In our study of Deuteronomy, we look at Moses' final words to the people of Israel before he died and they entered the promised land. In this first chapter, Moses reviews their journey and the fact that he had made mistakes along the way.
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These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan - that is, in the Arabah - opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)
We get the location of these events and see that they are just opposite of the promised land. It is also noted that their journey from Mt Sinai to this point should have taken eleven days but, in fact, had taken about thirty-eight-years.
In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them. This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law saying:
We get the exact timing of Moses' farewell address and the fact that he did not get to enter the promised land is stressed. The Israelites had achieved military victories on the east side of the Jordan and were preparing to invade the west and the land of Canaan.
The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, 'You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers - to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - and to their descendants after them.'
Moses begins his address to the people by calling them to remember the words of God. He reminded them that their possession of the land of Canaan had been promised to their fathers and was being fulfilled to them.
At that time I said to you, 'You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky. May the Lord, the god of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.'
Moses recounts his first mistake of the journey in the fact that he had let advice of men supercede the call of God on his life. He had appointed leaders over Israel even though God was with them and he was to take the problems to God on their behalf. These leaders would become the basis for the Jewish rulers (the Sanhedrin) which would arrest Jesus Christ.
You answered me, 'What you propose to do is good.' So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you - as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. And I charged your judges at that time, 'Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.' And at that time I told you everything you were to do.
Moses reminds the people of the fact that he had bowed to their desire for leaders and he had instructed them. This might all seem good but we must remember that Israel was to be different. They were to be led by God Himself and not by a governing body like other nations. The effects of this mistake linger to this day and will continue until Jesus returns for the Millennial Reign.
Then, as the Lord our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful wilderness that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. Then I said to you, 'You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.'
Moses continues by reminding the people of their travel to Kadesh Barnea where they were ready to enter the promised land. He reminds them that it was a "dreadful wilderness" where nobody would want to stay. He also encourages them to trust God and to not let fear into their lives. We are also reminded that fear is the opposite of faith and should not be a part of our lives as Christians.
Then all of you came to me and said, 'Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.' The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it. Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, 'It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.'
Moses continues his parting words by remembering his second mistake which was sending men to spy out Canaan. This was not of God because He had already told them that the land was good. Instead of trusting in the Lord and telling the people to trust in God, Moses agreed to sending men to look it over. This lack of faith would open the door to disobedience as we shall see. A part of the job of any good leader is to get the people to grow in their trust in God. When faced with the opportunity, Moses did not seek the will of God but went with what seemed like a good idea.
But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, 'The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, "The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there."'
Moses reminds the people that they had refused to trust in God and to follow His instructions. Even though Moses had made a mistake in sending the spies, they still had the opportunity to have faith in God and to go in and take possession of the land. The same thing applies to us in our Christian walk. No matter what others (the spies) say, we can trust in what God has revealed to us. We have to choose to follow Him no matter what we see or think.
Then I said to you, 'Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.'
Moses continues by reminding them that he had tried to tell them that God would take care of them. He reminded them of what God had done for them in the past and that is a picture of our testimony as a Christian. When we see others that are struggling, we can share what God has done for us in the past to build them up in their faith.
In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.
Even with the past experiences, the people had refused to trust in the Lord. Moses reminded them that they had the pillar of fire and the cloud as a visual representation of the fact that God was with them but they still refused to trust in Him.
When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 'No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.'
Moses reminds the people that their lack of faith led to disobedience which led to their ancestors perishing in the desert. He reminds them that only Caleb had trusted in the Lord and so survived to this point.
Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, 'You shall not enter it, either. But your assistant Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad - they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.'
Moses reminds them of his own disobedience and the fact that even he would not be entering the land. He reminds them of how their ancestors were told to go back towards the Red Sea. This was a return to the place where God had delivered them from the hand of the Egyptians.
Then you replied, 'We have sinned against the Lord. We will go up and fight, as the Lord our God commanded us.' So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country.
Moses reminds the survivors of the fact that their ancestors had realized that they had sinned against God. Their lack of trust in Him to provide the victory was their sin. So, why did God still punish them and not let them enter the land? They were still thinking that they could take possession of the land through their own efforts. Like the Israelites, we do not have the ability to walk with Him under our own strength.
But the Lord said to me, 'Tell them, "Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies."' So I told you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against the Lord's command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country.
Moses informed the people that God had made up His mind and that they were facing defeat if they tried to go against His word. He had already decreed that none of them would see the land. In the same way, God has given us His word which tells us how we can live in this world and still glorify Him. We cannot have possession of the life that He desires for us if we are unwilling to listen to and follow His word.
The Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you; they chased you like a swarm of bees and beat you down from Seir all the way to Hormah.
The Israelites tried to take the land but were soundly defeated by the Amorites just as God had said. In the same way, we can try to walk in this world on our own but we can expect the same result as Israel had. It is arrogant of us to think that we can do anything on our own. We must be humble enough to admit that we need the Lord's guidance for all things.
You came back and wept before the Lord, but he paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you. And so you stayed in Kadesh many days - all the time you spent there.
The Israelites wept before the Lord but still did not want to humble themselves enough to accept the words of God. The first step to being right with God is a repentance which is acknowledging that you are headed in the wrong direction.