Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Eleven Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Promised Land
Verse 1: "You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments." Traffic lights didn't exist until nearly the time of the First World War, causing city streets around the world to be filled with accidents and fist fights, as drivers of wagons, early cars, bicycles and pedestrians each insisted that the right-of-way was: "Mine!" Look into your own heart and study your neighbors carefully—could we live without law to govern us? You could smile, thinking that you are a nice person who doesn't need to be controlled by law, but that's actually a form of self-deception—"ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We need to love the Lord and pray, honestly looking to God's will for our lives.
Verses 2-7: "Know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of the Lord your God—His greatness, His mighty hand and His outstretched arm, 3 and His signs and His works which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land; 4 and what He did to Egypt’s army, to its horses and its chariots, when He made the water of the Red Sea to engulf them while they were pursuing you, and the Lord completely destroyed them; 5 and what He did to you in the wilderness until you came to this place; 6 and what He did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, among all Israel— 7 but your own eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord which He did." The last words of Moses in these chapters echoed through the otherwise quiet camp of Israel, as hundreds of thousands, present at that moment, strained to hear his voice. Yet, at this moment, as seen in Verses 2 and 7, Moses specifically addressed the few survivors of God's rescue of the nation from slavery in Egypt, namely Joshua and Caleb—with the idea that individuals within Israel could question these men later about the events of that time. The destruction of Pharaoh's army was spelled out in Exodus 14; the rebellion and deaths of Dathan and Abiram may be viewed in Numbers 16 and also in Psalm 106:17. Notice here the Judgment of God upon those who reject Him, and also see the grace of God in rescuing a people who were just as imperfect in following the Lord as we are.
Verses 8-9: "You shall therefore keep every commandment which I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land into which you are about to cross to possess it; 9 so that you may prolong your days on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give to them and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey." Look at the grace of God in these verses. A fertile land, including its homes, cities, crops, herd animals and wells—it was all being given to a people who did not earn any of it, but would simply RECEIVE the land promised to Israel's ancestor, Abraham (Genesis 15:7). That's grace. The giving of the Promised Land to Israel is not only a historical and actual fact, but it's also more. Much like the Promised Land was given to Israel, God's faithful are assurred, "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3-4). Just as Abraham received the promise through faith (Genesis 15:6-7), we "are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation..." (1 Peter 1:5). There is a Promised Land for all who place their faith in the Lord.
Verses 10-12: "For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. 11 But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, 12 a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year." The contrast in these verses is fascinating. In Egypt, rain would come seldomly, almost never, with water supplied by difficult irrigation processes, using the Nile River as a source. Men labored constantly to bring water for crops and other purposes, using devices such as small water wheels on various farms, each working through the action of often one poor slave who would use his feet to turn the wheel and bring water in a slow, effort-filled tedious manner. Canaan, by contrast, was a place of abundant but not excessive rainfall—a land especially cared for by the Lord.
Verses 13-14: "It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, 14 that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil." God's intention was and is to create a people who have real faith in the Lord like Abraham did (Genesis 15:6). And if they trusted in the Lord as a people, they could depend on the "early" rain which fell from October through December, preparing the ground for seed, and the "late rain," in March and April, which ripened the grain for harvest. Slaves would not be needed to bring the water. The Lord God Himself would bless His faithful ones with all that was required and more. Moses' words continued in Verse 15: "He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied." As we look back from the future, we can see that Israel didn't keep their end of the bargain, and we might study the shortfalls in our own lives, wondering if past losses are a message about our failure "to serve Him" with all our hearts and souls.
We can see His warning in Verses 16-17: "Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. 17 Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you." Since this is a fallen world, suffering comes to even "nice" people, including God's faithful, but why add to our problems by turning away from the grace-filled God who Created us and longs to bless you and me? It's time to trust in Him—fully.
Verses 18-23: "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. 22 For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, 23 then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you." Israel was given God's Law, and we have been given a book by the Lord, actually a compilation of a number of books, called the Bible. I neglected that book for many years, and then surprisingly, I read it, which brought me to the Lord and changed my life for the good. I found in those pages, and continue to find, offers of blessings to humanity at large, and personal touches for me in His Word. He also has blessings in store for you, when you "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5-6 continues, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." And He will. Through His written Word as revealed by His Spirit, He is leading us to the Promised Land.
Verses 24-25: "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea. 25 No man will be able to stand before you; the Lord your God will lay the dread of you and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot, as He has spoken to you." The area described in Verse 24 is huge, and possession of it by Israel really only took place during the reign of King Solomon, David's son. Today's Israel is small in size compared to all that God intends. The fighting men of Israel were smaller in stature than many of their enemies, the walled cities they were to conquer were formidable. The weaponry they would face was in many instances better than theirs; and yet, the tribes and nations they were to attack were to be given a dread, a fear of Israel. The people and circumstances you and I will face may seem insurmountable to us, but when God calls us, He will use surprising, effective means to bring us through.
Verses 26-28: "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known." Note that "God is love" (1 John 4:16) and He who loves us intends good for you and me. He has a specific purpose for each one, and the closer we come to living within His will for our lives, the better life is likely to be. Deviating from His will is not unlike idolatry from His perspective because our focus is no longer on Him and His purposes for us. Israel should have trusted in Him and so should we. Life may have treated us badly in the past, but He is using our problems and blessings to shape us for something wonderful... for you, for me, and for each and every one who turns to the Lord, trusting in Him.
Verses 29-32: "It shall come about, when the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 30 Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh? 31 For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it, 32 and you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the judgments which I am setting before you today." Gerizim and Ebal were two mountains that bracketed the valley of Shechem with the notable city of Shechem in the center of that valley. The mountains are each less than 3,000 feet above sea level and are about 700 feet above the valley itself. The valley is narrow and was often fortified to ward off enemies. "Shechem" can be translated as "shoulders," for the mountains were regarded as the "shoulders" of Shechem. Joshua later was to carry out the words of Moses, placing half of the tribes on Mount Gerizim to bless the people (Deuteronomy 27:12), and the other half on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses (Joshua 8:30-35). Later in time, according to the historian Josephus, Alexander the Great gave the Samaritans permission to build a temple on Gerizim, and still later the Samaritan woman by the well of Shechem said to Jesus, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain" (John 4:20). Jesus replied, "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him" (John 4:23).
Father, we long to worship You in spirit and in truth. In doing so we confess our sins and place our faith in the Lord. We are Yours, Lord. Fill us with Your Spirit and lead us to the Promised Land. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.