The Command to Leave Horeb
1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The LORD our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’
“At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. May the LORD, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.
Israel’s Refusal to Enter the Land
“Then we set out from Horeb and went through all that great and terrifying wilderness that you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us. And we came to Kadesh-barnea. And I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ Then all of you came near me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.’ The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.’
“Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.
The Penalty for Israel’s Rebellion
“And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!’ Even with me the LORD was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn, and journey into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.’
“Then you answered me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country. And the LORD said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the LORD and presumptuously went up into the hill country. Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah. And you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.
Deuteronomy 1 Commentary
by Hank Workman
It should have taken 11 days. Instead, it took 40 years.
What had stalled the Israelites in the desert was not an issue of might but at the core the condition of their hearts. God could do anything, can do anything as He is over all and in all, but it was the heart of the people that put them on hold. Simply consider this thought. Actually, consider this question, what is my heart stalling of God’s work?
Yet, God’s work continues even when our hearts are not bent in obedience. He would use these 40 years to develop and reiterate their need to trust Him. He would use these years of difficulty and discouragement to make a lasting impression not only on them but we who read it. God uses such times for all of His children to get hearts ready to serve and be what He’s called.
The book of Deuteronomy is much like a series of sermons preached by Moses. His heart was heavy because he knew he would not enter into the land with the people. His heart was passionate because he knew that the unbelieving generation was gone and what stood before him was a new generation who needed to embrace faith like none other to receive what was promised. These speeches to the people was reiterating their need to be prepared for what God had and act upon His Word.
Moses remembers their journey and walks them back to significant marks to consider. Stakes in the ground if you will, where direction could have changed.
For the people of Israel, that line was when they stood and looked over at the land promised. When the report came back from 10 men who spoke of nothing but defeat, that was the moment where things changed. The people listened. They grumbled in their tents. They dug in their feet and would not go forward. God had done nothing but show His strength and might throughout their journey so far, but these faithless ones chose to simply rebel.
Somewhere along the way, they lost their belief in God’s love. It completely hindered what they would do next. Even through the rallying cry of Moses that “God will fight for you!” (verse 30) they chose to retreat in their minds in believing.
The enemy of our souls works hard to have us forget what we should remember. When faced with obstacles and hardships, many times past victories and miracles God provided seem forgotten. What He does make us remember is our sin and selfish life.
In essence, it wasn’t sin that kept them from the Promised Land, it was unbelief. Unbelief is sin but it was this thought process that halted everything.
Where does this translate for us? Well, the question should be where is God calling you to trust Him no matter what? Where has He proven Himself faithful in the past that you should remember instead of looking at all the what-ifs and tangible? What God is doing even right now in your own situation is deepening your relationship with Him in trust. If we are on God’s side He will fight for us. This is true. It is unbelief and a lack of trusting Him that often stops this and becomes the real enemy rather than what we are facing.
Deuteronomy 1 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Deuteronomy means “the second giving of the law.” It’s a book about real life. In fact, Deuteronomy is probably one of the least studied and most important books of the Old Testament. Here are some facts about Deuteronomy…
- It contains practical revelation from God for how He desires for us to live.
- It is an invitation for a relationship with Him.
- It establishes an eternal kingdom by which humanity can fellowship with God.
- Jesus quotes Deuteronomy more often than any other book of the OT.
- Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy when being tempted by Satan which suggests the spiritual power that resides in its words and themes.
- Deuteronomy is quoted or alluded to nearly 200 times in the New Testament.
Deuteronomy is also interesting because it is a book that was most likely “revised” after the exile. When God’s people returned from their exile in Persia, it took on the role of a covenant renewal document. This book reveals so much about the character of God. You could write an entire theology just from this one book. Overall, there are nine different names given to God!
The book of Deuteronomy still has relevance today. We function on a daily basis with a low spiritual IQ. Like the Israelites, we are slow learners. Often, there is a promise given to us that we say we believe in but refuse to walk in. Many times, we take “40 years” to accomplish an 11-day task. Though God offers us abundant grace, there is still a responsibility to obey.
The truth of God is that even when we are rebellious, unbelieving grumblers, He does not neglect or forsake us. He knows where we walk, and He finds us on the path we have willingly chosen. He knows where that path leads as well. He will follow us and go with us, offering opportunities to give more of ourselves to Him. He will provide for us, just as He did Israel, with everything necessary for a spiritually prosperous life.
As we study Deuteronomy, reflect on the character of God and what it means for your journey. What is your “Promised Land?” What is your “wilderness?” How is God in His grace walking alongside and revealing His grace to you day by day?