Deuteronomy 31-34
(Last Word)
March 3rd

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 Verse

Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel said to him, “Be strong and steadfast, for you shall bring this people into the land which the LORD swore to their ancestors he would give them; it is you who will give them possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.”

- Deuteronomy 31:7-8 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

This final group of chapters in Deuteronomy marks the end of the life of Moses and records the transfer of leadership to Joshua. In chapter 31, Moses offers final words of encouragement to the nation and Joshua. He tells them to be strong and courageous and assures them that God will lead them to victory in the land he promised to give them.

Moses’ final acts of service include the writing of the law and placement of the law in the Holy Ark, as recorded in chapter 31. The original Hebrew version of this verse used the word torah. It’s not clear exactly which set of laws was referred to by this passage. It could have referred to the center of the book of Deuteronomy, known as the Deuteronomic Code (recorded in chapters 12-26). Perhaps Moses was talking about the entire book of Deuteronomy, or to the entire Pentateuch – all of which is attributed to Moses. Moses then instructs the leaders to take the law out every seven years and read it so that every generation will know and remember the law.

Subsequently, the LORD took both Moses and Joshua aside. He told Moses that his end is near, and gave him a song to sing to the Israelites to help them remember what Moses had taught them. He also told Joshua to have courage and promised to be with him as he leads the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Chapter 32 records the Song of Moses, which spans an entire faith life-cycle of the nation. He begins by describing the awesomeness of God, and then rebukes the warped and crooked generation that will reject him. The name Jeshurun is a synonym for Israel that Moses uses when describing how the nation will get fat, lazy, and forgetful, leading them to chase after false gods, and resulting in calamitous consequences. The song concludes with a restoration of the relationship with those who truly served God.

Afterwards, God took Moses to Mount Nebo so that he could view the Promised Land that he would not be allowed to enter – due to one moment of disobedience in the Desert of Zin. In chapter 33, Moses gives a final blessing to each of the tribes, calling them by name and addressing their strengths and weaknesses, similar to the manner in which Jacob gave a final blessing to each son (the patriarchs of the tribes) in Genesis 49:1-28.

Chapter 34 records that Moses returned to Mt. Nebo, where he passed away. The people mourned him for the appropriate period and began to follow Joshua, who may have been the author of this epilogue chapter. Joshua or a later editor concludes with a brief tribute:

    No prophet has risen since in Israel like Moses, whom God knew face-to-face. Never since has there been anything like the signs and miracle-wonders that God sent him to do in Egypt, to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to all his land—nothing to compare with that all-powerful hand of his and all the great and terrible things Moses did as every eye in Israel watched.

    - Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

Joshua was correct. It was not until the arrival of Jesus that there was a more significant presence on earth. Moses was the central figure in the Old Testament and will be referenced again and again throughout the entire Bible. Let’s review his life and accomplishments:

    Pre-destined: God had a plan for him before he was born. Moses came to life at a time when the Pharaoh issued an order for the male baby Israelites to be killed at birth, but he was saved by the nurses. Then, in a great irony, was adopted by Pharaoh’s family and raised as a prince.

    Overcame flaws: When God announced his plans, Moses expressed his lack of self-confidence and bemoaned his speech impediment. God assigned Aaron to work with him, but Moses eventually overcame those vulnerabilities to become a great leader and orator.

    Faced God: Many people in the Bible spoke with God, but only one came face-to-face with him: Moses.

    One Mistake: One mistake in the Desert of Zin resulted in his condemnation and prevented him from entering the Promised Land.

    Survived by millions: Moses helped millions of Israelites to survive their time in the desert and helped them to prepare to take possession of the Promised Land of their ancestors.

God has a plan for each of us. He can do great things through any of us – even if the odds are against us and regardless of our flaws. We may wonder how we can fulfill our potential when we examine the big obstacles and assess our limited assets. But look at Moses. By human standards he would not have even survived infanthood. If he only relied on human wisdom and strength he would have never returned to Egypt and taken on the Pharaoh, he never would have split the Red Sea, and he and the Israelites would have perished in the desert.

Instead of trusting in his own power, Moses learned to trust God and accept the assistance of the helpers that God sent, such as Aaron and Joshua. Likewise, our role is to believe, listen, and obey. We may not come face-to-face with God during our time on earth, but if we open our hearts and minds, then we may hear him. When we hear, we have to fight our reasoning so that we can trust God and obey.

What were the big words in this book? Which ones stand out in your mind as those most mentioned? Reflect for a moment and then check out a word cloud for the book of Deuteronomy at the following link to see a graphic designer's depiction of the frequency of use for each word: Deuteronomy word cloud from Sixty-Six Clouds

Music can play a big role in worship and in memorizing God’s words. Moses demonstrated this truth by example. He had composed a song back in Exodus 15, after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and he includes a song as part of his final words to Israel. This song from chapter 32 of Deuteronomy was remembered by the generations that followed and is referenced and quoted in Revelation 15. There are several variations of the "Song of Moses" that are used in Jewish and Christian worship services and performed by musical groups. Here is a beautiful acoustic version led by Dan Branstetter that references the passage in Revelations:

"Song of Moses," performed by Dan Branstetter

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is one of your favorite songs of all time?
    2. When have you surprised yourself with regard to your accomplishments?
    3. What is one of the stretch goals that God has for you now?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, please help us to believe that we can accomplish any task that you give to us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Newly appointed leaders

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Joshua 1-4 (March Forth)

    Comments and Questions
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