Remembering the Warning Moses Gave to a Stiff-Necked People
I have always had a deep respect for my elders, those older and wiser than me, who have lived longer, learned more and possess a wealth of knowledge, earned through the years of life they have experienced that I have not. In social settings I naturally gravitate toward those who are older than me. Sadly, so many flippantly dismiss the older generation as “irrelevant.” But for me, it’s just the opposite. The stories they have to tell are fascinating to me, and the accumulated wisdom that comes with their advanced years is, to me, priceless and precious.
So it really is no surprise that one of my favorite books of the Bible is Deuteronomy. This is the last book of Scripture that was penned by Moses, containing the last, most important and precious wisdom he needed to impart to his people before he died and they moved forward, without him, into the Promised Land. Moses was aware that his days were numbered. And so it stands to reason that he placed the most important wisdom of all his years into this one volume, and it remains just as important and precious for us today, if only we would read it. Sadly, today, it seems to be one of the least studied books of the Bible in our modern American churches.
While Moses was speaking and writing to the wandering Israelites, right before his impending death, and right before they were to go across the river and take posession of the land the Lord had promised them, he took the time to remind them of God’s Holy Law, the Ten Commandments. He reminded the people how the LORD Himself had done incredible miracles for their parents and grandparents, rescuing them from a life of bondage in a foreign land, leading them out in freedom — to a NEW country, all their own.
Moses then warned the people in Chapter 8 about becoming proud and complacent when things were going well and they were prospering in the land the Lord was going to bless them with. First, he reminded the people that all the wonderful things they would enjoy were GIFTS, directly from God Himself, and he warned them, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me.’ But remember that the LORD your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods to worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will perish.”
In chapter 9, Moses reminds the people that although they will become exceedingly wealthy in the Promised Land, it would only be by God’s mercy and grace; certainly not because they were entitled to it, or deserved it in any way. In Chapter 9, verse 6, we read, “Understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people!” Stiff-necked and unappreciative indeed, as most people are, sometimes especially those most blessed by God.
But today, I would like to focus in on the words of Deuteronomy 28, which speak of blessing and cursing… blessing when a nation follows the Lord and His commands, and horrific cursing when a nation turns it’s back on God. Moses KNEW this was going to happen — after all, it had happened many times before, and being wise in his old age, he knew human nature as well. He knew that eventually, the people would forget their history and their heritage, and the many times God rescued them from certain doom.
As I read the words of this one chapter, I understand Moses was speaking to Israel… but these truths are timeless, and the blessings and cursings are the same for EVERY nation, tribe and tongue. And as I read the message contained here, I find it hauntingly prophetic, as I watch our nation of America suffer under the sure judgment of God Almighty…. for the very same reasons. Indeed, we have been greatly blessed by God in this country, but we have forgotten Him, turned our backs on Him, spit in His face and denied Him, and now, we are certainly experiencing His judgment and wrath. Of that there can be no doubt.
Let me just share some particular pointed verses from this chapter, and I think you will see what I mean. I won’t recite the entire chapter; you can read that for yourself, but let me just highlight some of the most poignant portions that I believe will strike a chord with you…. So listen now, and see if you recognize our own nation in these ancient words of warning from Moses:
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock…You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
“The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land He is giving you.
“The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to Him. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity… The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.”
Does this not sound like the America many of us grew up in? The America of our parents and grandparents, that “Greatest Generation” who fought evil enemies around the world and turned back the tide of socialism, communism, and fascism? We celebrated and enjoyed the blessings of our freedoms, American ingenuity, productivity and prosperity. And we were united, together, One Nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Most every American knew and revered the Lord God. We worshiped Him. He was welcome and WANTED in our homes. We sought His wisdom, His righteousness and His blessings. We kept the Sabbath day holy; it was not a day of football, cursing and drinking; it was not a day of casual carousing and indulgence of carnal appetites. It was a day of reverence, and rest, and remembrance of the blessings bestowed upon us by God, our Heavenly Father. Young women sought a “Good Christian Man,” and young men yearned to find a “Good Christian Wife.” “CHRISTIAN” was the key. It was something to be desired and sought after. But those days are gone.
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