No Empty Word - by Richard Neufeld
Deuteronomy 32-34 marks the end of the Torah and also the death of Moses. Chapter 32 is the Song of Moses, 43 verses in which he exhorts Israel to listen to God and remember all He has done for them. Moses outlines the general Exodus story and gives insight into the character of God, ending with the charge all creation to worship Him. After this, Moses’ death is foretold, and he goes on to give a final blessing, naming almost all twelve of the tribes as he speaks. Chapter 34, the last chapter of the Torah, tells of Moses walking off to see the promised land from afar and, still in the prime of his health, died. The torch is then passed to Joshua who has the Spirit of wisdom upon him after Moses had laid his hands upon him.
The entire song of Moses can be summed up in one short verse, Deuteronomy 32:47: “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” He says this in reference to all the blessings, all the laws, all the commandments, the warnings and the curses given Israel thus far, and you can almost hear the urgency in his voice as he drives home that what they have learned following the Lord out of Egypt is not merely bureaucracy, but life itself. To tend these commandments is more than a hobby or a lifestyle, it is the foundation of their very existence.
They were to take this God seriously and listen to that which He had commanded. They were to wait on God to bring the Law and the Prophets to fulfillment in the Son of God, who said in John 8:12 “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Moses had completed the work his Lord would have him do – he had walked with God and met Him face to face. He was a friend of God and a light to the people, a familiar face who had been with them through so much, and then they had to watch as he walked off to die.
He did not give in to self pity but urged his fellow brothers and sisters to heed the commandments they had been given and to take it to heart – to actually live like they were God’s chosen people!
We have, as of today, finished the Torah. This is no small feat! By now we have seen God’s story from the beginning of creation to the bringing of the Israelites to the cusp of the promised land. We’ve seen the fall of mankind, the earth wash away in a flood, plagues in Egypt, incredible signs and wonders, the giving of the Law, and learned so much about who this God is and how we can be close to Him.
We need to remember that the very God that split the Red Sea and won battle after battle for His people is alive and active and with you this very day and He has not changed. It is by reading His word and meditating on Him that we are changed – for it is no empty word for you, but your very life!
Do we take Him seriously yet? Have we noticed any areas in which He is asking to take over? Are there changes that need to be made? Remember, however hard it might be to rid ourselves of sin, His Spirit and presence and pleasure are worth more than anything this world has to offer.
After reading the Torah, what have you learned about the nature of God? How does this impact your being, and what can we do in our hearts, minds, and lives to give Him more space to work?
Lord, we thank you so much for bringing us through this crazy rough year and for reading the Bible in one year together as a church. We praise you for the mighty things you have done and the way you’ve carefully tended your people over hundreds and thousands of years. Please show us how we can be more like your Son, how we can make ourselves less and you more. We love you, we worship you, and we thank you. Amen!
Song: The Gates, Young Oceans
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.