Today as we continue in the pursuit to know God more deeply we will begin reading Deuteronomy. God desires for us to know Him and love Him (Hosea 6:6). He is clearly depicted throughout The Scriptures as The LORD, Father God, Jesus Christ the Son, and The Holy Spirit. Allowing Him to reveal Himself to us in books where He is not so plain such as Deuteronomy allows us to know Him in an intimate way that reading only the New Testament does not. He is in the entire Word and leaving portions of it out of our study leaves portions of The Lord out of our knowledge and so endangers us to worship a god based on part of the truth, a god of our own making, a god who is not The LORD.
Authored by Moses and comprised primarily of three discourses spoken to Israel, Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Pentateuch. The name means the second law. It is the second revelation of the Law to Moses and to Israel. The Hebrew name for the book is Elle haddabharim, which mean "These are the words." That is how the book begins. Let’s dig in to the first chapter. Verses 1-5 read,
“These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2 It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. 3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, 4 after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. 5 Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, 6 “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’”
Israel had been wandering in the desert for forty years because of their lack of faith to take The Promised Land. The Lord had grown their faith in those years. All the generation of the faithless (over twenty years old at the start) had died except for Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:30). Even Moses would not get to enter The Promised Land because he had lacked faith. The Lord had taught the second generation that He is their God and they were His people. They had to learn that truth because they could only depend on The Lord. Isn’t that what our suffering teaches us, to know God and depend on Him?
They were eleven days journey from reaching the Promised Land, the same distance as Egypt to Kadesh-barnea (what would become Israel). They eleven days away from the promise that most of them had lived their entire lives walking towards. There was still a lot ahead of them. They would have to take the land from the people already there, so The Lord had to prepare them. He began by reminding them of what they had gone through the last forty years and having Moses explain the law to them. Verses 9-18 read,
“At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. 10 The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11 May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! 12 How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? 13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.”
How wise was Moses to know that the responsibility of an entire nation was so great? He didn’t know at that time that it would be forty long years, he thought it would eleven days or so. He was a humble man who knew enough the great honor of leading Israel was also a difficult one he could not do alone. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Israel was only too happy to accept the commendation of appointing judges among them. They heard this command and received it gladly. Some promises seem easy to receive, especially the ones with titles and privileges. But they didn’t receive every command from God with such willingness. They were prideful and stubborn like we are. Remember as we read that Israel represents us. What they did and lived is supposed to teach us so that we might skip the mistakes they made. But pride, obstinacy, and rebellion are deep-seated traits of the flesh that too many of us have refused to give to The Holy Spirit. Verses 19-21 read,
“Then we set out from Horeb and went through all that great and terrifying wilderness that you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the Lord our God commanded us. And we came to Kadesh-barnea. 20 And I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’”
Israel was right there just outside The Promise Land. God said, “Go take it, it is yours, don’t be afraid.” But this command to take what they had been promised horrified them. They were terrified to receive what The LORD had promised. Verses 22-28 describe Israel’s response to The LORD’s command to receive their promise.
“Then all of you came near me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.’ 23 The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. 24 And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. 25 And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.’
26 “Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. 28 Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”’
Instead of taking the land as God commanded, they checked it out first. They looked at the Land through their eyes and abilities, not The Lord’s. Instead of being encouraged by the fruit the land offered, they were discouraged by the report of the people. Where was their faith in God? They had just crossed through the Red Sea and remained perfectly dry while the army of Egypt had drowned behind them (Exodus 14:26-31). Where is our faith when God tells us to take what He has promised? Where is our faith when He tells us to do the impossible? For too many of us, we forget we can depend on The Lord, we forget His promise means He will do it, and we think somehow we have to do it by our heart, soul, strength and mind. Deuteronomy 31:6 reads,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
The Lord God Almighty is with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you, don’t be afraid. Go ahead, accept His promise, take the steps you are afraid to take because He said, “Be courageous.” Courage is not having being fearless, it is acting in faith regardless of your fear. That courage comes from depending solely on God, not looking toward your own strength, your bank account, or other circumstances to save you. The author of Hebrews understood that it is fear that leads us to idolize money and other earthly solutions rather than Our All-Sufficient Lord. Hebrews 13:5-6 says,
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
Israel downright refused to take The Promised Land. So He had to teach them, strengthen them and enable them to receive it. Moses reminded Israel of what went on the day they stood where they would stand after another eleven days journey looking at the Promise of God about to be manifested. Verses 29-41 read,
“Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God, 33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.
34 “And the Lord heard your words and was angered, and he swore,35 ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!’37 Even with me the Lord was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. 38 Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.39 And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. 40 But as for you, turn, and journey into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.’”
The Lord would still fulfill His promise, but only when Israel was ready. The faith of Joshua would ensure The Lord’s promise for their children. Israel was turned around and led back the direction they came, not back into slavery, they were already delivered, but to walk following The Spirit and learning that God is All-Sufficient and Almighty. Verses 41-46 tell us what happened next,
“Then you answered me, ‘We have sinned against the Lord. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country. 42 And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ 43 So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went up into the hill country. 44 Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah.45 And you returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. 46 So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.”
Israel said, “You’re right! We don’t wanna go back to the wilderness! That eleven days journey was tough! Okay we have faith! We’ll fight like you said.” But God said, “No don’t fight.” He had not told them to fight, He had said He would fight for them. He knew they were not ready to walk in the faith they would need to walk in order to take possession of The Promised Land. He had to take them through the wilderness first.
It might be frightening to take what God has promised you. It was frightening to take the eternal life, the promise of Jesus Christ and live as a child of Our Father in Heaven in the power of The Holy Spirit against the prince of the world. But Jesus overcame him for you. He fought for you then and He fights for you now. If you can’t receive His promises just yet, rejoice He will strengthen you and prepare you to receive them.
Did He promise you healing, blessings, and provision? They are yours. Did He promise you would do greater works than He has done? You will. Did He promise you offspring physically and spiritually, favor, and prosperity of provision and ministry? He will give it. Receive it, do not fear or be dismayed, take the steps He has told you to take or let Him lead you through the wilderness until you have the faith to receive it. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6).