Note: Our next 33 days in God’s Word are going to be very rich and rewarding as we see how God dealt with two generations of His people: those who would take the Promised Land (Deuteronomy) and those who would turn the world upside-down (Acts). As we begin this second quarter of 2013 I hope you will continue this journey with me, reading each of these key chapters — and let’s get a fresh vision for how God could use us to make a difference in the world.
The book of Deuteronomy is a series of God-inspired speeches by Moses, the great leader of Israel. At nearly 120 years old, he spoke with the wisdom of a man who had walked with God for many years, the conviction of a man who had endured many trials, and the passion of a man who longed to see his people glorify God.
In this first chapter, Moses begins to remind the Israelites of how far God had brought them. The Promised Land was just in sight, and the people needed to step out and take possession of their promise. God had said, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain…Go in and take possession of the land” (v.6, 8). But sometimes you can’t move forward until you take a long, hard look at what has been holding you back.
Moses recalled an ugly episode from forty years before (v.19-33). The Israelites had escaped the slavery of Egypt and God had led them to the edge of the Promised Land — and they refused to enter it. When they heard the reports of the walled cities and giant warriors of Canaan, they “rebelled against the command of the Lord” (v.26) and would not advance. Even when Moses reminded them of God’s miraculous power and His record of victory the people stubbornly refused.
In response to their rebellion, God ordered them back into the wilderness (v.34-40). God is patient, and He would wait for that faithless generation to die before He gave His people another chance to enter in. Then Moses reminded them of the disastrous consequences of trying to move forward without God, in the power of the flesh (v.41-46). When the people had tried to enter the land on their own, they were embarrassingly defeated: “The Amorites…chased you as bees do and beat you down” (v.44).
That statement is recorded in Scripture to remind us not only that we can trust God’s promises, God’s plans, and God’s power — but we must. The only alternative is a life of fearing the enemy and wandering aimlessly on our own. The question for a new generation of Israelites (and for us, too) was this: Are you more afraid of the giants you will face with God or the wilderness you will face without Him?