Hunkered Down Devotion

Deuteronomy 1:1-8 (VOICE)
These are the words Moses spoke to all the people of Israel who were gathered in the wilderness in the Arabah Valley east of the Jordan River, across from Suph. They’d traveled through many places on their way here, from Paran through Tophel and on to Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
2 It’s only an 11-day journey by the Mount Seir road from Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai), where God made a covenant with Israel, to Kadesh-barnea, where the people first tried to enter the promised land. 3-4 Now on the first day of the 11th month, 40 years after the nation left Egypt and sometime after Moses had defeated Sihon (king of the Amorites who ruled in Heshbon) and Og (king of Bashan who ruled in Ashtaroth and Edrei), Moses began to give to a new generation of the Israelites each word the Eternal had commanded him to tell them. 5 Beyond the Jordan River in the land of Moab, Moses tried to explain this law and its outworking for the people.
Moses: 6 The Eternal, our True God, spoke to us back at Horeb. He told us, “You’ve stayed long enough at this mountain! 7 Break camp, and head up into the Amorite highlands, into the territories of all their neighbors—into the arid valley,[a] the hills, the lowlands, the southern desert, and the Mediterranean seacoast. Go into the land of the Canaanites, as far north as Lebanon and all the way east to the great Euphrates River. 8 Look! I’ve brought you right to the edge of the land that I, the Eternal, swore I’d give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their descendants after them. Go in, and take possession of it!”

This passage, at the very beginning of Deuteronomy, might be easy to overlook – it is full of unfamiliar names and places, it contains information that has already been shared (Moses is repeating what God has already said and done).

But skipping over this passage would be a mistake.  In these verses,  Moses explains to the current generation of Israelites – a generation that has only known life in the wilderness and had never experienced the trauma and tragedy of slavery in Egypt -  what the Lord has done for them in the past.

In essence, Moses is giving the Israelites a history lesson.  Some of you might have eyes that glaze over at the mention of history, but I was a history major in college and it is a subject that has always held significant interest for me.  But Moses’ interest and intent in sharing this history isn’t academic.

Most of us have heard the phrase, ‘those that don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it’.  Given my academic background, that idea has always resonated with me, and Moses intent in sharing this history is related to this idea.   Moses understood that history bears witness, and what he wanted the Israelites to know, to understand, and most importantly to believe is that history was going to repeat itself.

Moses tells of the history of God’s love, providence, and proactive action on behalf of the Israelites so that they might be able to trust in God and lean on God on the road that lies ahead of them.  Moses’ history lesson is designed to provoke the Israelites (and all of us) to give our full trust to God, a God that has already demonstrated his love for us and his ability to care for us.

History may not be your cup of tea, but all of us would do well to look back at our lives, look back at the stories of our families, our communities, and our country and recognize the hand of God’s providential love present through it all.

When we remember all that God has done for us and for others in the past it strengthens our confidence that God will continue to intercede for us and with us.  That is a history lesson worth learning for all of us.

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for all the times you have worked with us, in us, and for us in our history.  Keep those thoughts close in our hearts and minds as we seek to trust you to lead us into the future.  Amen.

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