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Moses is about to leave after 40 years of leading the people; this is going to be an extremely heavy loss to the people. Think about this – the generation that were adults when they left Egypt, who felt the full weight of suffering in Egypt, who saw all the mighty works of God to deliver them from slavery, who danced with Miriam when she sang that song of deliverance after they crossed the Red Sea – that generation have all died except for Joshua, Caleb, and Moses.
The task of taking the promised land is now on their children. It is at this point that Moses is going to depart. Yes, Joshua, the new leader, saw it all, served Moses for 40 years, still there would have been anxiety among this new generation. Thus, Moses had to choose his words carefully in his last message to Israel. Deuteronomy is packed full of what Moses considered as the most important things to pass across to this new generation and all other generations of Israel to come after them.
The basic out line of Deuteronomy is as follows: (1) Chapters 1-3 the mission to take the promised land is transferred to the new generation (2) Chapters 4-10 remember God’s covenant and laws (3) Chapters 11-26 love God and let it show in how you live (4) Chapters 27-30 cosequences for living according to the covenant with God and for disobeying (5) Chapters 31-34 obituary of Moses likely added on by Joshua.
In Deuteronomy Chapters 1-3, Moses starts by reminding the new generation that God spoke to Israel at Mount Horeb and told them it was time to enter the promised land. Mount Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai. Recall from the book of Exodus that when God delivered Israel from Egypt, he brought them to Mount Sinai where they camped and received the Ten Commandments and other laws.
Moses reminds them that 40 years had passed since God gave the mission; the first generation rebelled against the mission, so God passed it to the children. So, instead of going north and into the promised land of Canaan, that generation went east of the promised land and Israel took over the land of Moab. On the way they had to fight and defeat Sihon King of Heshbon and Og the King of Bashan. Click on the map to see the routes of their 40 year wanderings that Moses talks about in Chapters 1-3.
The task for this new generation is to go west across the River Jordan into the promised land of Canaan. In Deuteronomy 3:21-22 (NIV) Moses assures them of victory: ‘At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings [Sihon and Og]. The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”’
Patient and persistent God, with you, setbacks are not the end of the road, thank you for insight into the first part of Deuteronomy, Amen!