Welcome to Expound, our verse by verse study of God's Word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Would you turn, please, to Deuteronomy, chapter 32, where we left off last time. As you are turning there, let me tell you about a mom with her two kids.
She came home one afternoon, the kids were in the back bedroom playing. Suddenly, mom heard this scream. She knew it was her son. She went in the room where her daughter and son were playing, and the little girl had the little boy, who was the older brother, in a headlock, polling his hair. And it was the boy who was screaming. And the mom came over to release and relax the grip of her daughter on her son's hair.
And mom said-- damage control-- "Sweetheart, she didn't mean to do it. She doesn't know that it hurts."
And then, she left the room, didn't even make it out of the room, heard her daughter screaming at the top of her lungs, turned back, and the little boy, with that impish smile, said, "Now, she knows."
This happens. It happens not when we're just kids, it happens as we grow older. The easiest reflex for us is payback. Vengeance feels so stinking good. It's like, yes! They get what they deserve. There's just something perverse in our character, in our nature.
And yet, we read something last week, or last time we were together, and I left it as a cliffhanger with you, where God says, "No, vengeance belongs to me. It is not for you to pay back. I, and I alone, will give payback."
And we were looking at Deuteronomy 32, a lengthy chapter. It's the Song of Moses, it is called. 120-year-old man is commissioned with Joshua, his younger counterpart, to write a song.
So he writes this lengthy song. And I told you before, it's like a prophetic country song. It's filled with, you know, bad stuff. You're going to lose this, you're going to lose that. Bad stuff's going to happen. And God, essentially, predicts in this song that Israel will fail, but that God will correct it, and take vengeance on their enemies.
So verse 34, "Is this not laid up in store with me, sealed among my treasures? Vengeance is mine, and recompense." The word recompense means payback. Their foot shall slip in due time, for the day of their calamity is at hand. And the things to come hasten upon them."
Now, that verse of scripture, "Vengeance is mine," is something repeated in the New Testament. It is lifted right out of Deuteronomy 32, and it is mentioned by Paul the Apostle, and by the writer of Hebrews, which may be Paul the Apostle.
In Romans, chapter 12, when Paul talks about loving one another, and don't be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good, he pulls this verse out of Deuteronomy, "Vengeance belongs to me, says the Lord."
And then, also in Hebrews, as I mentioned, the writer of Hebrews, talking about the persecution that they were going through by the world around them, says, "Don't look to pay them back. Vengeance belongs to the Lord."
But the question I left us with last time is, how do we square this, the Lord saying don't pay back, don't you exact vengeance, vengeance belongs to me, with that often quoted verse in Exodus, chapter 21, known as the famous lex talionis-- eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, life for life? That also is a law in the Bible. Eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
People sometimes get confused, because many times when we read the Scripture, we immediately make personal application. That's a mistake, by the way. We must make observation. And in our observation of the text, make a correct interpretation, asking questions like, what did the original author want the original audience to understand? And then, after observation and interpretation, then we make application to yourselves, if it is indeed applicable to ourselves.
So the way these square up and intermesh is simply this-- eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, life for life, Exodus 21, lex talionis, is a civil law. It is to be enacted with the body politic, with the group, with the nation, on a corporate, national level, with a police force, with a judicial system, et cetera. It was a law given for mercy. Did you know that? Not for personal vengeance. It was for mercy, because it is our natural tendency to do what that little boy did to his sister. You pulled my hair. I'm going to pull a chunk of your hair out. I'm going to pay you back so hard, that you will never-- I'll hit so hard, you'll ever want to do it again, so. We never are fair when we do payback. We're never fair about our vengeance. We think they deserve more than they've given to us. So the lex talionis was given on a national basis to restrict vengeance, so that it would be meted out in a fair and judicious manner.
Now, when it comes to "vengeance is mine, I will repay," now that's a personal level, not a judicial level. When it comes to you being hurt personally, don't go after the person. Jesus said, "If they slap you on your right cheek, you turn the other cheek."
Now, you don't do that nationally. Try that in a law court, it won't get you very far. There are laws of the land, and if you break, and hurt, or go against someone, and it's brought into the court system, there's going to be a justice meted out. But on a personal level, let the Lord handle it.
And here's what I've discovered about this. God is better at it than I am. I've just watched the Lord handle things when I think, you know, I could get this guy, and they really deserve it, but I'll take the high road, and I'll love, and I'll forgive, and I'll bless, and I won't curse. And then, I just watch how the Lord handles it, and I think, you know, God's really good at this business of vengeance. I don't really have to worry about it.
So I sometimes think that, when I take matters into my own hands, that God will let me, and the results are never satisfying. When I leave it with him, the results are always satisfied. And I just leave it with the Lord. He knows best.
And thus, those two different laws can both be in place at the same time.
But vengeance is a temptation for us. It's something we all fight against. That's why we sometimes harbor bitter feelings against other people, and we think, well, I'm going to treat them in a cold-shouldered manner, because they deserve it.
But what if you were to bless them? As the Scripture says, "Heap coals of fire on their head." Bless them. It'll blow their mind. In fact, find an enemy, and buy a gift for them. You want to see the Lord work, it could be very powerful.
You remember back in the older part of the Old Testament, the book of Genesis, I'm believing it's chapter 4, if memory serves correct, when Lamech decided that he would enact vengeance. But it was always more. He always wanted to do more. So he told his wives, he said, "I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged seven-fold, then Lamech shall be avenged 77-fold.
But now you have a problem, Lamech. If you do avenge someone 77-fold-- in other words, somebody hurt you, so you're going to kill them-- now you're left with somebody in their family enacting vengeance against you. And that's how the blood feuds in that part of the world have been going on, in some cases, tribally, for generations.
So you can have the lex talionis, where it's handled judicially. But you, on a personal level, bless and forgive, and let the Lord enact vengeance.
"For the Lord will judge his people, and have compassion on his servants. When he sees that their power is gone"-- still going through this Song of Moses, and we're going to do it quickly, you'll see-- "and there is no one remaining, bond or free, he will say, 'Where are their gods, their rock, in which they sought refuge? Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise and help you, and be your refuge. Now, see that I, even I am he, and there is no God besides me. I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal. Nor is there any who can deliver from my hand."
Now, please notice that difficult text. It says God can heal, and God does heal. But it also says God kills. We probably don't want to underline that word. When it comes to our yellow underline, we want to underline where it says, the Lord says, I heal.
But here is something interesting. God presents himself. You know, God never explains themselves, or justifies himself. He just presents himself.
In Exodus, chapter 4, the Lord said to Moses, "Who made man's mouth, or who made the mute, the deaf, the seeing, the blind? Have not I? says the Lord." I remember when I first read that, I had a real problem with that. To be quite honest, I still have a little bit of a problem with it. Because when I read that, God takes complete responsibility for all the good, and all the maladies and diseases that people suffer, which immediately sets my heart at odds with God. It challenges my view of God. It challenges what I think God ought to be like. It challenges the idea that he is a good God.
But I've made a discovery. If I can get past that, my faith will be strong. In fact, my faith will be unshakable. Why do I say that?
Because, you see, if I can only trust what I understand, what kind of faith is that? Well, I understand it, therefore I trust. That's really not trust. That's understanding. But if I say, I know enough about God, though I don't quite understand that, I have utmost faith in his call. He is God. He is Creator God. And he is presented, and shows himself, to be a God of love and mercy. So though I don't quite get it, I trust him anyway. I find that I can have unshakable faith if I can just get past a little impediment like that. God presents himself this way, and I can say, OK, that's simply God's way of saying, I am in total control of human life, of disease, of deafness, of healing.
However, I also realize, as I look around the world in which we live, I am not seeing a world the way God intended the world to be. That was not in the Creator's original design and blueprint. Man has fallen. This represents mankind in its fallen state. And one day he will make it right. He will right all the wrongs. He will heal all the diseases. He will wipe away every tear. That day is coming.
And when I do see sickness, and I do see disease, and I see them quite often, and I see death quite often, I don't just say, well, God is sovereign. You know, whatever, it just happens. God can do what he wants. I always say, Lord, haste the day when the death will hear, and the blind will see, and the lame will walk, and there will be no tears. Until then, I place my trust in him. And you can have an unshakable faith, even though God presents himself in this manner.
"For I raise my hand to heaven, and I say, as I live forever, if I whet my glittering sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to my enemies, and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh with the blood of the slain and the captives from the heads of the leaders of the enemies."
Now, here the Lord presents himself once again. This time as a warrior. And we know that, when Jesus comes back the second time, he's going to come back like this. He came the first time on a donkey, presenting himself as the Prince of Peace. He will come back as the King of kings and Lord of Lords, Revelation 19. He has a vesture, or a robe, dipped in what? Blood. With his sword that goes forth from his mouth. And he judges, the Bible says, and makes war.
He is coming back to quell a battle that will take place in the Middle East, typically called the Battle of Armageddon. It begins in the valley of Megiddo, as armies of the world decide we have to fix this Middle Eastern problem, this Palestinian-Jewish problem, once and for all. We need to eliminate Israel, so there can be world peace. And the nations of the world will come against Israel, and march toward Jerusalem.
And when the armies surround Jerusalem, according to Zachariah, chapter 14, it says, "And the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fought in the day of battle." And then, that is further described, as I mentioned, in Revelation, chapter 19.
It's called the Battle of Armageddon. It's misnamed. There is no Battle of Armageddon. God doesn't fight battles. He just wins them. He's going to show up and wipe out the enemy. It's not like, and Jesus, he's struggling today, but he may win. It's just, done. Word out of his mouth-- froom, over!
Yeah. I like that. I like that.
So I'm reading through this, this week, and I'm always looking for the big principle, and then the ultimate conclusion. What is the irreducible minimum, as far as a personal application. So as God presents himself as sovereign over life and death, and over taking vengeance, and repaying, and at coming at people like a warrior, here's the ultimate conclusion, see if you agree-- don't be his enemy. Make sense?
Don't make him mad. Don't fight against God. Whatever you do, don't be on his wrong side. If indeed, he is Lord of lords, and if he, indeed, is King of kings, and if indeed, since he's Creator, he's going to win anyway, why would you ever want to fight him? Why would you ever want to fight his will, his program, his agenda, in your life? It's just a lose-lose situation for you. You want to be on the winning side? Find out his will, and go with it. Go with it. Be blessed, not cursed.
You know, the Lord has been trying to get a hold of some of you for a long time. It started when you were younger. And when you were younger, you were too busy, you said, at that time. And you were too young, you said, at that time. I just want to have fun. Maybe later. And then, later the Lord knocked on the door of your heart, and you were much too busy, because now you've got a family and responsibilities. And now, perhaps some of you are past that, and the Lord's still knocking on the door of your heart, and now it's, well, I'm too old. It's just too many excuses.
There's a beautiful word that solves the problem when you are at odds with God. There's one word that solves that problem. Do you know what it is? Repentance.
Repent means to turn around, change direction, go the other direction. You're going against God. Go with him. Stop dead in your tracks, repent. Turn around, do what he wants. Go his way. Don't fight against him, fight with him.
"So Moses"-- oh, well, let's finish this up. Verse 43, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people"-- a lot could be said on that, don't have the time-- "for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and render vengeance to his adversaries. He will provide atonement for his land and his people.
"So Moses came with Joshua, the son of Nun, and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. Moses finished speaking all these words to Israel, and he said to them, 'Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life. And by this word, you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.'"
Moses doesn't say, just listen to what I have to say, and just remember in your little old minds what I am telling you. He says, set your hearts upon them. What I'm telling you, this is your life. Stake your life on these words.
One of my favorite New Testament letters-- portions of this letter, 1 Thessalonians-- is when Paul writes to the Thessalonian Church, and he said, "When we spoke to you, you received the message that we shared with you, and you"-- listen to what he said-- "welcomed it." Not as the word of man, but as it is, in truth, the very Word of God. You welcomed it.
The word in Greek, welcome, means you invited it like a guest into your house. Come on in. There's room for you in this house. There's room for you in my life. I'm welcoming you in my heart, Word of God. I want you to sit down and make yourself at home, and rule and reign. Set your heart upon it.
So the words from Moses' heart, that filtered through his brain and out of his mouth, went into the ears of the children of Israel, into their brains, as they processed it, but he's saying, now let it seep down into your core, and set your life upon it. Make them your words. Make them the template for your existence. They're your very life.
"And the Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, 'Go up this mountain of Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho; view the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel as a possession; and die on the mountain, which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; because you trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me in the midst of the children of Israel. Yet you shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving to the children of Israel."
Now, if you were here, and if you remember, in chapter 31, which sort of begins this final narrative of Moses, he starts talking about his life and his death. He goes, I'm 120 years old today, and I'm going to die. I'm not going to be able to go out and come in any longer like I did, so the Lord told me I'm going to die. And now, God tells him again, you're going to die. So let's go now, Moses. It's time to die.
And I brought something up, and I just want to share it, and kind of underline it with you. Rather than skirting the issue of Moses' mortality, and his death, and what's going to happen after he dies, he mentions it, he talks to the people about it, he processes it with the Lord, and with the people of God. And this is, to me, a very healthy template.
Let me suggest something to you. First of all, develop a healthy attitude toward death. You are going to die. And sometimes, you bring that up, and people say, oh, don't talk about that. Really? Because when it happens, you going to still say, don't talk about it? He's died. Oh, don't tell me he died! OK.
It is going to happen. A healthy attitude, and speaking about it openly and talking about getting your affairs in order, is a very healthy conversation to have with your family. Don't skirt the issue. Don't treat it as an uncomfortable issue. It is just something I notice in our country. Unfortunately, it is just so taboo to talk about. In other cultures, it is not, because people are in touch with it. They see it all the time. They're aware of it. They're closer to it. So develop a healthy, normal attitude.
Number two, if you have messy relationships, try to clear those up as soon as possible. Because messy relationships, guilt, bad communication, unforgiveness, will all complicate death and suffering on the deathbed when it happens. I don't know how many people I've been in emergency room situations with, where their family's outside, and somebody dies, oh, I wish-- we had an argument, I wish I could have just said I'm sorry. And I think, really? I mean, I understand that, but human pride, that can only release, and wants to release at the time of death, but won't do it until that person-- it's foolish. It's silly. So if you have complicated relationships, if there are messy relationships, try to get those-- clear the deck as much as possible. Number two.
Number three, have around you a network of people, that, when you lose somebody, they are there, brother and sister, like a connect group that we have here, who can help pick you up and keep you buoyant during that time. Don't be an isolated island. No man is an island, don't act like one.
And then, fourth and finally, you better make sure you're prepared to meet your Maker. You better make sure you are spiritually prepared to face Almighty God. And if you don't know Jesus Christ yet as your Savior, you are not ready to do that. You need to make spiritual preparation. OK, enough said.
Chapter 33. "Now this is the blessing which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death."
Now here is his last public act. I want those words to seep into your heart. His last public act is to what? Bless. Now, it would be very easy for Moses to be bitter, and to blast them. Not bless them, to blast them. Those children of Israel, you know, they were just a burr in my saddle, and a thorn in my side for so long. And it's because of them that I won't get to go into the land, because I got mad that one time. But they sin, they get to go into the land. He could have blasted, but instead of that, his last act is not to blast, or to be bitter, but to bless. I love that. You see, that's possible. Well, I don't feel like it. God didn't say feel like. He just said, do it. Well, I don't feel like saying it. Say it anyway. Say I love you. Say I forgive you. Say it. Because what will happen is, when you make choices like this, your emotions will follow along. It is your choice that is the engine. It is your emotion, and your feeling, that is the caboose. Don't let your emotions draw you along in life. That's no way to live. Live by choosing what you know is right. And let your feelings come behind the choice, and eventually, you'll start feeling it. You'll start having the emotion of love and mercy and forgiveness. So he blessed the children of Israel.
"And he said--" Now, the rest of this chapter corresponds to another chapter. Let me give you a hint. Have you already read-- you probably already read this in advance, so you know where I'm going with this. But I'm just trusting some of you haven't. This corresponds with another chapter, where somebody else gives a blessing, and a prophetic utterance to all of the tribes of Israel. Sound familiar? Genesis, chapter 49. I knew you'd get it.
Genesis 49, Jacob brings all his sons around him, and he gives a blessing, and even a few cursings, right? This is Moses getting the tribes of Israel together, going through the tribes. It's similar to the blessing of the tribes in Genesis 49 by Jacob, with a little variation.
Number one, the order is not the same. And number two, Simeon is not mentioned by Moses, though he is mentioned by Jacob in Genesis 49. Why that is? I almost want to let that linger, and let you discover why that is. So I think I will. Simeon is not mentioned. That's your homework, to find out why.
"And he said, 'The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of the saints; from his right hand came a fiery law for them.'"
It's beautiful language. It's picturesque. I'll tell you, Moses, in this, is waxing poetic. He is describing God like the sun, shining and going forth with the people, in all of these different locations. From Mount Sinai, and then from Seir, which is Edom, east of the Dead Sea, and then, Mount Paran is northeast Sinai desert.
"He came with ten thousands of the saints." I believe that's a reference to angels. "From his right hand came a fiery law for them."
But watch this, in verse 3. "Yes, he loves the people. All His saints are in Your hand." Now, I believe the word, saints, refers to people.
"They sit down at Your feet; everyone receives Your words. Moses commanded a law for us, a heritage of the congregation of Jacob. And He was King in Jeshurun."
Remember, that word we saw last time we were together. It's a Hebrew word that speaks of the righteous one. He is calling Israel-- even though we just said, God's going to judge you for your failure, but bring you back, et cetera-- he calls them, righteous one. Upright one. Jeshurun. Perhaps, even sarcastically. It's hard to know the motive behind this.
"He was King in Jeshurun, when the leaders of the people were gathered, and the tribes of Israel gathered together. Let Reuben live--" he begins with the first tribe-- "Let Reuben live, and not die." That's a way of saying, long live Reuben. "Nor let his men be few." In other words, I hope he grows to a large tribe.
"And he said of Judah, 'Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him to his people; let his hands be sufficient for him, and may You be a help against his enemies.'"
"And of Levi, or Levi, he said, 'Let Your Thummim and your Urim be with Your holy one, whom You tested at Massah, and with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah, who says of father and mother, "I have not seen them." Nor did he acknowledges his brothers, or know his own children; for they observed Your word and kept Your covenant.'"
Question-- what is the Thummim and the Urim? Well, we don't exactly know. Just to be honest with you. We don't exactly know what they are. Perhaps, these were stones, and one, a black stone, one a white stone. One was a yes, one was a no. And they were thrown down in difficult cases, when one wanted to know the will of God, and all other means were exhausted. You would go before the priest, the high priest, and with the Urim and Thummim, the stones, they would, in a sense, cast lots. And God would use it, and sovereignly oversee the throwing of those lots.
The Hebrew word for Urim and Thummim translated, lights and perfections. Lights and perfections. I'll tell you what it is not. According to the Mormon church, according to Joseph Smith, the Urim and the Thummim are mystical glasses that enabled Joseph Smith to read the reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics on the golden plates, given by the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith. He said, it's the glasses. I got the glasses, man. I was able to read. Because you can't really read this, but I could read it. I know what it says, because I got the Urim and Thummim, lights and perfections. It almost is certainly not a reference to that.
But we don't exactly know what it was, except it was used for ascertaining the will of God in very difficult cases. Sort of a throwing of the dice, if you will, though superintended by God. Not going to Vegas, but going to God. And the Lord, through the priest, would do this.
When you get to the New Testament, you find an interesting occurrence of something similar. When Judas hung himself, and the early church decided, we better get a replacement for Judas, because there's 11 of us, and I just think Jesus picked 12, so we got to get another guy. It says they cast lots.
And there were two guys. And they just said, Lord, we're going to cast lots. We're going to draw straws, we're going throw these things down, and just, whichever one of these two You have chosen, let that be the one. So they cast the lots.
And it was a choice between a guy named Joseph/Barsabas/Justus, he went by all three names, and the second guy was Matthias. And the lot fell upon Matthias. You've never heard of Matthias, some of you, even though he is considered by the Twelve Apostles to be one of the Twelve Apostles after Judas died.
But you don't read about him. You don't read that he did anything. It would seem that they made a mistake in trying to ascertain the will of God by casting lots. Maybe not, but maybe, because it would seem to me that the real apostle that the Lord chose was Paul. He called himself an apostle born out of due time, that he bore the marks of an apostle, he was recognized as such by the early church. And he contributed greatly to the faith, whereas Matthias, maybe, maybe not.
However, all of that to say, after that occurrence, you never read of that ever happening again. It's like, we tried it once, we're never going back to try that again. Which brings up a quick issue, and then I'll move on.
How do you understand the will of God in difficult situations? Wouldn't it be great if we had an Urim and a Thummim? We could come to Calvary, and just say, Skip, would you bring out that Urim and Thummim? I got to find out yes or no on this. OK. Nope, don't do that. Yep, that job's for you. It would be so easy, wouldn't it?
Do you know that the Bible really doesn't speak about guidance, though it speaks a lot about a guide. Not about a method as much as a person. I believe guidance is relational. I don't think it's formulaic. I think it's relational.
If I gave you a map of how to get to a pizza parlor in New York City that I know about in SoHo. Great pizza. If I gave you a map, how to get there from here to there, and once you get into the city, take that subway, et cetera. Once you get there, it could be a little daunting.
Would you not much rather have a personal guide, who just says, look, I'll drive you there. I'll take you there. Because then, you can fall asleep in the car. You don't care if you're passing silos, grain, or city buildings, whatever. You just know you're going to get there.
So the Bible talks about the guide of the Holy Spirit. He will guide you into all truth. So focus more on a relationship with the guide, not about, did I do all the right little formulas to make sure I understand. Ooh, I left out Part 2b. No, no, Part 2c. I got to put Part 2c in there, so I get the results. No, let it be relational. Just go for the ride, man. And you're on an adventure. Look out the window, enjoy the ride. You'll get there. Guide will get you where you need to go. How's that? Just trust the Lord.
I had a good friend of mine who put it this way, trust the Lord with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your strength, and then just do whatever you want. I thought about that, and I thought, you know, he's right. Because if you really trust the Lord and love the Lord with all of your heart, if you do whatever you want, you're not going to want bad stuff. Because you love the Lord with all your heart. You trust the Lord with all your heart and mind. You're seeking his will. You're going to make good choices.
So love the Lord and do what you want, and trust that the guide will get you where you need to go. OK, enough said on this. Got to get through it.
Verse 10, "They shall teach Jacob Your judgments, and Israel Your law. They shall put incense before You"-- that's the tribe of Levi-- "a whole burnt offering on Your alter." That was their ministry in the Tabernacle, later on in the Temple. "Bless his substance, Lord, and accept the work of his hands; strike the loins of those who rise against him, and of those who hate him, that they rise not again.
"Of Benjamin, he said-- 'The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him, who shelters him all the day long"-- I love this part-- "and he shall dwell between His shoulders."
Ever seen a dad with his son, or a grandpa with his grandson? I love to put Seth up on my shoulders, my little grandson. He didn't have to worry about running as fast as I am running, or-- he just likes the view from way up there, and loves to bounce around. And it's, like, wow, it's a favorite spot.
Benjamin was one of the favored sons of Jacob. He and Joseph, because they were both born by his wife that he loved, Rachel. Benjamin, son of my right hand, his name means. And so the tribe of Benjamin, it's like, you know, here's God going to just take this kid for a ride, treat him like a favored son.
It could also have a meaning to its location. There are hills and mountains around Jerusalem. As the Psalmist said, as the mountains are around Jerusalem, so the Lord is around His people. And figuratively, the shoulders could speak of the mountains that God put there for protection in Jerusalem.
And here's what's interesting. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Temple sat in Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount is still there to this day, was technically in the tribal boundaries of Benjamin. Shouldered, saddled, between the mountains that protect Jerusalem was that little corner of the tribe of Benjamin that is Mount Zion, or the Temple Mount. It could be a reference to that.
It's interesting, to this day, the Orthodox Jews say the Shekinah glory of God never left the Temple Mount. It's still there to this day. That's their belief. So if that is true, that happens in Benjamin, because Benjamin is the place where that Temple was built, right next to Judah. Interesting FYI.
"And of Joseph he said, 'Blessed of the Lord is his land, with the precious things of heaven, with the dew; and the deep lying beneath, with the precious fruits of the sun, with the precious produce of the months, with the best things of the ancient mountains, with the precious things of the everlasting hills, with the precious things of the earth and its fullest, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers. His glory is like a firstborn bull, his horns like the horns of a wild ox; together with them he shall push the peoples to the ends of the earth; they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, they are the thousands of Manasseh.'"
The tribe Joseph, of course, speaks of what we just read, Ephraim and Mannaseh. Joseph had two sons. Manasseh, the firstborn. Ephraim, the second born. Though the right of the firstborn was conferred on the second born. You know the story.
Some of the most fertile, productive territory in ancient Israel was in their land. Also, they had the largest territory of all the tribes of Israel, and that is the blessing of Moses, as well, upon them.
Verse 18, "And of Zebulun he said"-- Zebulun is up in the northern part of Israel. It's on the sea, part of it is on the sea. The city of Haifa, the port of Haifa was in that ancient district.
"And of Zebulun he said, 'Rejoice, Zebulun, in you are going out, and Issachar in your tents.'"
Now, the going out of Zebulun probably spoke of them going out on the sea, and having sea adventures, sea exploits. But then, notice "and Issachar in your tents." This speaks of rest. Issachar stays home, in the tent, because they are farming lands that are very lush in that area. So they just sit in the tent and take it easy. They stay at home and relax, while Zebulun goes out and conquers the seas.
"They shall call the peoples to the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness; they shall partake of the abundance of the seas and of the treasures hidden in the sand."
You know, sometimes you read a verse of Scripture, and you just want to pass over it. It's poetic, doesn't mean anything. If we could really-- you know, I could do, and I won't do, but I could do a series just on this chapter, and go through the prophetic implications of all these different tribes. What is interesting about this "treasures in the sand" is that, according to Josephus, according to the Targums of Jonathan, the Jewish historian writer, and according to Talmudic writings of the Jews, all three sources, talk about the tribe of Issachar making glass, an ancient form of glass, on the sands of Akko, which is just north of Haifa.
Now, when you read "treasures in the sands," you can say, oh, they made an industry out of making an ancient form of glass for pottery, et cetera, out of the sands that was in their allotment. It's just fascinating what you discover as you dig a little bit further.
Verse 20, "And of Gad, he said, 'Gadzooks!'" No, he said, "Blessed is he who enlarges Gad; He dwells as a lion, he tears the arm and the crown of his head. He provided the first part for himself, because a lawgiver's portion was received there. He came with the heads of the people; he administered the justice of the Lord, and the judgments with Israel."
So it's a simple way of saying they kept their end of the bargain. A bargain was, Gad, the tribe of Gad came and said, we would like a larger territory. That's they idea of a lawgiver's portion. They got a large portion east of the Jordan River, like they requested. But first, they had to go help their brothers settle the land, the rest, west of the Jordan, then they could go back and enjoy it. That's a reference to them doing exactly that, and telling them to do that when they cross over under Joshua.
"And of Dan--" verse 22-- "he said, 'Dan is a lion's whelp; he shall leap from Bashan."
Now, let me jog your memory. Moses says, "Dan is a lion's whelp." In Genesis 41, Jacob, the father, said of his son, Dan, "Dan is a serpent by the way, nipping at the heels."
All I can say is God can change anyone. From a serpent, to a brave and agile lion, leaping from Bashan. That's up north. Now, what's interesting is Dan did not have an allotment of land up north, but down south. But eventually, they will say, we would like to see if we can get more land up north, and through a series of Biblical and historical references I won't take the time to unfold, Dan moves its territory way up north. We visited it a couple weeks ago, called Tel Dan. The mouth of the Jordan River comes out of where Dan eventually settled. And so, they moved to the north, and from there they could springboard and protect the land.
"And of Naphtali, he said, 'O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full blessing of the Lord, possess the west and the south."
Just west of the Sea of Galilee, in that whole fertile plain of Gennesaret, mentioned in the New Testament, was their allotment.
"And of Asher, he said, "Asher is most blessed of sons; let him be favored by his brothers, let him dip his foot in oil. Your sandals shall be iron and bronze; as your days, so shall your strength be.'"
The oil that is mentioned here is olive oil. They produced lots of olive oil. It was produced by foot. That was the best olive oil. Not by crushing in stones. That came later on, and that's not as pure. And so the idea of the foot being in olive oil.
However, it has been noted that the tribal allotment of Asher-- if you look at it from what is called a suprainferior view, from top looking down, a map view-- the allotment looks like a boot, or a shoe, a foot. And it's interesting that, in recent years, a pipeline of crude oil goes right through that area. And presently they are digging and fracking for oil in that region of Israel. Just interesting to note that he'll dip his foot in oil.
But I love the last part of that verse, verse 25, one of my favorite verses in the Bible, "As your days, so shall your strength be."
I frequently call this verse to my memory. You know, whatever your day is, whatever your day unfolds, however bad it is, your strength will be there to match it. And you'll find it in the moment, on the spot, from the Lord. "As your days, so shall your strength be."
Now, this is a reference to Asher having enough strength to defend the northern borders of Israel. They settled along the Mediterranean coast, and to the very north of that land. And they would be attacked by the Phoenicians. More recently, they would be attacked by Hezbollah, and the Lebanese border. So "as your days, so shall your strength be."
"There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, 'Destroy!' Then Israel shall dwell in safety, the fountain of Jacob alone, in a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew. Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, and you shall tread down their high places."
I just want to draw your attention really quickly-- we're about done. Look, we have just a few verses. We'll have plenty of time to finish the book. We got only 12 verses left, and it's narrative. It's not poetic. "Underneath you are the everlasting arms." Do you ever stop to think about that? Then, do it now. Stop and think about that.
The Bible says in Isaiah that God measures out the heavens with the span of His fingers. How big is the universe? Well, the Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years long. If you could travel at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, if you could go that fast, you could traverse from one end of your galaxy to the other end of your galaxy in 100,000 years, traveling at 186,000 miles per second. That's just your galaxy. If you could do that, you haven't even gotten out of your front yard. There are billions, they tell us, of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way.
So when we say, how big is it, we go, oh, my goodness, it's so-- I can't even reach that far. And God says, no, it's only that big. I measure it with a span, thumb to forefinger. I made it. It's only that big-- nice little thing I tucked over here.
So God can measure it with the span of His hand, but underneath you are the everlasting arms. He can measure the universe with His hand, but He holds you with His arms. What are you worried about? What are you fretting about tonight? Let it go! Underneath you are His everlasting arms.
"Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah."
Now, we have a lot of names going on here. Let me just sort this out for you.
Previous chapter, he says, go to Mount Abarim. Now, we have Pisgah, or Pisgah, and now, Nebo. The mountain range, and saw it from the Dead Sea two weeks ago, is the mountain range of Abarim. The ridge is the ridge of Pisgah.
OK, so the range is the Abarim range, like you have the Rocky Mountain range. The ridge of mountain in the Abarim range is called up the Pisgah ridge, and the single mount, that is taller than anyone else, is called Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo, part of the Pisgah ridge, part of the mountain range of Abarim, it's in present day Jordan. You could see it today if you were there. You could look at it right now, and identify all those places. That's where he was to go. OK.
According to two sources, Josephus and Philo, the North African scholar-philosopher, Moses wrote this portion before his death. He's writing about his death. He's writing his obituary. But according to them, he actually wrote this before he died. That's their belief. That's what they wrote. That's the oldest historical record we have.
Now, you go, well, that's kind of weird, that's unusual. Not really. I've done funerals for people, and before they die, they have given me a complete detailed account of what they want said and done and sung and read at their funeral service. This person's going to get up and say this, and I want this person-- so they detail it all out. The Lord could have given this to him.
Here's a second thought some believe, is that Joshua acted as the editorial pen of this last chapter. So he wrote it, appending this, editorially writing this for Moses. And because the Old Testament, you know, was a single scroll of just book upon book upon book, that chapter 34 of Deuteronomy some believe is actually chapter 1 of Joshua, because the scroll just continues through. And later on did this division take place. Some believe this actually belongs in Joshua. I'm not going to debate it. I'm not here to debate it. I just thought you'd be interested to know about it. I like to bring those things up.
So Moses went up. And look at the end of verse 1-- "And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan--" now, that's quite a distance-- "all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah--" that would be south of him, as he turned his head to the left-- "as far as the Western Sea--" the Mediterranean Sea-- "the South, and the plane of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees--" that's what it was called-- "as far as Zoar."
So he looked up, and to his right, he could see the undulating hills of Gilead up toward the Golan Heights. Going a little bit further to the left, he could see Mount Tabor, Mount Gilboa. Looking in the distance, the snow-capped peaks of Mount Hermon, Hermon. He would look right kind of to the middle and down, just pass the foreground, and he would see the mountains of Samaria, Mount Ebal, Mount Gerizim. He would look to the left, and he would see the hills of Jerusalem, Mount Zion, Mount of Olives. Look further to the left, he'd see the hills of Bethlehem. All in his purview. And he got a panorama. Or, since he saw as far as Dan, he got a Danorama. He got a whole supernatural view of the land.
"And the Lord said to him, 'This is the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, "I will give it to your descendants." I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.'"
"So Moses, the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day."
I thought you would like to hear what Josephus wrote about the death of Moses. Of course, this is not a biblical text. But this is an ancient Jewish historian. Josephus' account of Moses death. One paragraph.
"Amidst the tears of the people, the women beating their breasts, the children giving way to uncontrolled wailing, he withdrew. At a certain point in his assent, he made a sign to the weeping multitude to advance no further, taking with him only the elders, the high priest, Eleazar, and the general, Joshua. At the top of the mountain, he dismissed the elders. And then, as he was embracing Eleazar and Joshua, and still speaking to them, a cloud suddenly stood over him, and he vanished in a deep valley."
The Lord buried him, and nobody knows where he is buried to this day. The only one that knows where he's buried is Michael the archangel. Because Jude chapter 9 says, "Michael disputed with Satan over the body of Moses." Odd. Once a person's dead, why on earth would anybody care about the body of Moses. Why did Satan care about the body Moses?
Well, perhaps he wanted to desecrate it. Perhaps he wanted to humiliate the children of Israel by using this body. Perhaps he wanted to venerate it, so people would actually worship that. People do that, you know.
Or, perhaps it was an argument because God had future plans for Moses. Perhaps Moses will be one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11. If you read the account of Revelation 11, the signs which one of those witnesses does sound suspiciously like Moses. You can chase that down on your own at home.
"Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyes were not dim--" didn't need reading glasses-- nor his natural vigor diminished. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab 30 days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended." Now, this was the Hebrew norm. Still is. 30 days of grieving.
I believe that showing one's emotion and grieving is one of the healthiest things a person could do. I think it's wrong to stuff in emotions, and to show a brave face, and not oh, he's so strong. Actually, he's going to have weird psych problems in a couple months if he keeps doing that.
You know, the Hebrews, at their funerals, would have professional mourners. They would wail and weep, and make a big to do emotionally. And I think it's normal. I think it's healthy. I think there are stages of grief, and we should give full vent to them.
Do you remember, Mary and Martha, after their brother, Lazarus, died? They were both angry at Jesus. If you would have here, our brother wouldn't have died! Interesting that Jesus didn't rebuke them. He allowed that raw emotion, because He knew that's normal, and that's healthy. And they're going to get through it. They're going to come to faith eventually. They're going to get stronger because of this. He didn't rebuke them because of that.
But then, after 30 days, it's time to move on. It doesn't say, after 30 years. I've known people, my mother was one of them, who just never let go and allowed herself to be healed after my brother's death. Until years later, an aunt in our family saw the way that she took all of his pictures out, just so she wouldn't be reminded a him, sat her down, and gave her a long talking to of how to grieve properly, how to get through it, how to get over it, and how to honor Bob by putting his picture up, and living and walking through the grief, and letting those wounds heal up. It's one of the best things she ever did for our family, because my mom held on for so long, too long. It was detrimental to the other relationships.
"Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.
"But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all of his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel."
Now, as we close, if Moses did write his own obituary, it's interesting that he closed by writing this. "Since then there hasn't arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses."
Now, Moses was the meekest man on the earth. We know that, because he told us that. He wrote that, too. But I don't see that as pride. I just see that as fact. It's fact. And it's not pride if it's true. It's he's being known for who he is. That's the utmost of humility.
"And by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel."
Now, it is a custom in the synagogue, when the book of the Torah is finished-- and it is, we've done the first five books of Moses-- when any one of the books, but especially when all five of the books have concluded in the synagogue service, there's this little ritual that they recite together. So I thought it's only fitting that we do that. They all say-- and we won't do it in Hebrew. We'll do it in English. They would say publicly, "Be strong and encourage one another." "Be strong--" actually twice-- "Be strong, be strong, and encourage one another, or strengthen one another."
So let's say that together. Be strong, be strong, and encourage one another. Let's try that again. Be strong, be strong, and encourage one another. Now, let's go do that.
Thank You, Father, for your Word. Thank You for these 23 studies on this single book of Leviticus. Our hearts have been uplifted by Moses, who is called here the man of God. I pray, Father, that as our day is, our strength would be as well. Strengthen us for the rest of this evening. And then tomorrow, as our day is, may our strength follow. In Jesus' name. Amen.
If you've missed any of our Expound studies, all of our services and resources are available at expoundabq.org.