January 13, 2016.
Reading: Deuteronomy 29-31.
Background: Deuteronomy 26-28.
Concepts and Connections.
The covenant renewed: Continuing to prepare the children of Israel to enter the promised land, Moses gathers them together here to remember and renew the covenant that their God had made with their fathers. He relays to them the great provision and deliverance from their God because he says that the Lord had not given them eyes to see, ears to hear or a heart to understand the things they had seen and known (compare with Isaiah 6:9-10 and Matthew 13:14-15). He reminds them how they had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, yet their clothes had not worn out or their sandals had not worn down. They had not made their own food or drink, but the Lord had provided for them (see Exodus 16-17). When enemies came out against them, the Lord delivered them in battle (see Numbers 21). The Lord had been with them, and Moses wanted the people to see and to recognize His presence and influence in their lives. Thus they were to keep the covenant that the Lord had laid out before them, that they might be a special people to Him, knowing the way of righteousness through the law.
Moses goes on to remind them how they were lead out of the land of Egypt with great signs and wonders, and how the Lord had shown Himself to be God in the presence of the false gods and idols of the land when He brought His people out. This reminder was for the children of Israel to remember when they went into the land and saw all the false gods and idols of the nations there, so that they would know who God is and not follow after those other gods. If they did, Moses relates to them the punishment that could come from their God, the curse that was written in the law (see Deuteronomy 28 for example). Then, if they forsake the Lord and the destruction of the Lord comes upon them, people would ask what these people did to cause the great anger of the Lord. The answer would be shown that they had abandoned this covenant with the Lord.
The covenant was reestablished with them between God and all who were present, the elers, officers, men of Israel, their children and wives, and the sojourners in the land, and not with them only, but with those who were not there that day of the people of Israel and all who live in the land. Their covenant with the Lord was not temporary, as it was for them and their generations. It would seem they needed constant reminder of the covenant that the Lord had made with them, as will become apparent as their history unfolds. We too need constant reminder of the covenant that we have with out God (see Hebrews 8-10), for we as humans tend to be forgetful.
1. The promise of forgiveness: As Moses continues on with his preparation, he relays to the people of Israel the promise that the Lord gives them about His forgiveness. God knows that the people were going to abandon Him time and again, but He displays His love and mercy here by giving them the promise of forgiveness if they return to Him with their whole heart. When the anger of the Lord comes upon them because of their disobedience and apostasy and then they turn their hearts and return to the Lord, He would gather them back from being scattered and circumcise their hearts that they would love the Lord their God with all their soul, granting them life. He would put the curse that was on them on their enemies, and make them more numerous than their fathers. See the love that the Lord has for His people here, knowing that they would go astray, and yet still offering forgiveness and blessing upfront if they return. This promise is very significant, especially during the time of Babylonian captivity, as Nehemiah goes back to this promise when he is praying for the scattered exiles in Nehemiah 1. This is a constant characteristic of God to show mercy and forgiveness to those who returned to Him with their heart, as this is seen throughout Israel’s history and prophecy. We must remember that God’s promises do not rely on our ability to keep His righteousness, and we should be very thankful for this. The steadfast love of the Lord is consistently praised throughout the psalms, as it should continue today.
2. The choice given: In the second portion of this passage, the choice is laid out before the children of Israel. The Lord had set before them life and good, and death and evil. He had put before them a blessing and a curse. A blessing if they chose to follow in the way of the Lord, and a curse if they abandoned Him. The choice was theirs. From the beginning, the Lord has always given mankind a choice; in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given a choice with the tree of knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 3). This choice is granted to us because of our free will, which is essential for the concept of love. We cannot love without free will, and we cannot have free will without a choice. Here, the children of Israel were given a choice, and they are encouraged to choose life, that they and their children might live and be blessed by their Lord. We too have the choice given to us by the Father. What will you choose?
The commissioning of Joshua: As the time of Moses’ death is drawing near, for he was told that he was not to lead the people into the land of promise because of the incidence at the waters of Meribah (see Numbers 20:2-13), Moses made it known to the whole assembly that Joshua the son of Nun, one of the two spies who had faith in the Lord when they spied out the land of Canaan (see Numbers 13-14), was to lead the people after his death. He encourages him to be strong and courageous, for the Lord would fight on their side, just as He had done in the wilderness when enemies came out against them (see Numbers 21). This passage shows the importance of training and setting up leaders to come after a strong leader moves on, so that the next generation have guidance and continuity. Moses also sets up an appointed, recurring time for the law to be read in the hearing of the assembly, so that it would ever be on their minds, that they might hear and do the things written therein.
After making it known to the assembly who would lead them after he was gone, the Lord tells Moses to bring Joshua in privately to the tent of meeting so that He may commision him. As they were in the tent, the pillar of cloud which was the presence of God filled the tent. Joshua does not receive good news, or all that encouraging of a message for someone who was just starting out as a leader of the people, however. He is told that the children of Israel would indeed fall away from their God when they entered the land, and they would whore after other gods and break the covenant that the Lord had made with them. The anger of the Lord would be kindled against them when these things happened and He would hide His face from them. This seems to be a word of preparation to Joshua, and he is given a song to learn and teach to the people as a witness against them when they do fall away. The song will be laid out in the next chapter, but it would be a testimony to the covenant that the people had made with God and subsequently broken. The song would be taught to them so that no man would be able to say that they didn’t know what they were doing or that they had no knowledge of the covenant or what the Lord would do if they broke the covenant that they made with Him. The Lord was giving them this song beforehand, so that when it happened, they would have no excuse to make.
Yet Joshua was told to be strong and courageous, for the Lord would be with him. After the words of the law were written in a book, Moses told the Levites to place the book of the law next to the ark of the covenant to be a witness against them, for they were a stubborn and rebellious people. They had been stubborn and rebellious even when Moses was present, thus they would continue surly after he was gone. He gives them the prophecy of their future apostasy, setting up the scene to speak to them the words of the song that would be a witness against them. Let us look to the children of Israel so as not to make the same mistake they would make, for we too have been given the word of the Lord.
Next Reading: Acts 23-24.
Have you choosen life?