This week we’ve seen God lead His people to the edge of the Promised Land. He allows Moses to see it, but not walk into it, and then we see Moses’ death. Finally, Joshua is commissioned to lead God’s people.
Deuteronomy is replete with God’s laws, and at the beginning of the week we saw – once again – God reminding His people that they were to celebrate and worship only at a place of God’s choosing. Because God is holy, He wanted His people to worship in specific places which were set apart only to Him.
God also reminds the people that they are to separate themselves and not get caught up in what other people do. He still wants that for His people today:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 (ESV)
God also gives us His standard for anyone who calls themselves “prophet” – 100% accuracy! When you hear someone say “God told me …”, if it doesn’t come to pass, they are NOT speaking for God.
God prepares His people to go into the Promised Land by reminding them to be unafraid when it seems their enemies are insurmountable, and tells them to destroy everything they see that is detestable to God. Once again, God was telling His people that they needed to be separate from the world – and that leaving “just a little” world in their lives would destroy them. Over and over God tells His people to purge evil – and over and over they allow it to creep back into their lives, with dreadful consequences.
God tells the people that when a man is punished by hanging on a cross, he must be brought down by day’s end, for any man hanging overnight is cursed. I couldn’t help but think forward to Jesus’ death and the hurry to bury him in the borrowed tomb (Matthew 27:57).
Moses set forth rules for divorce and remarriage. The Israelites were allowed to give a certificate of divorce for practically anything. During Jesus’ ministry, this practice was questioned, and Jesus explained why Moses gave the rule:
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matt 19:3-9 (ESV)
And then … another covenant. God demands that the people worship Him with their hearts and not just follow rules. As Christians, we are also expected to worship with our hearts. We rejoice that we have been chosen by God!
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Eph 1:4 (KJV)
God then gives the people two choices: obey or disobey. For each action, God gives consequences – for obedience, blessing; for disobedience, curses. We need to remember that although God is loving, He is also both just and righteous. We reap the consequences of our obedience as well as our disobedience. A Christian does not have a “free ride” to do whatever they wish. We are to live holy, exemplary lives. When we fall into sin, we need to expect that God will punish us. When we turn away from our sin and ask forgiveness, God takes those sins “as far as the east is from the west”. We don’t escape the punishment for our deeds, but we do receive forgiveness. We will see (and we have seen) this pattern in the Israelites over and over. Obedience – God’s mercy and peace. The goodness leads to complacency and disobedience creeps in. God punishes, and the people repent.
Just before Moses dies, he encourages both the people and their new leader, Joshua.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deut 31:6 (ESV)
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deut 31:8 (ESV)
Who are the “them” that you fear or dread? Lack of a job? Not enough money? Parenting skills? Past sins that God has forgiven, but that you can’t seem to forget about? We have the promise of God. If He could bring two million people through a desert, feeding them for 40 years, and then bring them into a land that had been promised to them, why would He leave you in your time of trouble?
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19 (ESV)
There was one verse that really stood out for me this week. It reminded me that no matter where we start, God uses us. When we first met Moses as a man, he was timid and didn’t think that he had much to offer. But at the end of his life, we read that…
And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. Deut 34:10-12 (ESV)
Whom the Lord knew face to face … what an honor! From his miraculous salvation as a baby, to stuttering man, to bold prophet, Moses stands as an inspiration to us today. Although his lack of faith kept him from setting foot in the Promised Land, he was known by God! And it was God Who buried Moses. No one knows the location of his grave (Duet. 34:5-6).
In our final reading this week, we see God’s commission of Joshua – and His first command to him – GO! Take the land…
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. Josh 1:6-7 (ESV)
Twice this week we’ve read similar words. First Moses tells the people, and then Joshua, to be strong and courageous. Then God tells Joshua, twice, to be strong and courageous.
I needed the reminder that God wants me to be strong – and to do what He commands. I needed to remember that God is with me and has promised to take care of me.
What stood out for you this week? Was a verse particularly helpful? Did one passage help you get through a day? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment on the blog.
As always, if you have prayer requests, feel free to email me or leave a comment on the blog. If you have questions about this reading – leave them! You may do so without leaving your name. The purpose of this blog is to dialog about what we’ve read, and to learn more about God’s Word – together!
I will see you next week. God bless you as you undertake the challenge to read the Bible through in 2012.