Moses arrives at the end of his long life; at 120 years old he says, “I am no longer able to get about” – what an understatement! Moses first forty years were spent as a Prince of Egypt, being instructed in the accumulated knowledge of the world and enjoying the privileges of the ruling class. The next forty years were spent as a shepherd in the desert, humbly living with those who live off the land, his circumstances greatly reduced until one day when the LORD of Heaven calls to him from the middle of a burning bush. The last forty years of his life God commissions Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; to become a nation of Laws, common worship and to take possession of the land that God promised their ancestors. What a life!
These last chapters of Deuteronomy contain Moses’ final words and arrangements before Israel enters into the Canaan. Joshua is chosen by God to be the supreme commander of the Israelite army ready on the eastern side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. Moses’ final charge to Joshua and the people is very clear, “Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!” Israel was to be a nation led by God, a theocratic community with the LORD Almighty as their King, and His covenant as their constitution.
Moses writes down his final instructions reminding the Israelites what he has already taught them, now he is ready to be “gathered to his ancestors”, his work is finished. His final words are prophetic; God has revealed to Moses what will become of the Israelites after his death. The Israelites will chase after foreign gods, and prostitute themselves; they will reject the LORD and break His covenant. God’s anger will burn against Israel, and He will abandon them to their sins. So Moses writes a song, a poem, for the Israelites to memorize and recite so they will remember this song will serve as a witness against the Israelites. Then when the disasters overcome them they will remember what God did for them in Egypt and in the desert. Moses commands the priests to preserve the words of God spoken through Moses.
Moses proclaims that God is faithful, He is the Rock, reliable, just and fair; “His work is perfect, for all his ways are just”. God has made the Israelites his special possession; He found him, guarded him and continually protected him. God provided for all their needs with abundance, of all the nations of the earth Israel has experienced the greatest blessings. We too can sing with Moses – there is no one like the LORD; He alone is the ruler of the universe. He will provide everlasting safety and refuge; He will destroy evil in His time. We can rest in His assurances, He will provide for all my true needs so that I might live in JOY! I am a child of God, delivered by the LORD, He is my defender, my protection – I have nothing to fear!
Nevertheless when Israel becomes fat and lazy, they desert the God who made them and treat the Rock with contempt. They have forgotten the Rock who fathered them and put out of mind the God who gave them birth. The LORD took note, He does not ignore sin; The LORD rejects them, He has turned His face and blessings away from them. However, Israel’s unfaithfulness will not stop the purposes of God; God will use other nations to discipline His people with famine, plague and war. At the right time, “a root from Jesse will stand like a signal flag for the nations. Nations will look to him for guidance, and his residence will be majestic. At that time the sovereign master will again lift his hand to reclaim the remnant of his people from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the seacoasts. He will lift a signal flag for the nations; he will gather Israel’s dispersed people and assemble Judah’s scattered people from the four corners of the earth”. (Isaiah 11)
Moses proclaimed, “Keep in mind all the words today; carefully observe this law. For this is no idle word for you – it is your life!” Finally Moses blesses the Israelites, speaking to each tribe by name and pronouncing prophetic blessings. In the ancient Near East, a dying father’s final blessings spoken to his sons were an irrevocable legal testament, accepted as decisive evidence in court disputes.
Then Moses climbs up Mt Nebo, in Moab and looks across at the land of Canaan, he will see the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God said, , ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it, but you will not cross over there. A final tribute is recorded after Moses’ death, “No prophet ever again arose in Israel like Moses, who knew the LORD face to face. He did all the signs and wonders the LORD had sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, all his servants, and the whole land, and he displayed great power and awesome might in view of all Israel.”