Today we continue on in our study of the Old Testament, this week covering the entire book of Deuteronomy! As we’ve discovered in previous weeks, there are overall themes in these large books and today is no exception. Deuteronomy is all about large life transitions. We all go through them, but we don’t all go through them smoothly. Today we find the keys to a successful transition, no matter where or when it occurs in life.
The Old Testament Isn’t Old – Deuteronomy
Read Deuteronomy 1:1a, 2, 3, 6-8
1 These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness… 2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. 3 Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them… 6 “The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’
Deuteronomy is a book about Transition to Fulfillment. It’s all about the move from here to there, from now to then.
Humans go through transition points pretty regularly. Graduation to marriage to kids to kids to school. Jobs, moving out of Mom and Dad’s house, even the role reversals of parents and kids.
Hey, what about the transition in the White House? Ho boy, you can see there that transitions are not especially smooth. Assuming we make it through all this, there will be easier days, I hope so anyway.
But in order for transitions to be smooth and effective (not that they are ever easy) you’ll do better with guidance.
Here we find the nation of Israel, now numbering in the millions, about to enter a large transition. Remember, they were released from Egypt back in Exodus, taught about relationship with God and others in Leviticus, ordered and set up in Numbers, but now in Deuteronomy they are being set up for transition to the Promised Land.
And in this book is contained, for the most part, Moses’ farewell address. Because Moses wasn’t doing the Promised Land transition, he was about to transition from this life to the next.
But let’s dwell for a moment on one of God’s comments to Israel in those first few verses.
6 “The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain.
Transition starts with God saying you’ve been here long enough. For your own good, for the good of others, it’s time and you can’t stay here. Some of you in this room are hearing those words and it’s a relief. God I’ve been circling this mountain for way too long. Thank you for promising me that I can move on from here. To others of you it may be that you’re saying “I like it here!” or “I can’t leave!” and don’t want to move on. And yet you must.
Whether you know it, know Him, or not, God is the Initiator of all transition. And that being the case you need to remember some of the important things you’ll see as you read Deuteronomy. So let’s do an overview of what Moses did to guide Israel up to and through the largest transition in at least 40 years.
What makes a major transition smoother?
For one, God must be at the center of your attention and trust.
Here’s Deut. 6:4-8
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Previous to this, Moses recounts the Ten Commandments, but then he sums them up here. You shall love the Lord your God… Jesus said that this is the first and great commandment. So important, in fact, that it ought to carry into all transitions, including the important one of your kids growing up.
Listen, if you don’t provide for your kid’s spiritual training, you’re neglecting this in one of the most important transitions around, the transition of one generation to the next.
For another, we need to remember what we’ve learned.
Moses then goes through what is now a reminder of what he has said in other chapters and in other ways.
12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? 14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
Anybody here appreciate reminders? Some folks say “I already knew that!” in sort of a why did you remind me tone, but for the most of us, reminders are essential. Anybody here set reminders for yourself?
Tuesday night is small group for Pastor Mark and I, and usually I get home after 9pm. Now if you know me, I generally turn into a pumpkin at that time of night. But it’s also trash night, as in, I need to put the week’s trash and recycling by the street for the next morning. So, last Tuesday night, even though I’ve taken the trash out for years, I forgot, wasn’t thinking about it. But there was a reminder that popped up on my phone about the same time that Robin said, “Don’t forget the trash!”
Well that’s a deeper need for when life transitions come along. I need to be reminded of my core values, who and what is very important to me and not forget. The reminders come through reading my Bible, by having good and deep relationships, by staying with one church, by remembering the constants that don’t change in transition.
For another, we need to let go of some things and embrace new things.
I’ve been listening to a great book lately, Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. In it he talks about this very thing. That for you to embrace a new future in transition, you need to let go of something. And sometimes that’s not an easy thing to do. So, what was Israel letting go of?
Old environment in favor of a new environment.
They had just camped out in the desert for about 40 years. That was all that these people knew, as the previous generation had died out. These were kids of the wilderness. And now they were going to cross over the Jordan to a whole new world.
Moses, all along, was grooming Joshua for leadership. He went with Moses up the Mountain. He stayed in the tent of meeting, even when Moses went home for the night. But Moses was the face of leadership in Israel as long as anyone could remember. Moses eventually anoints Joshua as the new leader. And then Moses dies! Imagine that change. They had to embrace a new leader who didn’t do what the old leader did in the same way he did. But that happens in letting go and embracing the new.
The enemies that Israel had to face were army against army in the wilderness. But now the challenge was that they would have to face city states that were embedded in the Promised Land.
They would have to grow/find their own food. Mannah was about to stop falling from the sky every day, once they fully crossed the Jordan. That was a new challenge, from gathering to hunting, growing and gathering.
Lastly, we need to understand that the stakes are very high.
Look at Deut. 28:1-2
“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:
Those began the blessings. But then there were the cursings.
And on it goes. Read that list sometime. You don’t want to be a part of any of those things. And yet, eventually, Israel went on to not obeying God’s voice after all of that. And they reaped the curses.
The stakes in transition are often very high.
We’re very close with a young woman who just transitioned from high school to college. And she didn’t understand what we’re talking about here today. She did pretty well in high school, socially and academically and got a full ride scholarship to a university. But when she transitioned she forgot God and what is important. She got mixed in with the wrong crowd. And long story short she’s lost everything.
The key to having the major transitions in your life be smooth?