Reader: “These instructions are not empty words—”
Response: “they are your life!”
Scripture: Deuteronomy 32:44-47
So Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and recited all the words of this song to the people.
When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, he added: “Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. These instructions are not empty words—they are your life! By obeying them you will enjoy a long life in the land you will occupy when you cross the Jordan River.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy to treat older men with respect as you would treat your own father (I Tim. 5:1). Part of respect is listening to advice of elders borne out of the wisdom of years of experience. At the same time, those persons nearing the end of their days on earth have a heartfelt desire to leave a legacy that carries on generation after generation. Such is the case with our passage and Moses’ desire.
The book of Deuteronomy is a farewell address to this next generation of Israelites and a reminder of the terms of God’s covenant made with their parents. Their redeemer, Moses, had led the million plus Israelites out of slavery, received the Law directly from God, and shepherded a somewhat fickle nation for forty years. Having passed his leadership on to Joshua, he is very near the end of his life. And so Moses has some parting words to God’s people. His words come in the form of a song to be learned and sung by the people. Moses has just finished this song of challenge to the people when we come to today’s pericope.
The words of Israel’s greatest prophet are apropos to us as well. Note the action words beginning with “take to heart all the words of warning.” It appears Moses is not giving these children of their rebellious parents an option! In other words, do not dismiss what I have sung. This is to be a “Billboard No. 1 song” the rest of your life! Not only are these words to permeate your life, you are to pass them along to your own children and grandchildren which means you have to know them inside and out. Again, they are not optional for your children to consider either, they are a command. The point is obedience, something that your parents did not quite master! Moses goes on. Obeying the words of the song I sang are your very life! I tell you this because I want you to enjoy a long life when you enter the Promised Land.
In a broader look at Moses’ words here, there is a strong admonition to us as well.
“Take to heart all the words . . .” is one of the main reasons for us to spend time in the Scriptures each day. You can’t take something into your heart if you don’t give your heart a chance to spend time with “all the words.” There is no other way they can penetrate your heart! If taking the words into your heart is “life,” then failure to do so leads to death. One of the main purposes of these daily devotionals is to help satisfy this very reason.
You have undoubtedly noticed there is a second very active command; “pass them on . . . to your children.” One of the great joys any parent has is to know that their children have embraced the Lord and walk in his paths. Perhaps Moses is so strong in this regard because the parents of the children he is addressing were poor models of “taking to heart” the words of the Lord. As a result of this great failure, God’s judgment fell on them and they all died without ever reaching the Promised Land and the enjoyment of a long life.
While the words are words of guidance, the point is obedience. This obedience leads to enjoyment and contentment. How rare is that today! Taking the words to heart leads to encountering the Lord. Obedience is the key that leads to enjoyment. Such is not a magic formula, simply the truth. Have you ever noticed that when you are finally obedient to something you were dragging your spiritual feet on, you have joy? You feel pleased . . . happy? Then, some other times you don’t feel one way or the other. Nevertheless, you did the obedient thing. God notices. When you cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land, you will have joy. God promises! You might even ask Moses to sing a little of this song for you!
Music: “Find Us Faithful” Steve Green A classic from the past.
Prayer: (This would be a great prayer to end every day.)
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ―John Henry Newman, 1801-1890, Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.70