) sons of God
  3. Deuteronomy 32:15 Jeshurun means the upright one, that is, Israel.
  4. Deuteronomy 32:36 Or and they are without a ruler or leader
  5. Deuteronomy 32:43 Or Make his people rejoice, you nations
  6. Deuteronomy 32:43 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls (see also Septuagint) people, / and let all the angels worship him, /
  7. Deuteronomy 32:44 Hebrew Hoshea, a variant of Joshua

Not Exactly a Glowing Endorsement (Deuteronomy 31:14-29)

We read today through a passage that is filled with large contrasts. We see the goodness of God, yet we read of the certain declension of the nation of Israel. The faith of Moses and Joshua and their consequent blessings stand in stark contrast to the coming judgments upon the people for their rejection of God.

Again, the Lord tells Moses his end is near, and to appear before the Lord at the tent of meeting (the tabernacle = the localized presence of God) with Joshua, his younger replacement.

The communication from God to Moses and Joshua is that, though the presumption of success in conquering the land remains, the revelation is that before long after that time, the people would embrace foreign gods and forget the Lord. Moses is told to write a song – as this tune and text would be remembered even after other truths were forgotten, and the song would testify against Israel at the time of their judgment. (Looking at this song will be the theme tomorrow.)

Put yourself in the sandals of these guys. First, Moses is told he is down to mere days before he’ll be taken from the earth. And then Joshua, though bestowed with the great honor of leading a nation into victorious conquest, hears also that the fruit of it would be relatively short-lived. This would be like being named the coach of a NFL team and being told you will certainly win the Super Bowl in your first season, but from that point on, there would be increasingly losing seasons until the franchise was essentially eliminated. (But don’t worry Joshua, it’s not your fault!)

The final paragraph today speaks of the finalization of the writing of this book (Deuteronomy). Moses gives it to the Levites (the spiritual leadership tribe of Israel) to put beside the Ark of the Covenant – not within it. Inside the box were the tablets of the 10 Commandments. Again, Moses’ definitive statements as to the certain rebellion of the nation are shocking in their forthrightness… like verse 27: For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!  If it were not so serious and so sad, one almost has to laugh at the brash nature of it. Imagine the dinner table that night in the homes of those Levites, “Old Moses sure has been a great leader, but he has gotten so cranky and belligerent these days – calling us names and all!”

Stepping back from the context of the nation of Israel, and seeking to bring some timeless truth understanding to this passage, it does present again the natural heart of mankind to fall away from the Lord. Unless there is a commitment of each generation to remember the Lord and stay faithful, the natural drift will be away from truth and away from the faithfulness of generations who did honor God. Surely all of us can see this in our family systems (if we have had previous generations who honored the Lord). I think of the incredible faith of my great-grandparents – totally exemplary in every way. Now, just three generations later, I would estimate that only maybe one-third of their descendants care about these values. Declension is easy; faithfulness is hard work … and is why we need to constantly REVIVE!

Israel’s Rebellion Predicted

14 The Lord said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.” So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting.

15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.

19 “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. 20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.

23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”

24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse his anger by what your hands have made.”

The Resignation of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-13)

The passage for today’s reading brings to mind the recent event of the resignation of the Pope. In each event, the time had come when one person’s role of service was at an end, and another would take his place. For the Pope, it is a matter of age and inability to continue the tasks. For Moses, though it seems from the text that it is likewise a matter of advanced years (being age 120!), in fact it was much more a matter of God’s plan. All along, the Lord had said that Moses would not pass over the Jordan with the people, and now that the time had arrived for this conquest of the Promised Land, Moses was in his final days of leadership. We will read in a couple of days that Moses’ health and vitality was not that severely diminished, even given his advanced years.

So, speaking in track and field terms, Moses was in the exchange zone – the area in a relay race where the baton is being passed from one runner to another.

Moses says that the Lord God will actually be the first to cross over the Jordan ahead of the nation of Israel, and that fact alone would secure their victory. Joshua would be the leader, and the results were to be just like the recent powerful defeat of the kings on the east of the river in the land of Moab.

We see here the first mention of a series of words that will repeat not only here at the end of Deuteronomy, but also over and over in the first chapter of Joshua. There are two positives and two negatives: be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or discouraged. Both sides of these four attitudes are possible because of God’s faithful word to be with them – granting every reason to be confidant, and every reason to not stress out!

The second section of today’s reading talks about an event to occur every 7th year in the new land at the Festival of Tabernacles. This annual feast that commemorated God’s faithfulness to the children of Israel through their deliverance from Egypt and preservation through the wilderness wanderings was spoken of earlier in Deuteronomy 16:13-15:

13 Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. 15 For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

The directive of Moses is that, while all of Israel would be gathered at one time for the festival, this would be the best occasion for the leaders to pull out the Law of Moses and have it read for everyone to hear. Obviously, if there was no specific plan for this to happen, it would take very few years for those with memories of these events to die off, and the children who had no such memories to also be unaware of the truths of God’s promises and of the necessity of renewing the covenant. In a time when most people were rather illiterate, and where there were no libraries and no Google search engines on varied communication devices, this event would be critical for Israel’s future. It would require leaders who, even though they could not personally remember Moses or the giving of the Law, still valued it and made the efforts to insure that this tradition was continued.

These thoughts today are full of timeless truths. At Tri-State Fellowship we talk all the time about generational ministry. We say it so much that I often feel like people get resentful that it is such an emphasis. But it has to be! Without it, the natural proclivities of life will result in not being diligent to disciple, love, and encourage younger generations … and truth and biblical values will fall through the cracks of forgetfulness. We need to take the effort to continuously REVIVE – ourselves first, and then those who come behind us to whom we must inevitably hand the baton. We REVIVE by discipling generations to love God, serve one another, and reach the world.

Joshua to Succeed Moses

31:1   Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: 2 “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ 3 The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. 4 And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. 5 The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Public Reading of the Law

9 So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Just What Part of Successful Living Don’t You Understand? (Deuteronomy 30:1-20)

This is not as difficult as it seems!

Today’s reading is the third of three that gives the condensed summary of the Covenant Law. Moses’ attention turns again to the future, but now with a positive tone. Yesterday, the text spoke about the time in the future when Israel would be dispersed to captive nations. This happened with the Assyrians and Babylonians, with Israel eventually returning to the land under such as Ezra and Nehemiah. Again they would be scattered in the post-Christ Roman era, only to be re-gathered in our era. And in the millennial kingdom to come, Israel will once again be blessed of God. I know – I just covered a lot of Bible history and prophecy and interpretation there!

Let’s jump to verses 11-20 … you gotta love this!

I believe it is the natural assumption out there that living for God is the hard, difficult choice. And, I suppose, that is true if we allow the natural man to take charge of our appetites and choices. But the simple rejection of that proclivity, along with an obedience to the not-so-complicated dictates of God’s Word, promises success and well-being. It is not convoluted or mysterious. It is all written down for us. As the passage says, the truth leading to success is not hidden in the heavens at a location impossible to reach, nor is it buried in some far-flung treasure island location in a distant ocean. We have every resource that we need within our grasp – and honestly, as modern people with every sort of electronic information device, it is indeed with us in a way it was never with any other generation.

So why should not God call heaven and earth against us as witnesses, as with every generation and people with a knowledge of his Word?  Israel, in this text, has the remembrance of God’s faithfulness to the patriarchs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And we have not only all of that, but 3500 more years of God’s workings, along with what the writer to the Hebrews calls “the great cloud of witnesses” who can testify to the truth of God’s timeless covenant – life to those who honor and obey, but death and separation to those who choose to not follow the very, very, very clear truth of the Word.

Let us, as God’s people and his church redeemed by the new covenant of the blood of Christ, renew together – especially when together with the bread and cup – the covenant we possess by his grace and revelation in our lives. This is not difficult. This is not complicated. It is the stuff of continuous renewal … of reaffirmed revival.

Prosperity after Turning to the Lord

30:1  When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The Offer of Life or Death

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

You Know Enough to be Successful, not Dangerous (Deuteronomy 29:16-29)

You Know Enough to be Dangerous Successful 

Just as yesterday’s reading focused on the goodness of God and the greatness of blessing in his covenant, today’s section looks at the opposite side of things.

Moses begins by recalling to Israel’s memory all their experiences of seeing the futility of life of the Egyptians and other nations – their worthless gods and idols.  Just.Do.Not.Do.It!  Don’t even let a root of such idolatry be found in Israel.

The second paragraph today speaks to the person who only casually or hypocritically accepted the covenant. Such a person should not think they are in good stead only because they have the right family name or were wearing the proper uniform. There are few better paragraphs in the Bible that reveal what God thinks about hypocrites!  Whoa! It brings down disaster upon such an inconsistent and dichotomous person.

The third and fourth paragraphs talk about the distant future for Israel – projecting how indeed the descendents would turn against God, would worship foreign gods, would find disaster and judgment, and would cause even other nations to stand in amazement that a people might so walk away from God and thus incur his wrath.

And finally, verse 29 is a great summary – probably one of the top 100 Scriptures in the Bible. It says that there are truths known only to God, and that may frustrate us that we don’t understand everything that is going on in the world. But what is revealed and belongs to us is for our good, and for the good of those who come after us – again, as we keep the covenant of his law. What we know is enough to make us successful.

16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.

19 When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. 21 The Lord will single them out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.

22 Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. 23 The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. 24 All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Today is the Big Day (Deuteronomy 29:1-15)

For those of you who have been following this all along, here we are at day 33 of the readings. And I know that it really looks like this is another déjà-vu all over again – that you’ve read this before. And yes, you have.

BUT, this is the big day you’re reading about – right here, right now – this is the actual call to commitment. This is the official renewal of the covenant of the children of Israel with their God. All the other material to this point has been a setting out of the details to be remembered (from the past) and observed (in the future). Now we have a summary of it and the actual call to enter in.

We might illustrate it this way: through the marriage covenant…

Before a couple is married, we as pastors meet with them fairly extensively and talk in quite a bit of detail about marriage and the covenant they are making. A lot of ground is covered over quite a variety of topics about spiritual conditions and commands, along with their understanding of their obligations to make the marriage a success. We talk about their past, present, and future. Then, on the wedding day, these details are rehearsed by general categorical statements to which the couple enters in a covenant agreement with God and before a company of witnesses, and voila – we have a covenant relationship. So today’s statement of the terms (along with the readings for the next two days – capturing the totality of chapters 29 and 30) would be like reading the text of the pastor’s notes at a wedding ceremony.

So verses 2-8 today rehearse history, and verses 9-15 point to the official promises and guarantees of the covenant. To additionally help the reading, let me add three quick points:

a.  Verse 4 seems a bit odd – about God not giving them the ability to fully see or understand. At this point, Israel was still unable to grasp the full significance of all that God had done for them. God would make this more clear subsequently, and this again illustrates how anyone’s understanding of spiritual truth is in large part dependent upon God’s gracious illumination. See Romans 11:8 where this verse is quoted by Paul in such a context.

b.  Verse 6 – they had manna, but no bread of their making; they had water from the rock, but no wine from harvested crops. God took care of them; they could not have done it without his continuous provision.

c.  Verse 15 – here we see a genealogical/generational aspect of the covenant – the people were making it on behalf of others to come. Just as we were not alive when treaties were made by our government many decades ago, as Americans who have come along in subsequent years, those agreements of benefits and obligations accrue to us as well.

Again, it all comes down to obedience and understanding the great grace of God to invite us into a covenant relationship with him. It is awesome indeed, and calls us to a continual revival and recommitment.

Renewal of the Covenant

29:1  These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.

2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:

Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. 5 Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. 6 You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.”

7 When you reached this place, Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan came out to fight against us, but we defeated them. 8 We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the foreigners living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.

Under Siege (Deuteronomy 28:49-68)

It must have been a terrible experience for anyone – in whatever generation – to be a resident in a city under siege by a more powerful foe. At some point, all the resources run out, and the residents are left to extreme measures – to the extent even of cannibalism.

The passage today is a very graphic one, and thankfully it brings us to the end of the curses. Moses builds to this moment of the worst possible scenario. One would think that this would have been enough to sober Israel into never straying far from obeying God… but, no.

With these verses today, Moses finishes his sermon that delineates a list of consequences to follow for Israel if they do not obey the covenant with God.

Consequence 10 – (verses 49-57) – Horrors of Cities Besieged – I like to think that I can write rather colorfully and creatively … but I could not find words more descriptive than these – nor would I want to. Totally dreadful.

Consequence 11 – (verses 58-68) – The Reversal of all of God’s Blessings – As you look at these items, we are able to recall even from Deuteronomy that every curse listed here is a reversal of some blessing given to the nation in the past.

We cannot assume that just because God blessed our forefathers that he is in some way obligated to do the same for us in spite of how we live. May we be sobered in ways that Israel was not. May we be revived in our faith and commitment.

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.

53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.

58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 68 The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.

Not if, but when! (Deuteronomy 28:36-48)

As we look back over the scope of human history, and then project toward the future of mankind, there are some sad realities. There is no history of a nation or empire that continuously endured (though God’s preservation of Israel is the most positive example of longevity, which is an ironic thought in consideration of this depressing chapter we are slogging through right now!). All human institutions have failed and come to ruin at some point. There is no science or advance of modernity that will change this pattern. Everyone dies; and there is no science that is going to change that reality. At some point, we know also from the Scriptures that this world comes to an end.

Sorry to be a big downer today, but I’m just talking realities with you. For all of these things and many more in the human condition, it is not a matter of if, but when! But it can be our hope that it will not happen in our lifetime if we have anything to do about it … in positive obedience both by our own personal management, and with the coordination of others also following God’s truth.

The passage we read today presents a subtle change of tone in Moses’ warnings – from “if” they do not obey, to what will indeed certainly happen “when” they do not obey the covenant with God. Continuing the list:

Consequence 7 – (verses 36-37) – Exile to a Foreign Land – This would be fulfilled for the northern 10 tribes in 721 B.C. by the Assyrian Empire. The southern two tribes of Judah and Benjamin would hold out longer until 605 B.C. when taken into exile by the Babylonians.

Consequence 8 – (verses 38-42) – Crop Failure and Economic Ruin – In an agrarian society where wealth was measured more in terms of crops and herds than in currency, the economy was dependent upon the weather and other conditions such as freedom from pestilence. God would take that protection from his people upon their rejection of him.

Consequence 9 – (verses 43-48) – Servitude to Foreign Powers and Occupiers – Throughout Israel’s history – even before the captivities to Assyria and Babylon, the Israelites were at various times plagued by foreign occupiers – like the Philistines, the Midianites, and all the other –ites … not to mention the termites, etc.

Israel, don’t be stupid – just obey!  Tri-State Fellowship, don’t be stupid – just obey!

36 The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. 37 You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you.

38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it. 39 You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them. 40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off. 41 You will have sons and daughters but you will not keep them, because they will go into captivity. 42 Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.

43 The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. 44 They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail.

45 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.