Study Guide for Deuteronomy 31
SOME FINAL INSTRUCTIONS FROM MOSES
A. Moses charges the people, Joshua, and the priests.
1. (Deu 31:1-2) Moses at one hundred and twenty.
Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. 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.'”
a. I am one hundred and twenty years old today: Moses, at 120 years, was not limited by his physical condition (in a short time he will climb to the top of a mountain). Instead, he could no longer go out and come in because he was limited by God’s command – the decree that Moses would not enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:7-12).
b. You shall not cross over this Jordan: These specific words of God to Moses are not recorded in the Numbers 20 account; this must be a further elaboration of the decree you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them (Numbers 20:12).
i. There is a difference between you shall not bring this congregation into the land and you shall not cross over this Jordan. By the first statement, it is allowable that Moses could go into the Promised Land, but not as the leader of the nation, having passed the torch of leadership to Joshua. But God made it even more clear to Moses: you shall not cross over this Jordan.
ii. God’s correction of Moses was hard; not only will he not lead Israel into the Promised Land, he will not even go there. That which he had dreamed of, and felt called to, as a child in the palaces of Egypt – to deliver God’s people – will not be completed. Another will finish the job, and Moses’ feet will never touch the soil of the land that God had promised to the covenant descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Why was it such a severe punishment? What did Moses do?
iii. Essentially, at Meribah (Numbers 20:7-12), when Israel complained and cried out for water, Moses misrepresented God. He misrepresented God by lecturing the nation harshly and unnecessarily. Moses misrepresented God by acting as if God needed him to provide water for the people. And Moses both misrepresented and disobeyed God by angrily striking the rock twice, instead of just speaking to the rock as God had told him to.
iv. This may seem an excessively harsh punishment for Moses; after all, with only one slip-up, he now must die short of the Promised Land? But Moses was being judged by a stricter standard because of his leadership position with the nation, and because he had a uniquely close relationship with God. It is right for teachers and leaders to be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1); though it is unrighteous to hold teachers and leaders to a perfect standard. It is true the people’s conduct was worse than Moses’ but it is irrelevant.
v. Worst of all, Moses defaced a beautiful picture of Jesus’ redemptive work through the rock which provided water in the wilderness. The New Testament makes it clear this water-providing, life-giving rock was a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus, being struck once, provided life for all who would drink of Him (John 7:37). But was unnecessary – and unrighteous – that Jesus would be struck again, much less again twice, because the Son of God needed only to suffer once (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus can now be come to with words of faith (Romans 10:8-10), as Moses should have only used words of faith to bring life-giving water to the nation of Israel. Moses “ruined” this picture of the work of Jesus God intended.
vi. So now, Moses must face his destiny. Not only you shall not bring this congregation into the land but also, you shall not cross over this Jordan.
2. (Deu 31:3-6) The charge to the children of Israel.
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. 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. The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. 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.
a. The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you: Moses had led Israel for 40 years; he was the only leader most of these people had ever known. Yet the nation could be confident and Moses could go his way in peace because He knew God was with Israel. Israel, Moses, or Joshua did not have to be afraid. Instead, they could Be strong and of good courage, because the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.
i. Moses was a great man; one of the greatest to ever walk this earth. But Moses was not irreplaceable. God being with them, Israel was in good hands, with or without Moses.
b. Be strong and of good courage: It was now time for the nation to take courage in the LORD and not fear nor be dismayed. Moses passes from the scene, but God has not abandoned Israel.
When we look at the situation that the Israelites had to face is precisely or corresponds to what we as Christians will have to meet each day as we leave the devastation of 2020 and face the new beginning in 2021..
However, as Christians today, we have far more to embrace in our lives than the Israelites. We have our Messiah, revealed Himself as a promise of His existence and a path for a new beginning. Do not allow our foolish desires mislead us as it misleads the Israelites. God took away all that He had given and reduced the Israelites to a remnant of the original people brought out of Egypt.
There is no doubt that we are walking that same path today. As God now gathers the remnant of his children in preparation for His coming.
The Bible reminds us of our past, and we left with no excuse as we come to face our judgement. As God is sovereign and steadfast in all His promises, we, in turn, have to live up to our faith and promise in return. As Israel broke their covenant with God, let us not now be foolish and repeat that same mistake.