Think of a time when you were looking forward to something and then BAM – found out it wasn’t going to happen. Two distinct memories come to the surface for me. Firstly, our daughter’s upcoming wedding has been postponed due to the corona virus. The disappointment I feel is only a fraction of what she and her fiancé must be feeling. My other memory comes from childhood. I had so been looking forward to a family vacation. We were set to meet up with some friends at a lake resort until at the last minute my mom’s doctor put restrictions on her travel. As a teenager who was stuck in the “it’s all about me” phase, I was devastated. My life was ruined!
What about Moses? Can you imagine what Moses must have been feeling when he got the message from God that he would not be seeing the Promised Land for himself? Instead, he’d have to go to Pisgah Peak and get a glimpse from there. That was going to have to do. Talk about a huge disappointment. Think of all that Moses had gone through up to this moment. He was accustomed to dealing with the sniveling Israelites prone to tantrums, the disobedient Israelites ignoring the miracle of God’s provision, the long hours, the sacrifices. It puts our own disappointments into perspective a bit, doesn’t it?
If you haven’t already looked at a map of the Palestine region, today may be the time. There is a map in my study Bible that actually shows the wanderings in the wilderness. Moses and the people are now on the east side of the Jordan River involved in the land conquests we’re reading about.
Today we hear of another battle much like that yesterday. God was with the people, and they destroyed another kingdom. The land and possessions of the fallen ones are now the property of the Israelites, just as God had intended, as if God said, “Here you go!” What thoughts go through your mind as you read of these battles and all the brutal killing? For me, I struggle with God sparing one life at the loss of another. If God created us all, how can he wipe out a whole kingdom to open up a way for others? That was some promise! Does God play favorites? How do I make sure I’m one of them?
I always love to see how God rewards his faithful people and helps them be victorious. Moses’ recollection of these triumphant events gives us reason to cheer! The people trusted. It wasn’t the people’s might that won the battle but God’s hand of guidance and assistance.
Let’s take a closer look. We already know that God had told the people to avoid conflict with Ammonites and Moabites. Those were distant relatives; a people God had chosen to bless and protect. The protection went both ways. Moses reminds them that they were able to pass through these regions in safety because of God’s blessing.
Today we read about how the Israelites wandered. If we wondered in our last reading how an 11-day trip could take 40 years, we see a bit of our answer in this passage. Have you ever gotten lost before when you were on a trip? How many miles did you drive out of your way before you realized your error? Sometimes we need to correct our direction in life, too.
I often heard the Bible referred to as our GPS. If you’re challenged with directions, you use a GPS to find your way. What I like about a GPS or mapping system is it often tells you the best route to take. You can decide between the fastest or shortest. The app I use even detects roadblocks and construction zones and gives me the option to reroute my course. And one of my favorite features is that when I do take a wrong turn, the app will tell me and figure out a way for me to get back on course.
When you watch a television show, they will often start the new episode with a look back at what has come before. It’s good to jog our memories a little bit. This is what is happening in the first couple chapters of Deuteronomy. Moses was setting the scene by recalling where their journey in the wilderness had taken them thus far. In Chapter 1, Moses points out the failures and frustrations they have encountered along the way. What stood out to you in our reading today?
We might question how an eleven-day trip took 40 years. We may also notice how Moses made a lot of references to what the Lord has said or commanded. Of course, there are lots of examples of how the people have done their own thing and not followed God. Clearly, Moses has been chosen by God to lead the people during this time in history, and there is a lot of we can glean from the mistakes made, the divine intervention provided, and the faithfulness of leadership.