In our first post, we were only able to get about to chapter 11. Hopefully, we’ll be able to finish the book in this post.
In the last post, we saw that Moses, forbidden to enter the land himself because of his temper, Deuteronomy 3:23-27, no doubt not helped by the people he led, began some final instructions to them. First, he reviewed the journey they had been on so far, with its battles and blessings. More battles than blessings, though, perhaps. Remember, the people had no spiritual discernment or understanding of the things of God, cf. Deuteronomy 29:4, and no appetite for them. This is why it was easy for them to fall back into grievous sin, and so difficult for them to obey Moses, and ultimately God. Then he began to instruct them as to how they were to live once they finally possessed the land, chs. 12-26.
As we saw, he began by warning them to pay attention to the things of God. They were to have no other god beside Him, nor to associate with the false gods of the land.
Remember, the Mosaic Covenant, which includes the Ten Commandments, but has much more, was given to the nation of Israel, a specific people in a particular historical context, and as such was suited to their nation and their history. True, it is never right to murder, say, whether Jew or Gentile; that is part of the “moral law,” God’s requirements for and expectations of His human creatures. But in the Mosaic Law, this was placed in a certain setting.
Nor can we, as often done, separate the Law into separate parts: the “moral law,” the “civil law,” and the “ceremonial law,” with only the “moral law” being applicable to Christians, the “civil law” being only applicable to the daily life and organization of Israel, and the “ceremonial law,” the rituals and rites of Israel’s worship, having been done away with at the Crucifixion. These three sections are tightly woven together, and you cannot separate one strand from the other without destroying the whole thing. More than once, Moses told the people, “For every commandment which I command you this day you must be careful to observe…,” Deuteronomy 8:1; “You shall walk in all the ways the LORD your God commanded you…, Deuteronomy 5:33. I heard a Reformed pastor, like many folks, once say that we ought to keep the Sabbath, “but if you have to work at Burger King on Sunday, we understand.” The Law didn’t. I’m not even going to get into the confusion brought in by calling Sunday “the Sabbath.”
The Ten Commandments may well be considered a summary of the Moral Law, but Sinai was not the first, the last, nor the only time God spoke. Even before Moses, there was a lot of revelation, though we only get glimpses of it. For example, in Genesis 26:5, God testified of Abraham, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Abraham lived a long time before Moses. If there was no revelation before Moses, then what are the “statutes,” etc., to which God refers.
And after Moses, there was abundant revelation, right up to and including the New Testament. To focus the Christian life on 17 verses out of Exodus, it seems to me, is to ignore or at least to minimize that revelation. And, remember, those 17 verses were addressed to people brought…out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
The New Testament repeats nine of the Ten Commandments, only the fourth is omitted. Though there is much more that could be said about this, that is because our “rest” is not found in a day of the week, but in the person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Beginning in chapter 12, our study is loosely grouped into the following categories:
1. Principles of worship, 12:1-14-29.
Israel was in no way to worship or think of their God as the Canaanites did. There was to be a central place of worship and prescribed times for that place to be visited. This would unite them as a people and help keep them from being tempted by pagan practices.
They weren’t to follow pagan practices in mourning their dead. In our sanitized society, few of us have seen a dead person. Not so in ancient Israel. They had no mortuaries, but buried their own dead.
Even their diet was regulated. Most of the things forbidden came from animals which were scavengers, but it wasn’t only a matter of “health,” but of holiness, hence the reference to “clean” and “unclean” throughout these instructions. The phrase boiling a kid in his mother’s milk refers to pagan fertility practices.
Even “tithing” was part of worship. It was the recognition that God gives us everything and we are returning only a part to Him. Cf. Deuteronomy 8:18.
2. Principles in money matters, ch. 15.
Perhaps the idea of tithing led into this, but God had some things to teach Israel about handling their money. There are some things we could learn. For example, debt was NOT to be a way of life. Certainly, there were no 30-year mortgages. Debts were to be released, cancelled, every seven years. The poor were to be taken care of, not as a “government program” of taxing the “rich,” but of local folks and families taking care of their own. There was no “welfare system” in Israel. If a poor Israelite had no way of paying his debts, he could “sell” himself, but only for seven years. There were no “bankruptcies” in Israel.
3. Principle “Feasts,” ch. 16:1-17.
These three feasts or festivals were designed to unite the nation. It was during these festivals that much of our Lord’s teaching happened.
4. Principles of Justice, chs. 16:18-26:15.
Though there was no “judicial system” as we understand it, every town was to have qualified men set aside to administer law. They were to be strictly impartial and altogether just.
Prohibition against idolatry and false gods are scattered throughout the Mosaic laws. “Religion” was not to be confined to a “service” or two, but was to be part and parcel of every day’s activities. This is to say nothing of the terrible degradation of pagan practices or the errors introduced by them.
Something else, no criminal was ever to be released due to a “technicality.” If there was ever a discussion about degrees of bloodguiltiness at the local level, the case could be appealed to the priests at the Tabernacle or, later, the Temple. If necessary, the priest could consult with the Urim and Thummin, which were always used to discover the Lord’s will in a particular situation, cf. Ezra 2:62, 63. By the way, there are only a few references to these two items in Scripture and they were always used like this, and never to “translate” a portion of Scripture, as a certain cult claims.
As far as “government” was concerned, there was no level from the greatest to the highest that wasn’t to be “governed” by the Word of God, whether prophet, priest or king, or only one of “the people.
a. There are instructions for each of these.
1. King, 17:14-20.
He was to be one of them, their brother. He was not to accumulate horses. Horses were the “tanks” of their day. This was to prevent military excess. He was forbidden to accumulate wives. Since political alliances were often cemented by marriage between two countries or kingdoms, this was designed to prevent political excess or an introduction of paganism. He was not to accumulate silver and gold. This was to prevent economic excess. Heavy taxation was the main reason the kingdom split into two in the days of Rehoboam. He was to write his own copy of the Law and was to read it all the days of his life. This was to prevent personal moral excess.
Solomon is a great example of what happens when one failed in these areas, as he did in all of them.
2. Priests and Levites, 18:1-8.
Priests and Levites were to be “full-time.” Nothing was to hinder them in this, so provision was made for them from the offerings of the people. The principle was that those who serve the altar should live of the altar, 1 Corinthians 9:13. Paul applies this principle to the New Testament, Even so has the Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:14, though he himself refused to partake of this right, vs. 15-23. Certainly, this right is not to be abused, with preachers expecting to “live well,” or, on the other hand, by those who think they should pay the pastor as little as possible. Bible study, prayer and preparation take a lot of time if done properly and if at all possible pastors should be given that time
3. The people, 18:9-14.
When they got into the land, the people were not to be influenced by the culture of the land, nor to learn to follow the abominations of those nations. I realize I’m just an old fogey, but I wonder what the Lord thinks of the Hollywood-style “worship services” of modern churchianity.
4. Prophets, 18:15-22.
In vs. 15-19, the Lord promised a Prophet like Moses. In Acts 3:22, 23, this prophecy is said to be about the Lord Jesus. His is the ultimate voice, through the Scriptures, that is to be heard in the church. Too often, we quote this man or that man as an “authority,” and I understand what that means, but too often, we don’t pay proper attention to the final authority – the Word of God. Cf. Acts 17:11.
In vs. 20-22, God warns against false prophets, those who spoke without God calling them, or who prophesy in the name of other gods, those who prophesy…a false vision,…and the deceit of their own heart, Jeremiah 14:13-15. Such men made those who heard them “worthless,” Jeremiah 23:16, 17. They were to be killed, Deuteronomy 13:5. In the New Testament, we have no such command, but we do have 1 John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. See also Galatians 1:6-10.
b. cities of refuge, 19:1-13.
Though we’ve dealt with these cities before, there’s still much that could be said.
The Law’s idea of “justice” is interesting. There were no “jails” provided for under the Mosaic system. True, there are a couple of much later references to “prison,” but these seem to have been places in private dwellings, and certainly were not the sprawling institutions housing hundreds or thousands of felons we have today.
The “debt” of the wrongdoer was not to “society,” but to his victim. “Rehabilitation” did not consist of housing the felon at taxpayer expense, but in requiring him to make restitution, often at double, fourfold or fivefold the amount he had stolen or destroyed. If he injured someone, he was required to make that person “whole” himself, Exodus 21:18-20. It wasn’t up to some hospital to write off the expense.
c. property lines, 19:14.
This is only one verse, but it is important. At the leading of God, men of old had set markers which determined property lines, Numbers 26:52-56, so it was forbidden to move one of these markers, Deuteronomy 19:14. Indeed, a “curse” was pronounced against those who did so, Deuteronomy 27:17. The “right to private property” is not some radical new “right-wing” idea, but comes from God Himself.
d. witnesses, 19:15-21.
“Justice” requires the knowing of all facts about a particular case. Diligent inquiry was to be made, v. 18, and more than one witness was required. This principle is repeated several times in Scripture. A false witness was to be punished according to what he tried to do to the person he accused, and there was to be no pity, v. 21. Such a practice today would go a long way toward cutting down the number of fraudulent and frivolous law-suits clogging the courts today.
e. warfare, ch. 20
Israel was given a specific tract of land of her own and was not to go beyond those boundaries. She was never to attempt to be a “world-wide” power like Assyria, Babylon or Rome. Still, war was a reality and several things are said about it in this chapter.
1. She was not to be afraid of “superior” numbers in her enemies. She was always to remember what God had done to Egypt, when she herself had no power at all. A common saying in our time is, “God plus one is a majority.” The truth is, God by Himself is a majority. God didn’t need even one soldier to defeat Israel’s enemies, cf. 2 Kings 19:35. He doesn’t “need” us; we need Him!
2. Israel was never to be a militaristic people. Still, Israel had enemies, but bven in times of warfare, there were certain exclusions and prohibitions. If a house had not been “dedicated,” that is, set apart in a solemn manner, it’s owner was exempt. Everything is Israel, even a humble dwelling, was to be a reminder of God. If a person hadn’t yet enjoyed the product of his vineyard, he was exempt. If he was engaged, he was exempt. If he was afraid, he was exempt, cf. Judges 7:1-3.
If there was war, an offer of peace was to be made to an enemy city, vs. 10-14. If it agreed, then it became tributary to Israel. If it refused, but was determined to make war with Israel, it sealed its own fate.
There was a distinction between cities which were far off and the cities in the land. Cities in the land were not to be spared in any way, lest their idolatry and immorality became a source of sin against the LORD your God, v. 18.
The exemption against using fruit trees in a siege seems strange, but God has more sense than we do. These trees provided food. In their thirst for victory, when the adrenaline gets high, men tend to get carried away.
f. unsolved murder, 21:1-9.
Every attempt was to be made to solve a murder. If this wasn’t possible, then the elders of the nearest city were to offer a sacrifice to atone for the shedding of innocent blood. Life was precious in Israel and the people were to be very afraid of the guilt of innocent blood, Deuteronomy 19:10. Indeed, it was innocent blood which was one of the reasons for the final dissolution of the nation, 2 Kings 21:16; 24:4.
g. female war prisoners, 21:10-14.
Some are offended at these verses, but surely these provisions were better than the usual treatment of such women, who were and are subjected to all sorts of terrible atrocities and then thrown aside or murdered.
h. inheritance rights, 21:15-17.
Since the “firstborn” had special claim on the inheritance from his father, care was taken that that claim was not infringed if he were the son of an unloved wife if there were sons of a loved wife.
i. rebellious sons, 21:18-21.
Parental authority was insisted on, because it’s in the home that we first learn about such a thing. It’s a terrible thing when this is not taught or is frowned upon, as it is in this society, because then children grow up with the idea that they are all-important. We see the results of this philosophy in the chaos among young people in our culture.
j. miscellaneous laws, 21:22-22:12.
These covered a variety of situations and, even though they’re not written as we would, there’s still food for thought. Included are such things as the burial of an executed criminal’s body, 21:22, 23. He had paid his debt and his remains were not to have abuse heaped on them. Lost property was to be restored to its rightful owner or kept aside if the owner couldn’t be found, 22:1-4. There was no “finders keepers, losers weepers” in Israel. Property rights were respected. The distinction between male and female was not to be blurred, 22:5. Even a bird’s nest with a mother was considered, 22:6, 7. The eggs could be taken, but she was to be let go. She would provide more eggs. Safety on the flat roof of a house, which served as the “patio,” was considered, v. 8. Note the reference to bloodguiltiness. Genetic integrity was to be maintained, though it’s not described like this, v. 9 . God made everything to reproduce according to its kind, Genesis 1, and His order is not to be tampered with. Things like the difference in the gaits of an ox and a donkey and the differences between wool and linen were to be taken into account, vs. 10, 11. Note the application which could be made, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. Tassels on the hem of a garment were a constant reminder of Israel’s covenant relationship with God, v. 12, cf. Numbers 15:37-41. You see, everything in the life of an Israelite was to remind him of his God, and even though these things might seem like excessive regulation to us, they all served to remind the devout Jew of the source of all his blessings and even of his life itself.
l. sexual purity, 22:13-30.
Israel was to be a pure people. This may be seen from the numerous prohibitions against the moral excesses of the surrounding nations. This section deals with two particular cases which I don’t think are mentioned elsewhere.
The first deals with protection of a woman’s reputation from a husband who hated her, vs. 13-21. Virginity may be scoffed at in our society, but it was a precious thing in Israel. A charge brought falsely against a woman was a serious thing, and was taken seriously. We may not understand all that’s said in these verses, but the modern notion that “it’s just sex” would never have been accepted in that culture.
The second section deals with punishment for immorality, vs. 22-30, and is self-explanatory.
m. exclusions from the camp, 23:1-8.
Some of these restrictions come from Israel’s history. The exclusion of the “emasculated” perhaps refers to those who had been punished for adultery or sodomy. Such practices were known in the Middle Assyrian Empire between the 10th-14th Century BC. The Assyrians were known for their extreme cruelty. By this exclusion, such practices were forbidden to Israel. The restriction against illegitimacy was based on the fact that inclusion in the nation was based on lineage/paternity. It also emphasized the importance of “family” and was a protection against immoral behavior.
n. cleanliness of the camp during warfare, 23:9-14.
Strange as these things might seem, it was not just a matter of “health,” but of “holiness,” because the LORD walked among His people, v. 14. Our grandparents’ saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” might be closer to the truth than we realized.
o. more miscellaneous laws, 23:15-25.
1. An escaped slave was not to be returned to his master, but was to be allowed to remain free, vs.15, 16. Some today are offended at the idea of slavery at all, but, as I write these words, it’s still very common in parts of our world. It always has been. That doesn’t make it “right,” of course, but in the various verses dealing with slavery in the Law, the plight of the slave is made a little better.
In our own country, in spite of those still agitating about it, we fought a great civil war in which half a million young men, on both sides, were killed. There have been no slaves for generations, yet some still make a good living fomenting strife about it.
2. Perverted religious practices of any kind, common in pagan religions, were strictly forbidden, vs. 17, 18. Even money associated with such things was not to be used to pay vows to the LORD.
3. Interest was not to be charged in loans to fellow Israelites, your brother, though it could be charged to others, vs. 19, 20.
4. “Vows” to the LORD were not to be taken lightly, but were to be honored, vs. 21-23. Promises made in time of trouble are to be kept when the trouble was over.
5. Eating from another’s crops, vs. 24, 25. An example of this is found in Matthew 12:1; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1. Perhaps this was more a provision for the poor than it was for ordinary citizens, though they were also permitted to do this.
p. A specific case of divorce and remarriage, 24:1-4.
This isn’t about marriage and divorce in general, but deals with a specific case where a man or woman was divorced, had remarried and then divorced that second spouse. They could then not remarry the first spouse. Though the NT gives further instructions on the subject of marriage and divorce, it still isn’t to be the “revolving door” many have made it in our time.
q. more miscellaneous laws, 24:5-26:15.
1. the newly married, 24:5.
What a strange idea…. The new husband was exempt from most other obligations, not so he could take it easy or go fishing, but rather he was to be free at home one year and bring happiness to his wife, whom he had taken, emphasis added. We men are pretty good at expecting her to be “subject” to us, and that’s a whole other post and does not mean what it’s often said to mean! but we’re not so good at our responsibility toward her. It is very high, Ephesians 5:25.
2. collateral, v. 6.
The lower or upper millstone refers to the grinding of grain to make flour. It was a necessity. The idea was that nothing could be used as collateral and taken from the debtor which was necessary for him to be able to repay the debt.
3. kidnapping, v. 7.
A death-penalty sin and not to be tolerated. As we’ve said, there were no jails in Israel.
4. Leprosy, vs. 8, 9.
This term covered a number of skin diseases including leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as we know it. Israel didn’t have the technology to tell them all apart, so quarantine was the only safe alternative. It was also a type or figure for sin, and much has been said and could said about that aspect. The incident with Miriam is found in Numbers 12.
5. Collateral, vs. 10-13.
The lender was not to ride rough-shod over the borrower, but was to treat him with a certain dignity and restraint.
6. Equitable treatment of employees, vs. 14, 15.
Though our system is different, the paying of employees was to be timely. There’s a great deal that could be said about this as well, on both sides of the picture, cf. Ephesians 6:5-9.
7. Judicial equity, v. 16.
Israel was not to be like some nations, in which the whole family was put to death for the crime of one of them.
8. Consideration for the needy, vs. 17-22.
They were not to be treated like a political football, as some do in our time, nor were they to be taken advantage of. Their needs were to be considered, though, as Scripture points out several places, some effort might be required on their part, too.
9. Punishment of the guilty, 25:1-3.
The Jews would give thirty-nine stripes to avoid breaking this law, cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24.
10. Treatment of work animals, v. 4.
Even animals were to be “paid” for their labor. Paul refers to this verse in 1 Corinthians 9:9-11.
11. Marriage to a widow by a surviving brother of her husband, vs. 5-10.
This was to insure the perpetuation of his name and the preservation of his line within the tribe. Cf. Numbers 36:1-11, especially v. 3. This portion of Deuteronomy is the “law” referred to by the Pharisees in Matthew 22:23-33.
12. Immodesty, vs. 11, 12.
Such actions were not permitted, even for a “good cause.”
13. Accurate weights and measures, vs.13-16. Cf. Micah 6:10, where a “short measure” is called an abomination. This doesn’t refer to “length,” but to a quantity of something – a piece of cloth, an amount of an item – that was less than it was said to be.
God is a God of truth, even in “business”.
14. “Remember…Amalek,” vs. 17-19.
This refers strictly to an incident in Israel’s history, Exodus 17:8-14, and is not to be used by us in any way. If anything, our Lord taught us differently, Matthew 5:43-48. It does remind us that those who oppose God’s people ultimately oppose God Himself, and that He will take care of it in His own time.
15. Offering of “firstfruits,” 26:1-11.
This was to be a reminder to the Jew of Israel’s history before and up to her deliverance from Egypt and of the blessings of Promised Land, vs. 1-10. It was also to be a time of rejoicing. The Christian has no promise of material blessing, but how much more we have in Christ that is cause of rejoicing and gratitude! Cf. Ephesians 1:3-14.
16. “The Year of Tithing,” vs. 12-15.
Malachi 3:10 is not the only verse in the OT about tithing, but it’s about the only one I’ve ever heard preached on, usually with the idea that we’re to tithe to the church. Our Lord taught about tithing because He lived under a Law that required it, but the apostle Paul, who taught with our Lord’s authority, only mentioned tithing once, and that was not in a favorable light. In the OT, tithing was an individual and local obligation to take care of the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled. Granted, Israel got into a lot of trouble when she failed in this regard, but “tithing” as such has nothing to do with the Christian. I recognize my view is not in agreement with a lot of what is taught, but our obligation is higher, and isn’t just about “giving to the church.” 2 Corinthians 9 has something to say about this, even though it’s about a specific gift that was being made ready for the poor saints in Jerusalem. It has some useful principles for us in our “giving”.
Having reflected on Israel’s history between their leaving Egypt and their arriving at the border of the Promised Land, and reviewing something of what was expected of them when they finally entered it, Moses gives some final instructions –
C. Regarding the “Memorial” and the “Mountains,” chs. 27, 28.
1. The “Memorial,” 27:1-10.
This was simply an unspecified number of large stones, which were to be place on Mount Ebal after the people crossed over the Jordan. They were then to be whitewashed and all the words of this law were to be plainly written on them.
2. The “Mountains,” 27:11-28:68.
The memorial stones, which apparently served as an altar, were to be erected on Mount Ebal. Then all Israel, divided by tribes, were to stand, half in front of Mt. Ebal and half in front of Mt. Gerizim, where they were to listen to the Law being read in a loud voice, and to say, “Amen,” after each provision in it.
Ebal and Gerizim are the mountains forming the sides of the valley in which lay the city of Shechem in what much later became Samaria. They both rise about 800 feet from the valley floor and are so close together that the people could easily have heard the loud voice, v. 27, in which the curses were to be recited. Experiments have proved this. Joshua 9:30-35 records the actual event these verses command.
We now arrive at the second part of the book, in which Moses gives some promises to the people. (I do apologize for what must be the confusing layout of these two posts. This word processing program apparently doesn’t support the kind of outline I use, though I just may not have figured it out. My granddaughter, then 11, showed me how to underline words. Perhaps I should ask her 🙂 ).
2. The Promise Given Through Moses, chs. 29, 30.
A. A Distinct Covenant, 29:1.
Verse 1 introduces a break in the action, if you will, so that chapter 29 isn’t just a continuation of ch. 28. Note well the last phrase in v. 1, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb, emphasis added. (“Horeb” and “Sinai” seem to be used interchangeably.) Of that covenant, we read in Deuteronomy 5:2, where Moses is reviewing the events at Sinai, “The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, those who are alive, emphases added. There must be some reason for Moses to make these distinctions, besides the obvious one that those who were hearing him now were as responsible to obey God as the fathers had been. If there is only “one covenant with many administrations,” as Covenant Theology teaches, wouldn’t the distinctions Moses makes be unnnecessary?
B. Inability, 29:2-5.
Not only in Egypt, but throughout their wanderings and in the defeats of Sihon and Og, Israel had seen, over and over again, God’s dealings on behalf of them. In spite of this, there was no real “understanding” of what was going on. Verse 4 says, “Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.” Moses goes on to say that for 40 years, they had worn the same pair of sandals and the same garments and these items had lasted – for 40 years! In spite of all that, to use an old phrase, Israel was a dumb as a fence post in understanding her responsibility before God. Granted, there were some among them who did “know the Lord,” but for the most part, there was no understanding of what was going on and no real appetite for the things of God. This explains the reason why they so easily and so quickly fell into the sins of those around them, and the sins they knew in Egypt.
Moses uses their past experiences as a motive for his exhortation to them to obey the Word of God, not just as some boring routine, but in order “that you may prosper in all you do.”
C. Purpose, 29:10-28.
1. to prevent departure, vs. 10-18. Israel had seen the abominable practices of the nations they passed by, as well as what they had experiences in the idolatry and paganism of Egypt. Israel was not to do those things, and was not to depart from the true God, a statement repeated over and over again in the Old Testament.
2. to prevent deception, vs. 19-29. No one was to be so foolish as to believe they could get away with departing from the commands of God. Cf. Ephesians 5:1-7, especially v. 6.
D. Intimation, 29:29.
This verse intimates that there was more to what Moses said than is recorded here. There are some secret things in addition to those things which are revealed. Many of these “secret things” are possibly revealed in the rest of the Old Testament and in the New, but even there there are some things which are sealed up, Revelation 10:4. This is why the study of prophecy is so difficult. It’s like trying to visualize a place you’ve never been from the partial descriptions of people who’ve been there.
E. Pessimism, 29:22-30:10.
Throughout the giving of the Law, there is never any indication that Israel will ever live up to her responsibilities. Moses always approaches his subject from the viewpoint that Israel will disobey, not obey. Cf. Deuteronomy 31:27, “For I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD, how much more after my death?” Experience gave him no reason for optimism.
This disobedience will lead to –
1. dispersion, 29:22-29. Note especially the references to the land, vs. 23, 24, 27, 28, and cast…into another land, v. 28. The land itself would be cursed, as well as its inhabitants. Cf. Ezekiel 6:1-7. But, in the midst of all this gloom, there is a ray of hope.
2. deliverance, 30:1-10. It is generally held that the “return” from captivity of v. 3, as well as any other mention of a “return,” is the return from Babylonian captivity spoken of by Ezra, Nehemiah and others. However, notice v. 6 in Deuteronomy 30: “And the LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” I don’t think, even with a casual reading of Ezra and Nehemiah, that this can be said to have happened at the return from Babylon. Therefore, there must be a second captivity and recovery of Israel, cf. Isaiah 11, especially v. 11.
F. Final appeal, 31:11-20.
This is the last of many appeals Moses made to the people. Again and again, he had tried to impress on them the seriousness of what they had seen and heard. It mattered whether or not they would pay attention: “See, I have set before you life and good, death and evil,” v. 15. Then he goes on to describe the results of whichever choice they make.
I think application could be made to us. Too many people seem to have the idea that what happens in church stays in church. That what they hear on Sunday has no bearing on what they do on Monday. This is especially true in much of the social unrest of our day: It’s ok if you believe, just don’t try to put it into practice or expect us to. But it’s true in every area of our lives. Sunday has a great deal to say to Monday.
3. Passing the Torch, 31:1-13.
Moses was getting old. He was 120. Further, he was prohibited from entering the land. For these reasons a new leader was needed.
A. Raising a new leader, 31:1-8.
Joshua, who had been Moses’ assistant for many years, was to be the new leader, v. 3. Numbers 27:18-23 tells us he had already been chosen as Moses’ replacement.
B. Reading the Law Established, 31:9-13.
In these verses, periodic reading of the Law to assembled Israel was commanded. People had no copies themselves, so this was a way for them to hear and learn the Word. It was also to remind them that it didn’t matter whom Israel had for their human leader; it was the LORD Himself Who led them. There is a lesson for us here as well. It’s not the personality or the ability of the pastor that is important; it’s the Word of God faithfully taught. God is pleased to use men to accomplish His will, but it’s a great mistake to make much about the man and forget the God Who uses him.
4. The Last Days of Moses, 31:14-34:12.
A. Prediction, 31:14-29.
Moses and Joshua were to present themselves at the Tabernacle, where the LORD told Moses that he must die, and after his death, the people would depart from the living God and suffer greatly because of it. He was also to write a “song,” as a witness against the apostasy of the people, v 19.
B. Prophetic Song, 31:30-32:47.
This song may yet have some part of the ultimate restoration of Israel. It is a sad and depressing dirge about the intransigence of Israel in their desertion of the true God, who gave them birth, v. 18, and their following of false gods in spite of the blessing He had poured out on them. They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them, v. 28. Such is the lamentation of God about them In spite of their foolishness and wickedness, the song ends,
Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
and make atonement for his land and people, v. 43.
C. Promise to Moses, 32:48-52.
God told him to climb a mountain, from where he would be able to see into the Promised Land though he couldn’t enter. After that, he would die and go to that land for which this world has no comparison.
D. Moses’ Final Blessing, ch. 33.
In these verses, Moses forecasts something of what will happen to 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel, Simeon being excluded from the list, and Ephraim and Manasseh being listed together as Joseph. No reason is given for the exclusion of Simeon.
E. Moses’ Death, Successor and Epitaph, ch. 34.
Moses climbed Mt. Nebo and was shown the whole land – from Gilead to Dan, v. 1. God tells him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob….” The many references to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Scripture form an interesting study, which we can’t get into here. It is something to note its occurrence here, though. Moses was forbidden to enter the land because of a sin; Israel would suffer greatly because of her sin. But these sins do not invalidate the oath – the promise and purpose of God. This is part of the thrust of Hebrews. Even though it may not seem like it, God’s purpose and promise are right on schedule. This is a great comfort. The certainty of what God proposes isn’t dependent on frail, fickle men and women. This gives us no excuse to be less than faithful, but our failings don’t “mess up” God.
V. 6 refers to the LORD’s burial of Moses. His is the only such burial recorded in Scripture, even though no one knows where that site is. Probably this was done to prevent Israel from venerating it. Jude 1:9 records that there was some controversy about the burial. Quite possibly, the devil wanted the body in order to make it an idol for Israel, to get their eyes off the Lord.
Vs. 10-12 give Moses’ epitaph – there was only one like him, whom the LORD knew face to face and who performed such miracles in Egypt and brought about such deliverance of the people.
We are blessed in that we know of One who was greater than Moses, who didn’t just talk face to face with the LORD, but who was the LORD. Christmas is just around the corner, as shown by the Christmas ads already on TV and in the papers. In all the hoopla and celebration, in all the family gatherings, don’t forget that that little manger testifies to the fact that we are so sinful and lost that we can do nothing to rescue ourselves. God Himself must intervene if we are to be saved.
I’m thankful He did.