Promising Discipline; Demonstrating Love

Posted: December 13, 2008 in Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 31-32, “Promising discipline; Demonstrating love”

Deuteronomy 31 (NKJV)
1 Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. 2 And he said to them: “I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’ 3 The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said. 4 And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. 5 The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you.

A. Moses can’t go. He’s 120 years old (40 growing up in Egypt – 40 in Midian – 40 leading the Hebrews) & due to his sin with the rock & waters of Meribah Kadesh, he won’t be going any further…going to be reminded of this at the end of Ch 32.
B. God can go…and will! “The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you…” It’s not merely that they will go over the Jordan with the blessing of God; they will go over the Jordan WITH God. He’s the One going to fight the battles – He’s the One that’s going to gain the victory – He’s the One who’s going to deliver the Hebrews into the promised land.
__a. Important to keep in mind! The Hebrews may have followed a representative of God for the past 40 years, but their hope wasn’t in Moses. Neither would their hope be in Joshua; their hope was in God Himself. Likewise for us…we follow Christ Jesus, God Himself. There may be various leaders in the church who are faithful & others who are not – but our hope & trust isn’t in them. Our hope & trust is in Jesus alone.

6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” 7 Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. 8 And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

A. “Be strong & of good courage”: We’re going to see this repeated often during the transition from Moses to Joshua. Joshua will be going up against what would seem to be insurmountable odds. He’s going to face nations larger and stronger than Israel – these nations will have the home-turf advantage, whereas Israel is nomadic – and Joshua’s leading a nation of 1st-class whiners… Yet the call isn’t to trust in his own strength, but to trust in the strength of the Lord God. Because HE’s strong, we can be strong & courageous in the face of insurmountable odds. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
B. Don’t fear. Why? First of all, God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7)… But also because God was giving them assurances of His provision.
__a. God is the One going with them…there is none stronger.
__b. God is the One who won’t leave them…there is none more faithful.
__c. God made a promise to their fathers…God always keeps His word.
__d. We have a similar promise today. He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20) – He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5) – nothing in all creation can ever separate us from His love (Rom 8:39)…Christian, don’t fear!

9 So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.”

A. The covenant was written down… Probably speaking of the whole book of Deuteronomy. No telling how many copies were made – most likely 2: one to be placed in the Ark & one to be given to the Levites.
B. God wanted the law to be read…often! But unfortunately, that’s not what happened. (Clarke) “It does not appear that from the time mentioned (Jos 8:30), at which time this public reading first took place, till the reign of Jehoshaphat (2Ch 17:7), there was any public seventh year reading – a period of 530 years. The next seventh year reading was not till the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, (2Ch 34:30), a space of two hundred and eighty-two years. Nor do we find any other publicly mentioned from this time till the return from the Babylonish captivity, (Ne 8:2).” To read it publically 3 times in 882 years…is it any wonder that the people fell into idolatry & sin?
C. Why was the law to be read publically? So that they & their children could learn to fear the Lord & obey Him. Keep in mind that they didn’t have multiple study Bibles & various translations in every tent. Copies of the Scriptures were very rare & the literacy rate was obviously low. One has to know God’s Word if they’re going to obey it. And if the people were to know it, they would have to have it read to them.
__a. We’ve got a tremendous privilege & advantage over the ancient Hebrews in that we have our own (multiple) copies of the Scriptures! We have no excuse not to be reading it more than they did…

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of meeting, that I may inaugurate him.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tabernacle of meeting. 15 Now the LORD appeared at the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood above the door of the tabernacle. 16 And the LORD said to Moses: “Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.

A. Commissioning Joshua in the presence of the Lord. Both Moses & Joshua went to the Tabernacle with God’s glory present (symbolized by the pillar of cloud). If there was any doubt on God’s choice of a successor, there wouldn’t be any after this!
B. On the eve of writing down the covenant, God tells of how the Israelites will break it. The ink likely isn’t dry yet & God’s already telling them of their coming failure…it’s that certain. And history shows it to be true. Joshua no sooner passes away as Judges Ch 1 starts writing of the sin of the Israelites.
__a. This is just our human nature. Left to ourselves, we are sinful! When we turn away from God, we’re turning to sin (by definition) – and we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the effects of sin showing up in our lives.

19 “Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. 20 When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. 21 Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.”

A. Song serves as a witness against them. How so? Not many people can claim to have been warned away from idolatry as much as Israel has. The song of Moses is one more step in that…as they learned, memorized, and sung this song, they were singing the about the prophecies of God concerning what would happen when they fell into apostasy. Thus it was a witness against them.

22 Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel. 23 Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”

A. Again the repeated charge to Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage…”
B. Again the promise of victory in the Promised Land. God knows not only their coming failure, but He also knows the deliverance He will give them… Our God is a merciful & gracious God! Knowing their failure, He’s going to be true to His word, no matter what.

24 So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; 27 for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD, then how much more after my death? 28 Gather to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.”

A. Good point from Moses. If they were evil during his life, with all the miracles among them – how much more rebellious would they be after his death? One could hardly ask for more visible proof of God’s blessing & existence than what the Hebrews experienced!
B. People today fall into the same line of thinking. “Want me to believe in Jesus? I need more proof.” God has already given us all the witness we need regarding sin & righteousness. [Lazarus & the rich man…] Luke 16:31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” [] How true! We have the witness of creation, of Scripture, and of the resurrected risen Son of God – and yet some people still do not believe. This isn’t a lack of proof; it’s a lack of willingness. Those who reject the gospel do so knowingly & willfully.
__a. But God still loves them enough to make salvation available…

30 Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended:
Deuteronomy 32 (NKJV)
1 “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2 Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. 3 For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. 4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.

A. Introduction…remember this is poetry (thought of as the prime example of Hebrew poetry in all literature); Moses is petitioning all Creation to hear the witness of the Lord through this song.
B. What better way to begin than by proclaiming the glory & praises of God? He is great – He is the Rock of Salvation – His works are perfect as He is perfect – His ways are just because He is just – He is a God of truth, righteousness, & uprightness! Our God is worthy of praise!
__i. It’s important to start this song with this – for there is much here that some would charge God with unrighteousness with. God is definitely going to discipline His people and judge sin, but that doesn’t make Him unjust. On the contrary, it affirms His justice & righteousness! It’s proof of His goodness…

5 “They have corrupted themselves; They are not His children, Because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation. 6 Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?

A. In their rebellion, they’re certainly not acting like God’s children…

7 “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; Your elders, and they will tell you: 8 When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, When He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel. 9 For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance.

A. Going to recount Israel’s history – showing how God interacted with them.
B. First, God chose them. Of all the peoples of the earth, God chose Abraham & the Hebrews. He picked them out of all the sons of Adam as His own people; His own possession. Not because they had earned His favor, but because He is good & gracious. Likewise, God chose us as His own people, as a holy priesthood unto Him (1 Pet 2:9). We love Him because He 1st loved us (1 John 4:19).

10 “He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. 11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings, 12 So the LORD alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him. 13 “He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock; 14 Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs; And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the choicest wheat; And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes.

A. Second, God provided for them. Once free from Egypt, God guided them through a desert wasteland for 40 years, providing life, manna, water, clothing, protection, and more. Israel has no need whatsoever to turn to idols; they serve the Living God – Jehovah Jireh their provider.
B. Note God didn’t merely provide for them as if He was obligated to do so with the bare minimum…God truly loves His people. They are “the apple of His eye” – He takes care of them like a mother eagle – He gave them the “choicest wheat”, etc.
__a. Is God’s provision really a sign of God’s love for them? After all, God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). But God’s provision is far more than causing our bellies to be full – He’s given us provision at our greatest need: salvation! Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [] There’s no greater provision than that!

15 “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. 16 They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals That your fathers did not fear. 18 Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you.

A. Who’s Jeshurun? Just another name for Israel. A bit of irony here, as it’s translated “the upright/righteous one” while describing their unrighteousness.
B. How did Israel respond to God’s gracious choice & provision? They forgot Him & provoked Him to jealousy & anger through idolatry. Were they really serving other gods? No – there is no other god but God Almighty. So who/what receives idolatrous sacrifices? Demons (vs. 17). Paul takes up the same theme in 1 Cor 10 regarding communion. The prohibition from idolatry doesn’t stop with the New Covenant – it carries over to us as well. God fathered us & adopted us as His own; we dare not forget Him.

19 “And when the LORD saw it, He spurned them, Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters. 20 And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, For they are a perverse generation, Children in whom is no faith. 21 They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled in My anger, And shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

A. God’s response? The same as Israel’s towards Him:
__a. God forsakes them. There’s no more terrible thought than God hiding His face & presence from His children. It’s no wonder Jesus cried out in anguish from the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46) when bearing the sin of mankind.
__b. God provokes them to jealousy. How so? Through us! Romans 10:19-20 (19) But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” (20) But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” []
__c. God moves them to anger. When Israel & Judah are taken into captivity, they’ll understand a bit of the anger they caused the Lord.

23 ‘I will heap disasters on them; I will spend My arrows on them. 24 They shall be wasted with hunger, Devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the teeth of beasts, With the poison of serpents of the dust. 25 The sword shall destroy outside; There shall be terror within For the young man and virgin, The nursing child with the man of gray hairs. 26 I would have said, “I will dash them in pieces, I will make the memory of them to cease from among men,” 27 Had I not feared the wrath of the enemy, Lest their adversaries should misunderstand, Lest they should say, “Our hand is high; And it is not the LORD who has done all this.” ’

A. It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Promises famine, pestilence, war, and destruction.
B. How bad is it going to be? So bad that the Lord would have completely wiped them out, if not for the neighboring nations being able to bring a charge of unfaithfulness against the Lord God. I.e. “God must not keep His word if He destroyed His own people.” Thus, due to God’s own glory & reputation, the Hebrews remained a people even though they faced terrible devastation.
__a. There has always been a remnant of God’s people – even today! And still the glorious promise remains that God will remove the blinders from the rest of the nation & they will one day recognize their Messiah & worship Him in Spirit and truth. (Rom 11:5, 26)

28 “For they are a nation void of counsel, Nor is there any understanding in them. 29 Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, That they would consider their latter end! 30 How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the LORD had surrendered them? 31 For their rock is not like our Rock, Even our enemies themselves being judges. 32 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom And of the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes are grapes of gall, Their clusters are bitter. 33 Their wine is the poison of serpents, And the cruel venom of cobras.

A. What were they too foolish to understand? That the sin wasn’t worth it! God had promised incalculable blessing for walking with Him & utter devastation for not doing so. Yet they chose the sin instead…
B. We do the same thing every time we choose sin over obedience… We could experience blessing & fellowship as we walk with Christ Jesus, but so often we experience consequences and God’s discipline when we choose to sin instead. It’s just not worth it!

34 ‘Is this not laid up in store with Me, Sealed up among My treasures? 35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.’

A. IOW, this isn’t a threat; this is a promise. When they fall into idolatry, these things will come upon them.

36 “For the LORD will judge His people And have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their power is gone, And there is no one remaining, bond or free. 37 He will say: ‘Where are their gods, The rock in which they sought refuge? 38 Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, And drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise and help you, And be your refuge.

A. As the prophets of Baal found out with Elijah (1 Kings 18), false gods can’t help people because they don’t exist. People can sincerely believe with their whole hearts in false gods & false religions & still be sincerely wrong.
B. But note that God has compassion on His people – even after momentous sin (vs. 36). That’s just Who God is…it’s part of His character & name. Exodus 34:6-7 (6) And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, (7) keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” [] Will He judge? Yes – absolutely. But does God still show compassion in the midst of it? Yes! Just in the fact He doesn’t completely destroy Israel, He demonstrates His compassion. But He doesn’t stop there; He desires to see them repent, and bless the nation. Again, we see it underlined, highlighted & put in bold type: God loves His children!

39 ‘Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand. 40 For I raise My hand to heaven, And say, “As I live forever, 41 If I whet My glittering sword, And My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, And repay those who hate Me. 42 I will make My arrows drunk with blood, And My sword shall devour flesh, With the blood of the slain and the captives, From the heads of the leaders of the enemy.” ’

A. There is no God but God! In blessing and destruction, God is always sovereign and almighty. None can stand or compare to Him…

43 “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people.”

A. Why can Gentiles rejoice with God’s people? Because God’s atonement is for all of us. The atonement through Jesus Christ makes us one people: the people of God.

44 So Moses came with Joshua the son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. 45 Moses finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 and he said to them: “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. 47 For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.”

A. Israel may be certain to break the covenant, but that doesn’t stop Moses from imploring with them to follow. Whether or not they followed the law meant life or death…and God would have them choose life!
__a. Whether or not we respond to the Word of God is still a matter of life & death. God knows who will be saved and who won’t be saved…He still implores them to receive forgiveness through Christ.
B. As Christians, we dare not neglect observing God’s word through the Scriptures. We have a tendency to think that any call to obedience is a call to legalism – but that’s note true. Granted, the law has been fulfilled through Christ – but God’s commandments don’t stop with the Old Testament. We’re still commanded to love God will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – to love one another as Jesus loves us – to bear one another’s burdens & fulfill the law of Christ & more. The difference is that we know today that it’s only through the empowerment of the Spirit that any of this is possible – but we’re still commanded to do it & observe the commands of our Lord & King.

48 Then the LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying: 49 “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho; view the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel as a possession; 50 and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; 51 because you trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me in the midst of the children of Israel. 52 Yet you shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving to the children of Israel.”

A. Moses isn’t going to go into the land, but God WILL let him see it… Going to see more of this next week – ultimately this is a show of grace to Moses from God.

Whether to Israel, Moses, or Joshua – God keeps His word! Joshua was promised to take the people into the land, and God gave that to him. Israel was promised judgment for their sin & redemption upon repentance, and God gave it to them. Moses was promised that though he would not go into the land, that he’s see it, and God gave it to him.

God always keeps His word! God promises salvation to all who repent and trust Christ, and He gives it to us…


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