The Difficulty of Moses Handing Leadership Over to Joshua

In this read through of Deuteronomy one thing that is standing out to me is Moses’ role in handing things over to Joshua. Here is a man who desperately wants to enter the promised land, but cannot. God tells him in Dt 3:28, “charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.”

History is full of bloody transitions of power. Successions do not always go over well. Turn to 1 Samuel and see the way that Saul takes the news that there will be another king. As remarkably peaceful as the transitions of power in the United States have been for over 200 years, there are still accounts of outgoing presidents (and staff) being less than gracious in the way they leave the White House for the next administration.

So this must be tough for Moses. He not only cannot go to the promised land, his job until then is to train the one who will go. But how important a job is that? It is hard to look beyond our own experiences and lifetime and look ahead to future generations. What are we doing to prepare the way for those who will come next? What world are we leaving to them? What ministries are we passing along? We like to be involved and be active, but there are times when we need to shift our focus on the future, rather than our our immediate circumstances.

If you are looking for a bit more introduction and recap as you read Deuteronomy, you may enjoy going back to this article from June 2012.

So much has already happened in the first few books of the Bible and it is very easy to get lost or confused with all the people, travel, city names, the people groups that end with -ites. Due to that, don’t hesitate to flip back through your Bible or use online tools to be reminded of who’s who.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

We have skipped over some books and about forty years and find ourselves reading the first chapters of Deuteronomy. But don’t think you’ll be in the dark. Moses here does a great job of recapping where they have been and what God has been up to. They left the mountain and wandered for forty years because of their lack of trust in God and now as they have endured God’s discipline, they stand at the threshold of the promised land. Israel is again given the opportunity to walk in faith into the land that God has prepared for them.

But not before a real hard look at themselves in the mirror, courtesy of Moses.

The Story So Far, Week 12

I hope you’ve been enjoying the readings this week as we have read the words Moses has chosen to leave Israel with as they prepare themselves to enter the promised land. I imagine it must have been a trying experience for Moses and his role as a leader of the people. He has to deliver words to people who will be entering a land that he will not be able to see. Moses also must pass on warnings and remind them of the promises of God, knowing that the people will never cease to turn toward false gods and false worship (as we still do today). He urges them to faithful to a God who has always been faithful to us, even though we do not deserve it, nor do the people deserve the land they are about to inhabit.

Next week we’ll finally transfer our attention from Moses, whom we met back in Exodus, as Joshua will take over.

In Acts we continue to see just how the Spirit is building up this church and doing so by spreading the boundaries out far and wide. Disciples are voyaging around the Mediterranean, going to both Jews and Gentiles. We read about the council where it was decided more clearly how to bring the Gentiles into the fold and what was (and really what wasn’t) required of them. This good news is brought to the churches and Paul puts himself in harms way to do such work, getting himself arrested.

Tune in next week to find out the fate of Paul!

How Can We Act Like Royalty?

From Deuteronomy 17:18-20

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

It is required of Israel’s kings to write out their very own copy of the law and to then keep it with them all the days of their life. And not just to make their office bookshelf look impressive. They are to learn from it and act on it, not turning from it in the least. This is a prescription for success in the eyes of God.

We may not be writing out our own text, but make your Bible your own. As you read it, mark it up and make notes. Keep it with you all the days of your life. Let God keep you humble by it, may God also bless you as you dedicate such time and attention to his Word. We are reading all of it because the entirety of the Bible is written for us, and doing so is a kingly pursuit.

Week 12

We’re now beginning one dozen weeks of spending time focusing on reading God’s Word. I’m sure you’ve had up weeks and down weeks, when it has been easy or hard. Maybe this is a week that you want to catch up a bit. Each of your experiences are probably very different, but what is the same is the same commitment to set aside a part of our busy lives to be devoted to God.

I’m sure God has blessed such devotion and I’d love to hear if you have stories to share.

This week we have some more of the same as we continue Deuteronomy and Acts. If you’re new, I’ll pass along the advice I heard this morning. Read Acts 7.

It is not in this week’s assignment, but go back and at least read that. It’ll do a great job of catching you up on so much of what we’ve read in the Old Testament. If you feel like you still have gaps or questions, send them my way. I’ll work hard to get to an answer this week and post about it. This site is to be as great a help as possible–and that can only happen if you let me know what you need.

Hope you enjoy.

The Story So Far, Week 11

We’ve now gone through almost half of Deuteronomy and half of Acts, and we’re getting ever closer to the end of our first quarter. We’ve read in Deuteronomy how Moses is making final preparations for the people before they (and not he) enter into the promised land. He is restating the law making bold reminders that they are not entering into the land as people deserving, nor as a righteous people. God has done the work and it is by his grace that they will receive what is coming their way.

God, too, is doing the work through Acts by the Holy Spirit. Men and women are being taken up in service to the church of Jesus Christ, and by his name are doing great works and preaching the good news to both Jews and Gentiles.

Deuteronomy 8 also is the original location of the words that Jesus quotes when he is in the desert, tempted by Satan, “Man does not live by bread alone.” The Israelites are reminded by this that their needs are greater than food, more than the food they had in Egypt. They have a great need and reliance upon the Lord our God.We learn this lesson as well in Acts as all that is done is done by the power God gives and it is for God’s glory. The Spirit comes and gives the disciples the ability to work miracles, these signs are done in Jesus name, and it is all in God’s plan. The needs of the disciples move beyond bread alone, as they give up their material goods to serve others and support the new found community. If it were all about bread, or stuff, they would horde and keep to themselves, instead they sell their possessions and give to those who have need.

They do, as we read earlier in Acts, spend time breaking bread, but the church is more than that and they are devoted as well to the teachings of God. The church of Acts demonstrates well the second half of that line from Deuteronomy 8, “but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Introduction to Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book the Pentateuch, so well done at making it this far. As you begin reading it, I thought I’d give you a bit of background.

Deuteronomy tells us in the opening line of its author, Moses. These first books are commonly called the Law of Moses and are attributed to him (eg. Matthew 19:7-8, Acts 3:22-23), but there is debate as to what exactly this includes. Due to some of the literary formatting and content such as an account of Moses’ own death, it is thought there is additional help from editors or authors to take the words of Moses and fit them into a greater narrative.

The book begins where the previous left off, and ends there as well, on the plains of Moab (Dt. 34). It is a time for Israel to prepare itself for what will come in Joshua, the delayed conquest of the land that God had promised them, and for Moses to transfer leadership and give his parting words. We find in Deuteronomy another instance of the Ten Commandments and a renewal of the covenant with God.

Moses empfängt die Gesetzestafeln, c. 840

Think about the overall story we’ve seen so far. God has made a world for us to live in and it was good. But we sinned. We disobeyed and turned from God, bringing sin into creation. Having been cast out of the garden, you’d think the people would be alone. Yet God does not forget humanity. He chooses for himself a people and calls Abraham out to be the father of many nations. As we read, it isn’t because he was a perfect man–nor was Isaac or Jacob, or the other so-called patriarchs. God chose us and he remains perfectly faithful as we are too often faithless.

God promises a land to his people, but there is an interlude in Egypt during which the Israelites are slaves. By God’s strong hand he delivers them from bondage, showing his might to Israel’s enemies. He guides them out of oppression toward a promise of a land to call their own. All along the way the people grumble and complain, looking back favorably on Egypt. Working through his servant, Moses, God disciplines his people, but never leaves us. He gives us laws to guide us and sets up camp right in the midst of the people.

He actively guides them to the doorstep of the promised land, a land the scouts see is full of milk and honey, but also of formidable enemies. So even though God has been with them from the time of Abraham and literally camps with them in the tabernacle, their fear overwhelms them and they reject God’s will. So the promised land remains for God’s people a promise, but for a new generation. They wander one year for every day the scouts were in Canaan. For forty years they continue in the wilderness until, at the end of Numbers, their great numbers camp again at the doorstep.

Moses knows he will not enter with them, only Joshua and Caleb have that privilege from the generation that disobeyed. Deuteronomy is the book that further sets the scene for the final transition that began with Abraham and will come to fruition with Joshua. Israel are a people of the promise. God told Abraham to leave the land he knew and follow, and the people have been following with the hope of a land to call their own. And now in Deuteronomy, they are almost there.

Why Such Segregation for Israel?

I’m sure you’ve noticed as you’ve been reading these opening books of the Bible that God’s people are set apart. They are set apart with their beliefs and with their calling, but this also has physical manifestations. Israel is to remain distinct from the pagan nations and tribes that surround them.

One implication is with marriage and how Israelites should not intermarry. But texts like these have been used throughout history to support beliefs that stand against the text and against God’s will. This quote from a sermon by John Piper gets to the point quite clearly, but go on to read the rest of this sermon for a longer explanation about what segregations can and absolutely cannot stand:

The point was not to protect racial purity. The point was to protect religious purity. For example, Deuteronomy 7:3-4:

You shall not intermarry with [the nations]; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you.

The issue is not color mixing, or customs mixing, or clan identity. The issue is: will there be one common allegiance to the true God in this marriage or will there be divided affections? The prohibition in God’s word is not against interracial marriage, but against marriage between the true Israel, the church (from every people, tribe, and nation) and those who are not part of the true Israel, the church. That is, the Bible prohibits marriage between those who believe in Christ (the Messiah) and those who don’t (see 2 Corinthians 6:14).