"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:6
The promise of a land flowing with milk and honey lay before God's people. Three things in this chapter are given to Israel that will prepare and enable them to possess this land of promise. First, they must transform their thinking about who they are, and more importantly, who God is. No longer can they see themselves as an oppressed nation of slaves as they had been for 400 years in Egypt. They must see themselves as a new nation, one that has seen proof that it can go in and possess the land. They had just experienced victory over Ammonites and should expect the same victories as they go into the land of Canaan (v. 4).
Second, they must face their natural fears of defeat with an unflinching confidence that God Himself will go with them (v. 6). The same God that led them out of the slavery of Egypt can lead them into the land of promise. They need faith that God works through them as they face the impossible odds that are against them. Going forward, they must fight knowing that God will prosper their obedient efforts with success regardless of the odds.
Third, they must accept the fact that it is only as they continue to live in faithfulness to God's will that they will live in God's promised blessing and prosperity. Therefore, the word of God must be the centerpiece of the life of Israel, young and old (v. 12).
These three principles of experiencing God's promises are still applicable today. We too must free ourselves from lives lived in bondage to past sins. We must see ourselves as God sees us--people He is recreating to be more than conquerors over the opposition and enslavement of sin and a fallen world. As long as we see ourselves in light of who we are in God, we too can step into the battles of life and experience the promises of God as our own.
NKJV Bible Text
Joshua the New Leader of Israel
1 Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. 2 And he said to them: "I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the LORD has said to me, 'You shall not cross over this Jordan.' 3 The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said. 4 And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. 5 The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
7 Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. 8 And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed."
Joshua the New Leader of Israel
v. 1 Moses Went And Spoke These Words To All Israel – These were Moses' last words, as he knew that he was about to die and would not enter the Promised Land. In this final address, he wanted to encourage Joshua and the people of Israel to trust the Lord and to enter boldly into the inheritance that God had promised them, knowing that God would be with them as long as they were with Him.
v. 2 Go Out – In the Old Testament, to "go out" meant a variety of things, but usually it spoke of a leader performing his duties as a leader of his people. It could speak of a general leading of his troops into war, or a governor or king making capable leadership decisions.
v. 3 Joshua – In the plan of God, Moses was not to lead Israel into the Promised Land. Rather, Joshua would be the one to lead them in and settle them in Canaan, the Land of rest, fruitfulness, and blessing.
v. 4 As He Did Unto Sihon And Og – Just as God caused all of their enemies to fall at their feet while they were en route to the Promised Land, He continued to give them supernatural victory as they entered the Promised Land.
v. 6 Fear Not, Nor Be Afraid Of Them – This exhortation is repeated numerous times in the book of Joshua. The children of Israel were tempted to be afraid any time they took their eyes off of the Lord and His power and put them on the obstacles in their way. Because the Canaanites were a particularly fierce people (some living in cities which seemed impenetrable and many of giant physical stature), it would have been an incredible act of faith just to step out into war against them.
The Law to Be Read Every Seven Years
9 So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, saying: "At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess."
Prediction of Israel's Rebellion
14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of meeting, that I may inaugurate him."
So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tabernacle of meeting. 15 Now the LORD appeared at the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood above the door of the tabernacle.
The Law to Be Read Every Seven Years
v. 10 At The End Of Seven Years, At The Set Time Of Release – Every seventh year on the Jewish calendar was to be a year of rest (Sabbath) for the land, as well as a year of remission of debts for the poor and freedom for the slaves. Moses commanded that on every seventh year of their calendar, when all of Israel gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, they were to read aloud the entire book of the Law so all could be reminded of the importance of keeping the Lord's commands.
v. 12 The Stranger That Is Within Your Gates – God's desire was always that Israel be a light to the Gentiles. Therefore, here He commanded that all who lived in Israel, including those people that were not Jews by birth, be given the opportunity to hear the words of the Law and be blessed by choosing to obey them.
v. 13 That Their Children, Who Have Not Known, May Hear – Again, God's desire was also that the children of the next generation be given an opportunity to hear His Word. Every seven years, there were children present at the Feast in Jerusalem, who had not yet heard the words of the Law. God was adamant that those children also be brought up in the understanding of the Law and the fear of the Lord.
Prediction of Israel's Rebellion
v. 14 Presented Themselves – As part of the process of handing the reigns of leadership over to Joshua, Moses took him into the Tabernacle to meet with God and be commissioned by Him. The following verses of this passage describe how they entered the Tabernacle and the pillar, and how the cloud descended over them, representative of the presence of the Lord.
16 And the LORD said to Moses: "Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?' 18 And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.
19 "Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. 20 When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. 21 Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them."
22 Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel. 23 Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, "Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you."
24 So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 "Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; 27 for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD, then how much more after my death? 28 Gather to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands."
v. 16 Sleep With Your Fathers – "Sleep" in the Scriptures is a euphemism for physical death, as the body's senses shut down, much as in actual sleep. However, the soul and spirit would not "sleep," for they would remain (Luke 16:22-26) in a place of comfort, awaiting the day that Jesus would pay the full price of sin by being resurrected and ascending into Heaven, bringing with Him all those that had died in faith (Eph. 4:8-10, 1 Pet. 3:18-19).
v. 19 Write This Song For You And Teach It – God dictated the words of a song so that Moses could write it down and pass it along to the children of Israel. In that day, songs were used to help people learn and memorize truths in a manner that they could pass down to their children. In this instance, the Lord wanted His people to have a song passed down through their generations that would remind them of the day Israel stood before Him and heard and agreed to all of the promised blessings and curses in the Law.
v. 27 I Know Your Rebellion And Your Stiff Neck – "Stiff-necked" was a term derived from their dealings with animals of labor. An animal with a stiff neck was resistant to the yoke of its master, always wanting to go its own way, thus worthless to its owner. Both God and Moses were at this point well familiar with the rebellion and stiff necks of the children of Israel.
v. 29 In The Latter Days – The term "latter days" is most often used in Scripture to designate the last days of history as we know it, usually referring to the time between Jesus' first and second comings. Here, it is an expression which revealed that Moses, seeing into the future by the Spirit of God, knew that Israel would resist God's leading all the way up until the present time and even into the future. The last seven-year period of history before Jesus returns is called the "time of Jacob's trouble" in Jeremiah 30:7. It is the period of history during which Israel will go through much tribulation and persecution in order to break their pride and self-sufficiency, and turn toward Jesus as their Messiah.