We have different “voices” calling out to us. Who are we going to listen to? Will we believe in the Lord? Can we trust him with our family? That is what Moses is saying in Deut 1.1-40. Our faith is good for congregational meetings on the Sabbath, but will it work when it is life or death? The Lord does not bless unbelievers, but those who show forth and sanctify his name, repeat his words and do them. We must never show our own “glory” or our own “words.”
Our faith will be tested, especially as we get closer to the end times and the Birth-pains. We must stand up and make it count for something. Does our faith mean anything to us? If we can’t really believe him, why do people keep going to him? They act like they believe but they really don’t. If God is not the God of the Torah, the Prophets (Nevi’im), the Writings (Ketuvim), Gospels and Epistles, what are we doing? The answer is people will get another God. If he didn’t do all the things he said he did, why are we fooling with him to begin with. We either believe him or get out of the way, do something else. Either he is God or he isn’t. He will reward those who diligently seek him. God’s word is true and what will people do when they see an altar going up on the Temple Mount and a priesthood being prepared?
Some believers are like the children of Israel, God tells them what to do and they hesitate. They are afraid of the “sons of the Anakim” out there. In Deut 1.41 it says they repented for not going into the land, but it was too late to go right at that moment now. They replaced faith with a show of boldness. That’s what we do when we fail to obey God’s word. Is our faith strong enough for a wilderness? People have fallen for a lot less. We need to learn from their failures so that what they went through counted for something.
Now, in form, the book of Deuteronomy resembles other ancient covenants and treaties, but this is unique in that this is God’s Law (Torah). There is no sacred and secular wall, no separation of “Mishkan/Temple and State” in the Torah of God. Life has a kedusha and everything was seen as associated with God. Readers of this book will immediately discern a “change in style.” Deut 1.1 begins by saying, “These are the words of Moses” which is a departure from, “And God spoke to Moses.” Did Moses make this up himself? No, God spoke through Moses.
This is a “divine farewell speech” and a review of the last forty years. Not bad for a guy who said he was not good with words (Exo 4.10). In Deut 1.2 he chastises the people for what might have been. It was only eleven days from Sinai (Horeb) to Kadesh Barnes (Wadi Rum). But it took forty years. In review, let’s go over some relevant terms again. Sinai means “Mountain of the Moon” (moon alludes to the believer). Horeb means “Mountain of the Sun” (sun alludes to the God/Messiah). Kadesh Barnea means “Holy Desert of Wandering” and Wadi Rum (modern name for Kadesh Barnea) means “Valley of the Moon.” They rebelled against the judicial system of God and the Ten Scouts rebelled against God. This teaches us we need to fulfill our potential now, tomorrow may be too late.
Changes were coming in this book. They were going to be “decentralized” and living away from the leadership. They were going to have to travel to worship at the Mishkan/Temple and will have contact with pagan religious systems in the land of Canaan. Moses is giving them constructive criticism, but why is he doing it now, in the first few chapters? He is following Jacob’s example before he died (Gen 49.1-27). The Torah says to rebuke (Lev 19.17). If Moses did it before this he would be seen as “nagging.” They wouldn’t have to face him later and they wouldn’t feel as defensive. They will pay attention to him now because they know these are his “dying” words.
Constructive criticism is just that, constructive, not destructive. It is for the best and Moses does it out of concern for Israel’s honor and dignity. He merely alludes to the previous sins. The original Hebrew clarifies the “rebuke.” We should “toch’acha” our neighbor. But, this word is related to “hoch’acha” meaning “to prove.” The way to get our neighbor to change is not through a harsh rebuke, but clear and obvious “proof.” Self-realization eliminates defensive reactions.
How do we reach our potential? Ask for constructive criticism. Giving “toch’acha” is everyone’s obligation. If we really love someone, we won’t be able to see them being misguided by false teachers, etc. Who gives the most criticism? Those who love us the most (parents, wife, best friend, etc). This does not mean shouting louder that the other guy. It is demonstrated through action and deeds. But Moses is talking to the wrong group here, do you know why? Most of what he says applied to the people who have already died in the wilderness. Why is he talking to them now? He wanted the new generation to learn from history. He wanted them to know the underlying cause of that history and why they were still in the wilderness after forty years. That was the only life most of them knew.
For example, historians can point to economics and social reasons for the rise of Babylon, However, the prophets said Nebuchadnezzar was given the power he had from God to destroy the Temple and exile Israel. In other words, it was God who built Babylon, not Nebuchadnezzar. The same goes for the Roman Empire. This applies to any great power, including the United States of America. It wasn’t the people or the government system that made America great, it was a great God who made America great for his own purposes. Israel is the only nation that has a covenant with Yehovah, all the other nations that have ever existed (including the USA) do not. Read Daniel 11.1-45 to see a history of the kingdoms of the earth before they even existed, and what would befall the Jews in the latter days.
Moses tells the generation going into the land that their parents failed in their attitudes. How were they going to correct this? They needed to know the underlying reason their parents failed, and they needed to repair the damage. The Torah is not like any other legal system. It attaches to our everyday life and gives it meaning before God, even down to what we eat. It gives significance to everything. But, when the Torah becomes “just another method” of settling disputes, etc, it reflects an attitude just like any other system in the world. To “rebuke” like Moses is doing, is a fine art. There are principles to keep in mind, so let’s see what he did.
First, how did he say the things he was saying? Second, what did he say? He was subtle and he did not come right out and mention the sins, but he hints at them. Third, timing is very important. It came after Sihon was defeated and before he died. Fourth, he planned his words. Lastly, he showed he cared by not humiliating them openly. If we know what we want to say on our deathbed, we will know what to say at the table also.
Why does he start out with the sin of the Ten Scouts and not going into the land? There is a strong parallel between the situation they are in at that moment and the situation their fathers were in with the Ten Scouts. Both groups were getting ready to go into the land of promise. Moses goes on to recount the victories in battle and the peoples that were defeated. This alludes to the “iniquity of the Amorites” being complete, and now came the judgment (Gen 15.16). This was to remind them that the Lord was with them and they were not to take credit for themselves (Deut 2.33, 36, 3.3).
In Part 3 we will pick up here.