Thursday, 29 September 2016

Deuteronomy 3 and 4: obedience.

And then a string of military success and overwhelming defeat of enemies before Moses commissions Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land in his place: "“You’ve seen with your own two eyes everything God, your God, has done to these two kings. God is going to do the same thing to all the kingdoms over there across the river where you’re headed. Don’t be afraid of them. God, your God—he’s fighting for you.”"  (v21)

But how painful for Moses. He had begged God to let him go over into the Promised Land but God refused and Moses could not go in.

I wonder why. Moses had demonstrated his obedience - and yet it is Abraham who is held up as the model of faith, not Moses. Perhaps there was, at times, more preoccupation in Moses' heart with himself than with God's cause. It took a visit from his father-in-law to show him how to lead the Israelites effectively: was Moses inefficient, or just not listening well to God?
"The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood round him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand round you from morning till evening?’
Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.’
Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Let them serve as judges for the people at all times, but let them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.’
Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves." 
Exodus 18:13-26
As the leader, too, God had held him responsible for the Israelites' disobedience. And almost seems unfair. In our individualistic society we have lost sight of corporate responsibility, yet 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.'  Even Moses. It must have been bitterly disappointing to him, and yet he faithfully teaches the Israelites what God has told him about their new life in the Promised Land. In chapter 4 he commands obedience and reminds them of how amazingly mighty God is. "Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33 Has any other people heard the voice of God[a] speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lordis God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.
 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.  Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time." (vv 32 - 40)
And so we, too, are to listen to God's voice, follow what He says, neither adding nor subtracting anything, and keep His commands.

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