I absolutely love what Moses is saying here in verse 6. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” I think that is more than just a message for the Israelites that day, and also to Joshua who would be taking over leadership. It is a promise to us as well.
I often pray for God to go ahead of me to prepare the way. In fact, it’s even one of the affirmations I use to get my day started. I can show up with confidence knowing God has gone ahead of me and prepared the way. There is a peace and assurance that comes with picturing God is already there waiting for me. I’ve used this, for example, before leading worship in church. Why? Because that is such an awesome responsibility. I don’t feel capable on my own strength and want to make sure my priorities are straight when I’m facilitating a group entering the presence of God together.
God’s laws as presented by Moses have not been given to restrict the people but to give them a thriving life. God wants the best for his children. We should focus on the loving God who is looking out for our best interests. While God wants all of his children to obey and choose life, he created us with minds that can make decisions.
God didn’t want to make robots that were programmed to do his will. He blessed us with minds that can think, reason, choose, and experience emotion. It is definitely a blessing to have these abilities. But we have our limits, too. We often limit ourselves by beliefs and lies we have told ourselves or heard from others. There are so many messages flooding our consciousness. Deciphering and filtering through them can be a challenge.
Notice that Moses begins this passage with the words, “In the future, when..” God knew that the people would turn from him, that they would stumble, that they would be distracted. Notice he doesn’t say “if you mess up.” What happens to people who turn their back on God and endure the curses we’ve read about? Does God shut them out completely? Forever? These verses would seem to suggest to the contrary. “If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you.”
Our God gives second chances. God’s mercy is unbelievable. Even if these people walked away from God, did every despicable thing God warned would end in a curse, he would still take them back. And there’s more, God would see that they were even more prosperous than before.
A covenant is a promise or pledge, known today to be part of a contract agreement. “By entering into the covenant today, he will establish you as his people and confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” God will expect certain things from the people, particularly to keep his commandments and stay away from other religions and their idols. What a big day!
Many Jews still today are very strict in their adherence to the law. They want to be true to their God and his request of them. As a Christ follower, my allegiance to God is strong, but different. Jesus ushered in the “new covenant” by which I live my life. It is helpful to see and understand the original covenant as it makes the new one all the more valuable and precious.
I could have broken this passage up into several days to have a shorter reading, but I decided that with all the doom and gloom in our present day world, we’d only spend one day focusing on these curses. It would be easy to just skim over this section believing that we are immune. After all, didn’t Jesus come to save us? We’ll look at Paul’s words from Galatians 3, too.
Imagine you were the one hearing Moses declare all of these curses. What would you have been feeling? Would the fear of God be boiling inside you? Would you believe it or think that Moses had lost his mind? God was more than serious and whether or not we feel the message is for us or not, we need to seek understanding.