Wednesday, May 20

Reader: “The Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.” 

Response: “He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:1-13

When Moses had finished giving these instructions to all the people of Israel, he said, “I am now 120 years old, and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan River.’But the Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy the nations living there, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua will lead you across the river, just as the Lord promised. “The Lord will destroy the nations living in the land, just as he destroyed Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites. The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

So Moses wrote this entire body of instruction in a book and gave it to the priests, who carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, and to the elders of Israel. Then Moses gave them this command: “At the end of every seventh year, the Year of Release, during the Festival of Shelters, you must read this Book of Instruction to all the people of Israel when they assemble before the Lord your God at the place he chooses. Call them all together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living in your towns—so they may hear this Book of Instruction and learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully obey all the terms of these instructions. Do this so that your children who have not known these instructions will hear them and will learn to fear the Lord your God. Do this as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.”

Reader: “The word of the Lord.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.”

Some thoughts:

Speeches by those who are about to die can be very interesting and significant. Such is the case in today’s reading. Moses is in that place. The phrase “When Moses had finished giving these instructions . . .” refers to the entire book of Deuteronomy. There is much symbolism and type in this section. Moses represents the Law. The Law will not bring salvation. It points out that we cannot keep it. Though known as the Lawgiver, he could not keep it, and symbolically and in reality was prevented from entering the Promised Land (heaven). The one who did lead the people across the Jordan River  (crossing over from this life to eternal life in heaven) was Joshua. (“Jesus” in Greek.) Moses’ words are meant to encourage and fortify the people when he is no longer present. Obedience to what God has commanded is central. A main point is that God will go before you and clear the way as Joshua leads you. There is an important principle here. Moses commanded them to read the law to every man, woman, and child every seven years, important because there were few copies available. We take the Scriptures for granted, there are copies everywhere. Such was not the case in the desert! There is a tremendous principle here that I fear we have largely lost and which also helps to explain the current world situation. In a covenant, both parties have a copy of the document. In the Ark of the Covenant were two copies of the Ten Commandments, one for the people and one for God to always remind the parties of the agreement. The covenant was to be read aloud publically. Moses states quite clearly why he is giving this commandment regarding the periodic reading of the law. “―so they may hear this Book of Instruction and learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully obey all the terms of these instructions.” Daniel Block points out in his book, For the Glory of God (p.180), “As Moses had emphasized repeatedly, the key to life is obedience, key to obedience is reverence and awe before YHWH, key to reverent awe is hearing the Torah.” All too often in worship these days, the only Scripture read, is the passage on which the minister is preaching. If you play Block’s sequence backwards, you can see why today there is little reverent awe of God, very selective obedience, and lives that are tangled, fashioned after their own “Torah,” their own law. It seems to be expressed in a very casual, light-hearted approach to worship, in language, in dress, in depth and quality of musical texts and tunes (or lack of!). In worship, seldom do we have a sense to take off our shoes, we are on holy ground. As he prepares to depart this world, Moses is giving his people and us strong instructions reminding them of God’s care and his going before them. If you have some more time, read Jesus’ farewell message to his disciples (John 13-16). There is a remarkable similarity to Moses’ farewell message! 

Music: “Deep River”  Mormon Tabernacle Choir        (We like the music, but the Mormon theology has some major problems―no belief in the Trinity to start with.)


O great and lofty God, Thou Father in the highest, who hast promised to dwell with them that are of a lowly spirit and fear Thy word; create now in us such lowly hearts, and give us a reverential awe of Thy commandments. O come, Thou Holy Spirit, and kindle our hearts with holy love; come, Thou Spirit of Strength, and arouse our souls to hunger and thirst after Thee, their true Guide, that they may be sustained by Thy all-powerful influence. Arise, O Spirit of Life, that through Thee we may begin to live; descend upon us and transform us into such human beings as the heart of God longs to see us, renewed into the image of Christ, and going on from glory to glory. O God, Thou Supreme Good, make Thyself known to us, and glorify Thyself in our inner being. Amen.    ―Gerhard Tersteegen, 1731, Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.148