Be Strong and Courageous!

In reading through Deuteronomy, Moses reminded the whole nation and Joshua in particular of a couple of vital truths. Notice what Moses said to Israel in Deut. 31:6

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Moses wants the nation to remember their relationship with God and how his presence will ensure their safety and victory. The presence of God should give them courage and strength rather than fear and dread.

The word for “courage” is describing “the ability to deal with danger without flinching” (Logos). The word “strong” is referring to strength beyond what we can do naturally. The assurance of God’s partnership with the nation as they take the Promised Land should allow them to act fearlessly even when circumstances indicate otherwise.

This same encouragement is given to Joshua, who was to take the leadership role from Moses when he died. As the leader of this growing nation in the midst of overwhelming transition, Joshua must be strong and courageous. In fact, Deut. 31:8 says it this way,

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

The more I thought of this; it reminded me of how the same concepts are recorded of David’s charge to his son Solomon as he was to become king in David’s place. Notice how this is stated in 2 Chron. 28:20,

“Then David said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.’”

Finally, I thought of the words of Jesus when he spoke to his disciples after the resurrection in Matt. 28:20 as he told him to make disciples in all the world,

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I remember hearing Dr. Dallas Willard share his alternate translation of this text. He said it means, “I am with you every minute of the day until the job is done!”

All of these reminders have shown me again, that God’s presence is what brings success. God being with us should give us courage and strength no matter how challenging life appears or the task at hand. This is also true of the disciple of Jesus today. Jesus promised he would be with us every minute of the day as we live for him and seek to expand his kingdom. This certainly does not mean that my life will be without challenges, suffering or problems. Jesus told us following him would include all of these things, and we see that in the lives of his disciples in the New Testament. But, living life with him means I can live the way he desires and accomplish the tasks he has for me even though that may not include some of my plans and dreams.

Father, thank you for the reminders of your presence with those you put in leadership and those with whom you have expectations (your disciples). Help me to live life in the confidence of your presence regardless of my circumstances. Thank you for walking with me today!

Following Jesus with you,

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Who buried Moses?

Have you noticed when reading the Bible that small details can sometimes stand out which make you start asking questions? One such example of that for me is found in Deut. 34:1-5. Some of that text is as follows,

“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land … ‘I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.’ So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.”

Does anything stand out to you when you read that text? When it says, “he buried him,” to whom is that a reference? Most likely it is a reference to God Himself. God either directly or indirectly through his angels, buried Moses. Wow!

Why would God do that? Why would he not just let the leadership bury him as they did with Aaron?

Two reasons come to my mind for this dramatic burial. The first is hinted at in the text above. God told Moses, “You shall not go over there.” God, graciously allowed Moses to go up mount Nebo so that he could see the vast land that the nation was about to inherit from God. As much as he desired to live in the promised land, his sin of rebellion against God had to be fulfilled. Therefore, to prevent the nation of Israel from taking the body of Moses (like they did Joseph) to the promised land, God made sure that they would never find his body.

God is a gracious and loving God, but he also is just. He declared that Moses would never see the promised land whether living or dead.

A second thought comes from the story of the bronze serpent Moses made and had placed upon a pole so that those who had been bitten by a snake could be healed by glancing at it. Notice what 2 Kings 18:4 says the Jews did with that pole,

“He (Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it.”

The Jews had kept that pole for hundreds of years, and it became an object of worship! This was never intended by God. Is it possible, that if the Jews knew where Moses was buried, his burial site could have become a place of worship? We do not know for sure, but that certainly would not surprise me.

So what do we learn this morning? Moses had a very different death and burial. He was buried by God Himself. Moses was not shown any favoritism because of his unique relationship with God. He was held accountable for his sin. We also see that God prevented Moses from being able to enter the land even after he died. Finally, God prevented Moses from being deified because of his special relationship to God and his leadership role in the history of the Jewish nation.

Father, thank you for the reminder of the burial of Moses. His sin required just payment. May you help me to remember the significance of sin especially for those in spiritual leadership. May you help me to remain faithful and obedient as I seek to follow you.

Following Jesus with you,

“Let Me Grow Lovely Growing Old”

In life, there can be things that are hard to understand but nevertheless are true. The word “paradox” is defined by Webster as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.”

In my readings this morning, I noticed a paradox that is hard to understand but must be embraced because even though it goes against common sense, it is true. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 4:16,

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self his being renewed day by day.”

As certain as the reality of the general decline of our bodies so should be the truth that our inner soul is getting more beautiful. The verb translated “being renewed” is in the passive voice meaning that the subject (you and I) receive the action of the verb rather than perform it. In this case, it is a divine passive with the implied agent being God Himself. God is the one at work in us, day by day making us more like him over time. This to me is a paradox because I am also decaying daily on the outside while this happens! I must not lose heart in the process of aging because I am still being made new on the inside by God Himself if I am cooperating with his work in me rather than fighting it.

Lenski beautifully describes this process when he says,

With perfect calmness Paul can watch the destruction of his outer man. What if his enemies hasten the process, yea, bring it to a sudden end by means of a violent death! He loses nothing. The inner man blossoms into new youth, beauty, and strength day by day. This inner renewal is not hindered but is only helped by the tribulation that assails the outer man. These ‘bloody roses’ have the sweetest odor. These enemies are only defeating their own end; instead of causing Paul to grow discouraged, his elation is increased.”

Barclay also writes very powerfully and gives us a good reminder of what should be happening in our lives as we age,

“All through life it must happen that a man’s bodily strength fades away, but all through life it ought to happen that a man’s soul keeps growing. The sufferings which leave a man with a weakened body may be the very things which strengthen the sinews of his soul. It was the prayer of the poet, “Let me grow lovely growing old.” From the physical point of view life may be a slow but inevitable slipping down the slope that leads to death. But from the spiritual point of view life is a climbing up the hill that leads to the presence of God. No man need fear the years, for they bring him nearer, not to death, but to God.”

Father, as I age, may you help me not look at my physical decline as evidence of uselessness. Instead, may you give me the perspective that the exact opposite is happening in me as you make me new again. As I live under your leadership, follow your Word and depend on upon your Spirit, you are performing a miraculous change within me. As the poet said, “Let me grow lovely growing old.”

Following Jesus with you,

“You Shall Remember”

God knows how forgetful we are and as a result constantly reminds of things we must remember.  Moses gives clear direction about something the generation entering the land must recall about God’s dealings in their lives if they were to have success in the promised land. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 it says,

“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Why did God take the approximately 2,000,000 people into the wilderness?

  • He did this to humble them. They were self-sufficient in Egypt. God brought them to a place which they were unable to meet their necessities for food and water.
  • He did that to test them to see what was in their hearts. It is not that God did not already know what they were made of, but the wilderness experience allowed them to see how corrupt they were at their core.
  • The specific test related to whether they would obey God in spite of their circumstances. He let them hunger and thirst.
  • He did this to teach them an invaluable lesson. They had to learn that God was the author of all of their good. He was the one who would protect and provide for their every need. It was by his command that they were given manna and water from the rocks. They had to learn that obedience to God was the foundation of their existence.

Jack Deere summarizes this well when he says,

“God led them into the desert where they had no alternative but to trust Him or to murmur against Him. In the desert, they could not produce their own food but had to depend on God for food and thus for their very lives. When Moses reminded them that they did not live on bread alone he meant that even their food was decreed by the word of God. They had manna because it came by His command. It was therefore ultimately not bread that kept them alive but His word!

This story makes me ask, “how am I doing in life?” “Does God have me at a place where I can choose to murmur against his leadership or obey him in spite of how I feel?” “Have I reached the place where I need to be, humble dependence upon God for everything?” “Am I trusting him with every detail of my life as I should?

Father, help me to remember to live a life of constant dependence upon you for all my needs. There are trials in life that cause me to question your ability to provide for me or provide for me in the way I want! Help me to instead of murmuring against you when this happens, trust you and live a life of obedience to you and your Word. For, “man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Following Jesus with you,