Study in Deuteronomy. Presentation 01. Review And Appraisal Chap 1v1-46. Presentation 01. Introduction.
The name ‘Deuteronomy’ signifies ‘the second giving of the law’. The book contains three addresses given by Moses in the closing months of his life to the people of Israel who were camped on the plains of Moab prior to moving forward into a new stage of their life as the people of God [1:1; 4:44; 29:1; 31:10].
Some historical and geographical background may
prove useful. Almost 40 previously Israel had been
delivered from her Egyptian bondage. She had been
constituted a nation at the foot of Mt. Sinai where
she was prepared for nationhood but disobedience
had left her wandering in the wilderness for a
further 38 years.
The opportunities for blessing had been immense as Joshua, the next historical book makes plain, Josh 1v1-9. Previously Israel had turned her back on entry into the Promised Land [Deut. 1v6, 8, 21, 26]. And now, before a new opportunity of entry is laid before them, Moses seeks to prepare God’s people.
Moses not only reviews their past history and God's dealings with them, but for a second time causes them to sit under the instruction of God's Law. Once again they were standing on the threshold of decision!
Geographically, the area of wilderness where they were located is situated between the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqabah. Just south-west of the Dead Sea is Kadesh-Barnea, the point of entry they had previously
Now the Israelites were to travel
east of the Dead Sea through the
territory of Edom and Moab and
finally would cross the Jordan, north
of the Dead Sea, and attack Jericho.
[ See map]
Note, the people being challenged had
temperaments and problems very
similar to our own.
Moses reminded Israel that they were no ordinary people. God had chosen them through no merit of their own and, had redeemed them out of the house of bondage in Egypt. In his sovereign grace God had entered into a binding covenant of grace with them for their good and his glory.
Through Moses’ leadership, God had led them out into the liberty of the children of God and on a journey that was destined for remarkable blessing provided God’s grace was met with loyal obedience.
They came to Horeb (Sinai) in the third month after their departure [Ex. 19v1], and there the Law was given. It is important to understand that it was to a redeemed people that the Law was given, not as a way of salvation but as family guidance to show God’s children how to live in the world as God's chosen people and in a way that would reflect his character. It was a call to a life of obedience.
They had journeyed only eleven days from Horeb before reaching KadeshBarnea[v2] and from there they sent the spies to view the land of Canaan.
Israel refused to obey God and in consequence, almost forty years later, they were still in the same place [v3]. Oh they had not remained static. They had been on the move. But they had not made any spiritual progress. What a picture of many Christian lives!
God had led them to Sinai [v6] where they had settled
for a whole year but after a mere eleven days and approx.
165 miles later at Kadesh-Barnea, they put on the brakes.
And as a result of their disobedience they caused future
blessing to wither.
Unbelief and the disobedience that comes with
it can wreck havoc on our lives.
To prepare them for the future Moses reviewed their past history so that significant lessons might be learned for the people had moved from Kadesh-Barneaup the east side of the Dead Sea and rested opposite Jericho v4-5 . The story is told in Num. 20v21-26, 31-35; 22v1; 33v50-56. Moses a faithful minister who spoke plainly to his "congregation." But by their gracelessness, ingratitude and stubbornness they had driven him to the end of his tether [Num. 11v10-16 ff.].
All this was the context for the bountiful blessing, which Moses prayed would continue and increase [10-11].
Difficulty, and the disaffection that lies behind it, do not need to curtail God’s blessing. But then some must be found who are both willing and able to share the burden of the work. Moses does not mention here that the suggestion for such a pattern of help came from God through Jethro, [Ex. 18v8-26]. By the time of the incident in Num. 11v16 ff.the shared pattern of work may have fallen into disuse and Moses was again carrying the load alone.
The seventy may still have held the office of ‘partners’ with Moses and been ‘honoured’ by the people but they were not ‘burden-bearers’ and so the work and its leader were hindered.
In v14Moses describes a unanimity in decision indicating not only that God was in it but that the people were becoming aware of their spiritual responsibility. This is a good sign and often a sign that God is planning to lead his work into a new phase.
Shared responsibility often breaks down in practice.
Our Lord took three with him to pray in
Gethsemane, yet despite their earlier protest
of support they fell asleep and were no help
to Jesus. He had to carry them [Mk. 14v32 ff.].
Paul too, called for partnership in the Gospel,
but sadly often he too was left alone.
Cf. 2 Tim. 4:16, 17; Phil, 4:15, 16
Moses was aware of how easily ‘position’ or ‘office’ can corrupt a man and he urged on them the need for integrity and impartiality. We can be gentle with someone we like and are drawn to while at the same time displaying a harshness towards another guilty of the same fault but to whom we are not particularly attracted. But this is no way to deal with situations remitted to us by God .
There must always be care and sympathy for the sinner but this must never become a sentimental concession to their wrongdoing.
It is costly to rebuke and to hurt someone you love, and costly to bear the ensuing estrangement when the rebuke is resented. But we must minister to each other for our good and
not for our ease. This is not a charter for harshness.
Some find it too easy to dish out ‘correction’.
Moses chose men who were spiritually
minded [Ex. 18v21] and the N.T. counterpart
is the standard for elders [1 Pet. 5v1-5].
It was indeed to be a shared work. But
Moses' leadership under God was not
to be laid aside [17b, 18].
As Moses continued to recall their journey, remember that this people had already seen God’s mighty power at work in their deliverance from Egypt, in crossing the Red Sea and in their swift eleven day journey through the terrible wilderness. Then, right on the borders of the land, the will of God had been made perfectly clear [20-21].
They were to go right forward into a land already described as bountiful and desirable [Ex. 3v8] and already gifted to them . This was the goal of their amazing journey and it was within their grasp. Why then, in spite of all assurances and encouragements did they want to spend time seeking guidance?
In Num. 13v1 the plan to send 12 spies into the land seems to have come from God. However, Moses now provides another insight, suggesting that the plan was not a good one at all. Did this investigation stem from unbelief and so lead to further doubt and disobedience? The people stopped formed an ‘investigating committee’
who engaged in a ‘survey’ and produced a ‘report’ v 25 . The fatal plan had seemed good
to Moses at the time v23 [but no man is infallible] and when earnest appeal is made by other ‘believers’ it is easy to be swayed away from what God has in fact made plain. They should simply have entered the land!
In v26-40 we read that unbelief became disobedience giving
rise to criticism, discontent, and slander against God.
Everything became distorted and paralysing fear laid hold
of the people. Even Moses reassurances [v29 ff] failed to
check the momentum of terror that gripped them. Their
attitude had set into stubborn unbelief. Faith had given
way to fear.
The giants of the land and the problems they represented
loomed so large in their vision that they just could not see God.
He might as well not have existed. All their resolve had gone.
The situation, from their point of view, was ‘impossible’ and therefore inaction was justified in their eyes. Call it anything other than what it really was ‘unbelief’ and a slap in the face for God.
Here in Deuteronomy Moses was teaching the new generation the lesson of the obedience of faith, with the clear message that unbelief has consequences that are far more long term than may first be realised. God's full, long term strategy cannot ever be frustrated. He has plenty of time and patience. But God’s displeasure was made plain and even Moses forfeited his place in the future possession of the land.
If you think this is harsh O.T. doctrine read 1 Cor. 9v27 where Paul speaks of being disqualified, or ‘laid aside as of no further use’. Also the possibility of becoming ‘shipwrecked’ 1Tim.1.19
A whole generation had forfeited its future.
They lived out their days in a spiritual and
literal wilderness with two exceptions, Joshua
and Caleb who were to spearhead the future occupation of the land. But even they had a burden to carry because, instead of entering
the land from the south and proceeding
directly north, they had to go round the Dead
Sea, confront Jericho, and then campaign in
both directions. What a legacy is sometimes
left by unbelief, whether in home congregations or on the mission field. How we must see to it
that those who come after us take over a
situation with as few complications as possible.
Israel had a great reputation and the people had a great opinion of themselves by the time they had reached Kadesh-Barnea. But their unbelief was exposed. Their obedience did not match their reputation [Rev. 2v4-5; 3v1-3]. Verse40 provides God's verdict which is responded to by a surge of emotion and enthusiasm in v41 they would go up!
This was not repentance. It was simple self-interest and remorse [2 Cor. 7v8-11]. They did not want to live with the consequences of their own actions. They resented being cast off and learning that the children, they used as an excuse not to go up [v39], would possess the land and its blessing in their place.
When they should have gone forward they refused, and when they should have humbled themselves under
God's mighty hand [1 Pet. 5v6] they refused. They
were determined that God should change his mind and that they should prove their own spiritual worth. But easy repentance and spiritual bravado have no value.
This is evident in the fact that they were still unwilling
to listen to the counsel of Moses, and equally unwilling
to accept the fact that the Lord would not be with them to bless them [42, 43].
Here is the great presumption of the people they were sure that it was God who should change his mind – was sending them the wrong signal- and not they who should change their heart attitude!
Those contemplating any other form of full-time service or any major
change of direction in life, like marriage, should go to tried and
trusted men or women of faith and seek their counsel before
decisions are made. No-one will make your decisions for you
but they can help you to think more clearly and pray for you.
The safest place to find guidance is in a praying
congregation. God makes His will known to the church
fellowship. Cf. Acts 13v2. This is the biblical pattern.
The individual, doing his own thing, very often gets it
wrong. Israel were confounded and put to shame. They
became a demoralised people, the Lord did not hear
their prayers they knew nothing of a contrite heart,
[Ps. 51v17] only a personal remorse.