PROMISE: "The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place." (1:30-31)
Thought for today:
Spiritual warfare precedes physical warfare. (from 1:29-33)
Moses reviews the history of Israel for the past 40 years in the desert. The Lord's people Israel had won two big battles, defeating King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan. Moses had delivered to Israel the law - unique in that it is also the history of the LORD God commanding them and living among them. Moses recounts the number of Israel people going to take the promised land was so large that Moses needed administrate help to resolve civil disputes. He had set up judges from the twelve tribe leaders, with commanders under them of 1000, 100, 50, and 10 people. Cases were heard in ascending order, and anything the tribal leaders couldn't solve were brought to Moses. Ultimately, judgement belongs to God, not man. Armed with the law the LORD had given them and supplied with civic organization, the LORD was ready to lead Israel into battle for the land of Canaan. But the people wanted to know in advance what the battle would entail, so they asked Moses to send spies into the land. When the spies returned, the truth was that it was a good land the LORD was giving them. But the people balked, rebelling and grumbling about the apparent impossibility of defeating people stronger and taller than they. Moses told the people of Israel at that time that the LORD goes before and prepares the fight before the actual fight. Spiritual warfare precedes physical warfare. But trusting the LORD at this time was vital, and Israel, terrified, didn't trust the LORD's past performance to be any guarentee of future reliability. Of the spies, only Caleb and future leader, Joshua, followed the LORD wholeheartedly despite the fear of the other 10 spies. Moses was told to encourage Joshua.
When the LORD heard the people's response, he was angry and decreed that of the generations living then, only children 19 and younger would live to inherit the promised land. Faced with staying on in the desert 40 years, the people decided dying while trying to win the land would be better than dying in the wilderness. Arrogance was the wrong attitude. Their attempts to fight the Amorites without the LORD leading them failed miserably. Weeping before the LORD afterward didn't make any difference to him, either. Their change of mind was too late. So they wandered and people died. Eventually, Moses received the order from the LORD to turn north. They were told to carefully go through the land of the descendants of Jacob's brother Esau in the hill country of Seir. This was never to be Israel's land, and they were to pay Esau in silver for any food and water they needed. Israel was to focus on how God had blessed the work of their hands in the wilderness, and watched over the route of their journey, being with them so they lacked for nothing.
Israel past by the land of Esau's descendants in Seir where, years before, they had driven out the Horites as Israel was about to do in Canaan. Next the people approached Ar where the Moabites, descendants of Lot, had driven out the strong Rephaites (aka Emites) before settling there. When, just south of the Dead Sea, the LORD told Moses to cross the Zered Valley, it had been 38 years since Kadesh Barnea, and the last of the men who fought against the LORD were dying. The next encounter was with the Ammonites, who had driven out more Rephaites before them, but their land was now given to the Moabites. The Avvites living as far as Gaza had been driven out by the Caphtorites. So the LORD has planned and seen many changes and resettling of Middle East land.
Now, on the LORD's command, when Israel came against Sihon the Amorite other countries took notice and, with the history of changes cited above, were understandably fearful. The LORD hardened Sihon's heart and spirit, so he led his army to stop Israel from passing through his land. Spiritually prepared for victory, Israel left no Amorite survivors except livestock.
PROMISE: "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God..." (4:29-31a)
Thought for today:
The LORD does preliminary work before sending His people into battle. (from 3:2)
Moses mentions again that the LORD takes care of preliminary battle before two physical armies ever face each other on the field. Tribal groups had come into this Middle Eastern area before, killing the inhabitants - some of whom were bigger and stronger than the winners - and taking over their land. Just as what happened later to native North Americas, nomadic groups moved in by conquest, not by purchasing land and integrating.
The Reubenites, Gadites, and half of the tribe of Manassah received their land inheritance east of the Jordan as they had requested, with the stipulation that their men would lead the other tribes into battle across the Jordan River.
Moses emphasized that Joshua had seen with his own eyes this phenomenum of the Lord himself fighting for Israel. He promised to fight for them under Moses' command and He was promising to continue fighting for them under Joshua's leadership if they were faithful to His laws and commandments. This unusual relationship of God with Israel will not die with Moses. Of course, Moses himself wants to see the promised land, and asks until the Lord has had enough. Don't ask again - go up on the mountain and look over the land. But Moses' duty now was to commission and encourage Joshua for the life of leadership ahead of him.
Moses also encouraged Israel. Hear O Israel - then do what you hear, so that you will live, go in, and possess the land promised so many generations before to the ancestors. You are witnesses, Israel, with your own eyes, that idol worship brings on destruction, but holding fast to the Lord God brings on life. You are an example, Israel, to other countries for wisdom and understanding. You are blessed, Israel, to have the Lord God near you whenever you pray to him. Be law abiding, Israel, with such righteous decrees and laws. Be careful and on guard, Israel, so you don't forget what you witnessed with your eyes and with your hearts from Egypt and in the wilderness. Learn to revere the Lord, Israel, and to teach what you learn and have seen to your children and to their children.
What have you seen? You've seen strange fire with black clouds, and heard a voice without a form. How unusual. So remember not to fall to any lesser manmade gods trying to give form where it does not belong. Accept no substitute, Israel! Your inheritance is from the LORD God, not from man. Don't corrupt this gift, Israel. If you turn from your LORD, you too will be turned out of this land, scattered among people who don't know any better than to worship manmade idols. But even from there, the LORD can be found again if you seek Him with all your heart and soul.
Go ahead - ask questions. Has any other people ever heard the voice of God speaking out of fire as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another as the LORD did you, Israel? You have been trained and disciplined in a most unique way, Israel. Against great odds, you will triumph. You have experienced his Presence. You have experienced his great strength. Acknowledge it - the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Live long, and prosper.
Moses set up the cities of refuge for accidental murderers east of the Jordan, and then prepared to read the covenant, the Torah, one last time.
PROMISE: "Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear Me and keep all My commandments always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" (5:29)
Thought for today:
How am I to fear the LORD my God? I am to learn, keep, and obey all his commands as long as I live. (from 6:2)
Not making a secret of the fact that his life was nearly over, Moses called Israel together and taught the Law to the people one last time. "Hear, O Israel..." Your covenant with the LORD is not from the distant past. You have eye witnesses among you who heard the Voice from the fire on Horeb, the mountain of God.
Moses read the Ten Commandments (5:6-21) and paused. Remember how after the LORD spoke and wrote these laws, the twelve tribal leaders came to Moses, amazed that Israel could hear their God and live? They asked Moses to take the risk on himself to go near to hear the LORD, and report back. They promised to listen and obey.
The LORD and Moses agreed, but asked for more. Remember that fear from hearing the LORD's voice out of fire. Then teach your children this key to living long and prospering - the balance of fear, life, and love. Love the LORD passionately, without holding anything back. Relish and digest these commandments. Impress them on your children. Discuss them at home, as you go along your way, as you lie down, and as you get up. Remind yourselves of them visably. It is vital that you don't forget the LORD when you reap the benefits of buildings, wells, crops you inherit without working for them.
The LORD is jealous - He wants you as His, and He wants you to want Him exclusively as your LORD God. Fear Him. Serve Him. Include Him in your promises and oaths.
Don't forget Him. Other people will tempt you to follow other gods. Don't turn to them, and don't test the LORD. Don't forget how unique the relationship you have with your LORD is.
Your child will eventually ask you why you follow such a unique law. Start with slavery in Egypt, and tell him what the LORD did for Israel. Explain the benefits of knowing the Lawgiver and of being law abiding citizens. If we carefully obey all the law before the LORD as commanded, "that will be our righteousness." (6:25) [His law, protective armor, covers a deep love and loyalty of His people to Him.]
You will have victory over nations larger and stronger than Israel. The requirements are not in your own strength or strategic cleverness. Don't buy into the lifestyles of the people you defeat - stay separate, undefiled, holy. Remember that the LORD chose you as His treasured possession, not for your good looks or popularity, but because He has always loved you. Centuries before, He made promises to Israel's forefathers.
Grasp this: the LORD is God over time, over place, over life. His enemies will be destroyed. Don't join them. Consider the health and fruitful benefits of following the LORD via obedience. Don't pity the people you are replacing or be tempted to serve their gods. That would ensnare you. Your strength is not in yourselves - the LORD who is among you has other ways to defeat enemies. He will do it little by little. When He gives you a victory, burn the images of their gods totally, including all silver and gold on them. Anything once used for idols is detestable to the LORD, so keeping any part of it would also be a snare to you. Join the LORD in detesting and destroying it.
PROMISE: ISRAEL - "To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth, and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. " (10:14-15)
Thought for today:
The Lord allows me to go through all kinds of situations so I will learn to use His ways. Am I coachable?
When a child gets to a certain age, his or her parents' role becomes more clear. As a baby you cried for results. As you grew, you went through training and difficulties to mature. Through this process, parents set down the rules, led you around while doing their tasks, challenged you to find out what was in your heart, let you go hungry while you learned to cook, punished you when you did wrong, encouraged you when you did well. "As a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you." (8:6) Keep this in mind. Remember that God led Israel all the way to humble and test them. As a people and as individual sons, would they keep His comands? How would they respond when hungry or uncomfortable? Would they see that "man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD"? Would they respond to discipline as someone used to getting their own way, or as one learning to take direction to achieve and accomplish? Would they be prepared to remember the LORD their source after accomplishing the goal, after getting established in the promised land?
Moses gave advice. Be careful. Don't forget. Remember. Talk about past times Israel had with the LORD. Talk about past times you had with the LORD. Observe the LORD's commands. Walk in His ways. Revere Him. Praise the LORD your God for the good land, the accomplished goal. Be careful not to forget the LORD in the daily life after reaching the goal. Remember. Keep living according to His commands, laws, decrees so you don't become proud and start taking credit for all you accomplish. Self-discipline your lifestyle so in the end it might go well with you. Don't think your strength and talent produce your wealth. The LORD your God gives you the ability to produce wealth, as He promised. Who comes first?
Don't fool yourself. If you forget the LORD as God, you will turn to other gods to worship. As Bob Dylan once sang, "You gotta serve somebody." If you turn to worship elsewhere, you are beginning your downfall and destruction. Look at the nations Israel was anticipating to displace in Canaan. They were bigger than Israel. They were stronger. But they worshiped other gods, and the LORD God had decreed they would not stay in power in the Middle East. Once again Moses mentions the fact that the LORD God was going across the Jordan River ahead of Israel for the preliminary work necessary for this battle.
There is more to Israel's success than meets the eye. Remember. You aren't successful because of your righteousness or your integrity. In fact, as a people you are stiff-necked, stubborn, and distainfully proud. You are (appear?) successful when the LORD gives you success. To your own credit, what do you have? When rescued from slavery, your response was rebellion against the LORD. While Moses went without food and water to receive the LORD's commandments written on stone in your behalf, you soon got tired of waiting and started sinning - partying around a golden calf. Moses knew how close you came to destruction for continuing to rebell against the LORD, and he took it serious enough to pray the LORD to spare you because of His plan and His promise. You were and are only special because of Him. And what does the LORD ask of you? Fear Him. Walk in all His ways. Love Him. Serve Him with all your heart and soul. Observe His commands and decrees because they are for your own good.
Who but the LORD knows why He set His affection on Israel and chose Jacob's descendants above all other nations. But He did. Will you focus on pride, then, or will you circumcise your hearts and stop being stiff-necked? You leaders, His is your LORD. You wealthy, what interest does He have in your bribes? He's not from this world. You orphans and widows, He defends your cause. You non-Israelite alien, He loves you and gives you food and clothing. Israel, you are to follow your LORD's leading, and do to each other as He does. He is your praise! He is your God! He keeps His promises to increase your number.
PROMISE: Israel "will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you." (15:6)
Thought for today:
"I will sing unto the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously..."
Moses is passionate with the people - what will it take for you to remember all you have seen the LORD do during your lifetime? There were still a few eyewitnesses among them who had seen the unique things the LORD did as He moved Israel out of slavery in Egypt and through the wilderness while doubting relatives died. The LORD's word is so important, he repeated. Keep on fixing these words in your hearts and minds. Tie them ... bind them ... talk about them ... write them for yourself. Do whatever it takes. You only have a glimpse of what good can be yours if you do. The land open to Israel would extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the western sea. (map) Area inhabitants would be in terror and fear of Israel coming into Canaan. The LORD would uphold His part - would Israel? Depending upon Israel obeying directions, the end result was not fixed in stone, not a done deal, not automatic. Take one route for blessing and declare it from Mount Gerizim. Take the other route for cursing, and declare it from Mount Ebal. Remember. The LORD cares so much for this area of the Middle East that His eyes are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. (11:12)
This section tells us more facts about the LORD, these people, and this land. Don't eat the blood of animals because the blood is the life and not eating it is right in the eyes of the LORD. (12:23-25) Israel is forbidden from worshipping the LORD the way other people worship their gods because the LORD hates all the detestable things they do. (12:31) The LORD doesn't stop people from persuading others to worship other gods, but uses such people to test your love and commitment to Him. (13:3) You are to obey and purge evil from your life because that is how the LORD's response to evil -- fierce anger -- is turned to show you mercy, to have compassion on you, and to increase your numbers. (13:5,17) Out of all the peoples on the face of the Earth, the LORD has chosen Israel, the Hebrews, as His children, His treasured possession. (14:1-2) This relationship with the LORD requires more from them than from other people, like how they mourn, what they eat or don't eat, even how they prepare their food and where they eat portions of it. The LORD would later reveal the chosen dwelling place for His Name with centralized worship. (14:23) The LORD provides food for the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows in each town from the stored tithes brought in locally every three years. (14: 27-29) The LORD wants the people to understand the principle of cancelling debts. (15:2) Based upon the quality of the land being given them, there should be no poor among Israel. (15:4) Israel will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. (15:6) Israel will rule over many nations but none will rule over them. (15:6) There will always be poor people in the land so be openhanded toward brothers and the poor and needy. (15:11) The LORD wants the people to understand the principle of redemption. A Hebrew can sell himself or herself to another, but only for 7 years, and then - because they were slaves in Egypt and the LORD redeemed them - the master is to liberally supply the former servants. (15:12-15) Don't see setting your servant free as a hardship after receiving his work for 6 years. Agree with the LORD in this too, and He will bless you in everything you do. (15:18)
PROMISE: The LORD your God "will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." (18:18-20)
Thought for today:
The king must not accumulate horses, wives, or wealth for himself. He is to write out his own copy of the law of the Lord and to read from it daily. His wealth is to be the Lord and His instruction. The king is not above the law.
Participants: Besides the literal people with Moses who had been eyewitnesses to all that the LORD had done for them in Egypt (Deut 11:2), the LORD was providing a way for later generations to participate in those events as well. All families are to set aside their firstborn animals for the LORD. All are to celebrate Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in the city where the LORD's Name dwells, in the evening and with roasted meat and unleavened bread to remember the haste of their departure from Egypt. All are to celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD 7 weeks after harvesting grain, remembering they were once slaves and now are free men. All are to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for 7 days after threshing and making wine. These three times each year all Israel men are to appear before the LORD at the place where His Name dwells, bringing offerings in proportion to how the LORD has blessed them.
Judges: Israel is to appoint judges and officials for each tribe in every town. Besides judging fairly and impartially, appointees are not to accept bribes because they pervert justice. Israeli citizens are to investigate charges against anyone living among them of bowing down to other gods (like to Asherah poles or a sacred stone, or by sacrificing defective animals to the LORD) or to the sun, moon, or stars. All this is highly detestable to the LORD, and the reason the Canaanites are being dispossessed by the LORD through Israel. Any such charges proven true by 2 or 3 witnesses would result in stoning to death. Some cases will be too difficult for local courts and are to be referred to the priest and judge at the place where the LORD chooses. They will teach offenders the law and state what to do about the situation. Their decision will be final. Anyone who disregards the priest and judge's decision is to be put to death.
Kings: Israel will eventually want a king over them like all the nations around them. They are to appoint whoever the LORD chooses as king. He will be a brother Israelite, not a foreigner. He is not to use his position to acquire an abundance of horses for himself, or make the people return to Egypt for more horses. He must not take many wives nor accumulate silver and gold. With his own hand, he is to write a copy of this law (the Torah) on a scroll to keep with him and read from daily. He is not above the law and must carefully obey it.
Priests: The priests of Israel will live on the offerings the people make to the LORD by fire. The people give the LORD of their best bulls, sheep, grain, new wine, oil, and first wool from shearing. A Levite living in an area other than where the LORD's Name dwells may move there, coming in all earnestness, to serve the LORD there.
Detestable: Israel is not to imitate the detestable things done by others around them. What's detestable? Sacrificing son or daughter in the fire, practicing divination or sorcery, interpreting omens, engaging in witchcraft, casting spells, being a medium or spiritist, consulting the dead. Canaanites had done these things - or listened to those who did - and that was why they were being removed from the land.
Messiah: At Horeb, Israel had asked the LORD, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die." The LORD agreed to this request with a plan to raise up an Israelite prophet like Moses, who would speak all that the LORD gave him to say. Israel would recognize a false prophet when what one says is from the LORD doesn't happen or come true.
FACT: "What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God." (Romans 3:1-2)
Thought for today:
Consider justice from the LORD's point of view.
Punishing crime: What is justice for someone who murders? If the murder happens by accident, without malice premeditation, the "eye for an eye" principle by the avenger of blood does not apply if the person can make it to one of the three cities of refuge in Israel. But the murderer who carries out premeditated murder on one he or she hates is not to receive pity, but must be purged from Israel. The LORD promised to enlarge Israel's territory if they carefully follow the Torah: to love the LORD your God and to walk always in his ways" (19:8-9a) "A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." (19:15b) If the judges find that a witness has lied in accusing someone else of a crime, do to him as he intended to do to his fellow Israelite. Israel had the responsibility, the laws, and the methods to purge evil from among themselves.
Waging war: Even against a larger army, when Israel goes to war the Lord will be with them. The priest will speak first to the army before they go into battle, then the officers will excuse any soldiers with certain obligations at home or who are unusally afraid. The officers then appoint commanders. An enemy's city at a distance is first offered the opportunity to surrender without fighting. If they accept, they will do forced labor for Israel. If they reject the offer for peace under those terms, Israel will lay seige to it, kill the men after the LORD gives them victory, and keep the women, children, livestock, and property as plunder.
But in the area given to Israel by the LORD, there was to be no living plunder left alive in the cities. The detestable style of worship of the locals had thoroughly defiled the land, and contaminated all they came in contact with, through exposure to their worship practices. Killing all living things did not apply to trees. Since laying siege could take a long time, Israel was to apply conservation principles to save local fruit trees for food, and not to besiege the trees of the field as people.
Unsolved murder: When someone is found dead in a field without evidence as to who killed him, the elders and judges will measure to find the closest town to the body. Elders of that town need to make atonement for the murder, breaking the neck of a heifer in a specific place nearby. Priests will oversee this.
NOTE: The work of the priests was to:
minister in the Name of the LORD
pronounce blessings in the Name of the LORD
decide all cases of dispute and assault
More legal procedures for marrying a captive woman, acknowledging a man's actual firstborn son - no matter which wife is his mother, and bringing a rebellious older son to the elders by parents who haven't succeeded in training him. Someone put to death for a capital crime and hung on a tree must not be left there overnight. "Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." (21:23)
MEMORY VERSE: "Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin."
Thought for today:
What is honest? What is right in the LORD's eyes?
Today's reading reminds me of the book of Proverbs, skipping from one commandment to another, loosely connected. They deal with problems of property, marriage, sex, physical problems, impurity.
In a section about latrine sanitation, we learn that "the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you."
The Lord emphasizes how well Israelites are to treat slaves and servants, remembering that Israel was once a slave. But they are to remain separate from local tribes that attempted to curse Israel.
PROMISE: "Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out. Then all the people shall say, 'Amen!'" (27:26)
Thought for today:
Of all the nations the LORD has made, the nation of Israel is set in praise, fame, and honor high above the others - to be a holy people to the LORD God. (from 26:19)
Take disputes to court where the judges decide who is innocent and who is guilty, with any beating as punishment - up to 40 lashes - carried out immediately. Should an ox be muzzled or not muzzled when it treads out the grain? What is the duty of a brother-in-law to a young widow whose husband dies without having a son? Under what circumstances would she be told to publically take off one of her brother-in-law's sandals and spit in his face? If a wife inappropriately intervenes in a fight her husband is having with another man, what is her punishment? These situational laws continue, listed in this apparently random fashion. I wonder if Moses was reading the LORD's decisions in order from cases the judges had heard over the past 40 years. A majority of laws here seem to apply to a limited number of people. Some, though, would apply to all. "You must have accurate and honest weights and measures ... The LORD detests anyone who deals dishonestly." Or another - when Israel finishes dealing with the enemies in Canaan, they are to remember that the Amalekites picked off and killed people of Israel who were having trouble keeping up with the main group. The people of Amalek are to be remembered, blotted out, then forgotten.
Moses next describes the ceremony of Firstfruits to be held later, after the Name's dwelling place is established. Bringing their filled baskets to the priest, Israelites will declare and acknowledge to the LORD that they have come to the promised land. The priest receives the offering. Then the Israelites affirm their ancestry from a wandering Aramean, their history in Egypt, and their relationship with the LORD who brought them out under terrifying conditions. In the third year (the year of the tithe), Israelites are to give a separate, local town tithe for the Levites, aliens, fatherless, and widows. Then the Israelites recite to the LORD that they have given the sacred portion as He commanded - that they have not turned aside from commandments nor forgotten any of them. While in mourning and not working, they didn't eat any of the tithe. While unclean, they didn't remove any of it. They didn't offer any of it to the dead. Then the Israelites ask the LORD to look down from heaven, His holy dwelling place, and to bless his people and the land of Israel.
Throughout these sections on the Torah law, I've been asking the LORD to show me, a Christian, how I can better understand Deuteronomy. It occurs to me that Proverbs 3:1-12 explains how the LORD wanted Israel to live.
Israel was to live by learning, memorizing, thinking through, caring about, and obeying the LORD's Word. "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart..."
Israel was not to live according to logic, much less according to the religious ways of the Egyptians or of the people in Canaan. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..."
Israel was to live by habitually quoting and acknowledging the LORD. "In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path..."
Israel was not to do what came naturally. "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil..."
Israel's success was to be unusually honest, just, and chaste management - recognizing the LORD as the source of wealth. "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops..."
Israel's success was not to be "his own man". Redeemed from slavery in Egypt, now by covenant Israel belonged to the LORD for direction.
"My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke..."
Back to Deuteronomy 26:16-19, Moses reiterated the covenant between the Israel and the LORD.
1) The LORD is Israel's God
1) Israel is His people, treasured possession
2) Israel will walk in the LORD's ways
2) Israel is to keep all His commands
3) Israel will keep the LORD's decrees, commands, and laws
3) He will set Israel in praise, fame and honor high above all other nations He has made
4) Israel will obey the LORD
4) Israel will be a people holy to the LORD their God as He promised
Moses directed a field stone altar on which no iron tool is used to be built on the other side of the Jordan for sacrifices and rejoicing. Other large stones are to be plastered and used to write the law upon. Moses announces which six tribes will bless the people from Mount Gerizim, and which six will pronounce curses from Mount Ebal. Although Levi is with those blessing the people, Levites are also assigned to recite the 12 curses (27:14-26).
PROMISE: "If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth." (28:1)
Thought for today:
Some people know God but don't see the point of glorifying Him as God nor thanking and praising Him.
They go their separate ways by doing what God forbids and approving others who disobey God.
(see Romans 1:21,28-32)
Corporately, Israel was offered two alternative realities from the LORD. If as a group they would fully obey the LORD by carefully following all His commands, the LORD would give them one alternative - blessings. If as a country they did not obey and were not careful to follow all His commands and decrees, the curses Balaam was unable to speak, the LORD would allow.
Blessings of obedience How Israel set goals for achieving success really would have nothing to do with their national success or failure. Israel had agreed with the LORD by contract that their future would be based upon how faithfully they worshipped and followed the commands He had given them through Moses. It was easier to understand from a cause and effect viewpoint, that if Israel followed the LORD's way through life, they would be established as His holy people for all to see, and Israel would be called by the Name of the LORD. And yet even that would not be based upon a wage relationship. Israel would not achieve abundance on their own - the LORD would give them abundant prosperity in ways they had no control over (like how fertile they would be) and in ways they did have control over (like using honest weights and measures). Would Israel serve the LORD their God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity? Their response to the LORD will make all the difference - in their life, in their childbearing, in their homes, in their travels, in their health, in their work, in their security.
Curses of disobedience If Israel removes their affection, appreciation, and obedience to the LORD, He will begin removing His protection of them. As He distances Himself from Israel, the people will be subject to disease, failure, starvation, drought, heat, defeat, confusion, madness, enemies, distress, disasters, unimaginable hardships and practices, distruction - with no one to help. "You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life." (28:66) Left without children or compassion and totally rejected by the LORD, what's left of Israel will end up back in Egypt, trying to find someone to buy them and take them in as slaves. But if they wouldn't obey the LORD, who would believe they could serve an Egyptian slave master?
Like Bob Dylan sang, "You gotta serve somebody," and if the people decide to turn away from the LORD to serve a different plan, the result will be unimaginable, horrible failure.
PROMISE: "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." (31:6)
Thought for today: I accept the LORD's
invitation to become one of His people, fully intending to obey His agreement, with His help through whatever He gives me.
Moses points out to all Israel that the laws they have just heard at Moab - the LORD's conditions for future national blessings and cursings - are an addition to the covenant at Horeb between the LORD and Israel. The laws are closely tied to things these Israelites witnessed and experienced themselves on the path taking them through slavery, past a Pharaoh who claimed them for his use, and out of Egypt with highly unusual and tumultuous events. It was not easy. Led by the LORD, Israel has been given the means to be holy through obedience (led by the Levitical priesthood) and discipline (decided by judges).
So far, the LORD has not given these people a mind that understands, eyes that see, or ears that hear, even with outstanding evidence. (Evidence: Their clothes and sandals didn't wear out during the 40 years traveling in the desert. They had not had bread or wine all this time, but were fed by the LORD so they would recognize Him as LORD.) But this new covenant is with everyone of Israel from all the leaders, through all the men, women, and children, even to the laboring aliens living among them. The covenant has been made and sealed by the LORD's oath, with Israel (those present and those to come, 29:15) entering into it to be confirmed as His people. Becoming the LORD's people does not just happen - it is by invitation and with agreement on both parts including that the people willingly follow directions (i.e., the law, the Torah, the Word, the covenant). And this is not only a corporate agreement, but is binding on individuals as well. Anyone who turns aside to worship other gods is a weak link that works like leaven among everyone else. Such a person takes the oath with the LORD, but plans all along to go his own way. Taking this oath while fully intending to disobey it is unforgiveable. The punishment will not only be horrible curses, but the offender's name will be blotted out from under heaven.
The LORD revealed that Israel would try, but would eventually fall away from the covenant. Later generations of Israel and of Gentiles would see and talk about the land of milk and honey turned into a burning wasteland after Israel abandons the covenant. The LORD keeps some things secret, perhaps to reveal at a later time. But the things the LORD reveals belong to Israel forever. Like what? Israel would go through blessings and cursings, and Israel would be dispersed among the nations. Later generations of Israel would return to the LORD first in their hearts and souls, and then the LORD would bring them back from all the distant lands to the promised land, Israel. They will be even more prosperous and numberous than they were under Moses. The LORD promises to circumcise their hearts and those of their descendants so that loving Him wholeheartedly will be possible for them all. Curses will fall upon the enemies of Israel. Israel will obey the LORD and follow all His commands, and the LORD will delight in his people so long as they obey Him, keep His written laws, and turn to Him heart and soul.
But for now, how hard will it be for Israel to obey? The LORD has provided the way so His word can always be very near his people, in the mouth and heart of them individually, so they may obey. Life and prosperity comes with obedience. Death and destruction comes with disobedience. People, it's your choice. Choose life - choose to live and love the LORD. Choose to listen to His voice! Choose to hold fast to Him! The LORD is your life. (30:20) Moses is 120 years old and Israel has work to do, soon led by Joshua, to follow the LORD west, across the Jordan River, and to battle and to claim kingdom by kingdom as the LORD destroys them. When Joshua comes to the Tent of Meeting to be commissioned, the LORD repeats that Moses is going to rest with his fathers, and repeats knowing the future - that Israel will fail, breaking the covenant. Keeping His promise that the word is in their mouths, the LORD teaches Moses a song to teach the Israelites. He knew they would remember this song long after they forget the requirements of the covenant. Then the LORD encouraged Joshua on his current task, and Moses finished writing the Book of the Law. He gave the book to the priests to keep beside the ark of the covenant to remind them of the Torah even as they rebel more and more in days to come. See, the Torah is witness against Israel, proving the LORD sees all their rebellious and stiffnecked behavior to come, and still makes the covenant with them.
PROMISE: ".. 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. They are not just idle words for you - they are your life..." (32:46-47)
Thought for today: Today, I will proclaim Your Name, Lord, and praise Your greatness. Remind me of Your ways, my Rock, that I may practice them and see You work through me. You love us through grace AND discipline. Your training and correction are just.
For breaking faith with the LORD in front of the Israelites, and for not upholding the LORD's holiness among the Israelites, the LORD would only let Moses see the promised land from the distance of Mount Nebo in Moab before he died. But from that height, the LORD showed Moses all of the land that would be Israel.
During his final hours with the people, Moses had sung the song the LORD gave him to teach the people. The song starts out comparing Moses' teaching with a soaking rain, and moves quickly into praise. "Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is our Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." But quickly the song turns tragic, addressing people ("they") who have deserted and forgotten the LORD their God. Their unfaithful behavior has angered the LORD, and His response will benefit some Gentiles. "I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding." Trouble is, with all the calamities that the LORD sends to Israel, they lack the discernment to see calamity as a call to seek the LORD and stop disobedience. The LORD who puts to death and brings to life, who wounds and heals, who lives forever - He will take vengeance on his adversaries who hate him, and avenge the blood of his servants. He will make atonement for his land and people.
Moses had already laid hands upon Joshua, passing on the spirit of wisdom to the new leader of Israel. The last thing Moses did with the people of Israel was to individually bless each of the twelve tribes, and to tell them the story of their place in history one more time. Moses had never tired of repeating this story, and giving insight from it. He saw history as HIS - story. And this humble man, whose eyesight and strength hadn't deminished with old age, remains unique as the prophet of Israel who knew - and knows - the LORD face to face.