Deuteronomy 31

Deuteronomy 31

Deuteronomy 31:1-2 Moses had run the race and his work was about to end and he is here beginning his farewell to the sheep who had been entrusted to him. Age had taken its toll on his body and he was not able to “come and go” as in his youth. Moses’ life of 120 years can be divided into 3 parts. The first 40 were his days as a prince in Egypt from his providential adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter. The second 40 were in the wilderness of Midian in the shadow of Mt. Sinai as a shepherd of Jethro’s flocks. And the last 40 as the shepherd and mediator of Israel bringing them out of Egypt to where they were now on the plains of Moab. The Lord had told him that he would not cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land (Num. 20:12; Deu. 1:37; 3:27). Years before Moses disobeyed God and allowed his anger to flare before the people at Meribah, where there was little or no water. As a result, the people began to grumble and complain to the point where they were threatening the life of Moses. But in mercy, God instructed Moses to gather the people before a particular rock. There Moses was to speak to the rock before the people, and water and would begin flowing out of the rock. However, in anger Moses spoke to the people and not to the rock, accusing them of being rebels. In his rebuke, he failed to give God the credit and honor for providing the water. Since Moses was so elevated both now and forever this failure had to be disciplined. Discipline is greater for those who are in higher positions than others.
Deuteronomy 31:3-6 Moses conveys to Israel that their future did not depend on him or any human leader. God himself would lead his people into the land and destroy the nations who lived there. They had defiled His holy land and He was removing them to replace them with a nation that would represent Him to all the nations. The Lord will bring the same judgment he brought on the Amorites and their kings, Sihon and Og on East side of the Jordan. When the Canaanites are defeated, they were to do to them all that Moses commanded. They were charged not to shrink back from executing them as Moses told them in Deuteronomy 7:1-2. Israel is called to be strong and courageous and to not fear the Canaanite armies, instead, they needed to fix their eyes on the LORD, who will never leave or forsake them (Heb. 13:5). The enemies that confront us are strong at times but God promises us victory as well. The power to conquer is at our disposal by our faith and abiding in the Lord and His Word and walking in His Spirit. The same charge and encouragement given to the Israel is given to us (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:10–13; 2 Tim. 2:1; 1 Pet. 5:8–10).
Deuteronomy 31:7-8 Moses completes his transition from earth to heaven by appointing calling Joshua in the presence of all Israel. Joshua had served Moses as his servant for 40 years and had proven faithful. As leader of the people Joshua would need to set the example of strength and courage. He would serve as head of the army and overseer of the land. He would authorize the borders of the various tribal lands that would be entrusted to Israel. Joshua was one of two men from the generation that left Egypt and survived the wilderness wanderings. He saw and experienced God’s provision for His people. His faith, confidence, and trust in God would allow him to serve in leadership. Joshua proved to God and the people that he was the closest in character, knowledge, and wisdom to stand in the place of Moses. Moses’ commission of Joshua before the people gave them the assurance that both Moses and God had appointed him. Joshua was given the privilege to lead God’s people to fulfill the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of the promised land.

Deuteronomy 31:9-13 We should understand that Moses and Joshua were to the Older Covenant what Yeshua the Apostles and Paul were to the New. There would be a great transition after their passing, and the role of the priests and elders would be as essential for the Older Covenant as elders were for the New Covenant. That is why the priesthood, leadership and discipleship are crucial in God’s work of redemption (Tikkun Olam is the Hebrew expression for the repairing of the world). Here Moses prepares for the future of God’s covenant people after both he and Joshua die. The responsibility for the renewal and commitment to the covenant would then fall on the priests and elders of Israel. They would have to teach the people the provisions of the law on a regular basis.

The law written by Moses and given to the priests may refer to the Torah, the first five books of the Old Covenant, or to the covenant conditions outlined in chapters 5 thru 26 of Deuteronomy (Deut. 4:44-45; 29:21,29; 30:10; 32:46). The laws given in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy instruct God’s people how they were to walk before the Lord as His priestly nation. The phrase “this law” can also be seen as future revelation pointing to the future books of the Old Testament which add to God’s Word. It imparts God’s wisdom, and teaching to help God’s covenant people to understand, obey, and walk in His Law.
The New Covenant compliments the Older Covenant providing instruction so that God’s people might be complete lacking in nothing (1 Tim. 3:16-17). The importance of the law in the life of Israel could never be over-stressed. Conquering and remaining in the land depended on their obedience to the law. If they kept the commandments, the presence and guidance of God would be with them. But if they disobeyed the law, the presence and guidance of God would be removed, and they would be on their own. Here the law was placed under the stewardship of both the political and religious leaders of the nation. They were charged with making sure that the people learned God’s Word.

Three charges were given to these leaders. 1) They were to make sure that the entire law was read at God’s appointed times (vv. 10–13). The law was to be read every seven years during the shmitah (Hebrew release) or sabbatical year at the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 10). 2) The law was to be read at the central place of worship (v. 11). 3) The people were to assemble and be taught the law. This included men, women, children, and foreigners by publicly reading God’s law, the people would learn to fear the Lord and to obey His commands.

In v 13 we see the importance of teaching these commands to the children. The law was to be taught to every new generation as long as they lived in the promised land (Deut. 6:4-9). One of the reasons that Jewish people went into captivity was their failure to do this. In the captivity they came to realize this failure and began the development of the synagogue, the place where weekly readings and instruction of God’s Law could be taught. This was one of the purposes of God’s appointed times that were designed to be educational as well as a time for rededication to the covenant. By teaching the covenant to children at an early age, they would learn the importance of the Word of God in their lives personally as well as for the community. Leaving their homes to go to the central place of worship would be an exciting time for families. They would learn that the event was significant and important. Being in the presence of God’s people would build a deep sense of national unity within them and the importance of unity among His people. The children would learn that it was the covenant and the Word of God, that held the nation together and allowed God’s blessings to abide on them (Mt. 5:18; 24:35; Jn. 17:17; Ro. 1:16).

Deuteronomy 31:14-15 At the Lord’s direction Moses publicly begins the installation of Joshua to be the anointed leader of Israel. Joshua was the divinely appointed successor to Moses. To demonstrate God’s approval of this transition, Joshua and Moses presented themselves at the Tent of Meeting. This “Tent of Meeting” was not the same as the tabernacle. The tent of meeting was located outside the camp while the Tabernacle was in the center. It was here where Moses and Israel’s leaders sought counsel from the Lord (Exo. 33:7–11; 18:7–16; Num 11:16, 24, 26; 12:4). It existed prior to the building of the tabernacle (Exo. 33:7–11). The Lord appeared in a pillar of cloud that stood over the entrance to the Tent and Joshua was appointed and anointed as leader of Israel.
Deuteronomy 31:16-18 Sadly Moses is told by the Lord in the presence of Joshua that the people would soon become unfaithful and forsake their marriage vow to the Lord, their husband. They would cleave to foreign gods and violate the covenant they made with their Lord. Because Israel would forsake Him, God would forsake them. He would remove His protection and blessing and they would experience disasters and difficulties as a nation and in their personal lives. Moses writes this prophetic word so that when these problems come, they would know that they were designed to awaken God’s people and cause them to inquire if the trials were linked to God’s anger. When they realize that there is a connection it will lead them to turn in repentance and bring revival. God’s discipline is designed to bring repentance and restoration to His chosen people. Their falling away was not a surprise to God and His leaders and that is still true today (1 Cor. 10:6-14; 2 Tim 2:19-24).

Deuteronomy 31:19-20 God called Moses to compose a song (Deut. 32:1-43) that would call to remembrance their infidelity and serve as a witness to The Lord’s faithfulness and Israel’s rebellion. Israel’s falling away would be sad since they would begin their backsliding in a land flowing with milk and honey. God knows everything about us, where we are and where we are going. He knows where we’ve been and all we have done. Nothing is hidden from the omniscient God whose knowledge is without limits. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Mt. 6:8). “The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath (vain) (Ps. 94:11). Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the Lord is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. “Can a man hide himself in hiding places, So I do not see him?” declares the LORD. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD (Jer. 23:24).

Deuteronomy 31:21-22 Most of us know the impact songs have. They’re an integral part of our worship and culture enabling people to visualize and remember the lyrics. This song would be incorporated into Israel’s regular worship. This passage is a part of the Torah readings read every week in Synagogues around the world where Jewish people have been scattered. In the years to come, when disasters and difficulties came upon them, this song of Moses would not be forgotten by the descendants of this generation that entered the land. God knew what Israel would do, even before they did it, and is a demonstration of his love that He chronicles it here. When we see this great love how can we resist our heavenly Father? Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me (Isa. 49:15-16).

Deuteronomy 31:23 To encourage Joshua in the face of Israel’s worldly tendencies God exhorted him to be strong and courageous. Joshua would not live to see the future complete falling away of the nation but he would still have to deal with them in his role as leader of the nation. As God was with Moses, so He would be with Joshua and fulfill His word to him and to Israel.
Deuteronomy 31:24-26 The writing of the law was now complete. Moses charged the Levites (Kohanim), who were responsible for the Ark of the Covenant to place this book beside the Ark. Inside the ark was the two tablets of the Ten Commandments and the jar of manna from the wilderness. Its presence outside the Ark would be a reminder to the High Priest who only entered on the Day of Atonement of the covenant requirements. It would need to be placed there each time the Tabernacle was set up after being moved in the wilderness. A copy of this book was to be made by the future kings (Deut. 17:18-19). The law would be a witness against the people and a testimony to the nations Deut. 4:5-6).

Deuteronomy 31:27-30. The future of the nation would be affected by their rebellious and hard hearts. We are all prone to this since it is our default mode. We can either walk in the Spirit or in the flesh (Galatians 5:16-25). In the older covenant Moses and Torah was Israel’s teacher, in the New God’s Spirit and His Word are our teacher. The presence of Moses restrained the people, but that check would be removed after his death. To warn them about their future rebellion he called the elders of the tribes so he could speak words that would be recorded to warn and rebuke future generations. God’s love would allow His judgment to fall on them to get their attention. To help them remember Moses wrote and read the words of a song that would chronicle their past, present and future. Rebellion against the Lord brings trouble. This is one reason why God has given us His Word to warn of sins consequences.

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