If Deuteronomy were a musical,
the background music would be swelling today
as the intensity of Moses’ last words to the Israelites surely draws a speechless crowd.
Moses briefly reviews all they have witnessed in the wilderness,
reminding them once again of God’s faithful presence every step of the way.
At the same time, he pleads with them to do more than “see” God.
He wants them to also hear Him and keep His commandments.
If “seeing is believing,” then “hearing is responding to what has been seen and believed.”
Moses had done both in his own life journey.
He had seen the burning bush and mustered the courage to approach it and listen.
Then, with fear and trembling, he had chosen to respond to God’s call,
“Return to Egypt.”
Over forty years have passed since this pivotal moment in Moses’ life.
He now stands before a mass of men, women, and children who didn’t know him in the early years.
They didn’t witness the plagues their great grandfathers had seen all around them
as they slaved away under the oppressive hands of Egypt masters..
They didn’t watch the Red Sea split in two and feel dry ground under their feet as they escaped slavery.
Those Israelites have passed away in the wilderness,
suffering the consequences of what Moses wants these Israelites to avoid.
A new generation prepares to cross the Jordan,
a generation who has only “heard” about all the things their forefathers saw.
Moses has to find a talking point they can recall with their own eyes.
“Indeed, you know how we lived in the land of Egypt
and passed through the nations where you traveled.
You SAW their abhorrent images and idols
made of wood, stone, silver, and gold,
which were among them.”
Moses, the man who claimed he had no public speaking skills,
stands before God’s children with no help from his deceased brother Aaron,
and creates a powerful visual to go with his words.
He wants something to sink in.
There is only One God.
And they must continue to worship only Him.
Several times in these three chapters Moses states how critical it is to obey all the words of the law
and how serious the punishment will be if they do not.
Like any good parent,
Moses spends a good amount of time talking about the consequences of disobedience.
If the Israelites were elementary school-aged children,
Moses would have simply placed their names on huge charts and said,
“This is what it takes to clip up,
and this is what it takes to clip down.”
It was simple.
Follow God and be blessed.
Follow false Gods and be cursed.
The choice was their to make.
So he wraps up these chapters by saying,
“This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach.”
In other words,
“Clipping up is up to you……and so is clipping down.”
Moses sets before them both “life and prosperity and death and adversity.”
And then he tells them what he knows to be the only right choice,
As I type these words I’m looking up at our wall of family pictures.
So many memories framed in wood then covered with glass.
I’m reminded of so many easy and not-so-easy roads God has walked with our family.
He has carried us across many Red Seas –
out of the bondage of grief and sin.
All along the way,
we’ve had one choice to make.
Clip up or clip down.
Follow Him or turn away?
And can’t doubt or the temptation to follow false gods slip in so easily?
Moses knew this.
But he also knew something else the Israelites and I both need to know.
If I took a string and connected every picture on my wall,
the string would be God’s presence.
That’s the one part of our story that has never changed……
even in our ever-changing family story.
Moses wanted the sraelites to remember this too,
even after his death.
This same string would weave in and out of every chapter of their lives,
whether they chose to obey Him or not.
So he ends the chapter with these words:
When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
That’s the great thing about God.
Like a fair and consistent elementary school teacher,
He provides consequences on the days (or in the seasons) we clip down.
But He’s all about fresh starts.
Moving our clip back to the beginning….
over and over again.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, says,
“The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God.
He does not possess them as qualities; they are as God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures.
Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be.
His love is the way God is and when He loves He is simply being Himself.”
God is love.
His love never fails and is never ending.
Why would I not choose Him today?
And not be led astray by doubt or idols?
He is love.
This morning and every morning,
I want to remember all I have seen and heard.
I want to choose life.
I want to clip up.