Moses’s Retrospection, Deuteronomy 31: 1 – 13

By Dr. Stewart McNaught

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses looked back over the way that they had come so as to prepare them to go forward. He reminded them of what God had ordered in the past so that they would know how to order their lives in the future. He retraced the story of the wilderness to prepare them for the Promised Land.
            A looking back to remember should also involve a looking forward. Moses was now ready for his entrance into the presence of God. He would soon make his journey to Mt. Nebo and there be at home with his God, the Lord. Before he set out on this his last journey he made preparations for his departure. He could not leave the people of Israel to their own devices. A good leader should always prepare a successor.

Preparation, Deut. 31
In this chapter, Joshua is appointed as successor to Moses and he becomes the leader of Israel. It could have been said that Joshua was fitted for this position from the moment he distinguished himself in the battle with the Amalekites, Exo. 17:9. Joshua had been Moses’ right hand man from that time on, Exo. 32:17.

Moses had waited before the Lord in prayer before he nominated Joshua as his successor, Number 27: 15 – 20. When Moses was ready to go to Mt. Nebo he called for Joshua and set him before the people as their new leader, Deut. 31: 7, 8.

Promise, Deut. 31:6
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them.” This word, “fear not” is one of the great words of God to His people. It was God’s word of encouragement to Abraham, Gen 15:1; it was the Lord Jesus’ constant word to His disciples, Matt. 10:26; Luke 12:32. It is a word that the Lord’s servants need today.

It is a word of encouragement, “Do not be afraid of circumstances, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” It is a word of exhortation, “Go on and do it, you can, for I am with you.” It is a word that enables, “Have not I commanded you?” The Christian need not be afraid of anything material. God is for us and who can be against us?

The word is found ten times in the book of Deuteronomy, 1:21; 3:2, 22; 20:3; 31: 6, 8. It is found in the call to the people to re-gather and go on to the Promised Land; it is Moses’ constant exhortation to the people in all their trials and difficulties; it is Moses’ final world to Joshua. If believers today could only grasp the significance of this promise how much stronger they would be in the witness to Jesus Christ!

“Fear God and you need fear no one else,” this word of encouragement from an old saint is still valid to believers today, Deut. 6:2, 13, and 24. The great Grace of God hinges on the Christian’s belief in the promise of God and his confidence in this, ‘Fear Not’.

Encouragement, Deut. 31:13
In this final encouraging message to Joshua, Moses reiterates the theme of his words to Israel, “Listen, Learn, and Live.”
Listen to the word of God through His servants the prophets. The hearing ear is always blessed by God. Christians should pray to have a hearing ear, Deut. 29:4.

Learn - this is the real way of exhortation. As has been said before, learn is the great word of this book. It is found seven times in Deuteronomy, Deut. 4:10. To learn from God through His word is the supreme lesson of all. Hear with the intent to learn and live.

Finally, live. Life is the promise of the Gospel. Life does not mean mere existence; it is the abundant life through Jesus Christ, life in all its fullness. It’s a life that is satisfying, sanctified and saved from sin and sorrow. This life comes from the new life that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. It is a life that is founded on a rock, the promises of God.



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