Mountaintop views are stunning! While Russell was at meetings for Asia Harvest, the board members’ wives hiked each afternoon around the New Zealand countryside. Our time in this part of God’s creation was rejuvenating. Beauty as far as the eye could see. One day we climbed the highest local hill, and I thought about Moses. Mountain climbing is not for the faint of heart, yet the view from the top is spectacular and oh so worth each step.
After blessing each tribe individually, God’s righteous servant Moses shared one more verse of written words before he climbed alone up the mountain God told him to climb. He marveled at the vast land before him that the Lord promised His people, then he died after living 120 years. Final words are often words remembered and Moses did not want Israel to forget that they are a blessed people.
“How blessed you are, O Israel! Who else is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your protecting shield and your triumphant sword! Your enemies will cringe before you, and you will stomp on their backs!” Pretty strong and zesty final words from one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. Moses led an incredibly diverse and exciting life. He may have begun the rescue mission with a speech impediment but Moses ended his life speaking strongly for the Lord he loved. He was a blessed man.
Deuteronomy 33:29 NLT
In a book filled with blessings, it is appropriate that the end of Deuteronomy would have another concentration of blessings. This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave the Israelites before his death. Years before, these names were simply the names of Jacob’s sons. Now we read that these same names have expanded into the tribes of Israel. We see how God’s promises come true as each “son” is now a tribe and each tribe grows like stars in the sky.
About the tribe of Levi Moses said, “LORD, bless his possessions, and accept the work of his hands.” Joseph’s clan’s blessings: “May his land be blessed by the LORD…” He said this about Gad’s people: “The one who enlarges Gad’s territory will be blessed.” Picture Moses looking right into the eyes of those in Naphtali’s tribe when he spoke the next blessing. “Naphtali, enjoying approval, full of the LORD’s blessing, take possession to the west and the south.” Do you remember how happy Leah was when her maid gave birth to Jacob’s eighth son? The final blessing was for this eighth son, for Asher’s descendants. The Hebrew meaning of his name is “happy, blessed, fortunate”: “May Asher be the most blessed of the sons…”
Moses blessed each tribe and each blessing was a little different because each of God’s people is a little different, yet God loves us all. The abounding blessing of redemption through His Son Jesus is now offered to every one of us. How will we respond to the blessings we are given?
Deuteronomy 33:1; 11; 13; 20; 23; 24 HCSB
God has blessed us to live abundantly and yet He still leaves it up to us to make the choice. Moses, as God’s spokesman, pleaded to the Israelites that they would choose life. Today, the opportunity to live the abundant life is offered to us through Jesus Christ. Oh, that we would choose life!
“For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.” After describing what would happen if disobedience was chosen, which doesn’t sound good at all, we read: “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”
Deuteronomy 30:16; 19 NLT
Even before we go our own way, God is fully aware of our propensity to stray. “When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am giving you today, then He will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.”
Our God is famous for His mercy and compassion and He knows we are bound to wander. He lets us know just how great our restoration will be when true repentance takes place. Locations and time periods may vary, however, His Storyline loops back around to a recurring theme: there is goodness and blessing in God. Humanity fails, redemption takes place for the repentant, restoration comes from a compassionate God whose desire is to bless, and when all is said and done, there will be more blessings than we could ever imagine! We are blessed to go forth and love those who live in a world that is still upside-down. We can do this best when we reflect on how Jesus loved and look forward with joy in the hope that is yet before us.
Russell’s explanation of a biblical worldview through CrownHeartWorld, coupled with his insights from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, has been an ongoing life transformation for me. God, as we grow in Christ-likeness, may we turn to You quickly when we do fail. Thank You for gathering us into Your family, Your Story. Help us to come to our senses and live like life matters. Loving You with all we have should lead to loving people too. Fill us with compassion enough to care, then wisdom enough to act. Amen.
Deuteronomy 30:1-3 HCSB
I think I learn best with positive reinforcement, but God knows that not everyone is motivated by affirmation. Sometimes we also need to be aware of the negative consequences of a situation. After a detailed description of the blessings that would come from following God’s ways, we read more than fifty verses that describe what will happen (in heart-wrenching detail) if God is not obeyed. It is tragically sad that these warnings foreshadow what will take place in years to come for the Israelites.
The Book of Proverbs, written later in history, wisely warn us to guard our hearts. That is what Moses seeks to convey as he retells the story of the Israelites, preparing them for their future. Everything we do flows from our hearts, where we decide and then act upon the options before us. I pray we would stay near to God and value His love and wisdom above all else. “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ ”
The consequence for a rebellious attitude is severe. No matter how much we might try to rationalize the situation, when we are separated from God we are far from safe. Beware, beware! Stubborn independence is not a virtue but a strong vice. Although we may feel free, God warns us that an obstinate mindset is a lethal trap.
Deuteronomy 29:18-19a ESV
Moses may not have used alliteration as he spoke, but I can imagine somewhere along the line a preacher saying, “Now if blessed cities, blessed countryside, blessed citizens, blessed cash crops and blessed cows are not enough to get a nation’s attention, God continued speaking through Moses to tell of the additional blessings that await the Israelites.” “Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.”
God’s plans also involved safety from their enemies. To a people in need of physical protection, this was a very big concern and God was offering to again defend and provide for His people. “The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.” Moses then recaps the message; “The Lord will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops. The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.”
It is as if God Almighty wrote His people a blank blessing check. And for them to cash it, all they needed to do was remain faithful to the God who cares for them and who has time and time again shown His covenant love. Will they love Him in return? Do we?
Deuteronomy 28:5-6; 8, 11-12a NLT
God was concerned with the well-being of the priests, the foreigners, the orphans, and widows, and to meet their needs, a special tithe was offered every third year. Those who presented the offering followed the commands of the Lord and then said to God, “Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.” When we give our “first fruits” to the Lord to help those who cannot help themselves, everyone is blessed!
We can bless people in a variety of ways today because many churches have foundations in place to help the poor, the widows, and the orphans in their communities. Even a tithe of time can bless us and those we share our time with. We can teach English as a Second Language, giving a much-needed life skill to people in our country who need to learn a new language. Time is a precious gift to those in retirement homes. Can we share a little of our time with them? We can make a difference for good by reaching out to foreign students in colleges near us. The impact we could have on other countries without even getting a passport is potentially incredible! By donating to and shopping at Salvation Army, or other stores like it, we can promote good. Recently I was helping a lady “shop” at our community benevolent center. It was as if a light bulb of hope came on for her when I said, “Sure, take as many of these shirts as you need, and when you don’t need them anymore, bring them back or pass them on so then you can bless someone else.” All of us can be a part of the blessing cycle. Be creative, be generous, be a blessing!
Deuteronomy 26:15 ESV
Moses retells a story found in Numbers 22-24 about a spiritualist name Balaam who was ordered by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites. In the end, the potential cursing turned to blessings, but why? Because again God showed His love toward His people. When Russell and I worked to start a fresh church for Spanish speakers in Texas, an outspoken man mocked us while doing door-to-door outreach. This man, Juan de Leon, made fun of the nervous way that Russell’s disciple, Mario, was trying to share the good news. Russell took an opportunity to stand up to the challenge with a pun based on the man’s last name “of the Lion”. He quoted a verse in Ecclesiastes and shared how it is better to be a live dog than a dead lion. Juan hesitated, nodded, and invited us in. Mario was encouraged, Juan became a Christian, and Juan’s wife made us some great tamales. We were all blessed! There is no promise that we will go through life free of enemies who would like to see us cursed. So we, like the Israelites in their time, need to be reminded of God’s love for us.
Yet the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but He turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you. Trust in the simple yet profound truth that God loves you.
Deuteronomy 23:5 HCSB
Would you like to live in complete joy? The people of Israel were told to give back to God. This giving was a celebration and in proportion to what He had provided and what He would continue to provide: blessings including success with work and abundant joy. Why would we not want to return blessing for blessing and to do so with a happy heart?
Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you. Remember, life is not all about work and making a profit. Take time out from working to celebrate the Lord. For seven days celebrate the festival to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. What price would you pay for complete joy? God has provided salvation, material blessings, His Word as a handbook for living a purposeful life, and so much more. Thank You God!
Deuteronomy 16:10; 15 NIV
We read in the New Testament that God loves a cheerful giver. This concept goes way back to the times of Moses. There will always be the poor among us, so those who have more should give more. Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. We are happier when we live life with an open hand rather than with a stingy heart. It is helpful to keep in mind that God has created all people, those who have and those who don’t have. When we are given the opportunity to give, we should do so, for it is God who has blessed the work of our hands by providing us with the wealth to give. It is a delight to live as part of the solution, staying close to God to know His desires for the good of all. In the way of giving, we are blessed to be a blessing too. Giving generously is more than just giving financially. People need care, a listening ear, time. Do you have peace with God? If so, offer peace to others so they can know God and know peace too. Give generously, live generously; for we can trust that the Lord our God will bless us.
Deuteronomy 15:10 NLT
“However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.”
To a newly established nation, this blessing from God must have seemed almost too good to be true. The Book of Deuteronomy is mostly one long message, and those initially hearing it had been listening for quite some time at this point. I have a feeling their ears perked up when Moses got to this part. Although sandals did not wear out from all the desert walking they did, presently they were not particularly rich.
When Russell and I started our married life together we encountered some challenging financial times. Every penny was stretched. We even sold a partial book of postage stamps to some friends so we could have enough change to buy a cold drink on one hot day. Even though we were poor, we decided to trust God and give at least a tenth of everything we earned toward God’s work. As the years have passed and our blessings have grown, we have been able to help others and this has been one of our greatest joys.
When God’s people remembered their history of being poor and enslaved in Egypt, and then reflected on all the years of living in the desert, the promise of wealth and power was a great contrast. This contrast offered hope in so many ways.
The Israelites had an opportunity for a fresh start and it was due to God’s faithfulness and blessings. And again we see that in the middle of it all was a big “if.” The blessings are there if we are careful to obey.
Deuteronomy 15:4-6 NIV
Moses knew that he was not going with the Israelites when they crossed the Jordan River to occupy the land promised to them. With great care he continued to address the assembly by telling them more specific instructions that would be vital for them to follow. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.
Then Moses detailed the importance of pure worship that pleases God. Again both negative and positive conclusions were explained. Moses desired those he lead for the past forty years to thrive in their new land.
So many benefits awaited those who choose to obey. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. God was blessing them with a land promised to them. No more wandering, but meaningful work and life with their families was before them. Joy should be a part of work, of life, and it really can be as we live in the Presence of the Lord. I pray that as we live lives that are joyful, thankful and prayerful our times of personal worship as well as corporate worship would bless the Lord our God. Amen.
Deuteronomy 11:29, 12:7 NIV
“Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before.” What commands did God give? These instructions include loving the Lord, walking in all His ways, and staying near to Him, wholeheartedly. God is very clear about what He thinks about other gods. Idols, foreign gods, pagan worship poles and practices may seem exotic and enticing, but they will not set us free. These will ensnare those who choose to live outside of God.
The Israelites have been on a long journey; they felt the oppression of the false gods of Egypt and received the rescue from God Almighty. They experienced victories against idolatrous nations when All-powerful God fought for them. They knew about child sacrifices and other evil behaviors required to appease pagan gods. God does not want His people to be ignorant of the importance of choosing wisely. When we live intentionally for God, we will enjoy a lifetime of the blessing of being close to Him, our Creator and the One who loves us most. Yet God gave His people a choice back in the days of Moses and we too have a choice to make: to be blessed or to be cursed. Our actions indicate to Him as we day-by-day, choice-by-choice decide.
Deuteronomy 11:26-28 NLT
Do you remember that Moses smashed the original Ten Commandments when he saw those he was leading engaging in indisputable sin? Sin ruins so much but now the time had come for a renewed covenant between God and His people. God told Moses to chisel out two stone tablets, like the first set. Then Moses carried these up the mountain where the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments upon the stone. How easy it is to read through portions of God’s Story and not pause long enough to let it sink in. I wonder what it was like to have a blank writing tablet made of stone and then see the completed Commandments knowing the finger of God wrote them?
This time a wooden box, called the Ark of the Covenant, was also made and the stone tablets were stored in the box. Life went forward and blessings were pronounced. At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name, as they still do today. What a job that must have been for the Levites! Imagine being set apart and responsible for pronouncing the blessings in the name of the Lord.
Who in our communities today have roles like these? Our children were blessed with godly soccer coaches. Life lessons were taught both on and off the playing fields and as a high school senior in Thailand, our son Isaiah helped lead devotional times for the younger players on his soccer team. There is something special about having a responsibility to lead and teach, not just agreeing with words about God’s goodness, but being the one to speak those blessings to others. As we minister to one another I pray our words would be words of blessing. Let us give encouragement that instills courage, not discouragement that takes it away.
Deuteronomy 10:8 NIV
Deuteronomy means “second law” and this part of God’s Story contains a flowing history lesson for the Israelites. Moses didn’t deliver a different or additional law, but the same law given a second time to a new generation of Israelites who were only children at the time the original Ten Commandments were presented. They needed to hear God’s law fresh for they were about to go into the Promised Land. He described the many and specific ways that God had provided for His people and ended with a wonderful description of the land that would soon be theirs. How about a little foretaste of what was in store for the obedient? “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”
Moses told those following him to remember God, and not to forget that it was He who brought them into this great situation. Several translations quote Deuteronomy 8:10 as “you shall praise the Lord…” which is a great thing to do, however, I like how the English Standard Version puts it: “you shall bless the Lord.” God is the One who blesses us with all that we have, and we are to bless the Lord and be careful not to forget Him when we are filled with blessings.
Deuteronomy 8:10 ESV
Moses told the Israelites that holiness has its privileges. And we will see how the little two-letter word “if” can have big implications. “If you listen to and are careful to keep these ordinances… He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will bless your descendants, and the produce of your land—your grain, new wine, and oil—the young of your herds, and the newborn of your flocks, in the land He swore to your fathers that He would give you. You will be blessed above all peoples.”
All of these blessings (and there are a lot of them!) depend on the condition of carefully following the good laws that God has established for His people. God does bless, and the blessings are huge, but at times these blessings hinge upon the obedience of His people. Have we grown accustomed to the blessings but have we forgotten the obedience part? I remind myself: “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself!”
Deuteronomy 7:12-14a HCSB
Love the Lord your God with all you have; with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. As you do this it will not be a chore but a joy to pass down God’s teachings to your children, grandchildren, and to people God has blessed your life with. As we love completely and know that we are completely loved, we will be filled with the desire for others to have an opportunity to love in these good ways too. God gave us life and blessings and purpose. Moses emphasized the importance of not forgetting such a valuable truth.
The Shema, the confession of Jewish faith in God alone, found in portions of Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 11 and in Numbers chapter 15, adds further details that describe how one is to live as a follower of God. Moses ended this chapter by saying, “And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day.” Righteousness (a good and right way of life) is a blessing to those who carefully follow God’s commands. We fear what we cannot control. Wisdom comes when we realize that it is God whom we cannot control, but we do not need to control Him because He is trustworthy. These are good lessons to pass on to the generation that will follow. May others not only hear our words but see our actions as we follow God wholeheartedly.
Deuteronomy 6:24 NLT
God blesses those He chooses to bless. Some blessings are not based on condition or obedience or situation but on the choice of the God who is Lord of all; the One who has the power to bless. Moses again reminded the Israelites of this truth about God. “Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power.” Thank You Father God for the way You bless us with direction. You show us love and give us gifts just because You are good.
You are the Mighty One, God, the Lord, and You are all powerful and all good and personal. You are a good and faithful Leader. What an awesome combination! Thank You for Your love. Amen.
Deuteronomy 4:37 NLT
From time to time we all need to be reminded of God’s past faithfulness. This helps us as we continue to journey with Him, stepping out in faith bravely marching into uncharted territory. The Israelites were venturing into uncharted territory so Moses gave a much-needed pep talk: “the Lord your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.” God was with them; He will be with us. Sometimes we get comfortable in the place that our last faith steps have taken us and we think we have arrived. But God yearns to move us out of the familiar and into a deeper trust of His guidance.
After our first year of living in a provincial city in China I was not excited about moving to the rural back woods near Burma. It was the summer of 1997 and I had grown to know the flower lady on the corner and the egg man in the market. I knew several ways to ride my bike across town to language school, our family had made local friends, and odd as it may seem, the bustling Chinese city, filled with foreign smells and sights and sounds, felt like home. Oh, the blessings we would have missed if we had not stepped forward with God’s leading, leaving the newly familiar to pursue Him into the more unknown. When we focus on His Presence, the steps of faith are not taken alone for Jesus is right next to us along the way.
As we resettled, and made yet another new place home, relationships developed. We trusted in God in fresh ways, relying on Him to be our “Steadfast Constant” when so much around us was again uncharted. Over time, we had the joy to share truth with a minority tribal man. When he understood God’s love and forgiveness, he asked, “God can understand my dialect? I can talk directly with Him?” If we had stayed in the familiar, how would this man have heard God’s good news? I believe God would have made a way, but we would have missed out on being a part of the blessing.
Deuteronomy 2:7 NLT
Even if this year does not have a leap year day, you will not want to miss reading this blessing. The time had come! Years of wandering in the wilderness were over and God told Moses to tell all the Israelites to go and take possession of the land that He promised to them. The promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was about to become reality! The land was right before them. Moses continued, “May the LORD, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!” Moses appointed leaders and encouraged the group not to be afraid but to trust God and take the land.
This is exciting! This is what everyone had been waiting for! Yet, even with years of faithfulness shown to them by a holy God, most of the assembly rebelled against the Lord, rather than obeyed Him. This was a shocker to me. Why didn’t they take those final steps to victory? But are we any different? How do we respond to God’s blessings? When things look a bit scary do we leap forward in obedience or go the way of rebellion?
Deuteronomy 1:11 NIV