Deuteronomy 1 & Psalms 81-82

Deuteronomy 1

    These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The LORD our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’

    “At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. May the LORD, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.

    “Then we set out from Horeb and went through all that great and terrifying wilderness that you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us. And we came to Kadesh-barnea. And I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ Then all of you came near me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.’ The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.’

    “Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.

    “And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!’ Even with me the LORD was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn, and journey into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.’

    “Then you answered me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country. And the LORD said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the LORD and presumptuously went up into the hill country. Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah. And you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.

(Deuteronomy 1 ESV)

Psalm 81

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph.

    Sing aloud to God our strength;
        shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
    Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
        the sweet lyre with the harp.
    Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
        at the full moon, on our feast day.
    For it is a statute for Israel,
        a rule of the God of Jacob.
    He made it a decree in Joseph
        when he went out over the land of Egypt.
    I hear a language I had not known:
    “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
        your hands were freed from the basket.
    In distress you called, and I delivered you;
        I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
        I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
    Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
        O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
    There shall be no strange god among you;
        you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
    I am the LORD your God,
        who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
        Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
    “But my people did not listen to my voice;
        Israel would not submit to me.
    So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
        to follow their own counsels.
    Oh, that my people would listen to me,
        that Israel would walk in my ways!
    I would soon subdue their enemies
        and turn my hand against their foes.
    Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
        and their fate would last forever.
    But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
        and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

(Psalm 81 ESV)

Psalm 82

A Psalm of Asaph.

    God has taken his place in the divine council;
        in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
    “How long will you judge unjustly
        and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
        maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
    Rescue the weak and the needy;
        deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
    They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
        they walk about in darkness;
        all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
    I said, “You are gods,
        sons of the Most High, all of you;
    nevertheless, like men you shall die,
        and fall like any prince.”
    Arise, O God, judge the earth;
        for you shall inherit all the nations!

(Psalm 82 ESV)

Something to Consider

Deuteronomy 1: The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ final speech to God's people before his death. Much of what Moses addresses in these parting words recounts the history of Israel and the laws given to Israel since her exodus out of Egypt. While we may see this as redundant and repetitive, we must not forget that the entire generation that experienced the exodus and received the law at Sinai has now died in the wilderness. Therefore, these reflections and reminders were meant to encourage a new generation who had a fresh start in remaining faithful to their trust in God. 

Moses exhorts this new generation in their preparations to go and take possession of the Promised Land and then immediately encourages them by pointing out that God has made them as numerous as the stars. He stirs up their confidence to pursue what God has promised to provide by referring to the promise He's already provided. Remembering and recounting the faithfulness of God throughout our past arms us with the ability to remain faithful to God through the present and future.

This new generation of Israel now finds themselves at the very point where the previous generation had failed. The question remains whether or not they will repeat the sins of their fathers? Every generation is one redemptive step away from ending a cycle of sin. They find themselves on the border of the Promised Land with one giant step of faith left between the weariness of the wilderness and the satisfying rest of the Promised Land. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11). May we, like this new generation of Israelites, take that giant step of faith and trust in our Lord and His promises in order to inherit all that He has in store.