These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horen by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amories, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amories and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your father, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’”
This is our introductory segment, the passage that lays out the context of this whole book. Moses and all of Israel are standing at the precipice of the Promised Land. The Land God had promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:7-20:
“As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
Moses is speaking to the generation that wandered for 40 years in the desert until their parents had died off, the death of Aaron marked the completion of Israel’s wanderings in the desert (Numbers 33:38-39). This book covers all that Moses told the next generation his very long sermon to them, washing them in the Word’s of the Lord and preparing their hearts for the battles to come, of which they are commanded here to go and take. This command directly implies that they will indeed succeed in the taking of the promise land. There are two reasons why God will fulfill His promise to the now-dead Abraham through this generation of Israelites; One because this is the generation that is the fourth, the one to enter the land, secondly the iniquities of the Amorites are now complete and due for judgement. We find this to be the case in Deuteronomy 9:4-8
“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.”
So we find here grace for a people undeserving of God’s kindness. When one often thinks of the Old Testament God in relation to Israel they conjure up a finicky God who is appeased by good works, but due to the depravity of man (that is, that sin is always dwelling within the heart of any human despite their disposition towards God until death) eventually brings judgement on His own people. Jesus was the save button to keep Himself from completely annihilating the planet.
But here we find a God who laid out the commands and laws before Israel, who guided a rebellious and hateful generation for 40 years, formed the hearts of the next generation and preparing them for entering Canaan. And even now, still a rebellious people. God gives them something so good and wonderful, God still fulfilled His promise to Abraham, He still blessed the sinners who had faith in Him. And yes one may point to the fact that He is only blessing them because the Amorites needed to be destroyed, but did not God bless you out of His wrath toward another? Was it not His wrath poured out on His own Son that gave you the blessing of eternal life?
So we see here that God is consistently gracious between Deuteronomy and Luke (as well as all Scripture). The weight and power of His grace in these two situations are markedly different. One is a physical location that a specific nation could dwell in, under the weight of laws and regulations that God said they would break and would be why they would be exiled (Deut. 31:16-18). We, a multitude of nations, on the other hand have an unbreakable covenant that we cannot initiate or complete. It is initiated (that is we are extended salvation and given sight to see it’s glory by God and we can then respond) and completed by Christ. And our dwelling to come is also eternal and we will never be exiled.
What fears or misconceptions have you been shown to be lies from this study? When you think of God and His graciousness does it line up with what you see here so far? Where are there differences?
Indeed we have an amazing God who does not leave us to die in our foolishness.