Deuteronomy 3-4
(Teach Your Children Well)
February 22nd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;

Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

- Deuteronomy 4:9-10 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

In these two chapters, Moses concludes his recital of the early history of Israel and distinguishes between the benefits of following God and the consequences of following other gods. He begins chapter 3 by relating the story of one of the first military victories by Israel - which had been recorded in Numbers 21. Moses also describes the early distribution of land to several tribes who had requested specific areas of land but had also committed to helping the other tribes acquire their land. This chapter concludes with Moses explaining that he would not be allowed to join the people as they cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. He says the reason is that “because of you the LORD was angry with me (3:26 - italics added for emphasis).” We had read the more complete explanation in Numbers 20, which described how the people had been impatiently crying for water, so the LORD told Moses to speak to a rock to get water. Moses struck the rock to get water instead of speaking to it and sealed his fate:

    And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

    And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

    - Numbers 20:11-12 (KJV)

In chapter 4, Moses explains why the laws from God are important. They are important because the creator of the laws is the creator of the universe and can wipe away armies or create food out of dirt. False idols can’t do this. Moses advised the people to teach their children and their children’s children about the stories and lessons they have learned:

    Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

    - Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)

If the Israelites don’t follow the laws, then they will be scattered to other nations - and indeed this is what happens, in an event referred to as the Exile, which is recorded in later books of the Old Testament. But the Exile would not be the end:

    But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.

    - Deuteronomy 4:29-31 (NIV)

But if the people keep the commandments that Moses is about to review, then they will live long and prosper:

    "Know this well, then. Take it to heart right now: God is in Heaven above; God is on Earth below. He’s the only God there is. Obediently live by his rules and commands which I’m giving you today so that you’ll live well and your children after you—oh, you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you."

    - Deuteronomy 4:39-40 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

The stories and lessons from Moses were passed down to the next generation, and then to their children, and so on, in a perpetual chain that reaches us today. The oral and written guidance has survived for 3,000 years, in accordance with the instructions from Moses in chapter 4, verse 9. Let us make sure that we are not the weak link in the chain. We have the choice of whether or not we tell the story. But if we believe in God and wish to honor him, then we could find no better way to demonstrate our worship then by re-telling these ancient stories. The concept of the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next is artfully depicted in a set of lyrics written by the British musician Graham Nash:

    Teach Your Children
    You who are on the road
    Must have a code that you can live by
    And so become yourself
    Because the past is just a good bye.

    Teach your children well,
    Their father's hell did slowly go by,
    And feed them on your dreams
    The one they picked, the one you'll know by.

    Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
    So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

    And you, of tender years,
    Can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
    And so please help them with your youth,
    They seek the truth before they can die.

    Teach your parents well,
    Their children's hell will slowly go by,
    And feed them on your dreams
    The one they picked, the one you'll know by.

    Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
    So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

    - Graham Nash (February 2nd, 1942 – Current)

These lyrics are part of a popular late 20th century song performed by the musical group, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (with Jerry Garcia on the pedal steel guitar in the original recording). One interpretation of the song is that children can learn from their parent’s mistakes as well as from their wisdom and dreams. The children teach their parents by learning from them and raising the bar for their own generation. The children of the Exodus generation achieved this goal by having the faith to follow God into the Promised Land.

The first leader of the United States of America shared Moses' belief regarding the importance of passing religious knowledge to the next generation. In his farewell speech on September 17th, 1796, George Washington made the following statements:

    Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.

    Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?

    And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

    It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.

    Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened. (1)

    - George Washington (February 22nd, 1732 – December 14th, 1799)

The final summary thought on this section is that God will punish us if we take the road that bypasses his code, but will offer mercy if we make a U-turn and seek him. Future generations of Israelites learned that lesson the hard way. So have many of us in the current generation.

“Teach Your Children," performed by Crosby, Stills, and Nash

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Who is your favorite historical figure?
    2. What is the most important thing you learned from your parents?
    3. What is the most important lesson that you would like the next generation to know?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to teach our children well.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) "George Washington's Farewell Address To the People of the United States,” Archiving Early America, 2/20/11
    Click the link below for a complete text of this address:
    “Washington's Farewell"

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Deuteronomy 5-8 (All Your Heart, Soul, and Strength)

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