The Bible teaches that God desires to be the King over His people. When God made His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it was with the purpose of being the God for their descendants. God wanted to rule over the people Himself so that there wouldn’t have to be a middleman, which would ultimately corrupt the goodness that God sought to give to Israel. Scripture shows that God’s desire is for His people to have direct access to Him without the need to go through other men or women to seek Him and know Him. Though the Law put the high priest in position as an intercessor between God and Israel, the scriptures teach that Jesus became the Great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek on behalf of all of God’s people in order to give direct access unto the Father!
Hence, one can see that God does not desire of people to lord over other people. God knows that mankind’s heart is corrupted so that when a person has authority over another, that authority is often abused. When reading God’s letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation, God rebuked the church of Pergamos because they had adopted the “doctrines of the Nicolaitans,” which God said He hated. This doctrine was similar to the traditions of the Roman Catholic church, which require mankind to seek out other men and women to reach God. This doctrine is based on the human desire to take God’s authority and position as Lord, seeking to influence and lord over the people themselves. Since God hates these things, the Bible shows that God implemented certain systems into the Jewish civic system to keep His leaders from hording authority. God made it so that, while certain men led Israel, they were limited in influence they had over all of the people so as to be protected from the sinful human nature to usurp God’s authority.
This helpful process is exemplified in Joshua 1:10-11. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Joshua sought to relay the message that God gave to him to the people of Israel. However, Joshua did not communicate with Israel in the way that Moses did. God commanded Moses to assemble all of Israel together in many instances in order to be the singular source of communication regarding God’s righteousness and holy commandments. Joshua was not called to communicate the Law in the way that Moses was. Joshua was called to lead by the Law, not teach it. Therefore, Joshua would not communicate to the children of Israel in the same way that Moses did. Rather, Joshua 1:10-11 explains that when Joshua sought to relay God’s commands to take the Promised Land, he sought out the officers of the people. The scriptures show that Joshua communicated to the officers, then sent the officers out to the camps of the people to further communicate the message.
While this is a subtle detail, it is a critical one to make note of. Notice that Joshua did not have the fleshly motivated desire to engage with the people himself. Joshua did not have a need to be in front of the people himself. Joshua didn’t express the desire to be recognized as the chief communicator of the people. Though God spoke directly to Joshua, the Bible does not show that Joshua had to let people know that he was the new Moses. Instead, Joshua utilized the governing system that God had put in place through Moses in order to ensure that each person within the congregation of Israel was being used according to purpose. When Moses was overwhelmed with the people’s issues upon entering the wilderness, his father-in-law made a Godly suggestion to appoint officers and elders that could help with the workload by delegation of responsibility. Not desiring to lord over the people to impose his own influence over them, Moses saw that suggestion as a good thing and put the system in place. Joshua, expressing the same humility as Moses, simply copied Moses’ style of leadership in meekness. Joshua spoke to the officers, who then spoke to the elders, who then spoke to the rest of the congregation. Joshua operated within the structures that God provided to keep humble and ensure God was ultimately in charge.
It is important to recognize that God works in these ways. When Jesus was conducting His ministry, He served as the Messiah King of Israel. He also hand-selected 12 disciples that He desired to administrate His ministry through. When Jesus fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, the disciples proved themselves unfaithful to meet the demands of the people by trusting in the provision of God, but Jesus distributed the food through the hands of the disciples anyway. This shows that Jesus had a desire to train and equip certain few people to receive His Word and instruction, then communicate those teachings and truths to other small groups. When one examines the testimony of the Book of Acts, one will find that the apostles did exactly that. There was not one person in charge of the entire church. Rather, the disciples, who became apostles, were taken about and separated by persecution, where they then planted small churches, each having a similar governing structure as described by Paul in the book of Titus. The Bible does not describe one mega church that was ran by one person acting as the chief and sole communicator of God’s Word. Rather, God spread His people out to ensure that His Word reached all corners of the earth. The church was organized into small groups by region and various people held certain responsibilities to assist the distribution of the Gospel. One man seeking to lord over God’s people from a chief position of influence did not distribute the Word of God. Rather, the Word was distributed by many men that submitted to their place within the hierarchy that God ordained according to His will and purposes just like Joshua.
Though Joshua 1:10-11 describes Joshua operating in humility and meekness by leveraging God’s organizational structure, he also operated with boldness, confidence and courage as God commanded. It is important to notice that when Joshua did communicate with the officers of Israel that he spoke to them definitively. Joshua assured the officers that they were going to advance and cross the Jordan River in 3 days, and that they would overtake the Promised Land. Joshua didn’t speak with any sort of uncertainty. Joshua didn’t speak with any sort of fear. Joshua boldly proclaimed things concerning the future of Israel with confidence because the things that he spoke of were according to the promises of God according to His Word. Joshua spoke confidently because his words were God’s Word. Joshua knew what the future of Israel looked like because he believed in the promises of God and spoke in such a way that was courageous. Then, examining the scriptures, one can see that Joshua’s boldness was infectious. As the officers of Israel distributed the message that Joshua gave, the people began to assemble, also trusting in the promise of God like Joshua did. In this way, the Bible shows an awesome pattern that can be observed all over the Bible. When God’s people seek to humble themselves in meekness, doing things according to the commands of God, trusting in His righteousness; and when God’s people confidently speak the Word of God according to His promises with boldness, such attitude is infectious and spreads to many others! God’s leaders stir up God’s people when they lead in humility and boldly proclaim the Word and promises of God without compromise or fear on the basis of meekness. Praise God!
The Bible teaches that God desired for the children of Israel to prosper while they were in the Promised Land. God’s promises to Israel were not limited so that He simply wanted them dwelling in the land to satisfy a “technicality” of His promise. Instead, the Bible shows that God wanted His people to flourish in the land as a testament to His own glory. God would be the One to take His people in the land. God would be the One to provide for the people while in the land. God would be the One to protect the people while in the land. Hence, the success and fruitfulness of Israel would serve as a testament to God and His grace. Knowing this, it is important to recognize the commands that God gave that would assure the children of Israel their success. God’s promises were unconditional from an eternal perspective, but individual generations and people were still called to express faith in God’s promises in specific ways that God instructed in His Law. This means that, when one examines the nation of Israel in a weakened state, it is not a reflection of God’s weakness or unfaithfulness. Rather, when one examines Israel as a weakened nation, it is because of their indifference and ignorance to God’s commands. On the contrary, when one examines Israel in a position of success and prosperity, one is not looking at the effects of Israel’s own power, but the results of their faithfulness as God glorifies Himself through those who trust in Him.
These truths were clearly communicated from God to Joshua before he endeavored to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua 1:8-9 explains that God spoke to Joshua to prepare him to do the job that he was called to do. The Word and commands of God would be sufficient to equip Joshua for his new and exciting journey. The dangers and uncertainties of Joshua’s calling would not disrupt God’s work through Joshua on account of the Word that God spoke. Thus, God commanded Joshua to keep the Word with him at all times! God plainly stated, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.” It was not just that Joshua was supposed to consider the Word and Law of God in his mind, but that he was to continually speak of God’s righteousness according to the Word and Law. In that the Law was not to depart from Joshua’s mouth, the Bible teaches that the essence of all Joshua’s speech in leadership was to be founded on the righteousness of God as communicated by the Law. Joshua was not to speak, strategize, or inspire God’s people to fight by the efforts of his own creative motivation. Joshua was supposed to trust in the power of God’s righteousness according to the Law and lead the people by such.
Joshua’s ability to continually speak the Law and righteousness of God was supposed to be enabled by his continued attention and affection for it. God commanded Joshua to “meditate” on the righteousness of God according to the Law. This does not mean that Joshua was to sit quietly and try to exercise his inner being to be one with God through a series of chants, incantations, or cerebral exercises. The original Hebrew language makes God’s command regarding “meditation” very simple. The Hebrew word “meditate” translates into the English word “muse.” The English dictionary defines “muse” as: to think about something carefully or thoughtfully. In other words, Joshua was supposed to pay attention to God’s righteousness according to the Law. The words of God’s commands were not to “go in one ear, and immediately out the other ear.” Joshua was to be a student of God’s righteousness according to the Law. Joshua was to contemplate God’s righteousness through His commands. Joshua was to reflect on God’s holiness through His commands. Joshua was to perform mental exercise in trying to understand God’s commands AND their meaning according to God’s purpose.
God commanded Joshua to meditate on His Word “day and night.” This is how Joshua would be able to continually speak according to the Word. As Joshua spent ample time “filling up” on God’s commands, he would be better equipped to “pour out.” According to Joshua 1:8-9 God revealed a powerful formula that He developed for Joshua and the children of Israel to receive the benefits of His Word and works. God told Joshua to continually speak the Word to the children of Israel to communicate His righteousness at all times according to the Law. To do this, Joshua was supposed to meditate on the Law day and night. This would result in Joshua’s ability to “observe” the Law, which was the basis of God’s commands concerning the Law. The willingness of Joshua to meditate on God’s righteousness would facilitate the observation of God’s Law, which would reflect obedience to God’s commands. Then, Joshua 1:8-9 explains that upon observing the Law, God would enable Joshua as a doer of the Law so that his obedience would be known to the rest of Israel and those he engaged with. Consequently, Joshua and the children of Israel would be prosperous and successful in their mission to overtake the Promised Land.
According to God’s conversation with Joshua, the prosperity and success of the children of Israel to overtake the Promised Land was rooted in the willingness of their leader to meditate on the Word of God and His righteousness according to the Law. Meditation would facilitate observation, which would enable obedience, thereby causing Joshua to continually communicate the righteousness of God as the standard of leadership to the rest of Israel, thereby bringing prosperity and success amongst the people. The prosperity and success of Israel was rooted in their attention to and affection for the Word of God. It was surely seen this way under the leadership of Moses, and as Joshua was beginning his season of service, God was communicating the necessity of the Word again. God’s conversation with Joshua concluded by God commanding Joshua for the third time to be strong and courageous. Hence, in context, one should see that one’s focus on the righteousness of God according to the Word of God is directly related to the strength and courage that one has concerning the plans and promises of God. Continually examining God’s righteousness by the Word, and continually thinking about, will reinforce one’s understanding of God’s purposes and promises, helping one keep God’s eternal perspective as one’s own perspective. It is this eternal perspective according to God’s righteous purposes and promises that strengthens and enables courage in the midst of uncertain and scary circumstances. Though God’s people today are not assured the quality of “success and prosperity” that Joshua was at that time, one’s focus on God’s righteousness according to the full counsel of His Word is equally nourishing, empowering, and satisfying to the glory of God!
The Bible shows that historically, God’s servants have been exceptional men and women. The heroes of the Bible are men and women that have been able to accomplish amazing feats. Since the Bible uses the testimonies of these people as examples for Christians to emulate, the history of these people can sometimes be intimidating. The Bible explains that Gideon went to battle with a small army and minimal resources. How can the people of God today undergo such strain under seemingly impossible circumstances? The Bible explains that David boldly faced Goliath. How can the people of God today walk into such danger with such confidence? The Bible explains that the prophet Daniel confidently opposed the Babylonian attempts to assimilate him into Babylonian culture, intense peer pressure, and then peacefully endured the lion’s den. How can the people of God accomplish the same types of victories? The Bible explains that the apostle Paul bravely preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ even though it caused people to riot against him, put his life at risk in various ways, kept him in prison much of his life, and caused him to be isolated for much of his ministry. How can the people of God endure such difficulty on account of the testimony of Christ?
Thankfully the Bible is candid about the truth of these heroes. It is true that Gideon had a great victory, but the Bible explains that Gideon doubted at first, relied on the revelation of God to assure him, and then needed God to bring the victory Himself. The truth is, David was bold to face Goliath, but only on account of the confidence he had in the Lord God Almighty that had already proven Himself to David in times past. The truth is, Daniel was dependent on the Lord based on the revelations he received from God and the relationship that he had with God. As God spoke, Daniel listened and trusted in God’s Word. Though Paul became a powerful man of God, he admits that he was also the chief of sinners that was miraculously transformed by the power of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Messiah. Paul was able to endure his trials and circumstances on account of the Gospel, but only because of the revelations of God through Jesus Christ. Gideon, David, Daniel, Paul, and all of the others were able to have their victories because God was behind the work that caused the victories to take place. The boldness, confidence, candor, bravery, strength, courage, and endurance that God’s men and women had all came from God Himself, through the revelation of Himself, and the trust that these men and women had in God’s presence and promises.
The same could be said of Joshua the son of Nun. In Joshua 1:1-7 the Bible teaches that God sought to equip and engage Joshua in his service unto the Lord. God assured Joshua that Moses was dead, and that He was preparing the children of Israel to receive the land inheritance that He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When God talked to Joshua, the Bible explains that God spoke to him like He did to Moses. While Joshua wasn’t able to see the glory of God like Moses, Joshua heard the voice of God plainly and was able to respond. Therefore, Joshua heard the assuring words of God that He spoke confidently and definitively. God assured Joshua that the children of Israel would indeed receive the Promised Land. The children of Israel would receive the land because God was giving it – not because Joshua was going to go get it. God told Joshua to “go” and cross the Jordan River to take the land, which was reflective of God’s command to receive His gift. The command to “go” was equal to a command to “receive.” The command to “go” might have seemed intimidating, but as God assured Joshua that He would give the land they would pursue, such intimidation should have been overridden by faith in God’s presence and promises.
Joshua 1:1-7 explains that God referred to His work to give the land in the past tense. God said, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.” Notice that the soles of Israel would tread upon the land in the future, but God had already given that land over to Israel, even though their feet had not walked on the land yet. In the perspective of God, the land was already in the possession of Israel. God swore upon Himself to give Israel the land, and since He is almighty and sovereign, there are none that can contend with God or cause Him to fail in His promises. Since God does not change, God’s promise to give the land in the future was no different than the children of Israel already possessing the land in the eyes of God. Though Joshua’s task was new to him, large in scope, and required great endurance, his understanding of God’s identity would have been valuable to carry him through his service unto God. God spoke with confidence, and even reminded Joshua of the boarders that Israel was supposed to take for themselves. Since God was confident, Joshua should have been confident. The history of Israel shows that Joshua was successful in many battles and led Israel to many victories. Yet Joshua 1:1-7 shows that his success and victory was on account of the faith he had in God’s presence and promises as God revealed His will to Joshua.
God assured Joshua over and over again as He sought to prepare Joshua for his ministry. God told Joshua that no person would be able to stand before him for the rest of his life. In other words, God guaranteed that, no matter the size or intensity of the battle, Joshua would win! History shows that Israel lost battles in overtaking the land, but Joshua himself lived until the bulk of the work was completed. God promised Joshua life in the midst of physical conflict, mental strain, and the emotional conflicts that come with warfare. God promised that Joshua would be supernaturally protected. Additionally, God commanded Joshua to be “strong and of good courage” twice in this portion of scripture, then once more in verse 9. God repeatedly commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous. This shows that Joshua likely did not have much strength or courage considering the calling that God placed him under. A man that is already strong and courageous does not need to be told 3 times to be that which he already is. Rather, a man that is lacking in these types of qualities must often be reminded of the man they are expected to be.
The “encouragement” that God provided came in the form of a command. God did not give Joshua the option to be strong or courageous. God did not ask Joshua if he desired to be strong or courageous. God did not suggest that strength and courage would be helpful concerning his service to God. Rather, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. God gave the command and expected obedience. Since God was with Moses and took Israel to the position they were in, Joshua was to trust in God as Moses did. God had already proven Himself able. Since God reminded Joshua that the promises concerning the land were already made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and took the responsibility of fulfilling those promises upon Himself, God had proven Himself faithful. God guaranteed victory. God provided details and vision concerning the boundaries of the target. God’s commands were intended to provide benefit to the people in the form of gifts. In other words, God had given Joshua everything he needed to do the job that was to be done. All God required of Joshua was trust, demonstrated by forward movement.
Joshua 1:1-5 explains that the people of God are expected to have faith in God – not self. Joshua was supposed to advance across the Jordan River because God promised to be with him, and never leave nor forsake him. The confidence of Joshua to move forward and advance should have been based on God’s promise to be present as the Leader. Joshua’s strength and courage was supposed to be based on his trust in the promises of God to do what He promised long before Joshua was born. God told Joshua to be strong and very courageous, and that such strength and courage should be outwardly manifested through his observation of God’s commands in the Law and according to God’s promises. Joshua’s strength and courage would not be shown in the victories that he would receive since God would provide the victory. It is not possible for Joshua to show strength and courage in circumstances where God is providing His own strength and courage. Instead, Joshua’s strength and courage would be seen in his faith in the righteousness of God according to the Law and other commands related to the fulfillment of His promises. The strength and courage of Joshua would be made manifest in Joshua’s willingness to keep God’s righteousness (through the Law) close to him, observing it at all times. The strength and courage of Joshua would be made manifest in the faith that he showed in God’s Word being true, advancing forward in battle, assuming that God would somehow provide victory because He promised He would. The strength and courage of Joshua would not be shown in himself, but in the constant mental and spiritual focus on God’s promises and His presence to fulfill those promises Himself, regardless of the time it took, or the circumstances that surrounded Israel. Like Gideon, David, Daniel, Paul, and many others, this is how heroes of faith are made and how God is glorified in their service!
As servants of God, it is always important to remember where one’s opportunity and ability to serve come from. The Bible explains that the opportunity to serve comes on account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Had it not been for the work of Jesus to cleanse the sins of the world, then God would be separated from His people forever. Even the people who lived before Jesus’ death and resurrection looked forward to the saving work God would do in the future by Messiah, and were used as communicators of God’s Messianic plans. Likewise, the Bible explains that the ability to serve comes from the Holy Spirit. Since righteousness is not imparted unto the believer until the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ, God’s people remain unrighteous while in the life. Though saved by the grace of God through faith, God’s people are merely declared righteous in justification and are dependent on the Spirit of God to do anything He would deem as “righteous.” Consequently, one can see that God does it all! When it comes to serving the Lord, the Bible shows that God is the Author of the plan, the means by which the plan is put in place, and the One that hand picks His people that will undergo the role of servants to execute His purposes for His glory.
This truth is strongly communicated in Deuteronomy 34:5-12. These verses are the last verses in the Book of Deuteronomy that summarize the life of Moses and prepare believers to learn about the ministry of Joshua. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Moses died in the land of Moab just as God determined. Moses was not permitted to enter into the Promised Land, and so he did not die in Canaan, but instead he died on Mount Nebo in the area of Moab. The Bible explains that when Moses died, God buried Moses Himself! No one knows the burial place of Moses since God was merciful and gracious to burry Moses by His own hands. Deuteronomy 34:5-12 explains that God did incredibly unique works through Moses – such as have never been seen before, and have never been seen since. Though Moses died at 120 years old, the scripture state that Moses’ eyes were sharp and his “natural vigor” did not diminish. God took care of Moses. Knowing what He desired Moses to do, God ensured that Moses was well equipped to do the job. God revealed His attributes as Shepherd and Provider to make sure that Moses had everything he needed to do the job that God called him to do. While other 120-year old people might have severe mental or physical issues, the Bible speaks of Moses as if he never suffered any dramatic effects of age even though he was way up there in years! When God calls His people to serve Him, He always ensures that His people are have all that they need to do the job that He desires to do in them since He is the One ultimately doing the work. No matter the circumstances, Moses was able to serve because God enabled him. Then because of the extent of uniqueness of Moses’ ministry, God took extra care of Moses to burry him Himself.
Deuteronomy 34:5-12 explains that God caused Moses to do some amazingly miraculous things. First, the scriptures explain that no one else has ever had a relationship with God like Moses had with God. Though there were many heroes of faith that came after Moses, only Moses was able to speak to God “face-to-face.” Moses was able to see the glory of God in ways that others could only dream of. Even the prophets that had visions of God’s throne room did not have the type of relationship that God had with Moses. For example, the prophet Ezekiel was able to see miraculous heavenly visions, and was brought into the spiritual realms to see the Spirit of God working in Israel, and prophesied things that are still taking place today, yet God would not even refer to Ezekiel by name, instead opting to call him, “son of man.” Moses was able to experience the glory of God in such a unique way that his own face shone like light before the people as the glory of God rubbed off on him this way.
Abraham spoke to God, was considered the friend of God, and even saw Jesus as the Angel of the Lord, but not even Abraham was used like Moses. Deuteronomy 34:5-12 reminds readers that God exercised the plagues of Egypt through Moses. Such judgments have never been displayed through another human being since then. Deuteronomy 34:5-12 reminds readers that God displayed great power through Moses during the wilderness journey, and that all of Israel was able to witness these things in person to verify the power of God and uniqueness of Moses’ service. When considering these things, it is important to remember the Bible’s claims about these events. When Moses brought the plagues of Egypt against Pharaoh, the Egyptians themselves recognized those judgments as “the hand of the Lord “(Exodus 8:19, Exodus 13:4). Though Moses was the instrument used, the Egyptians and Israelites both were able to recognize that God was the hand holding Moses as the instrument. When the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness, there were many instances in which the people saw the hand of the Lord move to provide, protect, and lead. God was referred to as “The Lord Our Banner” (Jehovah Nissi) when God brought victory through Moses. God was referred to as “the Lord That Heals” (Jehovah Rapha) when he purified the water for Israel to drink through Moses. When the Lord gave Israel the Law, Moses testified that the first set of tablets was written by God’s own finger. In other words, the testimony of Moses shows that, while he was a great servant of the Lord, his testimony shows that he was merely an instrument in the Lord’s hand, being used for the Lord’s purposes, for the Lord’s glory. The Bible explains that there isn’t a greater place to be than one in the hand of the Lord as His servant!
Additionally, Deuteronomy 34:5-12 explains that Moses was even able to impart spiritual gifts as Paul later talked about to the Romans. The scriptures state that Moses was able to impart “the spirit of wisdom” unto Joshua in order to equip him for his season of service. Moses’ connection with the Lord was such that God even used Moses to facilitate the ministry and leadership of other people! The Bible plainly says that Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom and that the people followed him as a result because Moses laid his hands on Joshua. It was the contact of Moses upon Joshua that caused Joshua to be equipped for his purpose that God ordained. Once again, it is important to recall the details of scripture to know how Moses was able to do such a thing. In Numbers 27:18 the Bible states that God told Moses to lay his hands upon Joshua because the Spirit was already upon Joshua. This shows that Joshua had the Spirit because God put the Spirit upon Joshua. When Moses laid his hands on Joshua, it was merely a confirmation of the work that God had already done. Thus, while Moses was used to “impart” a spiritual gift, the Bible explains that he was simply used to make known that which God had already done. Once again, Moses is seen as an instrument in the hand of God being used for God’s purposes.
The testimony of Moses reveals that Moses was deeply connected to the Lord God Almighty. The testimony of Moses shows that his connection with the Lord was on account of his identity as a servant of the Lord. The Bible shows that God uses His servants as instruments. Since God uses His own hands to do His own work, He holds onto and possesses His servants in His hand to do His work. This means that the servants of God are intimately connected with God, being held by God to be used in powerful ways as God’s power flows through His servants as His instruments. The life of Moses was amazing to the extent that He is the only one that has seen God as he did and is the only one that was buried by God Himself. However, the testimony of Moses shows that his life was hard as he dealt with the challenges of leading God’s people for so long. While the privileges of being a servant of God were great, the responsibility and accountability to God were great as well. Yet, while Moses didn’t get to enter into the Promised Land on account of disobedience, his testimony in scripture ends favorably because of his position with God. In this way, the Bible shows that, regardless of the difficulty, there isn’t a better place of privilege than to be a servant of the Lord, in His hand being used for His purposes to bring Him glory!
The Bible explains that God is faithful beyond most people’s ability to understand. The scriptures show that God made many promises on the basis of grace, and since He is infinitely the source of all power and ability, He is able to make His promises come to fruition. Likewise, because God is unchanging in nature and is infinitely impeccable, He is eternally willing to fulfill the promises He made. Perhaps more importantly, when God made most of His promises, He made them to Himself. God does not necessarily make deals with people. He makes promises that will be fulfilled through certain people, but does not depend on those people to fulfill His promises. For example, when God promised that David would be king over Israel, God did not depend on David’s strength, wisdom, and ability to assume that role. The scriptures show that king Saul sought to take David’s life on several occasions. Many of those occasions, David was sent into impossible battle circumstances against the Philistines, Saul hoping David would die in battle. Yet the scriptures show that God did what needed to be done, protecting David and giving David victory in spite of circumstances so that God’s promises to David could be fulfilled.
These are the types of things that God does. This is also true concerning the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, God’s sovereign providence can be best seen in the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Genesis 12:1-3 God promised Abraham that He would make the descendants of Abraham into a great nation, give them a great land inheritance, and that a “Blessing” would come through His lineage (referring to Messiah) so that Abraham’s descendants would be a blessing to all of the families of the earth. One of the most important facets of this promise is documented in Genesis 15:17-21, which testifies that God ratified this promise with Himself, excluding Abraham from the ratification process. This shows that God made the promise with Abraham and took it upon Himself to do all of the necessary work to fulfill the promise. This point is confirmed and restated in Genesis 22:16 when God swore upon Himself to fulfill His promises to Abraham. These points were then repeated to Isaac and Jacob.
These things are important to understand because they explain the basis of God’s faithfulness and why God can be trusted. If the Bible teaches that salvation comes by faith alone, it is important for the people to understand why God can be the focus of one’s faith. According to the scriptures, God can be the center of one’s faith because He alone is faithful, and His dealings with Israel are tangible proof to that statement. Hence, the Bible offers an abundance of documented, observable, and tangible proof of God’s promises, His power to fulfill them, and also His willingness to fulfill them. The more one examines God’s identity in scripture and how He deals with Israel in scripture, the more solid one’s trust in God becomes, having an maturing understanding of the extent of His faithfulness. Therefore, the claims of scripture should be the focal point of all people that seek to know God and His promises. This is why the Bible teaches “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
In Deuteronomy 34:1-4 the Bible provides details that support the claims previously made. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Moses went up to the top of Mount Nebo as God commanded him. Moses settled himself at the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho, and there the Lord showed Moses the Promised Land. While this might seem like a trivial set of details, one must consider God’s purpose for doing this thing for Moses, and why He documented it in scripture. The Bible explains that God wanted Moses to go up to that high point in order to witness God’s faithfulness. Deuteronomy 34:1-4 explains that God showed Moses all the land of Gilead, as far as Dan, all of Naphtali (the northern most region of Israel), the land of Ephraim and Manasseh (including the eastern most region of Israel), all of the area of Judah (which included Jerusalem), and as far as the “Western Sea,” which referred to the Mediterranean Sea, and also the south as far as Zoar (including Jericho where Israel would cross into the Land). In other words, God ensured that Moses was able to see the full extent of the boarders of Israel. God wanted Moses to see the land so that Moses was assured that God was faithful.
Recall that Moses was not permitted to enter into the Promised Land. Therefore, there was no way of Moses verifying God’s promises as true. There was no way for Moses to see the benefits of God’s promises. Hence, God took Moses up to Pisgah in order to allow Moses to witness the His promises being fulfilled. God wanted to show Moses the same thing that He showed to Abraham (who also didn’t get to inherit the land God promised). God wanted to prove Himself blameless. God wanted to show the extent of His goodness by showing the extent of the boarders of the land. As God showed Moses the land, God told Moses that the things he saw were the boarders that were promised to Abraham. One must consider that, for a man that led the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, and through wilderness for 40 years, it would have been a glorious site to see the full extent of God’s promises in the land as Moses was able. God explained to Moses that the land he saw was the land that He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though Moses would not be able to participate in the next phase of God’s work, he was able to see it to be assured of God’s faithfulness and the extent of it!
Deuteronomy 34:1-4 explains that God actually caused Moses to see the land. This implies that without God’s supernatural intervention and vision, Moses would not have been able to see the glory of the land God was about to give. God wanted Moses to see His promises. God wanted Moses to know the extent of God’s promises. God wanted Moses to be a witness to His faithfulness. God wanted His work to be public and verified by His people and others. God wanted to make sure that, though the ways God provides are supernatural in nature, they are 100% tangible and observable. Moses did not see the land in a vision, but saw the land with his eyes. He was able to physically confirm the boarders of Israel as promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was able to physically confirm the work that God did matched the work that God said He would do. Moses was able to confirm the claims of scripture – that God is indeed almighty and does not change. Thus, the Bible reveals that God is truly faithful, and also that He wants His faithfulness to be observed, verified, documented, and proclaimed amongst future generations for His glory!
The blessings of God are important to understand to ensure that one knows how God blesses, thereby helping one set reasonable expectations as a beneficiary of God’s work. Perhaps more importantly, one must recognize and understand the way God desires to bless Israel before all other nations! Though many believers are indifferent to Israel or anti-Semitic in opinion, God’s work in and through the nation of Israel is one of the chief themes of the Bible. The scriptures teach that salvation comes through the Jews. This means that one cannot be saved without the nation of Israel. Since Jesus came from the nation of Israel as the Savior, those who have received salvation should show gratitude for the work that God did and continues to do in Israel. In fact, the Bible explains that there will come a point in time when the revelation of God and Bible teaching will come exclusively through Israel! The prophets wrote that there will come a point in time when people who desire to know God will seek out any Jew to pull the hem of his garment to inquire of God. The Bible teaches that God swore upon Himself, making eternally unconditional promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to cause Israel to be a great nation, to dwell safely in their land, and to be a blessing to all of the families of the world. Since God swore upon Himself to do this work, there is no amount of sin that will cause God to turn His back on His people. Thus, the Bible teaches that there will come a point in time where all of Israel will be saved; and while it will only be a remnant of the total Jewish population, they will indeed be blessed exactly as the scriptures proclaim!
When one examines the blessings of God, one must be sure to differentiate the difference between God’s promises to Israel, and God’s promises to the rest of His people. There are special and unique promises set aside for Israel, and Israel alone. However, if one examines the blessings that God stated towards Israel, one can grasp the general will of God for all of His people. It is true that Israel will have a unique position of authority and influence later in God’s prophetic calendar, but seeing how God desires to take care of Israel can lend great insight into some of the awesome rewards and opportunities the rest of God’s people will receive as beneficiaries of God’s work and promises. Hence, when examining the contents of Deuteronomy 33:6-29 one must consider that such “blessings” were specifically communicated to the tribes of the children of Israel. God would do unique and specific things for the 12 tribes of Israel that He will not do for other people groups or nations. As the sovereign and holy Creator of all things, God has the authority to make such decisions. Yet as one examines the blessings that Moses proclaimed towards Israel, one can see the character and nature of God to know how He desires to provide, nurture, and utilize His people.
Deuteronomy 33:6-29 is a testimony of scripture that documents a “blessing” that Moses proclaimed to each and every tribe within Israel. Moses started with Reuben, and went on down the line to ensure that each tribe understood that God was in favor of their future. Though God provided harsh lyrics concerning the future unfaithfulness and unrighteousness of Israel, the blessings that Moses proclaimed in Deuteronomy 33:6-29 express that God is merciful, forgiving, and gracious towards His people despite their sin. The Song of Moses shows that God does not simply excuse sin without consequence and judgment. At the same time, the blessings of Deuteronomy 33:6-29 show that God is able to judge perfectly and use such judgments to bring His people to humility, which is the condition God requires His people to be in so that He can sanctify His people unto Himself and bless them according to His promises. The blessings that Moses spoke to Israel do not reflect Moses’ wishful thinking according to his own personal affections for his people. Instead, the blessings of Deuteronomy 33:6-29 express the true heart of God concerning the children of Israel, revealing the ultimate destination that He will bring His people to once His work in them and through them is complete. Consequently, the blessings of Deuteronomy 33:6-29 reflect the prophetic results of God’s work to justify, sanctify, and glorify the children of Israel according to the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The blessings begin Reuben. Moses blessed Reuben by stating that their tribe would live and not die. This shows that, despite the judgments that God pronounced in the Song of Moses against all of Israel, His will is not none should perish, but that all would come to repentance. God is the God of the living and not the dead. Therefore, God’s will is that His people should live. God’s work is predicated on offering life, and that more abundantly to His people. Knowing this, as Moses stated prophetically that Reuben would live, one should understand that God desires for all of His people to live. Examining the scriptures, one can learn that while God wants His people to live, He desires for the children of Israel to live safely. Currently the nation of Israel dwells in a portion of the land that God provided. However, they are not living there safely. When Moses blessed Judah, he specifically referenced that God would be the Helper and Protector of the people in Judah to ensure their safety from their enemies. This is a reference not only to Judah, but also to Jerusalem, which is located in the territory of Judah. God does not desire for His people to live in turmoil, panic, and fear, but in safe tranquility, enjoying the benefits of His provision without restraint.
The scriptures proclaim that God desired His people to be safe so that they could be focused on Him rather than the threats of their circumstances. When Moses blessed Levi, he expressed that the essence of their blessing would be rooted in their submission to the wisdom and righteousness of God. Moses declared that Levi should be governed by the “Thummim” and the “Urim,” which were tools that God provided to the high priest to make decisions in supernaturally-wise ways. In other words, God wanted the children of Israel to dwell safely so that they could submit to the authority He provided through the high priest by His wisdom and righteousness, participating in the work of the Levites through worship and sacrifice. Moses’ blessing to the Levites referenced a time in their history during the wilderness journey when the Levites were obedient to do the will of God concerning His justice, His righteousness, and His wisdom. In Exodus 32:26-28 the Bible explains that Moses commanded a group of Levites to execute judgment against many of the children of Israel as consequence for building and worshiping the golden calf. The Bible states that the Levites killed 3,000 of their own brethren to uphold the righteousness of God. God stated that these Levites were so committed to God’s wisdom, righteousness, and justice, that they were willing to kill their own brethren in order to uphold God’s holiness. The essence of the blessing that Moses pronounced to Levi is based on their willingness to fully surrender to the Lord to lead the children of Israel back to the Lord as Jesus Himself resides as the Great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek. Israel will not have to worry about their enemies, thereby having the focus and gratitude to worship God in a righteous manner through the Levites as God first commanded.
Moses explained that the children of Israel would be able to dwell safely in the land because of the blessing that would come through Benjamin. Moses declared that Benjamin, as the “beloved of God” would dwell in the shelter of the Lord, “between His shoulders.” This means that Benjamin would dwell in the arms of the Living God! More generally, this shows that all of God’s beloved dwell in the same place – in the safety of the Lord’s arms, protected from that which causes harm to all people. Israel would be safe because God would exercises His sovereignty and power to possess and protect His people, thereby facilitating the quality of worship He desires. Since the children of Israel would be safe and worshiping the Lord in the manner He desires, Moses taught that the people would enjoy additional benefits. Moses blessed Joseph by stating that Ephraim and Manasseh would be blessed in the land with “precious things.” The scriptures proclaim that the possessions and fruit of Israel would be precious in nature, mainly because they would originate from heaven. When Abraham received the promises of God, the Bible explains that he looked forward into eternity, anticipating a land built with heavenly hands by God Himself, and not the affects of human effort. The blessing that God proclaimed to Joseph reflects that Israel would enjoy precious produce, fruit and other things because God Himself would provide them! More specifically, Moses referenced that “Him who dwelt in the bush” would be the cause of Joseph’s blessings. This is a reference to Moses’ conversation with God through the burning bush, which was described as “the Angel of the Lord,” and Old Testament reference to Jesus Christ! The precious possessions of Israel will come on account of Jesus the Messiah!
When Moses blessed Zebulun and Issachar, he expressed that they would be able to offer “sacrifices of righteousness.” Since Jesus will be accepted by Israel as their Messiah King, and He will provide precious fruit Himself, the sacrifices of Israel will be righteous in nature because Jesus is “the Lord Our Righteousness.” The precious nature of Israel will be the result of Jesus’ presence in Israel as the Messiah King, which will ultimately cause the people to possess the righteousness of God Himself. Consequently, Zebulun and Issachar will have a great abundance and treasures of the sands and seas showing that God’s desire is to increase the quality of His people’s provision based on their acceptance of His Son as Messiah. God’s gifts are not small and mediocre in nature. The gifts and rewards that God desires to give His people resemble the same greatness and magnitude that make up God’s own identity as seen in Jesus.
The provision of God will allow Gad to be blessed as administrators of His judgments and justice. This shows that, while God alone is Judge, He desires His people to exercise His righteousness in order to be extensions of His justice. The blessing of Gad expresses God’s desire to use Israel as extensions of His right hand to judge the world according to His righteousness. This is one of the ways Israel will be a blessing to all of the families of the world. Israel will be the means by which the righteousness and justice of God are distributed. God proclaimed that Dan would possess God’s unique power as of the Messiah, showing that God desires to impart His own unique attributes unto His people in order to exercise His righteousness and justice. Upon doing so, God expresses that His people will be filled and satisfied as communicated by the blessing set to Naphtali. The richness of God’s blessings is intended to fill His people to the point of satisfaction. The affects of God’s blessings – especially in Israel – is that His people will not crave or desire more from other sources as human beings have the tendency to do in sin. God’s people will be satisfied with the favor and provision of the Lord. Lastly, Moses stated that Asher would be most blessed as one having his foot dipped in oil. This is a reference to the anointing of God – especially by His Spirit, which is a fulfillment of God’s New Covenant promises. Israel will be strengthened by God, as if having feet of iron and bronze because of the anointing and purpose that God places upon them by His Spirit.
While God will fulfill His eternally unconditional promises to bless Israel in these specific ways, it is only by the Messiah that these things will take place, and through the Holy Spirit that God’s blessings will be made manifest. After Moses proclaimed the blessings of God, he stated that Israel will be “blessed” because there is no one like the “God of Jeshurun.” This phrase refers to the God of Israel, but Jeshurun is the word the Bible uses to refer to Israel in its ideal condition, when the nation receives God’s provision of salvation through Messiah and God fulfills all of His promises through them. Hence, Israel will be blessed by being in an ideal condition according to God’s standards. Israel will one day be holy as God is holy. Yet the condition of Israel will only be on account of the identity and work of God, and there is none like Him! God will help Israel turn from their sins and iniquity. God will exercise His majesty and excellency to draw His people unto Himself to dwell in a position of equal majesty and excellency. The eternal God will always be a refuge to His people to protect them with His everlasting arms. Israel will dwell safely in the Promised Land as a great nation and be a blessing to all of the families of the earth because God swore upon Himself to do so and God does not lie. If God can turn His back on Israel because of sin, what is to keep Him from turning His back on anyone else because of sin? God will cause a remnant of His people to repent through judgments and bless His people exactly as documented in scripture, and the nation of Israel will be happy as they are gloriously saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, just like every other believer!
The word “blessing” can sometimes be a confusing word for people when used in a Biblical context. The English version of the word is used in a variety of ways to describe a number of different things – most of which are not equal to the blessings of God as described in the Bible. This can create challenges for those who seek God’s blessings. Since many people confuse the meaning of the word, many people are at risk of pursuing something from God that is not Biblical. The better of an understanding that one has of God’s blessings, the better one can recognize when one has actually received a blessing from God or not. Therefore, when the scriptures show a person being blessed by God or receiving a blessing of God, one must be sure to pay attention to the details of scripture to know what God’s blessings actually look like.
In Deuteronomy 33:1-5 the Bible provides a good basis for what God’s blessings look like. Deuteronomy Chapter 33 is reflective of Moses speaking blessings upon the children of Israel tribe-by-tribe. However, the essence of the blessings that Moses spoke is well defined in the first five verses. Though Moses was the one that outwardly proclaimed the blessings to Israel, the focus of Moses’ speech was centered on God and His work. This shows that a blessing in a Biblical sense is based on one’s recognition of God and His work according to His promises. It is the constant reminders and instructions of scripture concerning God’s identity and purposes that ultimately serve as a blessing to God’s people. Though many refer to a “blessing” in the context of physical or material circumstances, the blessing that Moses gave to Israel shows that a true blessing is based on one’s spiritual position with God based one’s humble response to the powerfully gracious work of God to reveal His righteous purposes.
Deuteronomy Chapter 33 shows that Moses “blessed” each tribe individually, addressing each tribe individually. Before he did so, Deuteronomy 33:1-5 shows that Moses also “blessed” the people corporately as one body. As Moses addressed the entire congregation of Israel, he reminded them that God was the One that went to Israel. Moses stated that it was the Lord that went from Sinai and dawned on them from Seir. The children of Israel were not making any requests from God to see Him or His glory. Yet the scriptures testify that God revealed His power and glory on Mount Sinai anyway. The children of Israel were not a group of people that deserved to see the power and glory of God, yet God was willing to show His power and glory to the people on the basis of His affection towards them.
Even Moses was able to recognize God’s affection towards Israel. In the introductory portions of Moses’ blessing, he mentions that God went forth from Sinai with “ten thousands of saints.” This mention of saints refers to the children of Israel. When examining this statement and considering God’s perspective of Israel, one must recall the events that took place at Mount Sinai. While Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s Law, the children of Israel grew impatient for Moses, fashioned a golden calf, and began to worship it committing wicked acts and abominations against God. The Bible explains that the people could not endure the Word of God and asked God to stop speaking because they could not bear His righteousness. Though it is true that God severely judged that generation of Israelites, Deuteronomy 33:1-5 shows that God looked at Israel as a body of finished work in sanctification from an eternal perspective. Though the children of Israel had failed on Mount Sinai, God referred to them as “saints” in Deuteronomy 33:1-5. The term “saints” refers to the people’s position in sanctification and holiness. The term refers to the people’s identification as God’s own possession as a finished masterpiece. Even though Israel had failed over and over, God examined the nation of Israel from an eternal perspective, recognizing the generations of people He would reserve and preserve as a faithful remnant unto Himself to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This shows that God’s blessing is rooted in the work that He does to change the wicked condition of His people into a condition that enables one to receive the eternal benefits of His promises.
When Moses “blessed” the people, he explained that the children of Israel were “blessed” because they had received God’s Law. Deuteronomy 33:1-5 explains that God delivered His “fiery law” from “His right hand.” These are important references to consider when thinking about the Law. Though many see the Law as a burden, Moses mentioned it as one of the chief facets of God’s blessing towards His people. First, Moses explained that the Law came from the right hand of God. The scriptures explain that God’s power comes from His right hand (Exodus 15:6). The scriptures explain that there are eternal pleasures at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11). The Bible teaches that God’s right hand is the method by which He shows “marvelous lovingkindness” (Psalm 17:7). The Bible teaches that God exercises His strength to save His people by His right hand (Psalm 20:6). The Bible also teaches that God will judge those who hate Him by His right hand (Psalm 21:8). The scriptures proclaim that the righteousness of God is found in His right hand (Psalm 48:10).
The right hand of God as being the place of God’s righteousness is important to consider. The scriptures teach that God’s law is the demonstration of His righteousness. Moses blessed the children of Israel by reminding them that they were given the Law from God’s right hand. This means that God gave the children of Israel His righteousness. This truth is supported in that Moses called the Law the “fiery” law. This term is often used in the scriptures to describe the fire used to give sacrifices unto God. This is the same word used to describe the power and glory of God when He appeared to them as a “fiery cloud” on Mount Sinai. These contextual usages show that Moses was referring to the power, glory, and purity of the Law – mainly referring to God’s righteousness. The children of Israel were blessed because God revealed His power, glory, and purity through the Law by His right hand.
When one understands this truth, one must consider the other descriptions of God’s right hand. God’s revelation of His power, glory, and purity through the Law is the manner in which God prepared His people to receive the Messiah, who comes from the same place, and currently resides in the same place – the right hand of God. The people of God were “blessed” because they were being prepared to receive the Messiah – the fulfillment of God’s eternally unconditional promises. In Psalm 110:1 God commanded the Messiah to sit as His right hand. In Isaiah 41:10 the Lord God promised to uphold Israel by His right hand as their Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel! In the Book of Acts, the scriptures testify that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of God. Paul confirmed that Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of God in Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 8:1, and Hebrews 10:12. Peter further verified these claims in his first epistle. These truths explain that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s righteousness. The words that made up God’s Law that come from His right hand are ultimately embodied in Jesus Christ as evidenced by Jesus’ own power, glory, and purity documented in the Gospel accounts. Therefore, the blessings of God stem from the work that He does to reveal Jesus Christ as the embodiment of His righteousness as the Messiah!
Moses then explained the affection that God has for His people. Deuteronomy 33:1-5 bluntly states that God loves His people, and again referred to them as saints that are actually in His hand. In this way, the Bible teaches that God’s love is based on the blessings that He gives. Since God’s blessings revolve around the manifestation of His righteousness through the Law and Messiah, then God’s love is based on the same thing. One must also notice that the blessing of God is based on Israel’s position with God. Not only are they called “saints” referring to the holy condition that God conforms them to by His own righteousness, but they are also being held by Him in His hand. In Revelation Chapter 1 Jesus explains that He possesses the church in His own right hand. The people of God are brought into the presence and glory of the Father by the right hand of the Messiah – Jesus Christ. Subsequently, the love of God is defined by the work that God does to bring His people unto Himself by revealing the identity, power, glory, and purity of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah.
The blessing does not stop at the manifestation of God’s love. Deuteronomy 33:1-5 explains that part of the blessing that God’s people receive is based on the opportunity to respond to God’s revelation. Moses explains that as God shows love by revealing His righteousness through Christ, His people will sit down at His feet so that “everyone” receives His words! The blessing of God also deals with the opportunity that God’s people have to sit at His feet and receive His Word. The Gospel of John teaches that the Word of God became flesh and dwelt amongst His people as Jesus Christ. Hence, the blessing of God is based on the grace of God to reveal His righteousness to His people by His Son, thereby enabling the people of God to sit at His feet to receive His Son and the righteousness, glory, and purity that defines Him! This is why Moses considered the Law “the heritage” of the people. Though the Law identifies the sinful nature of mankind, it also tutors people to the Savior. The Bible explains that God’s Law is perfect. God’s Law is perfect as the revelation of His glory, power, purity, and righteousness as “love” so that His people can be drawn unto Himself by it. This is the greatest heritage of any people group!
Lastly, Moses made a prophetic declaration in the midst of his blessing unto the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 33:1-5 states that “Jeshurun” was the King of Israel when the people received the righteousness of God. Since the children of Israel did not respond to the Law in a righteous manner at Mount Sinai, this reference speaks of a future time for Israel. The Hebrew word “Jeshurun” means “Upright One.” Thus, Moses stated that God was the King of the “Upright One” when Israel sits at the feet of the Messiah to receive His Word as an appropriate response to His love. As previously stated, God’s blessing was based on His eternal perspective concerning the finished work He knew He would accomplish in His people. The Upright One refers to Israel. Though Israel was not upright at the time, Israel was “blessed” because of God’s promise to make them upright by His loving revelation of Himself. The children of Israel would be made upright by the right hand of God, which is the source of His power and righteousness and glory, when they sit at His feet and receive Him as King through the Messiah – Jesus Christ! When one observes these truths, the blessings of God are myopically focused on the revelation of God’s righteousness, power, and glory through the Messiah. God’s people are blessed when they respond to God’s revelation in humble submission to His Word, considering Him as King or Lord. Thus, the blessings that Moses communicated to Israel were defined by the promises that God made to save Israel. In other words, those who are genuinely blessed by God are those who have received God’s salvation by receiving His Son through faith in His identity as the Messiah.
The scriptures teach that God alone is holy, righteous, and just. The Bible makes many proclamations to identify God as uniquely the Lord God Almighty, and is bold to state that there is none like Him. Since this is true, the Bible also teaches that God is not a respecter of persons. This means that God does not look at human beings in a manner in which He is impressed. God is not awestruck by the efforts of mankind to do good and right. Since the Bible explains that none are righteous, then no one is like God in terms of His righteousness. Why would God be impressed with one unable to match His quality of goodness? The Bible teaches that the righteousness of mankind is comparable to a filthy rag from the perspective of God. Why would God be impressed with a filthy rag? This does not mean that God is not affectionate towards His people. Rather, it means that God understands His position and the position of His people. He is far above all creation and the source of all life so that any and all action takes place by His eternally self-existing and self-sustaining power. If God is the motor by which all things take place, then God is not in a position to marvel at the effects of His own work.
This is important to understand when examining the ways that God deals with some people. There is a human tendency to feel as if God owes one something. There is a tendency to think that one’s position in salvation entitles one to a certain quality of life that one can determine on one’s own based on personal affection and taste. Many times, believers become frustrated, discouraged, or angry because God does not match one’s desires. Some even feel that God is angry and His unwillingness to fulfill one’s desires is a reflection of His disapproval. This is not necessarily true. If God is not a respecter of persons, and one does not have righteousness apart from God, then God is not obligated to do that which one might desire. His work to offer forgiveness of sins in salvation is sufficient to match the fulfillment of God’s promises. As God’s promises are primarily eternal in nature, then the bulk of God’s benefits come in eternity. Therefore, one’s physical circumstances in this life do not necessarily reflect whether God is pleased with His people or not. The presence and assurance of the Holy Spirit is the means by which God’s people receive peace in spite of circumstances and confidence in the eternal nature of His promises.
This information is important to remember when examining scripture as documented in Deuteronomy 32:48-52. In Deuteronomy 32:48-52 the Bible shows how God desired to conclude the ministry of Moses. God had used Moses to do some incredible things. God used Moses to deliver His people from the hands of Pharaoh in Egypt, performing great signs and wonders. God used Moses to part the Red Sea and lead His people unto salvation from the Egyptian armies through a prophetic picture of baptism. God used Moses to bring His Law to the people and teach it to them. God used Moses to distribute the instructions concerning the construction of the tabernacle. God used Moses to encourage and teach the people about the holiness and righteousness of God. God used Moses to lead the people to victory over the Sihon and Og. God even used Moses to pronounce judgments and administrate discipline against the people when they were disobedient. Yet the contents of Deuteronomy 32:48-52 express that God was not impressed with any of those things since God was the Author and source of ability that Moses exercised in all of those instances.
Though God used Moses to do some of the most powerfully amazing things that the scriptures document, God did not place Moses in a regard that was beyond reproach. Moses was still a man that was unrighteous, needing the righteousness of God to receive the approval of God. Moses was still a man that was a sinner and subject to the consequences of sins that he committed. In Deuteronomy 32:48-52 the Bible explains that God commanded Moses to venture up to Mount Nebo to die. While the children of Israel were making preparations to cross the Jordan River, they would do so under the leadership of Joshua – not Moses. God commanded Moses to go up to Mount Nebo to watch Israel go into the Promised Land because of the sin he committed in Meribah when he committed disobedience by striking the rock more times than God commanded. As God sough to provide a prophetic illustration of the Messiah’s death being the manner in which He would bring cleansing and life, Moses perverted the prophetic image by being governed by his frustration and flesh to beat the rock rather than strike it once. Moses’ actions made it seem as if Messiah’s one-time, once-for-all death was insufficient, as if He would have to die more than once to provide cleansing from unrighteousness and eternal life. This is untrue, and such is why the consequence Moses had to face was so severe.
In that God repeated to Moses the consequence he had to pay on account of his sin, God proved that He is not impressed with the efforts of any man. There are few in the Bible that were able to match the “works” of Moses. Moses was so close to God in relationship that the glory of God even shown upon his face in a manner that was noticeable unto others! Yet Moses was not exempt from the consequence of his actions. Just because Moses taught the Law, and then repeated it, didn’t excuse Moses from the consequence of his sin. Just because Moses wrote the prophetic lyrics of God’s song that was referred to as “the Song of Moses,” didn’t excuse Moses from the consequence of his sin. Just because Moses anointed Joshua as the new leader of Israel didn’t excuse Moses from the consequence of his sin as if he could sneak into the Promised Land in the back of the crowed. God pronounced judgment upon Moses when he committed the sin, and the works of Moses would not sway God to change His mind concerning that judgment because God is not a respecter of persons.
Deuteronomy 32:48-52 compares the death of Moses to the death of Aaron. As Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, Moses was to die on Mount Nebo and be gathered to his people. Aaron was the first ordained high priest of Israel, yet he paid the consequence of his sin, not being able to enter into the Promised Land. Aaron’s position did not entitle him to any additional benefits or favor from God as if his work was better than anyone else’s. In 1 John 1:8-9 the Bible teaches that if the people of God live as if they have no sin, they are liars and also make God a liar, not having the truth of the Word in them. This means that the people of God are expected to remember and understand that even in salvation by faith, one is not “made” righteous, but justified from sin by God’s “declaration” of righteousness, even while one remains a sinner. The people of God are expected to continually confess sin, relying on God’s righteousness, knowing that while in this world, even the people of God have no righteousness. The testimony of Aaron and Moses proves that to be true.
While many of God’s people have been able to do some marvelous things from a human perspective, which of those works were not motivated by God and completed by God’s Spirit? Additionally, which of those works compare to the magnitude of work done through Moses? If God was not willing to relent in His judgment concerning Moses, why would God excuse anyone else from the consequence of unrighteousness in this life, entitling one to the absence of discomfort? God’s promises in salvation deal with one’s removal from the “eternal” consequences of unrighteousness – referring to the wrath of God. If Moses didn’t get the benefit of going into the Promised Land to enjoy the physical effects that come with it if he did all that he did, certainly God proves He is not a respecter of persons and will judge in a righteous and fair manner. Moses and Aaron were not able to enter into the Promised Land to enjoy the physical benefits that the land would bring because of their sin. However, the Bible clearly states that they would be allowed to “ be gathered to their people,” referring to their identification with Abraham and the eternal inheritance that God promised. This shows that while God is not a respecter of persons to grant every desire that His people have in this life, He is merciful and gracious in nature to fulfill the eternal aspect of His promises without compromise so that even while sinners in this life, God will bring His people unto Himself in the next, then cleansing from all unrighteousness to enjoy the eternal benefits of His promises!
The Bible teaches that none are righteous. No one is able to receive the approval of the One True Living God based on one’s own merits and efforts. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, the scriptures teach that mankind was curses so that the effects of human effort would only be able to produce “thorns and thistles” rather than the fruit God desires. The only form of righteousness that God will accept is His own righteousness since His righteousness is the only form of true and pure righteousness. This means that those who desire to have the approval of God and the eternal benefits that God promises must pursue God and His righteousness. However, the Bible does not teach that seeking God’s righteousness will transform one into a righteous being. Humans remain unrighteous even while having the approval of God in faith. Though saved from the wrath of God, believers still sin as evidence that no human being has the righteousness of God. Yet when a believer performs acts of righteousness, it is only by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ – not of one’s own efforts and motives. No matter which way one approaches the truth, all human beings must trust in God’s righteousness, seek God’s righteousness through Christ, and rely on God’s righteousness through the Holy Spirit, trusting the Bible’s claims as true concerning the unrighteous nature of all people.
This truth was even taught when Moses delivered the Law to the children of Israel. In Deuteronomy 32:44-47 the Bible documents that after God gave Moses “the Song of Moses,” he taught the song to Joshua and the children of Israel. The “Song of Moses” was God’s prophetic claim regarding the future of Israel. God was preparing to move His people into the Promised Land, but knew of the rebellion and rejection that the children of Israel would commit upon receiving the benefits of God’s promises to Abraham. God knew the people would quickly loose focus, adopt pagan practices to fulfill the desires of their flesh, and depart from His righteousness as stated in the Law. The Song of Moses predicted these things, which history later confirmed as true. The Song of Moses also warned the children of Israel about the judgments that would come upon the people because of their unrighteousness and unwillingness to honor God by observing His righteousness. God reminded Israel through His song that He, as the Creator of all things, swore amazing promises of grace unto the people, and had already performed amazing miracles to prove His Word as true. The only thing that God wanted in return was for the children of Israel to respond in gratitude to God by upholding His righteousness as supreme through their observation of the Law.
After Moses and Joshua gave the children of Israel the song, they also gave the children of Israel the Law – again. Deuteronomy 32:44-47 shows that Moses and Joshua had some choice words for the congregation of Israel to ensure that they understood the magnitude of God’s commands, the value of them, and the purpose of them. Moses and Joshua commanded the people to “set their hearts on all the words” of the Law. This is a simple command, but a powerful one! The hearts of God’s people are to be set on God’s commands in the Law. While many believers today feel that this is an outdated command, one must consider the full context of God’s commands and the purpose of them. God gave the Law as an illustration of His righteousness. Paul’s letter to the church of Galatia explains that the Law is a “tutor” that is intended to lead the people of God to Jesus as the Messiah. The Law is intended to show the true righteousness of God as a direct contrast to the unrighteousness of mankind, pointing to Jesus as the Savior since He is the fulfillment of the Law.
When one takes this understanding into the context of Deuteronomy 32:44-47, one can see the value of Moses’ and Joshua’s teaching. When one’s heart is set upon the Law of God, one’s heart is set upon the righteousness of God. When one’s heart is set upon the Law of God, one’s heart is set upon the “tutor” God uses to lead one to Christ. When one’s heart is set upon the Law of God, one’s heart is set upon the humble position one must be in to acknowledge one’s unrighteous condition and one’s need of a Savior. When one’s heart is set upon the Law of God, one’s heart is set upon the majesty of Jesus Christ as God’s provision for righteousness unto those who believe upon Him as the Son of God and Messiah. This was God’s intent for the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 32:44-47, and the New Testament explains that this is still God’s will for His people today – Jew and Gentile. This does not mean that one is able to receive God’s approval by one’s ability to do what the Law says because the Bible teaches that is impossible. Instead, this means that one’s trust in the Law as the documented manifestation of God’s righteousness, one’s trust in Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s righteousness, and one’s inability to match God’s righteousness as shown in Jesus, is pleasing to God as “saving faith.” When Moses and Joshua told Israel to set their hearts on the Law, this is the sort of faith they were talking about even though there was no “Jesus” known at the time.
Deuteronomy 32:44-47 explains that the Law was not a futile thing for the children of Israel. God did not speak commands to fill time. God did not communicate laws as optional suggestions. God had clear and specific purpose for the Law and the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 32:44-47 boldly proclaims that the Law was “the life” of the children of Israel. The Law of God was intended to prolong the days of Israel to ensure that they were able to receive the benefits of God’s promises in the land as a great nation. Once again, one must consider the magnitude of power behind the words that Moses and Joshua proclaimed. The Law, Commands, and Word of God was “the life” of the children of Israel. The Law, Commands, and Word of God was the manifestation of the righteousness of God. Therefore, the righteousness of God was “the life” of the children of Israel. In other words, the children of Israel were enabled to live because of God’s righteousness – not their own (they didn’t have any).
The Bible repeatedly teaches this principle over and over again, perhaps most powerfully in Jeremiah 23:6. There, the Bible explains that Judah and Israel would be saved from their enemies (physical and spiritual) on account of the Messiah, who’s name would be “The Lord Our Righteousness.” The essence of the Messiah of Israel was based on the work He would do in order to save His people from sin, death, and hell, as well as the physical consequences that they have historically suffered on account of sin. The salvation of the Messiah would come by the effects of His own work and His own righteousness; not the works of the people. Hence, the life of Israel would be facilitated by the righteousness of the Messiah. According to the prophecy of Zechariah, the righteousness of God’s people that enables life (eternal) is pictured in the white robe that His people receive from the Messiah. According to the prophecies of the Book of Revelation, that righteousness comes from the One that is called “Faithful and True,” referring to Jesus Christ. Therefore, those who’s hearts are set upon the righteousness of God – through the Law and through Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Law – are able to live. For Israel, this meant that they would be able to dwell safely in the Promised Land for as long as they were humbly seeking God and His righteousness through the Law (and later through Messiah), as well being able to dwell in the eternal kingdom of God. For the rest of God’s people, this means that those who seek the righteousness of God through the observation of the Law and Jesus as the fulfillment of it will be able to be made joint heirs with Christ, dwelling in His eternal kingdom.
The judgments of God are good and purposeful. When one reads about the judgments of God, one must consider that God is the Author of such judgments, being sure to account for God’s perfect and unique attributes as the manner by which God proclaims and produces His judgments. Just because God promises to destroy a certain person or people group, doesn’t make God bad. Just because God promises to execute violence and wrath, doesn’t change God’s nature as “love.” A common challenge as human beings is to judge the judgments of God through a flawed understanding of God’s nature. Many times people disagree with the Bible and find it to be contradictory to itself seeing God proclaim judgments in some scriptures, but then God also identify Himself as merciful, gracious, and the essence of love. How can God execute violence and also identify Himself as love? One must consider, that if the Word of God is true, one must be sure that one’s understanding of judgment, mercy, grace, and love are according to Biblical standards and not one’s own understanding based on cultural and experiential circumstances. The Bible commands the people of God to refrain from leaning on one’s own understanding, and instead to trust in the Lord with all of one’s heart.
When reading about the details of God’s judgments, one must also be sure to study the purpose for God’s judgments. He always makes His purposes known when it comes to His judgments. God’s judgments are always done to exemplify God’s righteousness, God’s sovereignty, but also God’s compassion. When one examines God’s judgments in scripture AND the effects that He proclaims, one can see that God always has good purposes attached to the violent nature of His judgment. In Deuteronomy 32:34-43 the Bible explains that God promised to judge Israel for idolatry He knew they would commit in the future. However, the scriptures explain that God would use His judgments to correct the conduct of His people and Gentiles so as to bring them to a position on benefits on the basis of His compassion. God promised that He would judge. However, God also reminded the children of Israel that He would judge because He alone is Judge. Judgment is a work set apart for God alone since He alone is righteous. God is the only One that is able to judge rightly and fairly in order to produce a good effect that comes out of the disaster that the judgments entail. Therefore, God reminded the children of Israel that vengeance is His alone. Therefore, as God had proclaimed judgment against Israel, the children of Israel would be assured that idolatry would lead to swift and severe consequence because God promised such; and since God is faithful, He is uniquely qualified to chastise His people without compromising the essence of His promises.
Deuteronomy 32:34-43 explains that, while God did assure the children of Israel that they would be judged for their rebellion against Him, He would show compassion on His people. Even though God promised to violently destroy those who disobeyed Him through self-righteousness and pride, God would ultimately show compassion. God’s judgments are ALWAYS based on the foundation of God’s compassion. The Bible states that God would judge His people, but have compassion on His servants. This shows that there is a difference between “people” and “servants.” According to the scriptures, “people” are destined for judgment, but “servants” will receive compassion. Though both are God’s possession, only one possession is set aside for a favorable conclusion. This truth explains that God uses His judgments to transform the condition of “His people” to become “His servants.” Deuteronomy 32:34-43 explains that God would use His judgments to humble the nation of Israel, causing a remnant of Israel to turn from idolatry, back to God as servants. God promised to use His judgments to reveal the foolishness and futility of false gods and idols. God promised to use His judgments to show that the trust Israel had set into false gods and idols was purposeless since the idols and gods could not help and protect the people from God’s destruction.
God would use His judgments to remind Israel of His supreme position. God would use His judgments to remind the children of Israel that He kills, but that He also makes alive. God would use His judgments to remind the children of Israel that He wounds, but that He also heals. God would use His judgments to remind Israel that He alone is God and there is no other! There is no person, idea, achievement, or dream that can contend with the power and sovereignty of God. Hence, the judgments of God can be considered compassionate since God exercises His judgments for two good purposes: to exalt His righteousness, and to reveal His ability to heal and make alive in restoration. It is true that God promised to utterly destroy the children of Israel for rebelling against His righteousness and seeking to develop their own through made up gods and idols. However, God reminded the children of Israel that though He was powerful to wound, He is also powerful to heal. God reminded the children of Israel that though He is powerful to kill, He is more powerful to make alive.
It is important to recall that the Song of Moses began by identifying God as the Rock of Salvation and as the Creator of all things. God is righteous to destroy the wicked, but is powerful to save from death, restore from death, and make alive again! If God could author life out of nothing, He can certainly restore life when He recognizes humility within the hearts of His people. It is interesting to note that the extent of God’s judgment is as violent as documented because the rejection of Israel is to the extent of “hate.” God promised to judge Israel to an extremely sever degree because He said that Israel “hated” Him. He would repay those who hate Him. This means that those who deny the righteousness of God and reject His gracious promises according to His Word are equal to those who hate God. To deny God’s righteousness according to His Word is to hate God. To ignore the majesty and glory of God’s promises is to hate God. When one considers the work that God had already done for Israel to reveal His power, glory, grace, sovereignty, and favor, one should be able to understand why God’s punishment was so intense. Hence, He is righteous for destroying those who hate the goodness of God’s promises, righteousness, and Word.
In spite of God’s promise to judge Israel for idolatry, God promised that His judgments are uniquely glorious since they ultimately lead to salvation. Deuteronomy 32:34-43 explains that the Gentiles should rejoice with His people concerning God’s promise to avenge His enemies that hate Him (referring to His own disobedient people that refuse to humble themselves and repent). This shows that God’s judgments against Israel will affect a remnant of Israel to lead them to humility, willfully submitting to God as servants and heirs to His promises. This also shows that God’s judgments against Israel will have the same effect on Gentiles! Though the promises of God were made to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God promised to bring the children of Israel to jealousy by offering those promises to Gentiles. God would use the judgment of Israel to bring Gentiles unto Himself, making them heirs to the same promises intended for the Jews! God promised to provide atonement – forgiveness – to both Jews and Gentiles, and would exercise His judgment as the mechanism to do so. When one examines the death of Jesus as the Messiah, the scriptures proclaims that His death was “judgment” against sin just as much as it was atonement! The death of Jesus as the Son of God shows that God Himself judged sin through death, so that the shedding of His blood was sufficient to cleanse Jews and Gentiles from sin. So while many despise the judgments of God in ignorance, the Bible shows that God’s righteous judgments – while violent – are glorious in nature, causing many to be humble, and leading many to eternal life!