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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 1
* This is the second devotion of two for today’s Scripture reading.
An Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy
Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Deuteronomy. It is the fifth of the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch. Briefly, remember that Genesis revealed the God of Creation. In that book, we had explained the origin of all things, the entrance of sin, and God’s covenant with Abraham that promised the LORD would through him bless “all families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3). Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness and gave us a record of God’s Law and Commandments.
Deuteronomy picked up the history of Israel at the journey’s end. With the nation encamped at the threshold of the Promised Land and knowing his death was imminent, Moses remembered and recorded the previous forty years of wanderings in the wilderness. Except for Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation that departed Egypt and was twenty years old at the time had perished along the way. Therefore, Deuteronomy recorded Israel’s history, God’s laws, and Moses’ final instructions and exhortations to the people he had shepherded for forty years.
Deuteronomy 1 – Moses’ Final Words to Israel
The Assembly of the Congregation (Deuteronomy 1:1-5)
We read: “It came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them” (Deuteronomy 1:3). The Book of Deuteronomy was so important that a king of Israel was to have a copy of the book written in his hand and to be read every day of his life.
God’s Promise of the Land (Deuteronomy 1:6-8)
It was important for Moses to rehearse with the new generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for Israel. So Moses challenged the people, “8Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them” (1:8).
Much as a man might research his ancestral tree to know the history of his lineage, Moses passed to the new generation knowledge of their physical ancestry and, more importantly, their spiritual heritage as God’s chosen people. Think about it: The men and women who stood before Moses were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to enter the Promised Land. They were now in their forties and late fifties. Many were too young to know the hardships of Egypt or remember when the people rebelled against the LORD. Therefore, Moses feared some might follow the faithlessness of the prior generation and be tempted to turn back from the new land.
The Appointment of Judges (Deuteronomy 1:9-18)
Because Israel was a large population (1:9-10), and Moses’ departure was imminent, it was essential for the nation to have a form of government that would judge matters according to God’s law and commandments. Therefore, the LORD directed Moses, “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you” (1:13). Those men were to judge the people and settle causes that would arise (1:16). Moses admonished the men to be fair in their judgments and “not respect persons” (1:17).
The Prior Generation’s Failure to Trust God (Deuteronomy 1:19-46)
Then, Moses recapped Israel’s forty years in the wilderness and the previous generation’s refusal to trust the LORD. Finally, for any who might question why the generation before them perished, Moses reminded them:
Deuteronomy 1:32–33 – 32Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, 33Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
Moses was concerned that the youth did not understand what faithlessness had cost their parents and grandparents. Therefore, he rehearsed the tragic consequences of their parents’ disobedience and ensured they understood the nation’s challenges.
Deuteronomy 1:34-46 is a history lesson. Moses reminded the people that only Caleb and Joshua would accompany them across the Jordan River. Moses, because he disobeyed the LORD, would not “go in thither” (1:37); but The LORD had appointed them Joshua, and the people were urged to “encourage him” (1:38).
The children of Israel needed to know and understand their history as a nation. History is important, and only a doomed society dares to deny its history and fail to learn from its past. Tragically, eradicating the history and symbols of a nation’s past might pacify a few, but it invariably destines its people to repeat its failures.
In the words of twentieth-century philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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