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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 31-32

Deuteronomy 31

As we near the end of our study of the Book of Deuteronomy, I am reminded of a verse from the song Moses: “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Keep in mind, as you read Deuteronomy 31-32, the balance of Moses’ life can be numbered in days, if not hours. This great leader, arguably one of the greatest of all time, was coming to the end of his earthly sojourn (31:2).

Moses’ Exhortation to Israel and Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:1-8)

Mindful of his mortality, Moses reminded the nation he was “an hundred and twenty years old,” and the LORD had said, “Thou shalt not go over this Jordan (31:1-2). With the urgency of a man who knows he will soon be passing, Moses exhorted the people: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (31:6). Then, “in the sight of all Israel,” Moses affirmed Joshua as the leader whom the LORD had chosen to lead the nation into the Promised Land (31:7-8).

Moses’ Challenge to Israel’s Spiritual Leaders (Deuteronomy 31:9-11)

Turning from Joshua, Moses challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation to be the custodians and teachers of the Law and keep the Law and Commandments before the people (31:9). Every seventh year, the priests were to gather the people together, and “read [the] law before all Israel in their hearing” (31:10-11).

God’s Confirmation of Joshua’s Succession (Deuteronomy 31:12-15)

The LORD then commanded Moses, saying, “Thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge” (31:14). The LORD then descended “in a pillar of a cloud…[and] stood over the door of the tabernacle” (31:15).

God’s Revelation of Israel’s Disobedience (Deuteronomy 31:16-18)

With Moses and Joshua standing at the door of the Tabernacle, the LORD revealed that after Israel conquered the Canaanites and took possession of the land, the people would “go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land” (31:16). They would break their covenant with Him (31:16b). and depart from the Law and Commandments. God then warned that He would hide His face and abandon them to the consequences of their idolatry (31:17-18).

A Song of Remembrance and Instruction (Deuteronomy 31:19-21; Deuteronomy 32)

To memorialize His prophecy against Israel, the LORD commanded Moses to write a song, “and teach it, the children of Israel…that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel (31:19). The song was to serve as a testimony of God’s faithfulness, and how He had fulfilled the promises He had made to their forefathers (31:20-21). And so, Moses wrote the song “and taught it [to] the children of Israel” (31:22).

A Public Charge to Joshua and Israel’s Leaders (Deuteronomy 31:22-30)

Deuteronomy 31 concluded with Moses giving a final charge to Joshua in preparing him to assume the leadership of the nation (31:23).  Moses then commanded the Levites to take the record of the Law he had written with his hand (31:24) and “put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (31:26). He then stated, what the LORD had revealed to him concerning the hearts of the people, saying, “I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?” (31:27).

Deuteronomy 32 – The Song of Moses and His Imminent Death

Given the length of Deuteronomy 32, a brief oversight of Moses’ song of praise, worship, and forewarning will need to suffice. First, you will notice the preface of Moses’ song in the first two verses and a declaration of its purpose (32:1-2). Moses then wrote, “I will publish the name of the Lord: Ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (32:3). He then declared that Israel’s God was “the Rock [strong and stable], His work is perfect [complete; lacking nothing]: For all His ways are judgment [He is Just]: A God of truth [trustworthy] and without iniquity [sinless], Just [Righteous; Innocent] and right [straight; upright] is He” (32:4).

After confessing the sinful character of the people, Moses memorialized the LORD’s compassionate care as a testimony of His grace, love, and mercies (32:7-18). He also recorded the tragic prophecy of the nation’s wickedness and God’s punishment that would follow (32:19-33). Yet, though the LORD would use other nations to judge His people, He promised He would not altogether forsake Israel (32:34-43).

After rehearsing the song he had written “in the ears of the people” (32:44), Moses challenged them: “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law” (32:46).

Closing thoughts:

When Moses finished speaking, the LORD commanded him, “49Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo…and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: 50And die in the mount whither thou goest up” (32:49-50a). Moses evidenced no protest at the LORD’s command and was reminded he would not enter the land (32:51).

From Mount Nebo, Moses looked out on the vastness of the land the LORD had promised Israel (32:52). His sin prevented him from leading the people into the land; however, the LORD had chosen Joshua, and the mantle of leadership now rested on him.

Questions to consider:

1) What assurance did the LORD give Israel that they should be “strong and of a good courage?” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

2) What tribe was responsible for carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the new land? (Deuteronomy 31:9)

3) What solemn event was Israel to observe every seventh year? (Deuteronomy 31:10-11)

4) What did Moses command the Levites to do with the book of the law he had written? (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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