In the opening chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses begins his sermon to Israel by reminding them of where they came from. Highlighting a few episodes from the 40-year exodus journey, Moses points out how, in spite of Israel’s fear, stubbornness, and rebellion, God led them victoriously to the land He promised to give them, while simultaneously dealing with their disobedience. God’s faithfulness, justice, and mercy are beautifully highlighted in this brief summary to encourage, warn, and instruct us today.
When we start Deuteronomy, we find Moses and the Israelites on the verge of entering the promised land, having completed their 40 year wilderness wandering. The entire generation of adults who originally left Egypt, with only a few specific exceptions, have died, and now the next generation is about to inherit the land.
Today we are focusing on the first three chapters, and I want you to notice something. The first three chapters are a summary of all of the events of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Of all of these events, Moses selects only a handful of details from the journey.
Why does Moses select only these details?
Is it a random smattering, just rambling on in a long-winded and aimless introduction to the meat of the sermon (like you’re used to me doing?) I don’t think so.
Are these the most miraculous and magnificent events that occurred on the way? I don’t think that’s it either.
Are these the greatest displays of God’s power that happened along the way? I’m not sure that’s it.
So why these events?
Moses uses one pattern of attitudes and events that unfolded in the Exodus journey to remind the new generation of Israel of a heart condition, common to humanity: that we are prone to walk by sight rather than by faith, and be driven by our fears rather than by faith in God’s promises.
Horeb to the promised land
Deuteronomy 1:1–2 (ESV) [Read]
- Interesting piece of Bible trivia. Most of us know that Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years before arriving in the promised land, but how long SHOULD the trip have taken? Eleven days.
- False start at the promised land
Deuteronomy 1:21–28 (ESV) [Read]
Eek the Anakim!
Israel refused to obey God’s command to take the promised land. They refused to trust that God would follow through on his promise to give it to them. They wanted to take matters into their own hands and see with their own eyes whether they felt like God’s promise and command looked feasible to them. And sure enough, it didn’t.
They had a choice: trust God’s promise and faithfulness and follow His command, or rely on their own reason and sight, and rather be controlled by their fear. They chose the latter. This sounds familiar doesn’t it? This is the root problem of the human condition.
Deuteronomy 1:34–35 (ESV) [Read]
God shut the door on the promised land to all the adults of that generation but Caleb and Joshua, and was instead going to give it to the children when they grew up.
Deuteronomy 1:39–40 (ESV) [Read]
- Notice how God is able to simultaneously deal with rebellion, with sin, and also remain faithful to His promise! This is a recurring theme in the scriptures.
Deuteronomy 1:41-44 (ESV) [Read]
- Defeat, followed by 38 years of wandering
Seir of Esau & Moab of Lot
Deuteronomy 2:1–5 (ESV) [Read] – Seir (Edom) given to Esau’s people
Deuteronomy 2:9 (ESV) [Read] – Moab given to Lot’s people (first daughter)
Deuteronomy 2:19 (ESV) [Read] – Ammon given to Lot’s people (second daughter)
From both of these we learn that God has provided land for *everyone*, not just Israel. Those who were removed from the land, was due to continued hard-heartedness.
Anakim, Rephaim, Emim, Zamzummim – what in the world?
Deuteronomy 2:10–11 (ESV) [Read]
Deuteronomy 2:20-22 (ESV) [Read]
- “You’ve heard of the the Emim, the Zamzummim, and what Lot and Esau’s people did to them? They’re all Rephaim like the Anakim you’re so afraid of… fear of which was greater than your faith in God.
- God had cleared out the Anakim! They weren’t able to stand against the Esau’s people or Lot’s people when God had given them the land!
- Moses is reminding this generation that not even a race of giants can stand in the way of God’s promises. We need not worry, even in the “great and terrifying wilderness.” (Deut 1: 19). The journey may be terrifying, and the battle’s may be against monsters, but if God asks you to do it, He will pull through for you.
- Moses reinforces the point by now recounting victories won by Israel.
King Sihon and King Og
Deuteronomy 2:24–25 (ESV) [Read]
- And this time, Israel obeyed, and carried the day.
- Interesting though, that they didn’t come as marauders and usurpers. They gave Sihon a chance at a peaceful surrender
Deuteronomy 3:1–2 (ESV)
- And they did the same to Og as they did to Sihon
- And wonder upon wonder, Og was an Anakim! (read verse 11).
- This was written for our encouragement:
- Some of our promises we have today, that we need to be reminded of God’s having already won the victory:
- Presence in the mission (The Great Commission!)
- Perseverance in trial (These light and momentary troubles, a way of escape)
- Peace in struggle (Phil 4)
- Ultimate victory in the new earth (remain faithful and filled with hope)
- Each of these comes with a command that we are to walk in
- Consider it pure joy
- Eyes up on Christ
- We live in a “great and terrifying wilderness”, and sometimes it seems that all we can see are the giants.
- But we have been assured of victory and ultimate possession of a true promised land.
- Because a Joshua, Yeshua, Yesu, Jesu, Jesus – the one even the Israelites were really waiting for has come and dealt with our greatest enemy, sin and death.
- We are going to make it all the way home, and have the rest that the Israelites only found in part and imperfectly, because their obedience was imperfect, never enough to win them ultimate rest and ultimate fulfillment and ultimate happiness.
- Deuteronomy shows us that we need a rescuer. In the end, Moses’s sermon in Deuteronomy promises that rescuer. And we now have the benefit of knowing who that is. Our Lord Jesus.
Let’s pray to Him now.