Last words — Deuteronomy 31-40

Well, I missed yesterday. Hope you missed me, but I also hope you still kept up with the daily reading. I was engaged in a funeral most of the day yesterday and returned home pretty well spent. Had I gone ahead and written, this blog may have turned out to be nothing but babble — or at least more than usual. 🙂

Today’s reading is, of course, essentially Moses’ last words to Israel, and tragically, they aren’t all really optimistic ones. For example, in 31:21 Moses reveals to Israel that the seeds of their unfaithfulness were already present with them on the east side of the Jordan. And as a witness to them about this warning against unfaithfulness Moses gives them another song (unlike the victory song immediately after the Red Sea crossing) to be kept in the national memory (32:1-43). In this song are a number of interesting tidbits.

First, as just a bit of clarification, Jeshurun (you see it being used twice here) is simply another name (nickname) for Israel, meaning “upright one” — sort of ironic, given the unfaithful predictions made in this passage about Israel.

And this song does emphasize the infidelity angle (as in a marital relationship) in which the Lord (the husband) has provided food, clothing, blessings, and protection to Israel (the wife), but the wife has nevertheless spurned Him and pursued other gods. But these “other gods” are not gods at all (v. 17, 39), they are demons (evil spirits); there are no other gods! Now, despite the fact that we think of ourselves as monotheists, I think it is still important for us to reflect on what we are relying on that has made us “fat, thick, and sleek” (v. 15). Is it “our” intellect, “our” skills, “our” money, country, system, boldness, charisma, good looks, politics, medical plan, etc. that really has prospered and protected us? Or isn’t it the God who gave these things that is the real source of the prosperity and protection we enjoy? To put it another way, when the parents give the teddy bear to their child, it’s a mistake for the child to look to the teddy bear as his/her source for food, clothing and protection. The teddy’s a nice gift, but the sources of blessings and the proper objects of love and obedience are the parents.

And, then, in the midst of all this, Moses drops a simple but heavy thought, our destinations depend on the paths we take:

“For they are a nation lacking in counsel,
And there is no understanding in them.
Would that they were wise, that they understood this,
That they would discern their future!”
Deut. 32:28, 29, NAS95.

God through Moses is telling them — and us — that the ultimate future can predicted on the basis of the thoughts, the words, the character, the deeds, the lives that we take up. A man’s character — a nation’s character, a church’s character — is his fate! Too often we discount and scorn this truth, thinking that “We know what we’re doing. We can turn things around, if they start to get out of control. Why should our beliefs or anyone’s beliefs lead to a bad destination for me, my family, or my country?” But it does, it really does.

And I love the blessing at the end of the blessings of chapter 33 that speaks of Israel’s (and by extension, our) ability to rely on the everlasting arms of God (vv. 26, 27). And then this:

“Blessed are you, O Israel;
Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD,
Who is the shield of your help
And the sword of your majesty!
So your enemies will cringe before you,
And you will tread upon their high places.”
Deut. 33:29, NAS95.

Lastly, Moses is called away home — just shy of the Promised Land. Leaders, how serious is God about your obedience? Even though I am not the judge, it’s probably safe to assume that Moses will be welcomed into Heaven. Still, consider how even he — the man whom the Lord knew face to face (34:10) — was not given a “break” in the matter of obedience, and was not allowed to enter Canaan. No tenure, no seniority, no special favors were given to Moses despite the difficulty of the responsibility. With the privilege of leadership comes a tremendous responsibility to rule well, godly, justly, and obediently.

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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