“These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness” (1:1). So begins Deuteronomy. And Moses did so “according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them” (1:3). This is important: these are God’s instructions given through Moses. And they are given to Israel, as she prepares to enter Canaan, for her own good. But these words are also for us: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
The initial instruction to Israel was to take the land already promised to them: “See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them” (1:8). Moses reminds that present generation about the sinful refusal of the previous generation to take what was to be theirs. They had failed because they did not trust the promises of God to give them victory over their enemies. Moses reminds the people, once again, of God’s covenant promises “that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time” (4:40). Remember James’ instruction? “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7). Let us be, not like the generation that perished in the wilderness, but like those who believed and received the promise.
God of the ages, whose almighty hand
leads forth in beauty all the starry band
of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
our grateful songs before thy throne arise.
Refresh thy people on their toilsome way;
lead us from night to never-ending day;
fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
and glory, laud, and praise be ever thine. -- Daniel C. Roberts (1876)