Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Deuteronomy: Moses' Swan Song

I'm reading through the Bible in one year using a Bible reading plan provided by a Logos Bible App. on my I-phone. This plan goes from Genesis through Revelation in a year involving an average of two or three chapters per day. Right now I am in Deuteronomy about to read chapter 14. I've read through the Bible before, but I guess it's been long enough since the last reading, that all of it seems fresh and new to me. I'm also using a new version I've not read before (The English Standard Version).
Deuteronomy surprised me. I assumed it was just a continuation of the various laws, or a recounting of later history in the period of wilderness wandering. Though it does contain history and various laws, this is actually Moses Swan-song. These were Moses' final words to the people he had been leading for 40 years. In it, he prepares his people for what they will face when Joshua and Caleb lead them into the promised land. Since neither he, nor Aaron will be able to make this transition from wandering to conquering, Moses retells the highlights (and lowlights) of the departure from Egypt and the wilderness wanderings. He actually mentions each place they camped by name and in correct chronological order. Further, he prepares the minds and hearts of the people for the change of leadership mantle, reminds them of the blessings that will come with obedience and devotion to God and the possible curses if they turn away to the detestable gods of the Canaanites. Finally, Moses sang a song to his nation (Deut. 32), blessed them, and climbed into Mount Nebo from which he would be able to view the promised land. And there he died.
All of this caused me to wonder, If I had a chance to say final words to my people, what would I choose to say to them. I'm not yet at the time for saying final words (thankfully), but having just passed the 25 year milestone with the church I now serve, I can't help but wonder how many more milestones I will be privileged to pass. Deuteronomy strikes me as a more powerful book as I realize that Moses was allowed to finish up an amazing ministry and spiritual journey spanning 120 years. And consider the fact that Moses took up his greatest work at a time in his life when most other people were getting their gold watches, and taking to their rocking chairs. Though it would be easy to focus on Moses failures and shortcomings, I would rather focus on the fact that his relationship with God was such that he was able to speak face to face with the Almighty as one speaks with his friend. No other pastor has ever served such a large congregation for such a long time. The fact that Moses never entered the promised land does not diminish his stature in my estimation. It is more than enough to consider that he led Israel out of slavery, gave them the law, put up with their foolishness, and pastored them for 40 years. Moses is a paragon of heroism, a master of historic writing, and a model of spiritual development. Deuteronomy should be read with that in mind.

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