It has been two weeks since we have had a free day. We have covered a lot of ground in those two weeks. If fact, the last free day found us in the Book of Numbers still. We have traveled through all of Deuteronomy and into the promised land via the book of Joshua. So many things have happened. Now we can stop for a minute and catch our breath. We have read laws and more laws. A covenant has been made and renewed by the people. God will be their God and they will be His people. We have seen the Israelites, who have witnessed God do miraculous and amazing things sin, and fall short. God has reminded them He chose them but not on their own merit. He chose them simply because He loved them. They had never before experienced that love and didn’t quite know what to do with it. Sometimes I think we can’t quite grasp that God loves us either.
We have looked on as God continues to fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The people are now as numerous as the sand and the stars and they are moving closer to entering the promised land. Both Moses and Aaron learned just how demanding leading can be, and how very important obedience to the Lord is. They also learned the cost of being disobedient. God forgives but He does not remove the consequences. The same is true for us today. God gave the borders of the promised land…from the desert to Lebanon, the Mediterranean to the Euphrates River. The land would all be theirs if they were obedient to God’s laws and commands. We see that the Israelites conquered nowhere near this much land. In some cases, they couldn’t even drive out the people in the land they were assigned west of the Jordan.
God reassured His people that He would continue to provide for them but there would be a day the manna stopped. That was the day they set foot in the promised land and began to eat of the land. God promised they would live in cities, towns and houses they did not build. They would harvest grain, olives, and grapes they did not plant, and they would have abundance like they had never seen before. The land would be theirs forever if they would only be obedient and worship God and God alone. That would prove to be a tall order they would struggle to fulfill.
Through all of this God is constant. He continues to love, guide, instruct and forgive His people. God continued to work in and through Moses to reach His people. The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell speech, a mix of history, failures, forgiveness, and instruction. Moses is trying to give the Israelites the best chance he can to be successful in the new land. But ultimately what happens will be up to the people. In these readings we have mourned the death of Miriam, Moses sister who stood on the banks of the Nile River watching over him when he was a baby. We watched as Moses, Eleazar and Aaron ascended Mount Hor. When they arrived, Moses removed the high priestly garments from Aaron and put them on his son Eleazar. Moses and Eleazar came back down the mountain and Aaron was buried by the Lord. The new generation was moving into leadership roles as Israel prepared to move into the promised land. After Moses sang the song of witness the Lord had given him, he blessed the tribes, much like a patriarch would bless his male children before he died.
Joshua was commissioned by Moses and the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel so they would know he was Moses successor. Joshua was reminded several times to be strong and courageous. God would go with him into the promised land.
And then it was time. Moses was 120 years old. His eyes were not weak, and his strength was not gone. He spent 40 years of his life living in Egypt as one of Pharaoh’s household. He spent the next 40 years as a shepherd for his father-in-law in the land of Midian. It was there God called him from a burning but not consumed bush. Moses was to return to Egypt with his brother Aaron to lead God’s people out of slavery and into the promised land. His last 40 years were spent leading the Israelites through the wilderness so they could learn to know the Lord and trust Him. Moses climbed from the plains of Moab up Mount Nebo. The Lord showed him the whole promised land, north to south, east to west. And then Moses, the servant of the Lord died. God buried him and no one knows to this day where.
Already we have seen plenty of action for the Israelites. They have crossed the Jordan River, much like they crossed the Red Sea, with water piled up in a heap on both sides of a dry pathway. Joshua has led the army in fighting the residents of the land, middle, south, and north. Israel has had few casualties because the Lord fought for them. Israel continues to sin, and the Lord continues to forgive and let the Israelites suffer the consequences of their sin.
Through it all we have read stories that are familiar and some that aren’t. We have noticed things we have never seen or remember reading before. And God is present. That is His promise…that He will never leave us or forsake us. Hang on to that. It is the one sure thing we have!
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W