As Moses reached the end of reminding Israel of the Law, of writing it all down, preparing them to cross the Jordan, and handing the reigns of Israel over to Joshua, he must have felt so many conflicting emotions. He was about to die. He would not see the Promised Land that he had led the people to behind the LORD for forty years. And God had told him and Israel that they would not keep the covenant He had made with them. Moses had lived 120 years, forty as a prince of Egypt, forty as a sojourner and learner, and forty as a prophet and friend of God. Israel had been with him through that life, they were slaves in Egypt 430 years, wanderers in the desert for forty years, and now they would become God’s nation of Israel under a new prophet and leader.
First Moses encouraged the people and then Joshua their new leader. Verses 1-8 read,
“So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel. 2 And he said to them, “I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not go over this Jordan.’3 The Lord your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken. 4 And the Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. 5 And the Lord will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you. 6 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.”
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Whenever we are about to begin something new, the Lord wants us to remember what He has already done for us. He wants us to consider the ways He has brought us through, the great things He has done, and who He has been. He tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is I, the Lord your God who goes with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” What has the Lord already done for you? Has He always provided? Has He defeated the enemy? Has He made you into someone new? Has He brought you through the wilderness, trials, suffering, and tribulations untold? Don’t you know He will not leave you now? Don’t you know He is with you?
In order to remember God’s presence with Israel and help them to not forget, God commanded the regular reading of the Law he had just given them when they assembled for the Feast of Booths each year. The Feast of Booths was a celebration of gratitude for provision and a reminder of the wilderness. This joyous occasion was marked with purposeful recollection of God’s care and leading and the covenant He kept with them. Verses 9-13 read,
Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do 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 that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Why did the Lord want them to remember and obey? So that they would know who God is, so they would fear Him, to deeply venerate Him for every generation. Reading the Law together and hearing all God had done should have kept Israel from sinning, from breaking the covenant they had made with God. But it didn’t.
Now Moses had to appoint Joshua to take his place and prepare Him to lead the nation into the Promised Land. Verses 14-18 read,
And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting. 15 And the Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud. And the pillar of cloud stood over the entrance of the tent.
16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon 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 that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.”
Even when it seems He is far off or not with you at all, He is with you. Sometimes He withdraws the awareness of His presence from you so that you will actively seek Him again and sometimes you close your eyes to Him in your sin, pride, and shame. God had made the covenant with Israel knowing they would break it time and again. He gave them the Promised Land knowing they would desecrate it. But He loved them. He loves us. He saved us knowing every sin we would commit, knowing every defiant act we would perpetrate, yet He chooses to see us through Jesus’ blood as His righteous children. He never leaves us, He never forsakes us. He loves us so much that He wants us to be who we were created to be, a distinctive people, a holy priesthood, His chosen nation. So sometimes He hides His face from us. He doesn’t leave, He lets us feel as if He has. He does that for our good. He does that to discipline and bring us back onto the path He leads us on.
Hiding his face means He doesn’t rescue us from the circumstances we permitted by our sin. He lets us have the free will to choose the flesh and He lets us suffer the consequences of those actions. He does it because our Loving Holy Father disciplines His children and conforms us to His image.
God gave Israel a song which would remind them to turn back to the Lord. He knew they would sin and He still made a way for them to repent and come back. Verses 19-29 read,
“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” 22 So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.
23 And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
24 When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, 25 Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, 26 “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there fora witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death! 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.”
God loves you! He loves you very much. He loves you and saved you even though you are not perfect. He is making you perfect though. He promised this for you and to Him the promise is as good as done. Hebrews 10:14-18 says it this way,
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
We cannot be perfect without God. We cannot even try to be good enough on our own. With Him, we remember all He has done, who He is, and what He has said. We do our part which is to let Him be God, trust Him do what must be done, and heed the words He has given to us.