Breaking Camp and Moving Forward

Deuteronomy 1:6-4:43 – Historical Prologue

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

One Reply to “Breaking Camp and Moving Forward”

  1. As we begin to read a large portion of Deuteronomy, it’s important to take a step back and look at the structure and purpose of this significant book of the Pentateuch. In reading through the NIV Study Bible’s introduction, I noticed a reference to suzerainty-vassal treaties, a completely new term for me. The book of Deuteronomy is “cast in the form of ancient Near Eastern suzerainty-vassal treaties of the second millennium BC” (NIV Study Bible, p. 259).  I found this quite interesting and useful in framing the text we’re about to dive into. Here’s a synopsis and a link for a bit more info:

    The purpose of Suzerain/Vassal treaties is to illustrate to the vassal how much the Suzerain has done to protect and establish the vassal who therefore owes submission and allegiance to the Suzerain. These treaties include stipulations, blessings and curses of the Suzerain. The most widely used rite was that of cutting the bodies of animals in halves and placing them in two rows with enough space between for the two parties of the treaty to walk side by side. As they walked between the pieces, they were vowing to each other, “May what has happened to these animals, happen to me if I break this covenant with you.”

    Moses recounts the story of how leaders were appointed after the advice of his father-in-law Jethro (see Exodus 18) and how there people approved (Deuteronomy 1:9-18); thus, judges were established over appropriate divisions within the numerous people of Israel.

    Moses recants the story of the spies and the reluctance of the people to enter the promised land. Most importantly, the Lord’s response to their grumbling: “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors” (1:35), with a few exceptions (Caleb and Joshua).

    God provides explicit instructions to Moses, who to fight, who to avoid as the move toward the Jordan River’s crossing point. Many cities and much land was conquered prior to the crossing. As requested by the Reubenites and Gadites (see Numbers 32), Moses notes that he gave them these territories AFTER they support the battles required for occupying the land across the Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:12-20).

    Moses reminds the people that the Lord denied his entry into the Promised Land because of their petulance, their arrogant behavior (1:37, 3:26 & 4:21), with strong words, “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (3:26b). So Moses was instructed to climb a mountain and look at the land, but not allowed to cross over and enter.

    They are reminded once again about the incident at Baal Peor where the Israelites indulged in sexual immorality with the Midianites (allies of the Moabites), following the advice of the pagan diviner Balaam. “The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today” (4:3-4).

    Moses summarizes a great deal of history and reminds the people of their poor choices. These are lessons we all need to hear and be reminded of ourselves. It seems we are quick to forget, a noble trait perhaps, but there is a difference in being forgiven for past sins and learning from former mistakes. Lord help us in remembering the past, not to dwell there, but to remember how you lifted us out of our sin. Let us remember enough to lead others wisely. Help us hear these words and take them to heart every day:

    Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4:9)

    Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time. (Deuteronomy 4:39-40)

    We are reminded to worship the Lord alone, to avoid making idols. I say we, even though this ancient writing refers to our ancestors, because I believe it is still relevant today. We make for ourselves idols in various forms. But here’s the refreshing news that Moses provides even so long ago, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (4:29).

    Lord thank you for the reminder, for the memories of Moses and his band of followers who were so often reluctant…a people we can identify with if we are honest with ourselves. Help me today, this day and in the future, to worship you alone, to study and learn. Most importantly Lord, help me to help others on this journey, this most important decision, even when they don’t know they must decide. Give me wisdom and remind me constantly that it is for your glory which is eternal and not mine which is fleeting.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.