Read: Deuteronomy 31:1-29
Consider: Fear can have a paralysing effect on some people. Afraid to take a chance, they do nothing. For others, fear can have a stimulating effect, through the release of adrenaline in the bloodstream. This can make them think that they are more powerful than they really are and can lead them into disastrous situations.
When Moses spoke to the Israelites he said: The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you (Deuteronomy 31:3). He then goes on the say of God that: ‘He will …’ (31:3), ‘… the Lord will do …’ (31:4), ‘… the Lord will deliver …’ (31:5). Can you see that the reason the people of Israel were told not to be afraid or terrified as they entered the promised land, was because God would be with them and he would give them the land. Moses reiterates that God will be with them when he says: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (31:6).
Moses then turns his attention to his successor. He calls Joshua forward and tells him: Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (31:7-8). Notice this time that Moses tells Joshua not to be afraid or discouraged. While Joshua may have had the same fears about the strength of the people they would displace in the promised land, he would have the added pressure of leading the people. In this position, he would have to deal with the backsliding and grumbling of the Israelites and this could lead to him being discouraged; hence the warning. You may ask: Surely the Israelites would stop grumbling and quarrelling because they now were entering the promised land and would take possession of it? You might think so, but no!
The history of the people of Israel is one of constant cycles of rebellion, with a return to God, followed by more rebellion. Moses confronts the people with this truth later in the chapter where he says: For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! … For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you (31:27, 29a).
Knowing human nature, Moses spoke words of encouragement to the Israelites, when they faced the daunting task of entering and taking possession of the promised land. He told them that the Lord would be with them and go ahead of them. Moses also spoke words of warning to them, confronting them with their own weakness which would result in rebellion and falling away from God.
When we are facing a major decision in our lives we can be sure that God will be there with us. He will go before us to prepare the way. Although we may feel apprehensive or afraid about the future, we should not let this paralyse us into inaction. There is also a warning for us in today’s reading: After God has directed us through major decisions in life, we have to guard against becoming complacent, as this can lead to backsliding and falling away from God.
Pray: Father, we see how you directed the people of Israel to the promised land and how you went before them to prepare the way. May we trust totally in you for our future and may you keep our hearts focussed on you, so that we do not rebel against you and fall away. Amen
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