Walking Through Ephesians
40 Days in the Wilderness
Hear The Lord
Moses’ emphasizes to Israel the need to hear the Lord (Deuteronomy 4). All through this chapter there is the emphasis on listening to God’s word. Moses uses the expression “Take heed” repeatedly. He appeals and he warns. Again, Deuteronomy is Moses’ last letter to Israel. This is a review of what has already been taught. As he closes his life he wants them to remember the importance of what God has said to them. In fact, it is so important that he warns against adding or taking from the word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2).
There was no other nation with whom God was as near as Israel (Deuteronomy 4:7). In spite of what God had done for them they turned from Him to idols.
Why was it so important for Israel to know and obey God? For one thing, it was the guarantee of their success in taking possession of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 4:5). The two times Joshua didn’t seek God’s wisdom the nation experienced humiliating defeat (Joshua 7, 9).
Second, knowing God’s wisdom, the people would know how to succeed in their mission and also be an example to other nations. People who live according to God’s wisdom can’t help but demonstrate to others that God is real and that following His wisdom brings blessings. Everything about God is superior to the pagan idols Israel came to worship. It is so easy to live in the midst of God’s blessings. We take them for granted and begin to imitate others rather than God.
Third, following God’s wisdom helps us build godly homes (Deuteronomy 4:9-10). Surrounded by worldly people, Israel was one generation short of losing God’s blessings. If we don’t invest the word of God in our children today, the next generation will not know the Lord (Judges 2:7-15).
We can influence our children to trust the Lord when we keep it near our hearts, and when we remember what God has done for us. We share His word and what He has done for us with our children. Further, it is the responsibility of the older generation to teach the younger. Teaching can be done in word or by example.
All along, Moses is telling Israel how they can be successful as they enter the land. He will not lead them, Joshua will. But, he wants to leave them a legacy to follow. Therefore, he spends a lot of time teaching them and setting an example for them. God had chosen Israel. God had invested Himself in Israel. Moses had given all he had for them too. Now, as they enter the Promised Land it is up to them.
Eventually, it all comes down to me. What will I do with God’s word? What will I do with God? No one else, just me and God.
The 3rd chapter of Deuteronomy continues to retell the journey Israel took to Canaan, their victory against Og of Bashan, and the settling of 2 1/2 tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan (v. 12-17). The chapter ends with Moses stirring up the people to cross over into the land and claim what God had given them. He encourages Joshua (v. 21-22), and then makes a tender plea (v. 23-27).
You can't fault Moses for making this request. God spoke about to Moses about this promised land back in the burning bush. It has been on their minds for over 40 years. Now they reach the land, they are preparing to enter and claim it, but Moses will not be going with them. You can feel his disappointment. This wasn't how Moses intended his story to end. You can sense the sincerity in his request. He wants to enter the land.
Instead God calls Moses up on mount Pisgah to view the land from a distance. That's grace. God lets the leader of Israel see from a distance this special promised land. Imagine getting a tour of Canaan by it's creator - by God. "Look to the North..." "See that river..." "Notice the hills...". What an incredible scene! There Moses would stand, facing the end of his story yet staring at Israel's next chapter. By faith he could envision what it would look like occupied and claimed by Israel.
Moses also saw Israel's future before he climbed the mountain. God told Moses to encourage and strengthen Joshua who would continue on as Israel's leader (v. 28). Moses knew the in's and out's of being Israel's leader - there were much more heartaches than joys. He knew the burdens. He heard the complaints. He cared for them as a shepherd cares for his sheep. And now he's handing the role over to someone he knew, he trained, he watched grow up. It was time for Joshua to lead. How bittersweet this must have been for Moses - he had been preparing Joshua for this role - yet he wouldn't live long enough to see Joshua lead. But in Joshua there was hope. Joshua was a man of God. He would lead with integrity and character. As hard as it would have been to climb Mount Pisgah, Joshua made that climb easier. It's easier to let go knowing your hard work will not be undone or forgotten.
I imagine we all will face our mountain moment like Moses - when our life comes to and end. It may not be when we want it to. Like Moses we may wish we had seen more, experienced more - maybe it's that we live long enough to see the family restored and reconciled to one another, or that we live long enough to see a loved one return to the Lord. Truth is that much of our life is planting seeds, the fruit from which we'll never see - yet it may be a blessing to another generation. Moses led them to Canaan. They wouldn't have made it without Moses. Do the good you can today, be busy in good works, help teach/train/prepare the next generation for their service to God, so that when your time comes (whenever it may come) you leave this life having done what you could with what you have been given. Serve the purpose of God in your generation (Acts 13:36). Is there any more that could be asked of us?
Almighty God, we thank You for the gift of life, that You've allowed us to experience life - no matter how long or short it truly is a gift. Thank You for those who have gone on before us - the Moses's, David's, Peter's and Paul's, the great cloud of witnesses who have made such an impact on our lives. Through this study we thank You for Your servant Moses - what an incredible leader, such a humble heart. We're encouraged through his example, thank You for sharing his life with us, and for using Moses in such meaningful ways. Our Father we ask that You take our life and use it for Your purposes. Let us be instruments of Your grace, examples of Your holiness, people who point others to You through the way we live. Help us to leave the world, and this local church, better than how we found it, for the next generation. Like Moses we stand on Jordan's stormy banks, looking over into the promised land - the home You've prepared - we see it by faith! Let our life be used for Your glory, to be a source of good for another, and when our time has come, lead us home!
Deuteronomy 2 is a summary of the events recorded in Numbers 24:14- 31:54, describing the people of Israel defeating the nations and kings in the Promised Land. Moses gives no details of what Israel experienced while wandering thirty-eight years in the wilderness. During these years, Israel was out of favor with God. There is no record that they observed the Passover or even circumcised their sons. After Joshua led the nation across the Jordan River, he took care of those responsibilities and Israel was back in God’s covenant blessing (Joshua 5). The people in Moses’ congregation, who were nineteen years old when the wonderings began, were now fifty-seven. They would certainly remember those difficult years and hopefully tell their children and grandchildren.
First, they pass by the Edomites. They were not to meddle with them. They could buy food and water from them but they were to watch carefully (Deuteronomy 2: 1-4). The Edomites should have shown brotherly love, but instead they perpetuated the ancient feud between Jacob and Esau. Family feuds are not soon forgotten. It does not matter whether it is the nuclear family, spiritual family or societal family. Hatred, rivalry and bitterness die hard. One more thing, God had graciously provided for Israel during the years of wandering. They had no need to attack or exploit their brothers (Deuteronomy 2:7).
Second, they were to avoid the Moabites and Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2:9-23). These two tribes were descendants of Lot. Thus, relatives as well. The Lord had helped them defeat their enemies and take their land (Deuteronomy 2:20-23). Neither the Moabites or Ammonites deserved this kindness from God, but sometimes the Lord blesses one people because of their relationship with another people, in this case Israel. All these relationships go back to Abraham. It was a turning point when Israel crossed into the Zered Valley. Now the older generation was gone, except for Moses, Joshua and Caleb (Deuteronomy 2:13-16). Israel could now look forward to defeating their enemy.
Third, was defeating the Amorites (Deuteronolmy 2:24-3:11). Sihon and Og were powerful kings in the region of the Amorites. Israel’s defeat of them was especially important because it would send a message to the other nations in Canaan and bring fear to their hearts. As he did with the Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites Moses made an offer to Sihon to pass through their land peacefully and pay for their food and water. Shihon’s heart was hardened and when he and his army attacked Israel, God gave Moses the victory. This victory gave Israel encouragement to confront Og. Og was a giant (Deuteronomy 3:11), but even though the walls were high and Og was a giant, Israel defeated them to. God is bigger than the giants and the walls.
God would provide for His people as they conquered the land. None of their adversaries stood successfully against them. Even so today, the Lord is our strength and our salvation. He gives us the victory!
Once again Israel had arrived at the promised land. They are 11 days journey out (v. 2). It’s been 40 years since they were here before (v. 3). God’s words come loud and clear, “You’ve stayed long enough at this mountain.” (v. 6) It’s time to go on. It’s time to enter the land. It’s time to fulfill this promise. Though a generation had died in the wilderness due to disobedience, God had multiplied the Israelites – they had become a great nation (v. 10).
The question for them to consider is, “What’s going to be different this time?” The first few chapters of Deuteronomy is a walk through history – reminding this new generation of where they came from, and how their parent’s generation failed.
They didn’t trust the Lord (v. 32), they would not listen (v. 43), they rebelled against the command of the Lord (v. 43). Despite God’s miracles, His goodness, all the ways He demonstrated His power and that He was on their side – they didn’t trust in Him (v. 29-32). Thus they were punished. They would not be allowed into the promised land (v. 34-36). They had everything they needed to believe and trust in God, but they turned against Him.
God was willing to take this new generation into the land – to let them fulfill the promise – but they needed to learn from their parent’s mistakes – they needed to walk by faith – not by fear; they needed to trust in God to bring the victory – not in their own strength.
What’s this have to do with us? Hear how the words of Hebrews 4 fit with this context: “Therefore, let us fear, if while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had the good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” (Heb. 4:1-2). Through His words we have everything we need to believe and trust in God – to see His power, be convinced of His goodness, to know His will and submit to His rule – will we walk by faith or by fear? Will we trust in His strength or our own? Will we submit to God’s will or go our own way? Will we enter the land of rest, or follow in the same steps of those of old?
Like Joshua’s generation – the choice is up to us. The enemies won’t be different from before. The challenges won’t be different. The temptations won’t be different from before. What will be different? Me. My heart. I will choose to trust in God and walk by faith. And thus my outcome will be different than Israel’s – I choose to enter the land of rest by the grace and strength of the Savior.
Wonderful Savior, this chapter in Deuteronomy reminds us of Your patience, Your strength, Your love, Your mercy. You were there for Israel – You led them, provided for them, rescued and redeemed them, promised them victory and a land of abundance – and they didn’t trust in You. I recognize that I can be just like Israel – forgetting all You have done for me, all the evidences of Your goodness, power, love, mercy, patience – all the answered prayers – and yet I too fail to put my trust in You. Forgive me of my sins. I believe – but help my unbelief. I trust in You – help me to trust more. Help me to listen. Help me to follow. Help me to learn from the mistakes of the past to choose a better future. You promise victory – help me to claim it through my Glorious Lord Christ – who deserves all honor, all glory, and all praise!
God Is Faithful
As each tribe is given their land, that land was not to leave their tribe. God intended for it to remain in the family to which it was originally given (Numbers 36).
So what happened when a daughter married? Once again, God left nothing to chance. She could only marry within the family. Therefore, no inheritance would be transferred to any other tribe.
The nation is poised to enter the land of Canaan. God had brought this new generation safely through the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The task ahead was for them to conquer the land and continue to thrive in the land. God was faithful to His promise.
The lesson we learn is no matter how long it takes, God is always faithful to His promises. It may seem to us that God takes forever. But, in His time all things He has planned and purposed for His children will receive what He has promised. There is great confidence for us knowing God is faithful.
God has given us a picture of what He wanted Israel to be (Numbers 26-36). He wanted a God-centered people. Unfortunately, Israel failed to live up to that expectation. Today, God holds before us serious standards from the New Testament. He has high expectations is for His children. He wants us collectively and individually to live God- centered lives.