Deuteronomy Part One: Dive
LESSONS FROM THE GREATEST LEADER OF ALL TIME
There have been some incredible speeches throughout history; 1940 Winston Churchill – “We Shall Fight them on the Beaches”, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr - “I have a Dream”, I love reading these inspiring speeches and being challenged by their incredible leadership in the worst of circumstances.
As we read Deuteronomy, having studied the Pentateuch now in full in our schedule (congratulations guys!), we have walked with one of the most incredible leaders of all time, Moses. We have watched as he walked the people of Israel out of Egypt, into the wilderness and around for 40 years. Putting up with their whining and complaining against God, interceding on their behalf, taking care of them and guiding them through.
Now we come to the final words of Moses, this is his greatest speech of all time. Even though these series of three speeches were written down and presented to the people in book form (Deut 31:24) he also spoke them to Israel at their final ‘Leaders Meetings’ before they went and entered the Promised land. These speeches are his final parting words to his people. He knows that Joshua is now taking over leadership and taking the people into the promised land and he is giving his ‘farewell words’ to rally the troops, to inspire his people to follow God while in the promise land and instruct them on the laws to keep while in the land. As you read Deuteronomy you can hear the heartache of this leader as he calls them to “remember the Lord”, he gives them their final instructions. This is really quite sad, we have 31 chapters of his instructions to his people, then the Song of Moses, which is really is not the song of praise you expect, it is a song of truth about what is about to happen to the people. He then ordains Joshua to take over leadership, he blesses the tribes in chapter 33 and at the ripe old age of 120 he climbs Mount Nebo gets to see the land that God was giving the Israelites from afar and then in 33:5 it says “And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab”. At this point, if this was a movie I would be crying! Especially when you read the tribute to Moses in 34:10-12, “For no one was ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel”. So amazing, what a life, what a legacy!
This is why I love reading the books of the Bible in full and have loved reading the Pentateuch in order, I have loved getting to walk with Moses through the hard days and the amazing days and now I get to see him finish his life in Deuteronomy.
So, if you were writing your final book what would you say? Let’s go through a quick overview of what this incredible man said in his final moments and what Leadership lessons we can take from one of the greatest:
HIS HONESTY: The first thing I notice about Moses final words is that he is angry with the Israelites. He puts the blame solely on the Israelites for the mess he is in and he is completely honest and open about his feelings. Listen to his language: 1:26 “But you were unwilling to go up: you rebelled against the Lord”. 1:29 “But because of you the Lord is angry with me and would not listen to me”. 4:21 “The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance”. There is no ‘we’ in his accusations against the people of Israel. I can imagine this old man at 120 telling it how it is and saying guys you did this to me but you get to keep going. Turn this around and when you get in there do the right thing. This is a strong leader that knows the consequences of actions and he is reminding the people to take responsibility for their past actions so they don’t repeat them.
HE LEADS WITH HOPE AND STRENGTH: I love that in the end, despite his personal circumstances, he is a leader of hope and strength. I love that in his final words Moses is still championing them on, telling them they can do it. I love it as he remembers his time with them in the first chapters he says 1:29 Then I said to you “Do not be afraid; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God is going before you, will fight for you.” 12:10 “God will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety” 14:2 “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” To the end, this man of faith was a leader of hope for his people. Despite his personal heartache he leads the people with hope for their future and for the future of Israel.
HE HONOURS GOD TO THE END: Moses is not angry with God but to the end is in awe, with respect and gratitude. Look at 4:7 “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” 4:39 “Acknowledge and take heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below. There is no other.” I love this one, 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”. This is my goal, to get to the end of my life still singing the praises of our God! To still have the awe, respect and gratitude for God on my lips until my last breath - I will praise the Lord!
HE INSTRUCTS WITH WISDOM AND WARNING: His instructions come with wisdom and warning. I love that Moses, time and time again doesn’t just tell them what they are to think or do, but warns them of turning away from God. Take note as you go through this of the warning phrases “But if you” “Hear Israel and be careful” “So if you.. I will” “Be careful” and then the outright Curses for Disobedience. Even in his final Hymn he is warning them, teaching them and training them.
HE BELIEVES IN HIS PEOPLE TO THE END: What shocks me the most is this incredible leader doesn’t stop believing good for his people despite everything that they did to him. He declares blessing over them, he declares prosperity over them in the land where he cannot go. That’s an incredible leader, like I said before despite having been excluded from entering the Promised Land, his heart is still for the people. He still calls them to faith, tells them of the good things in their future. What an incredible leader! I would not be like that - I would be cranky, angry and resentful but not Moses.
HE SPEAKS PROPHETICALLY INTO THEIR FUTURE: Moses speaks prophetically over the people. Look at Deuteronomy 17:14-20 Moses prophesies that the nation is going to ask for a King. We know as we continue to read the Bible that this happens in 1 Samuel 8, they ask Samuel to appoint a King over them and this King is Saul. He also speaks prophetically about the coming Prophets for the people of Israel in 18:14-22.
As I read this incredible book my imagination goes wild. When you get to Chapters 5 - 28, which addresses the future of the people of God, the topics that he covers are so broad and not in any seemingly logical order. It’s like he has thought about this over and over and it has kept him up at night, what is he going to say to his people when the Lord calls him home? And now with a check-list in hand, he is going through the things that he thinks is the most important things to say: going to war (done) atonement for an unsolved murder (tick – done) marrying captive women, dealing with a rebellious son (tick). You can imagine Moses at night praying with the Lord and going through every possible scenario that these rebellious people could fail God and adding it to his list of instructions.
As you read Deuteronomy take note of the scriptures that will have big implications in the New Testament:
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. ….Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.”
Deuteronomy 11:18 “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds: tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
This is where the Jewish culture phylacteries, square leather boxes containing scriptures that are bound on the hands and heads come from. Google search phylacteries.
Also Deuteronomy 21:23 “Be sure to buy it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse."
This incredibly small and seemingly weird scripture is the basis to which most Jews deny that Jesus is the Messiah. For he was cursed as he hung on the tree at Calvary. Do a quick study of this verse and the incredible implications around the Messiah that it bears.
As with some of the books we have already studied, some of Deuteronomy is culturally averse to our society and quite challenging to read; again let this stir praise in you that we are no longer under the law of Moses but under the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Especially 25:11, I couldn’t stop laughing at this one. But the funniest one I read, I think this could be a great fridge magnet for the home was Deuteronomy 24:16;
“Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents, each will die for their own sin.”
Hallmark should put that one on a card ☺ Again if it is culturally averse from us then grab the principle. Like the principle of dishonesty in 25:13.
Lastly as we finish this incredible book of this incredible man, look at the blessing for obedience. In Christ we are made righteous, as if we did all of these laws and instructions perfectly. Jesus fulfilled all the law and we get to take on that perfect record as we accept him as our Lord and Saviour. How incredible is that, so if you went for a test today on all the laws we have read in the Pentateuch, you wouldn’t have to complete the test it would say COMPLETED IN CHRIST! You can jump straight to Deuteronomy 28 and claim the blessing. No wonder the Jews of the 1st Century were so angry that these gentiles are able to claim the fullness of the law without doing any of it but by the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Anyway that is way too much from me, so jump into the book! It is quite long but really enjoy being at the ‘Last Leaders Meeting’ of this incredible leader, hearing his heart, passion, anger and frustration for the people that he led for over 80 years. Have fun reading Deuteronomy, and this weeks Deep Dive!