When reading the Bible as a historical narrative, we often follow the story of God’s people. This means we often skip over books that have little story in them. Deuteronomy is one of those books. We know the stories of the Exodus and the forty years of wandering in the desert. The next ‘part’ of the story, it seems, takes place in Joshua when the Israelites finally enter the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy puts Moses and the Israelites around the area of Moab where the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea. Deuteronomy is Moses’ final act before transferring leadership over to Joshua. He is delivering his farewell message to prepare the people for their entrance into Canaan. In the book, Moses emphasizes the laws that are going to be especially needed in the coming years. It is not so much matter-of-fact as Leviticus and Numbers. Deuteronomy comes from Moses’ heart as this servant of the Lord presses God’s claims on his people.
As mentioned before, the trajectory of the story that unfolds in Genesis thru Numbers seems to call for a story of the conquest of Canaan (which is found in Joshua), to bring closure to the story line. However, Deuteronomy seems to be a massive interruption. There is very little forward movement. At the end of Numbers, Israel is “on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho” (Numbers 36:13), and at the end of Deuteronomy they are still there, waiting to cross the river. All that has happened is the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua. The book of Joshua continues the story. So Deuteronomy creates this long pause in the story.
In that long pause, Moses reminded the people of their covenant with God. He tells them what is required of them if they are to cross the Jordan River, take possession of the land, and enjoy the promised ‘rest’ in fellowship with God. The Israelites needed to hear this again. The purpose of the book is to prepare the next generation of the Lord’s people to be his representatives in the land that was promised to them.
Deuteronomy is a ‘long pause’ in the middle of the story of God’s people, sounds familiar right? Our lives feel like they’ve been put on pause for the time being. Our stories were supposed to move forward and yet we are sitting around in our own homes, waiting, on pause. We are getting to the point where we are starting to feel that ‘pause’ more and more as each day passes. It’s not a short ‘pause’ anymore, but turning into a longer ‘pause’.
The Israelites were on pause mainly because Moses needed to remind them of God’s convenient and what was expected of them. What do you need to be reminded about during this pause in our lives? What are things that you’ve learned before that you need to remember? Is there something new you need to learn in order prepare to be God’s representatives in the world?
Our stories will continue some day in the future and we will be taken off of pause. In the meantime, maybe God is trying to tell us something we’ve forgotten or maybe even something new. A pause doesn’t have to be a negative thing, we can emerge from pause better off for it. What is God trying to tell you in this season of ‘pause’?
Questions for Discussion/Contemplation