Day 52: Deuteronomy 3-4; Take care, lest you forget these things…

So continues the memory of the journeys of Israel through the wilderness to the present time, that being the end of the book of Numbers at which Israel has now occupied all the land east of the Jordan River that they will inherit.  Here we see too a small blurb of Moses pleading with God to forgive him and allow him to go into the land.  After over forty years of leading Israel and talking “face to face” with God, He says, “O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?  Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.”  40 years and God has only just begun to show Moses His greatness… what a statement!  Moses has lived what, for most of us would be a majority of our lives, and he feels he has barely scratched the surface of God’s magnificence.  How amazing and how true!!

As he continues in his address to the people of Israel, Moses echoes this statement, reminding the people of the greatness of God.  He says, “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?”  He also reminds them, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children”  This we will expand on tomorrow when we read Deuteronomy 6, but here his point is well taken.  The people of Israel have seen marvels and wonders that an overwhelming majority of people that live on this earth will never see.  Moses says REMEMBER THESE THINGS!!!  And then he reminds them again, “take care, lest you forget these things!”  Again, the continuation of this passage and its importance will become apparent tomorrow, and throughout the whole of the reading of Deuteronomy.

After all this, Moses draw to a conclusion what could be considered the “preamble” to the recitation of the Law.  He has reminded the people of the greatness of God and of His faithfulness to the people.  He has talked about the power and might of God as He has been with them throughout these past 40 or so years.  He concludes with a statement that, I think, impresses upon them and us the foundation for all things: “know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

It is with this in the forefront of our minds that we move forward in remembering the Law…

Day 51: Deuteronomy 1-2; Remembering the Journey

The book of Deuteronomy is largely considered to be a recount of the Journey that Israel took in the wilderness mixed with a rehashing of the law that culminates in Moses’ farewell address to the people of Israel before he dies.  As you were reading this, things may have sounded a bit familiar.  It should be!  These two chapters basically summarized most all of the happenings in the book of Numbers… just without all the laws and stuff.  Moses is taking time to recount the journey that they took.  Why?  I suppose there could be many reasons, but taking a bit of a closer look at these two chapters, I think the old adage “those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it” would apply here.

Let’s look for a moment at the things that Moses emphasizes as he is talking.  There are really two main points I think he is trying to make here: the consequences (good or bad) for Israel’s obedience (or lack thereof) and God’s continuing faithfulness through the whole ordeal.  Moses recounts the situation with the spies that we read about in Numbers 13 and the opposition that the people of Israel had toward going into the land at that time.  He points out that because of this, and then to following disobedience of trying to take the land after God told them no, that an entire generation died, whether by the sword or during the wilderness wanderings.  40 more years passed before the people could enter the land.  Yet even during this time of punishment, or perhaps exile (even though you cannot legitimately be exiled from a land you never had in the first place), God still took care of then and provided for them.  Dispite Israel’s best efforts to make God upset, He is still a faithful and loving God who keeps His word and sustains His people.

Moses then juxtaposes this story with the story of the taking of the land of Moab and the defeat of King Sihon, which we read about in Numbers 21.  In this story everything goes right because the people of Israel do what the Lord tells them.  They trust in God and follow His orders and they utterly vanquish Sihon and take possession of all the land of Moab.  Even here, God is providing for and sustaining the people of Israel while working, in ways that seem a bit more obvious, to fulfill a major part of the covenant He made with Abraham so many years ago.

This story, like that of the entire Bible, is not about the people of Israel, its about God.  God has been faithful and true to the people, unwavering in His steadfast commitment to them.  Despite all of the disobedience, grumbling, general discontent, and ungratefulness, God is still their God.  He has not abandoned them in the wilderness to their golden calf worship or to the plague that killed so many.  God has walked with them and guided them, teaching them to obey and live according to His command.

And now they stand, poised to take the land of Canaan after forty years of wandering…  It is fitting to remember how we got here, and who it is that brought us to this place.  Perhaps this is something we need to practice in our own lives as well?  In all times and in all places, yes, but especially before the big life changes… take a moment to pause and remember the journey and especially the Faithful One, God Almighty, who has walked with you every step of the way.