You have circled this mountain long enough; now turn north. Deuteronomy 2:3
Back in the Old Testament, after years of wandering, God told the Israelites, ”You have circled this mountain long enough; now turn north.” It was time to enter the Promised Land.
Sin is looming with devastating effects. Sometimes the way we are going isn’t getting us to where we need to be. Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah… the promise of good news, liberty, freedom. The year of the Lord’s favor.
Maybe we have circled the cultural mountain long enough…doing what the world says instead of what God says. We’ve circled the mountain long enough…of striving, shame, bondage, pain, heartbreak. We are impoverished, broken-hearted, enslaved, blinded, and oppressed by it. Perhaps today is the day we will accept Jesus’s offer of freedom and new direction, and say, “no more!”.
Perhaps today is the day we will turn our eyes, heads, hearts, entire posture NORTH...in God’s direction. Because Jesus came to proclaim liberty; TO. SET. US. FREE.
We have the scrolls – God’s Word – to open, read, and teach us. Directions to guide us North instead of back into the mountain-circling pulls of culture and temptations from the devil.
God, help us to rely and depend on You alone. Let us desire the things that bring You glory above all other things that end in death instead of life. You alone are enough. Your Word is enough. Help us keep from circling the mountain of self and sin and instead turn north. Eyes up and on YOU.
Questions: What things in your life are distractions and diversions from your focus on God? Are you ready to stop circling the same figurative mountain and head north? How can you make substantive changes in this direction today?
And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34:9-12
Remember Joshua? He was one of the 12 spies who tried to convince the Israelites they should trust God and not be too afraid to enter the promised land 40 years earlier. He is now the new leader with the charge of ushering the people into the land at last.
But first, a tribute to Moses. It feels as if no one can ever fill such big shoes. Moses knew God face to face. As God’s ambassador, he facilitated amazing signs and wonders in the Land. He was powerful and mighty; full of incredible deeds. Moses was a faithful servant of God to the end.
Joshua will be a great and mighty leader, but one is yet to come who will surpass them all.
Jesus will not only have a face to face relationship with God, He IS God. He will do great signs and wonders. He will be a humble servant of His Father and all of us who believe in Him, to the point of death.
But that will come later in our story. For now, we root Joshua and the new generation of Israelites on as they enter the promised land after 40 years of wandering in temporary dwellings.
Questions: Put yourself in Joshua’s place. How would you be feeling? Would you be nervous, intimidated, scared, excited? How must the Israelites be feeling as they approach the border of the land God promised them?
And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ 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. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. Deuteronomy 34:4-7
Forty years pass for the wandering Israelites. It is time to enter the promised land at last. Moses gives a series of speeches and blessings to this group of people that have been under his leadership. He wants them to know and remember all that God commanded.
Because of an earlier act of disobedience on Moses’ part, he is not permitted to enter. It might seem a little harsh after all Moses has done (and all the grumbling people he dealt with for 40+ years!). Again, God is good and just and there are consequences for our actions. But keep this in mind, because we will see Moses again later in our study. For now, it is a special moment where God takes Moses to a mountain overlooking the promised land to see it before he dies and is buried by God.
Moses is 120 years old when he breathes his last breath. He may not be entering the earthly promised land with his fellow Israelites, but in his death, he enters the true and eternal promised land with his God. Moses loves God. He has walked faithfully with God. And now he is going to be face to face with God. It is time for someone else to take the reins and lead this unruly people.
Questions: Do you think it is unfair that Moses did not enter the promised land? Do you think Moses was upset about it or satisfied going to be with the God he faithfully followed? Reflect on how perspective can change how we view circumstances.
At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. Deuteronomy 15:1-5
In Leviticus, God gave commands for the land. He instructed the Israelites to sow the fields, prune, and gather for six years, but in the seventh year, the land should have complete rest. The Israelites question this, but God assures them He will provide from the work they had done in the six years with enough to sustain them until the new crops from the 8th year of work are sown. It is another way for the Israelites to continue to step into obedience and trust God. Just as we are to trust God with the Sabbath command to do our work in six days and rest on the seventh.
God is a God of freedom. He doesn’t want His people in poverty or bondage. He says if they follow His commands there won’t be poor or enslaved among them. He doesn’t promise there will be no poverty, but He provides a way for it.
In this passage we see God make a way for freedom and provision, declaring a Shemittah (“to release”) year every seven years – a Sabbath, a year of rest and renewal -- where debts are canceled and servant workers set free. What joy as every seventh year rolls around. What freedom as the debt burdens are removed. Those formerly enslaved walk a little lighter, a little jump in their step. Freedom. A new start. But that doesn’t even come close to the freedom Jesus gave us when He paid for our debts on the cross. The heavy burden of guilt, shame, eternal punishment rolled off our shoulders and onto His. Freedom. A new start.
Question: Imagine a world where everyone obeyed God’s commands and there were no poor or in bondage among us. How would everything look different?
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