Deuteronomy is Moses’ Swansong

February 22, 2018 at 9:35 AM

The opening chapters of the book of Deuteronomy are very interesting. Reading it through quickly will cause a great deal of information to be missed. It’s important to slow down and read His Word for meaning, not what we want to get out of it, but what God is telling us about Himself. Imagine if we approached every page of Scripture with this mindset? How much more would we come to appreciate and know God?

Deuteronomy 1 starts with these words, “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness…” (v. 1 ESV). Deuteronomy is the last book of the Pentateuch (five books) and likely the last one Moses wrote (though numerous biblical scholars also believe he wrote the book of Job). In this book, Moses is preparing the Israelites to go into the Land that God had originally promised Abraham, their father. It has taken a good while to get this point. From Abraham came the promised son, Isaac, (not Ishmael as Islam would have us believe, though he too was blessed by Jehovah because of his direct connection to Abraham). From Isaac came Jacob (who later became Israel). From Jacob came his twelve sons, who also became the patriarchs of the nation of Israel.

Many years had gone by from the time God first spoke to Abraham to the time when Jacob’s twelve sons were young men. We know the story of how eleven of these sons dealt treacherously with the twelfth son, Joseph; how they sold him into slavery, how he was falsely accused, sent to prison, languished there for several years, and then eventually was appointed the second in command over all Egypt, just under the Pharaoh of that time.

After Joseph died, the people who came from Joseph and the other Patriarchs prospered and grew into a multitude. However, after the Pharaoh during Joseph’s time died, a new Pharaoh came in who didn’t “know” of (deliberately chose to ignore), Joseph. This Pharaoh looked around and saw the multitude of Hebrews and became alarmed. He felt the only way to keep them in check was to enslave them. For over 400 years, the Hebrews were treated contemptuously by Egyptian leaders.

Interestingly enough, though this treatment of the Hebrews was sanctioned by God Himself, the Egyptians would be held accountable for their actions. God used their enslavement to bring them to a point of yearning to be free. We know He did this eventually through Moses, who initially did not want the job at all.

Through ten plagues rained down upon the Egyptians, God showed His might and eventually, the Egyptians “might” was shattered when the plague of the death of all first-born hit Egypt. The Hebrews were not only allowed to leave, but were encouraged to do so and the Egyptians couldn’t wait to get rid of them, even generously donating gold, silver, and other valuable items to them to help them move along. In this way, the Hebrews “plundered” the Egyptians without violence (Exodus 12:36).

So, the journey begins from Egypt for the Hebrews. You’re likely familiar with the journey itself including all the missteps by the Hebrews as they grumbled, complained, and rebelled against Moses’ leadership and ultimately God’s. Yet God persevered with them because of His great love for them. They had not chosen God. He had chosen them and would fulfill His promises that He had made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob whether the Hebrews – now the Israelites – wanted those promises fulfilled or not.

It took time to get through the wilderness to the edge of the Promised Land. God had predetermined that the Land described to Abraham originally would be His gift to His nation, where they were supposed to live in a such a way as to be a true light to all other nations. Unfortunately, we know this did not occur and there was more rebellion and testing of God than any real victories, though there were some of those as well, when the people chose to listen to Moses (or later Joshua).

However, when the Israelites came to the borders of the Promised Land, 12 spies were sent into the Land literally to see what they could make of it. They were also told to bring back samples of the Land that flowed with milk and honey. This descriptive phrase is not taken literally of course. It is poetic in nature, a figure of speech that speaks of the accolades of that Land and how rich it was, able to provide the Israelites with food beyond measure. In essence, the Land would supply all their needs if they remained faithful to God. If not, God would eventually and temporarily throw them out of it.

The spies returned and only two as you know had a good report; Joshua and Caleb. The other ten literally put God to the test, decrying His ability to save them or fight for them. People wonder why God was simply going to give this Land to a foreign nation when there were already numerous culture groups that lived and thrived in the Land. How could God do this? Why would He use Israel to eradicate these people who were simply living life there?

The answer of course is in the fact that these cultures had desecrated the Land with their idolatrous worship and depraved practices. God had grown tired of it and chose to remove them. Is God allowed to do that? Absolutely, considering He is not only the Creator of this world (as we spoke of in our last article on Colossians 1), but He continues to own the world. He never lost ownership of it. He is God. He is King. He is sovereign. He does what He chooses to do. Who will stop Him or turn Him this way or that?

Because of the problems created by the ten spies, God forbid the Israelites from entering into the Promised Land at that time. The nation was forced to wander in the wilderness for forty more years before they would again have another chance to decide whether or not they would obey God or rebel.

So for forty years, they wandered until every man from that sinful generation aged 20 and up, fell (died) in the wilderness. God had sworn (literally, promised), that not one of them would enter into the Land. That promise was kept.

Now, the people are again at the point where the Land is before them. How will they react? What will they do? Starting in Deuteronomy 1, Moses lays it all out for them. He tells them they’ve spent enough time in the wilderness and they need to go in and take the Land God is giving them. I get the impression that if this new generation of Israelites rebelled, God might have sent them back into the wilderness for another forty years and then tried again. Fortunately, this time, they took the bull by the horns so to speak and trusted God.

But Moses has words of warning for them. He reminds them of everything God did for them and said to them. He also points out that God was angry with him (Moses) because of the people and their constant heckling and complaining. It was bad enough that it caused Moses to sin against God, which resulted in God stating that Moses would not set foot in the Land. He would not lead them in, though he was allowed to go to the nearest hill and see it. Imagine Moses’ frustration, though it was likely tempered with the fact that even though he knew he was to die, he would go to Sheol, a place of paradise.

Deuteronomy 1, 2, and 3 is where Moses relates to the Israelites all that happened and recounts overthrowing and defeating kings like Og and Sihon. Starting with chapter four, Moses reminds the people of their responsibility before God to obey the Law – all of it and at all times. Moses emphasized the fact that the Israelites were to never enter into any form of idolatry. He emphasizes the fact that God alone is God (cf 4:32ff). There is no other. Idols are worthless. They can do nothing. They cannot speak, hear, or even move themselves. They must be created by men, therefore they are not even equal to humanity, yet people worship these things. God is a jealous God.

This is a great time for us to reflect on this area of idolatry. Most people today do not bow down before graven images. We don’t have shrines in our homes and I’m referring to Christians here. I know that those within Buddhism, and other Eastern religions often have some form of shrine in their home or around their home. Moses told the people to not make any type of image of anything that might tempt the people to worship it. This is anathema to God because He alone is to be worshiped.

So since Christians do not generally make and worship any form of graven image, is that it? Is it possible we worship other things that are possibly not tangible? I think honesty forces us to admit that at times, we do place things ahead of God, don’t we? It might be a spouse or other loved one. It might be your car or home. It might be a friendship with someone else. It might be your garden or a million other things.

This is not to say that Christians cannot have likes and dislikes, hobbies and pleasures. But we need to be careful that we are not placing those things ahead of or above our God. If He took something away from us, would we unravel? Would we rebel? Would we be able to live without it?

Certainly, many people face this type of situation with the loss of a loved one or spouse. It is difficult. It is tragic. Grief ensues. God understands that because of our honest love for that person, the loss creates a tremendously sad response. That’s normal. Grieving is normal. What is not normal is anger, lashing out at God, blaming Him for the loss, or thinking that we are being punished by God.

Moses was telling the Israelites not to allow their hearts to be distracted by the many idols that are there to simply tempt us away from God Himself. It is a message that should resonate with all Christians. We need to guard ourselves against all forms of idolatry and it is often different for each person.

Moses emphasizes that God alone is God (Deuteronomy 4:32-40). There is nothing else worth worshiping. Nothing.

I grew up enjoying certain foods that I cannot have today. Just over four years ago – and stop me if you’ve heard this before 🙂 – I weighed 255 pounds, my blood pressure was very difficult to control (even on five different meds), I was always tired, never felt great, my back and joints hurt, I had to use a CPAP machine to sleep due to serious sleep apnea, and in general, I was just miserable. I called out to God begging Him to help me and He did. It has taken a number of years, but I am not 177 pounds, my blood pressure is excellent (with only two small medicine doses), my back no longer hurts nor do my joints, I sleep so much better and my overall health has improved greatly. I no longer use a CPAP machine either.

What has changed? Basically, my entire eating history and lifestyle has changed. I went to an allergist (food as well), and learned what sensitivities I have to certain foods, foods I now avoid. I don’t have wheat (gluten), all dairy, corn (including corn meal), most grains, food with added sugar, processed foods and other things. I am allergic to white potato (so I can have nothing with potato starch).

One might think that a guy who grew up eating pizza and fast food would be in the pits about all this. Initially, I was, but no longer. I have come to realize food is supposed to make and keep me healthy. If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with the food. I avoid those foods that I know can harm me.

I had a choice four years ago. I could’ve ignore all the warning signs and continued to eat the way I had always eaten or I could drastically change my eating habits. I chose the latter. Sometimes, I will think of a food that I used to eat and my mouth will water. Then I will remember what that food did to me and that ends the temptation. Had I continued to eat the wrong things, it would have been because I worshiped those foods; the way they tasted and how satisfying they seemed to me.

Now, I laugh at not only what I eat, but how rich it actually tastes to me. Folks, we all have things in our lives that tend to push God out. We all have areas that we try to hold onto because we are enamored with those things. We need to let them go.

The Israelites had a serious problem with idolatry for many generations before they were able to eliminate it. Even then, they tended to hold onto other things, like the Law itself, and worshiped it, instead of the One who created the Law.

Let’s move in step with God. There is nothing He asks us to do that is too hard for us that He will not help us through. I sometimes marvel at how far God has brought me. I am absolutely amazed at where I was four years ago. My wife still has pictures of me on her phone when I was 255. I’ve asked her never to delete them because they serve as a reminder to me of the obstacles I created for myself with my worship of food and self.

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Eastern Mysticism, emergent church, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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