Day 23  Deuteronomy 4:7-38 ... Never Forget

Four decades later the Israelites stood at the edge of the Promised Land, spiritually and physically seasoned by forty years of wilderness wanderings.  With the older generation of doubters and grumblers now dead and buried, a new generation chafed to march in and claim the land.  Egypt was a faint memory from childhood; God’s people finally had their own cultural identity.

There at the border, the old man Moses delivered three speeches that, for their length and emotional power, have no equal in the Bible.  It was his last chance to advise and inspire the people he had led for forty tumultuous years.  Passionately, deliberately, tearfully, he reviewed their history step by step, occasionally flaring up at a painful memory but more often pouring out the anguished love of a doting parent.  An undercurrent of sadness runs through the speeches, for Moses had learned he would not join in the triumph of entering Canaan.

Moses’ longest speech (chapters 4-26) reiterated all the laws that the Israelites had agreed to keep as their part of the covenant.  But this was no dry recitation of a legal code.  Moses reminisced and embellished and preached, filling in the outline of his speech with personal reminders, object lessons, and sudden outbursts of emotion.  His central message: Never forget the lessons you learned in the desert.

In this chapter, Moses recalls the hallmark day when God delivered the covenant on Mount Sinai.  He remembers aloud the black clouds and deep darkness and blazing fire.  You saw no shape or form of God on the day, he reminds them.  God’s Presence cannot be reduced to any mere image.  Remember that.  Don’t repeat the mistakes of your parents, who melted their gold into an idol even as I met with God on the mountain.

Besides all the warnings, Moses was giving a kind of pep talk, a final challenge for the Israelites to recognize their unique calling as a nation.  It they followed God’s laws, all the lavish benefits of the covenant would be their.  More, every other nation would look to them and want to know their God.  “Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?” said Moses (4:32).  He seemed incurably astonished at all God had done for him and the other Israelites, and this speech represented his last chance to communicate that sense of wonder and thanksgiving.

Point to Ponder: If you reviewed your own history with God, as Moses did for the Israelites, what lessons would you learn?   For what are you most grateful?