Moses’ life is over. He’s 120 years old. He helped God lead the people, but in several occasions, he didn’t do what God told him to do. And, because of his disobedience, he can’t enter the Promised Land. I’m sure you can think of times in your life when you blew a great chance you had. You probably think back at it, “Man! If only I had….” Woulda, coulda, shoulda! Moses now faces the fact that he won’t be going into the Promised Land. He passes the baton to Joshua — which is the next book in the Old Testament. That’s when the real adventure begins!
Before we say goodbye to Moses, God has some things to tell us in these final words. Let’s dig in.
Deuteronomy 31 – Joshua Becomes Israel’s Leader
When Moses had finished giving these instructions to all the people of Israel, 2 he said, “I am now 120 years old, and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan River.’ 3 But the Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy the nations living there, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua will lead you across the river, just as the Lord promised.
Moses laying hands on Joshua, the new leader of Israel.4 “The Lord will destroy the nations living in the land, just as he destroyed Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites. 5 The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. 6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
7 Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. 8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
“Be strong and courageous.” That is repeated several times. Also, “God will be with you.” This is something that we can remember. God is ALWAYS with us. It’s up to us to seek Him, seek “His Face”, seek the Kingdom of God — FIRST. If we put God first, He will give us all we need. That’s a promise and God keeps His promises!
Public Reading of the Book of Instruction
9 So Moses wrote this entire body of instruction in a book and gave it to the priests, who carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, and to the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses gave them this command: “At the end of every seventh year, the Year of Release, during the Festival of Shelters, 11 you must read this Book of Instruction to all the people of Israel when they assemble before the Lord your God at the place he chooses. 12 Call them all together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living in your towns—so they may hear this Book of Instruction and learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully obey all the terms of these instructions. 13 Do this so that your children who have not known these instructions will hear them and will learn to fear the Lord your God. Do this as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.”
They were supposed to read the Book of Instruction — what we call the Bible — every 7 years. The Good News is that we don’t have to wait 7 years to read the Bible. We can, and should, read it every day — several times a day! This was a habit that took me years to master. Now, I read and pray every morning, I study and prepare for this blog and podcast, then I read my personal devotions before bed.
Believe me, when I obey, I am blessed! It really does work!
Now, since I’ve read the Book a few times, I know the story. I know that Israel will disobey. God called it….
Israel’s Disobedience Predicted
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The time has come for you to die. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tabernacle, so that I may commission him there.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the Tabernacle. 15 And the Lord appeared to them in a pillar of cloud that stood at the entrance to the sacred tent.
16 The Lord said to Moses, “You are about to die and join your ancestors. After you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will blaze forth against them. I will abandon them, hiding my face from them, and they will be devoured. Terrible trouble will come down on them, and on that day they will say, ‘These disasters have come down on us because God is no longer among us!’ 18 At that time I will hide my face from them on account of all the evil they commit by worshiping other gods.
19 “So write down the words of this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Help them learn it, so it may serve as a witness for me against them. 20 For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey. There they will become prosperous, eat all the food they want, and become fat. But they will begin to worship other gods; they will despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when great disasters come down on them, this song will stand as evidence against them, for it will never be forgotten by their descendants. I know the intentions of these people, even now before they have entered the land I swore to give them.”
22 So that very day Moses wrote down the words of the song and taught it to the Israelites.
23 Then the Lord commissioned Joshua son of Nun with these words: “Be strong and courageous, for you must bring the people of Israel into the land I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
24 When Moses had finished writing this entire body of instruction in a book, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant: 26 “Take this Book of Instruction and place it beside the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, so it may remain there as a witness against the people of Israel. 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Even now, while I am still alive and am here with you, you have rebelled against the Lord. How much more rebellious will you be after my death!
28 “Now summon all the elders and officials of your tribes, so that I can speak to them directly and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt and will turn from the way I have commanded you to follow. In the days to come, disaster will come down on you, for you will do what is evil in the Lord’s sight, making him very angry with your actions.”
The Song of Moses
30 So Moses recited this entire song publicly to the assembly of Israel:Deuteronomy 31 NLT
“Listen, O heavens, and I will speak!
Hear, O earth, the words that I say!
2 Let my teaching fall on you like rain;
let my speech settle like dew.
Let my words fall like rain on tender grass,
like gentle showers on young plants.
3 I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
how glorious is our God!
4 He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.
Everything he does is just and fair.
He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
how just and upright he is!
5 “But they have acted corruptly toward him;
when they act so perversely,
are they really his children?
They are a deceitful and twisted generation.
6 Is this the way you repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Isn’t he your Father who created you?
Has he not made you and established you?
7 Remember the days of long ago;
think about the generations past.
Ask your father, and he will inform you.
Inquire of your elders, and they will tell you.
8 When the Most High assigned lands to the nations,
when he divided up the human race,
he established the boundaries of the peoples
according to the number in his heavenly court.
9 “For the people of Israel belong to the Lord;
Jacob is his special possession.
10 He found them in a desert land,
in an empty, howling wasteland.
He surrounded them and watched over them;
he guarded them as he would guard his own eyes.
11 Like an eagle that rouses her chicks
and hovers over her young,
so he spread his wings to take them up
and carried them safely on his pinions.
12 The Lord alone guided them;
they followed no foreign gods.
13 He let them ride over the highlands
and feast on the crops of the fields.
He nourished them with honey from the rock
and olive oil from the stony ground.
14 He fed them yogurt from the herd
and milk from the flock,
together with the fat of lambs.
He gave them choice rams from Bashan, and goats,
together with the choicest wheat.
You drank the finest wine,
made from the juice of grapes.
15 “But Israel soon became fat and unruly;
the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed!
Then they abandoned the God who had made them;
they made light of the Rock of their salvation.
16 They stirred up his jealousy by worshiping foreign gods;
they provoked his fury with detestable deeds.
17 They offered sacrifices to demons, which are not God,
to gods they had not known before,
to new gods only recently arrived,
to gods their ancestors had never feared.
18 You neglected the Rock who had fathered you;
you forgot the God who had given you birth.
19 “The Lord saw this and drew back,
provoked to anger by his own sons and daughters.
20 He said, ‘I will abandon them;
then see what becomes of them.
For they are a twisted generation,
children without integrity.
21 They have roused my jealousy by worshiping things that are not God;
they have provoked my anger with their useless idols.
Now I will rouse their jealousy through people who are not even a people;
I will provoke their anger through the foolish Gentiles.
22 For my anger blazes forth like fire
and burns to the depths of the grave.
It devours the earth and all its crops
and ignites the foundations of the mountains.
23 I will heap disasters upon them
and shoot them down with my arrows.
24 I will weaken them with famine,
burning fever, and deadly disease.
I will send the fangs of wild beasts
and poisonous snakes that glide in the dust.
25 Outside, the sword will bring death,
and inside, terror will strike
both young men and young women,
both infants and the aged.
26 I would have annihilated them,
wiping out even the memory of them.
27 But I feared the taunt of Israel’s enemy,
who might misunderstand and say,
“Our own power has triumphed!
The Lord had nothing to do with this!”’
28 “But Israel is a senseless nation;
the people are foolish, without understanding.
29 Oh, that they were wise and could understand this!
Oh, that they might know their fate!
30 How could one person chase a thousand of them,
and two people put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
unless the Lord had given them up?
31 But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock,
as even they recognize.
32 Their vine grows from the vine of Sodom,
from the vineyards of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are poison,
and their clusters are bitter.
33 Their wine is the venom of serpents,
the deadly poison of cobras.
34 “The Lord says, ‘Am I not storing up these things,
sealing them away in my treasury?
35 I will take revenge; I will pay them back.
In due time their feet will slip.
Their day of disaster will arrive,
and their destiny will overtake them.’
36 “Indeed, the Lord will give justice to his people,
and he will change his mind about his servants,
when he sees their strength is gone
and no one is left, slave or free.
37 Then he will ask, ‘Where are their gods,
the rocks they fled to for refuge?
38 Where now are those gods,
who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their offerings?
Let those gods arise and help you!
Let them provide you with shelter!
39 Look now; I myself am he!
There is no other god but me!
I am the one who kills and gives life;
I am the one who wounds and heals;
no one can be rescued from my powerful hand!
40 Now I raise my hand to heaven
and declare, “As surely as I live,
41 when I sharpen my flashing sword
and begin to carry out justice,
I will take revenge on my enemies
and repay those who reject me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
and my sword will devour flesh—
the blood of the slaughtered and the captives,
and the heads of the enemy leaders.”’
43 “Rejoice with him, you heavens,
and let all of God’s angels worship him.
Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles,
and let all the angels be strengthened in him.
For he will avenge the blood of his children;
he will take revenge against his enemies.
He will repay those who hate him
and cleanse his people’s land.”
44 So Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and recited all the words of this song to the people.
45 When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, 46 he added: “Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. 47 These instructions are not empty words—they are your life! By obeying them you will enjoy a long life in the land you will occupy when you cross the Jordan River.”
Moses’ Death Foretold
48 That same day the Lord said to Moses, 49 “Go to Moab, to the mountains east of the river, and climb Mount Nebo, which is across from Jericho. Look out across the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the people of Israel as their own special possession. 50 Then you will die there on the mountain. You will join your ancestors, just as Aaron, your brother, died on Mount Hor and joined his ancestors. 51 For both of you betrayed me with the Israelites at the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. You failed to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel there. 52 So you will see the land from a distance, but you may not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”Deuteronomy 32 NLT
Deuteronomy 33 – Moses Blesses the People
This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death: …and I’ll let you read these on your own.
The blessings end with these words…
26 “There is no one like the God of Israel.Deuteronomy 33:26-29 NLT
He rides across the heavens to help you,
across the skies in majestic splendor.
27 The eternal God is your refuge,
and his everlasting arms are under you.
He drives out the enemy before you;
he cries out, ‘Destroy them!’
28 So Israel will live in safety,
prosperous Jacob in security,
in a land of grain and new wine,
while the heavens drop down dew.
29 How blessed you are, O Israel!
Who else is like you, a people saved by the Lord?
He is your protecting shield
and your triumphant sword!
Your enemies will cringe before you,
and you will stomp on their backs!”
Deuteronomy 34 – The Death of Moses
Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab and climbed Pisgah Peak, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him the whole land, from Gilead as far as Dan; 2 all the land of Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all the land of Judah, extending to the Mediterranean Sea; 3 the Negev; the Jordan Valley with Jericho—the city of palms—as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.”
5 So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. 6 The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever. 8 The people of Israel mourned for Moses on the plains of Moab for thirty days, until the customary period of mourning was over.
9 Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him, doing just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
10 There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. 12 With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.Deuteronomy 34 NLT
Food for Thought
- BIBLE: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
- Reading the Bible gives you a healthy fear (respect) of God.
- A leader who knows how to follow God is worth following.
- God knew the Israelites were going to sin — to fall into idolatry. God knows ALL our intentions.
- The Israelites will fall into a vicious cycle: sin -> consequences -> repentance -> restoration. Which only lasts until we sin again. Yes, WE. That’s our vicious cycle, too! That’s how I lived as a Roman Catholic. I’d sin, Mom would punish me, I’d have to go to confession and say that I was repentant — did I mean it? No. Then all was OK, I could go to mass and partake of the Eucharist. Wow. I was in good standing until I sinned again. And, as a kid, I’d sin again, and again, and again. I was never taught that Jesus died on the cross taking our sins away forever. That if we believed that, we’d be forgiven for ALL our sins — past, present and future!
Deuteronomy closes with a striking statement. “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).
The good news is that a prophet even greater than Moses has finally come, for Jesus did not just know God face to face, but is God himself. In fact, the fullness of God’s glory can be seen in the face of Jesus and his gospel (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Unlike Moses who could not enter the land but dies, Jesus not only entered the final Promised Land of Heaven, but he earns us passage into it with him through his death.
The law Moses wrote down has survived to this day. It fulfills its role as a witness against us and our sin. But Jesus has kept the law for us. Therefore, as Moses blessed Israel in the midst of their disobedience, we receive the blessing of Christ in the midst of all our disobedience (Romans 5:8). Despite our sin, God has shown us favor.
Isn’t it great news, then, that the ironic song that should give us the reason behind our punishment and exile, becomes a song we will never have to sing. Instead, we can sing a new song of thanks to Jesus for rescuing us from sin and death.“Jesus in all of Deuteronomy” by Spoken Gospel
Only Jesus can break the vicious cycle of sin! It’s time to get right with God! What are you waiting for?
Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!
Top image by Sweet Publishing from FreeBibleImages.org, (CC BY-SA 3.0)