Having finished his sermon to the people of Israel, which has filled the entirety of the Book of Deuteronomy; Moses now assured them of the constant presence of God with them as they were about to enter Canaan – even though he himself was not permitted to go into the land with them. In addition, he commended Joshua to them for their new leader. Joshua was a man whose wisdom, courage, and affection they had known for a long time; and He was the one whom God had appointed to lead them into Canaan. Moses told Joshua and the people that the Lord would never fail them or forsake them; and these words are applied by the Apostle to all of God’s spiritual people, in order to encourage their faith and hope. Unto us, this Gospel is preached, as well as unto them: “he will never fail thee, nor forsake thee!” (Heb. 13:5) Those who enter upon the Lord’s work may rest assured that He is with them, and so they ought to be of good courage. Notwithstanding the battles that the Israelites would have to fight against the Canaanites, they knew that they would certainly be victorious; for God Himself was the One Who undertook to do the work (verse 3), and they would have had little else to do except gather up the booty. Through God, let us also do valiantly; for it is through Him that we shall have the victory over our spiritual enemies!
The Law was given by Moses (John 1:17); but he was not only entrusted to deliver that law to his own people, but also to the generations to come – and it appears that he was indeed faithful to that trust. He wrote down all the words that we now know as the Pentateuch; because in written form, it could be easily reviewed and more safely handed down to posterity. Having written these words down, Moses committed them to the care of the priests and the elders. Verses 24-26 speak of the book of the Lord’s law being delivered to the Levites, so that it might be deposited in the side of the Ark of the Covenant.
And then he also appointed that every seven years, there was to be a public reading of the words of this law in a general assembly of all Israel. Although we read the Word of God in private and with our families, we must not think that it is needless to hear it read in public also. It was by this public reading of the law that each successive generation of Israelites was to keep up their acquaintance with the Lord’s will and Word. Here we see what our own goal should be when we read the Bible; we must hear, so that we may learn and grow in knowledge. And every time we read the Scriptures, we shall find that there is still more and more to be learned from them! The law was to be read to all the men, women, and children of Israel, and even the foreigners among them. Observe the sweetness and tenderness of that part of the precept which included the children among the audience that was to hear the law! Our little ones (who have received the seeds of sin from us) ought to be made acquainted very early in life with their ruined condition by nature, as well as with the only way of recovery by grace, in that merciful plan of salvation which is found in the Lord Jesus alone.
Moses and Joshua were summoned to the presence of the Divine Majesty at the door of the tabernacle. The Lord warned Moses that after his death, Israel would sadly forsake the Covenant that had been made with them; their prosperity would cause them to apostatize from the Lord, and desert Him in order to worship the gods of the wicked Canaanites – and then many evils and troubles would justly befall them. In light of this, Moses was directed to write a Divinely inspired song for the people. This song would remain a standing testimony to God, that He was faithful to them in giving them warning; and it would also be a testimony against the people, that they did not even consider their own best interests when they ignored His warnings.
The Lord gave a charge to Joshua (verse 23), which was essentially the same that Moses had spoken to him before (verse 7): “Be strong and of a good courage!” The wickedness of the people whom he was to lead would be enough to discourage anyone – especially after hearing the Lord’s declaration about their future apostacy. But Jehovah assured Joshua that He Himself would be with him, and that it would not be Joshua’s fault if the people’s own sins threw them out of the land which he was about to lead them into.
The song which follows in the next chapter was written by Moses – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – and it was taught by him to the people. Moses told them plainly that he knew how greatly they would corrupt themselves after his death. It was a sad thought, no doubt, to this holy man of God. But his comfort lay in the fact that he had done his duty; and that God would be glorified in their dispersion, if not in their settlement. Similarly, our Lord Jesus (shortly before His death) foretold the rise of false Christs and false prophets (Matt. 24:24) – notwithstanding which, we may be confident that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church; for the foundation of God stands sure!
Lord, in the view of Israel’s perverseness, we pray for grace to understand that we are truly no better than they; for all human beings are included under sin. O precious, sin-bearing Lamb of God! May every view of sin – whether of others or our own – cause Your person and righteousness to be even more dear to our hearts; for we are convinced that there is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved! Amen. (Acts 4:12)
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