Throughout Deuteronomy, God speaks of the challenge for the next generation to pick up the baton of faith in following Him. In the midst of His words about gaining victory over the nations in Canaan, God calls the current generation to worship and serve Him alone:
Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them….Fix these words of Mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (Deuteronomy 11:16, 18)
Immediately after this call, God commissions Moses to raise up the next generation in His ways:
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (11:19)
As the book nears its conclusion, God makes even more stark declarations about the difference between following Him and not following Him in the days and years to come. There are blessings for those who obey God (28:1-14) and there are curses for those who disobey God (28:15-68). Obedience and disobedience are the same as the difference between life and death.
This day…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (30:19)
God longs for His people to choose life through obedience to Him. He longs for the next generation to live through Him. He does not curse because He wants to bring evil on His people. Blessings and curses do not flow out of arbitrary decisions by God but out of the established character of God. By His very nature, God – in His truth, steadfastness, and holiness – brings blessing to the obedient and curses to the disobedient. The nature of our choices lead us into the nature of our consequences…for good or for ill. He longs for us to choose life not death.
Sadly enough, God tells Moses that the people will choose disobedience and, thus, death in the years to come.
You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake Me and break the covenant I made with them. (31:16)
Moses hears these words shortly before the end of his life. How must Moses have felt about his life and ministry, about his efforts for and with God’s people? It would have been easy for Moses to descend into anger or depression as a result of God’s words. He saw one generation die in the wilderness because of their disobedience. Now God tells him that even this next generation will disobey God, effectively bringing upon themselves the curses God has foretold.
But Moses does not show either anger or depression in his last days. He continues faithfully to the end. Even after God’s words to him, Moses sings a song about God and His faithfulness to the people. He then pours out blessings on the tribes of Israel, culminating in strong words about God’s power and strength for the people:
Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights. (33:29)
Even as Moses is gathered to his ancestors, his descendants begin their journey into the land God had promised them through Moses at the burning bush many years before. Moses had been faithful to pass the baton of faith to the next generation, although they would face many attacks and challenges he could not protect them from.
What do you think: How are we doing at passing the baton to the next generation? What does it look like for us to do that in our day and time?