Deut. 4:44–34:12. The old warrior is finally laid to rest.
Deut. 4:44–34:12. The old warrior is finally laid to rest.
Israel’s long journey to the Promised Land was almost over. It had been a long, long journey to get to this point. All the way from slavery in Egypt, to Sinai (where they received the law and the covenant), to Kadesh (where they got cold feet), to 40 years in the desert (where most of the adults died), to Edom (where they were turned away), to Moab (where they were turned away again), to the land of the Amorites (where the fought King Sihon), to the kingdom of Bashan (where the fought King Og), to Midian (where they fought the Midianites), and then all the way back to the Canaan’s border…where the Israelites now prepared themselves for the long awaited invasion. The Israelites had been through a lot. And while they had experienced many victories, they’d also experienced more than their fair share of defeats, disappointments, and sad times. And unfortunately, before the Israelites could cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, they were going to have to go through one more sad time…the death of their fearless leader, Moses.
Now remember kidzos that Moses had known for a long time now that he would never step foot in the Promised Land. Remember the whole hitting the rock thing? Yah. And now that they were just about to cross into Canaan…well…that meant that Moses’ time was up. Of course, Moses sure wanted to go with the Israelites into the Promised Land. I mean, think about all that the Moses had been through with them and how long he had stuck with them…even when God had offered to take them off his hands. For all the grief that they’d given him, the Israelites were like Moses’ children. And he was worried what would happen to them once he was gone. Who was going to take care of them? Who was going to guide them? Who was going to help them to avoid making more disastrous mistakes? So, even though he probably already knew the answer, Moses decided to ask God if He would change His mind and let Him go with the Israelites into Canaan. And Moses said to God, “O Lord God, you have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.” (Deut. 3:24-25 NKJV).
But…the answer was exactly what Moses expected. And God replied to Moses and said, “Speak no more to Me of this matter. …You shall not cross over this Jordan.” (3:26-27) Unfortunately, God couldn’t give Moses mercy on this one. You see, one of the reasons that Moses had had such a hard time with the Israelites over the years is that they thought that Moses was God’s favourite. God always did what Moses asked, God seemed to bless whatever Moses did…so many of them felt that God was more Moses’ God than their God. And to make sure that the Israelites understood that God doesn’t play favourites, and to make sure that the Israelites took God’s word through Moses seriously, God had to follow through with Moses’ punishment. It was a hard lesson, but one that the Israelites would take to heart. And from that point on, Moses never mentioned it again, he fully accepted his fate, and turned his attention to preparing the Israelites for the days ahead.
Now, the first thing that Moses needed to do to get the Israelites prepared for the days ahead was to decide who was going to be the next leader. And Moses said to God, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” (Num. 27:16-17) And God replied to Moses and said, “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. And you shall give some of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.”(27:18-19) Joshua, one of only two adults who had survived the 40 years in the wilderness, had kinda been like Moses’ helper over the years, and had worked closely with Moses and had learned a lot from him. And with God’s blessing, it was time for Joshua to step up. And Moses called together all the Israelites, put Joshua in front of the high priest, laid his hands on Joshua, and in front of everybody he named Joshua as the leader of Israel.
And with the leadership of Israel firmly on Joshua’s shoulders, Moses had only one more big thing to do…to leave the Israelites with some…reminders. If you kidzos will remember, God’s punishment to the generation of Israelites that had come out of Egypt was that all the adults would die in the wilderness over 40 years. And so they had. But this meant that hardly any of the Israelites who were now about to enter the Promised Land had ever been in Egypt, had ever been a slave, had seen the plagues…they hadn’t been there when God spoke the 10 commandments, and they hadn’t been there when God made his covenant with Israel. For most of the Israelites, these were things that had happened way off in the distant past. For us, it would be like as if these things happened in the 80’s…way back when your parents were maybe just little kids and your grandparents were young. That was a long time ago…ancient history…right kidzos? Yah!
So, knowing that this is kinda how people work, Moses decided that before leaving them that he would help the Israelites remember where they’d come from, to remember what promises they had made to God, and he also gave them some new commands just to make sure that the Israelites had every chance of doing well in the Promised Land. (And by the way kidzos, this is basically what the entire book of Deuteronomy is about. So, if you want to learn more about this than what Papa is going to talk about here, then go check out Deuteronomy.)
And so Moses got up in front of the people, and began, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgements which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.” (5:1-3) Then Moses reminded them that they had been slaves in Egypt, and that God had worked wonderful and terrible miracles on their behalf to bring them out. The Israelites were not to think that they had been some kind of a great people back when they were in Egypt, saying, “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers…” (7:7-8)
Moses reminded them that God had came down on Mt. Sinai, and had spoken to them directly…and that it had been such a terrifying sight that they had asked Moses to go talk to God one-on-one. And he went over the 10 commandments. And he reminded them of the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (6:5) He reminded them not to worship false gods, saying, “for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods;” (12:31) And he reminded them that God had also given them statues and judgements which they were to obey.
He told them that they were to stay a separate and unique people, and that when they went into Canaan and that they were not to get married to the people they found there. “You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods.” (7:4) He told them that they needed to take care of the poor. “The poor will never cease from your land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and our needy, in your land.’” (15:11) He told them that judges were to decide things fairly. “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality (that is to say, judges shouldn’t have favourites), or take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” (16:19)
Moses told them to make sure they don’t do the same things that the people in Canaan were doing…which was why they were being kicked out in the first place. “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass the through the fire(that is to say sacrifice their children by burning them in front of an idol…yikes!), or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out before you.” (18:9-12)
And Moses told them all kinds of other things. About tithing, about divorce, about false prophets, about how to keep rich people from getting too rich and poor people from getting too poor, about how they weren’t supposed to make any agreements with the people who lived in Canaan, about how to conduct war, he even told them about how to keep the camp clean. And in order to make sure that the Israelites didn’t keep on forgetting all these things, Moses told them, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (6:7) …and make sure you listen to Papa’s Bible Stories too…haha…just kidding! And then finally, Moses left them with a choice. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” (30:19)
And with that, the old leader turned from the people, and the Bible says that Moses, “went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho.” (34:1) And from there God gave Moses one last blessing. Even though Moses wouldn’t cross into the Promised Land, God would show it to him. And the Bible says that God, “showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zohar.” (34:1-2) So even though Moses wouldn’t go to the Promised Land himself, through God’s miracle he at least got to see it. Then, like a tired warrior, Moses laid down to rest. “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor.” (34:5-6)
And so we come to the end of Moses’ life. And what a life it was kidzos. From being born in Egypt when they were killing Israelite babies, to floating down the Nile in a basket, to being adopted by the Egyptian royal family, to being a prince, to being a shepherd in Midian for 40 years, to leading the God’s people out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. Moses had been a warrior, a prophet, a leader, and a writer. He remains the only prophet in the Bible who knew God “face to face”. And now he was gone. What was going to happen? How would the Israelites do without Moses? Would the Israelites continue to follow God? Would they continue to follow Moses’ commands? Would they abide by the covenant? Would they follow Joshua? Would they conquer Canaan? Well, we will find out all about it next time.