Preparing for a Big Transition
The Israelites are about to experience the first major national transition in forty years. Almost everything is going to change. Deuteronomy is the written record of Moses’ addresses to prepare them for this.
[Note: This post is based on last week’s reading: Deuteronomy 1-26].
Israel is about to get a new homeland, a new leader, and a whole new way of life. Almost everything is going to change. But some important things are not going to change. God is still God. The law and the covenant still stand. The Promised Land is still Israel’s to inhabit. And Israel still needs reminders of the consequences of disobedience to God’s Word and warnings about the dangers of complacency which affluence brings.
Moses: the history teacher and prophet
Moses does a thorough job of reviewing Israel’s history emphasizing how fear and disobedience result in painful consequences. “Learn from the past,” their aging leader tells them. Moses goes on to exhort them about what lies ahead both geographically and chronologically. They must hold to the Ten Commandments and they must destroy the pagan nations in the land.
As God’s prophet, Moses proclaims the rules for living as Chosen People–rules that he received from Yahweh. He goes into detail about the blessings and curses that they can expect as they choose to obey or disobey. The book closes with the passing of the torch to Joshua the new leader and the death of the venerable Moses. We’ll see that in our reading this week.
Moses warns Israel, “Take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so’” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10 ESV).
He goes on to remind them of how God revealed His power to them at Sinai. Now they are about to enter the land God had promised to them. They need to keep clearly in mind the lessons they learned.
Lessons for today
Do we not need the same advice in the twenty-first century?
1. Keep your soul diligently. All sin begins within our souls. Before we act sinfully—either by not doing what we are commanded or by doing what we is prohibited—we think and consider the temptation before us. We need to keep our souls diligently. The psalmist gives us good advice about this,
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 ESV
We guard our hearts by storing God’s Word there.
2. Remember what you have seen. Like Israel, we have seen God’s glory and sovereignty in our experience. Most days bring a mixture of blessings and trials both of which are reminders to draw near to God—thanking Him for the blessings and trusting Him for the trials. Write those lessons down and keep them close.
3. Learn to fear God. Jesus reiterated this command to His disciples, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 ESV). God is the One who ultimately controls our eternal destiny. We know He saves His own because He watches over sparrows that fall and numbers even the hairs of our heads. He is the only one to fear and the only one to trust with our souls.
Whatever transition you face sooner or later, keep these admonitions in view. By grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we are reconciled to God and belong to Him forever. Keep your soul, believing friend, but remember He holds you in His hand and His grip is firm.
This week’s reading: Deuteronomy 27-34; Psalms 1-15