Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 31:1-32:27, Luke 12:8-34, Psalm 78:32-55, and Proverbs 12:21-23.
In today’s reading, we see that it is almost time for Moses to die. He has almost completed everything the Lord has called him to. He is finishing strong. He is not limping toward the finish line, barely hanging on. God has gifted him with strength to complete the task. I wonder if he is disappointed that he won’t actually lead the people into the Promise land? I think I would be. But it doesn’t appear that he is disappointed; it seems as if he has totally accepted the will of God. He is not jealous of Joshua; he is rooting for him. He has seen his work as a calling from God and as such, he is willing to accept that calling and nothing else. His ambition is gone, and his reluctance is gone. He is not fighting his calling, nor trying to prolong it.
Wow. That is very unusual for a human being. Most of the time, we have to fight our ambition. Either we are fighting apathy or fighting pride. But not Moses. Sometimes we think that Moses was in some holy category that made it easier to be extraordinary. But we need to remember that he was ordinary. He was an ordinary man called by God. So, his extraordinary-ness was not Moses, it was God. And that is the key. That was the key for Moses, that is the key for us. We let God run the show. If God wants to place us in a position for great influence among a lot of people, so be it. If God wants to hide us in the shadows where no one notices the work of our calling, so be it. It is God that calls us, God that directs us, God that equips us, God that anoints us, God that gives us the strength we need. When we realize that, there is no room for vain ambition or destructive pride. We are neither timid nor prideful. We are neither insecure nor arrogant. We will just go about our business, serving God in the way He wants, not in the way we think is best. That is a formula for spiritual success.
And there are two more parts of the formula. Did you see it in the reading today? Both parts are repeated three times in Deuteronomy 31. Three times. What does that tell you. First, the repetition tells us the two parts are very important, but number 3 tells us they are holy—truth directly from God. Let’s take a look:
Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: 2 “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ 3 The Lord your God himself will crossover ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. 4 And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. 5 The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “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. 8 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…
23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”
Deuteronomy 31:1-8, 23
In these two parts we see responsibility for us and responsibility for God. The two parts of holy importance are as follows:
- Joshua is to be strong and courageous. This may seem like a hard task, given the calling. But it is a command, not an encouragement. Be strong and courageous. Just do it. Walk forward, don’t turn back. Just do the next right thing, as my husband always says.
- The second part is why the first part is attainable. Because the Lord will be with him. Go back and read the section again. Not only will the Lord be with him, the Lord is the one to go before. The Lord is the one to fight the battle.
So, how can we be encouraged in this passage? First, we must know that we each have a calling. We must be strong and courageous in that calling. We must just do it. Do it scared if we have to. It appears in this passage that one of the biggest obstacles in walking forward is fear and discouragement. I know that to be true in my own life. According to dictionary.com, the prefix “dis” is a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force. We are commanded not to be discourage, because discouragement reverses our courage.
Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to push through the fear, knowing that we can walk forward, because God is walking with us—going before us, staying beside us, and walking behind us.