Moses continues with his teaching and reminding. His sentences begin with the words “remember,” or “if you ever forget”, and “be careful to follow every command.” This is serious business that Moses is bringing to the Israelites. In some ways it is life and death for them. Moses had been with these people day and night for 40 years and he knew them well. He knew what their challenges were and where they would be in danger if they are not careful. Chapter 8:3 is one of those verses that we have heard for years and often quote…” man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” This is the verse Jesus quoted when the evil one tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. Matthew 4:1-4. The Word of God is also the bread of God for us today. We feed on Jesus when we feed on the Word of God. God was trying to teach the Israelites to look to Him for daily bread and begin each day meditating on the Word of God.
Many people have three questions they ask -- “What shall we eat?” “What shall we drink?” And “What shall we wear?” The Lord took care of all that for the Israelites as they wandered. They had manna and quail every day. God brought forth water from rocks. And here we read that their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell in all the years of wandering in the wilderness. In all the 40 years and before, God watched over Israel. He provided for them. And now He has an amazing land for them to inherit. Look at what He is giving them. It is a land with streams and pools of water and springs flowing in the valleys and hills. It is a land with wheat and barley. There are vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey. This is a land where bread will not be scarce, and the Israelites will lack nothing. The danger is that the people will become comfortable, expect all the best things and then they won’t want to work for them OR remember that it is the Lord who has blessed them.
And, lest the Israelites get a swollen head because of their preferred status in God’s eyes, Moses reminded them (9:4-6) they did not earn any of this favor. “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going into take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your god is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.” In fact, they are rebellious, and disobedient and on more than one occasion God has wanted to destroy them and start over with Moses. This is also the first time we see the rest of the story with Aaron and the golden calf. Now we learn that God was angry enough with Aaron that He was willing to destroy him as well as the Israelites. There are several places in scripture where we see Moses standing in the gap, praying for the Israelites. But I wonder how many more times that happened that we don’t know about!
The word “hear” is used over 50 times in the Book of Deuteronomy. For God’s people living by faith, we read in the Book of Romans, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17. The Israelites could hear their God but couldn’t see Him, while the pagans could see their gods, but they couldn’t hear them. Moses might have been addressing a new generation, but they needed to hear the warnings and know the issues that got their ancestors in trouble with the Lord. So, Moses recited the failings of the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness, trying to learn to trust the Lord. In Chapter 10:12 Moses began the closing section of this part of his address. In this section he reminded the people why they should obey the Lord their God. This was not a new topic, but it was an important and necessary topic. Moses wanted them to get the message and not forget. Loving obedience to the Lord is the key to every blessing. Jesus often repeated truths He had already shared. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” Philippians 3:1. Not everybody gets the message the first time. Maybe they are distracted or not in the right frame of mind. Maybe they are not paying attention. Perhaps they have selective hearing. These folks didn’t have a Bible to carry around with them. They had to rely on their memory, so repetition was important. And truth be told, it isn’t a bad for us to be reminded either. One of the reasons the people were to remember is because of all God had done…not only for them but in the world as a whole. From creation to the flood, Abraham’s journey to the exodus, God had been busy and involved in the lives of His people. Our God did not create and then leave. He is still an active part of His creation. Like the Israelites, we obey out of covenant faithfulness. For the Israelites it was the covenants made with Abraham, Noah and at Mount Sinai. For us it is the new covenant in the shed blood of Jesus. The last verse of chapter 10 reminds all of us that God keeps His promises. We see here that Abraham’s descendants are as numerous as the stars in the sky, just like God promised they would be!
Chapter 11 is a reminder to the new generation that their children had not seen the things of God they had. They didn’t see the plagues in Egypt or the exodus. They didn’t cross the Red Sea on dry ground with the water heaped up on either side of the people. They never experienced manna and quail and water from a rock. And, they hadn’t seen the glory of God in fire, thunder, lightning and smoke. It was up to this new generation to teach the next, hence the instructions in verses 18-21. It is a repeat of the Shema in chapter 6:4-9. The territory God gave to the Israelites is far greater than they ever possessed but we see again the generosity of God. The land is fruitful and there is abundant water. AND there is opportunity for both blessing and curse, depending on how the people behaved. Any problem that would arise would not be with God or the land. It would be in the hearts of the Israelites. As we watch Moses and the people, there are really two people Moses is concerned about. There are the people he is addressing on that day. And there are the people they will become once they are settled in the promised land.
After the Israelites entered the land and began to conquer it, they were to conduct a special ceremony at Shechem, which is located between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Joshua was to write the words of the law on some large, plastered stones and build an altar. Mount Ebal was to be the mount of curses and Mount Gerizim the mount of blessings. The tribes on Mount Gerizim were to be Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. The remaining tribes would be on Mount Ebal. In the valley between the two mountains Joshua, the priests and Levites and the tribal officers would stand with the ark of the covenant. From that location the Levites would loudly address the people and recite the blessings and curses. After each curse was spoken the people on Mount Ebal would shout, “Amen, so be it, we agree!” After each blessing was read the people on Mount Gerizim would shout, “Amen!”
The priests would offer on the altar on Mount Ebal burnt offerings, symbolizing dedication to God and peace offerings symbolizing fellowship with God. They would eat before the Lord and enjoy a covenant meal. This important ceremony would be a reaffirmation of the covenant which Israel accepted at Mount Sinai and heard a second time in the Plains of Moab in Moses’ farewell address. Moses is doing everything he can to ensure the Israelites will be faithful in their new land. Time will tell if he is successful or not.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.