Monday, April 30, 2007

They Shall Not Enter My Rest (Deuteronomy 31-34)


Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses in the land of Moab – so close, and yet so far away from the Promised Land:
Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.…And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
I mentioned before that Deuteronomy is a rather anticlimactic ending for the Torah. All this excitement, all this struggle, all this build up, but we never get to the actual conquest of Canaan. Moses doesn’t get to enter the land.

That task is given to Joshua, with this word of encouragement:
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. 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.
I see Joshua mounting his horse and riding off to battle with a shout, with Moses standing on the far shore with a sad look in his eye. He knows it won’t last. The people will not keep the law, and they will not stay in the land. God knows this as well, and so he gives Moses a strange order:
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. 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. 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).
It’s a song of God’s great rescue of Israel, of Israel’s rebellion against him, God’s abandonment of Israel to his fate, Israel’s ruin without God, and God’s decision to once again restore him. In effect, it is the song of the entire Old Testament. It’s a sad song, though the ending is hopeful.

Moses blesses the twelve tribes in a blessing reminiscent of Jacob’s back at the end of Genesis. And that’s it. He dies without ever setting a foot in Canaan.

But God’s choice, while harsh, does seem to be the right one. If Moses had entered the land, this would have implied that the promise was really fulfilled. As it is, we know the story is only beginning. It will be a long time in the Bible until we see Moses again. Only then will we know that the decisive hour has finally arrived.

Comments:
Wonders for Oyarsa wrote:
It’s a song of God’s great rescue of Israel, of Israel’s rebellion against him, God’s abandonment of Israel to his fate, Israel’s ruin without God, and God’s decision to once again restore him. In effect, it is the song of the entire Old Testament. It’s a sad song, though the ending is hopeful.

Rescue and rebellion followed by more of the same is a pattern that has been evident in my own life. I suspect the experience of Israel is mimicked on an individual level in the lives of many and that God's faithfullness and mercy is the common theme.
 

I just read your post #24 on Jesus Creed. Beautifully, powefully spoken; passionately in the heart of God.

When such a discussion as you suggest arises, I'd love to find it.
 

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