I’m going to confess something here. Don’t get your hopes up for anything too juicy… I’m confessing while guessing everyone who reads this will relate to some degree. Here goes: I have watched more news in the past two months than the last two years (decades?). Easily.
Until COVID-19 came barreling into the headlines, I had a very strict diet of curated news – only the good stuff and in moderation. However, since everything (and I do mean everything) came to a screeching halt, I’ve become a binging news junkie. I pretty much know the governor of each state, whether it is a blue or red state and their projected shelter-in-place end date. I know mayors of cities and county judges like I’m cramming for a public servant bee. I watch the President’s address to the nation most days – usually while making dinner.
On one hand, the news consumption gives me a sense of security as it keeps me up-to-the-minute on ever-changing mandates and orders. On the other hand, ingesting this much news has my emotional state fluctuating like an EKG – up, down, up, down – in a small matter of time. This is not only bad for my emotional well-being; it can take my eyes off of Who is really in control – regardless of who’s handing down mandates.
Thankfully, the news is not the only information I’ve been ingesting during the quarantine. For the past month, I’ve been reading the book of Deuteronomy. Little did I know, this book about the law would be so perfect for our current situation and my emotional state.
Deuteronomy covers the tail end of the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert. The book marks the end of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses). It’s Moses’ final sermon to the people he led out of slavery in Egypt to the land God promised to give them. Moses knew he wouldn’t get to enter into the promised land with them, so he spoke his last words to the Israelites like a father on his deathbed to his children.
In Deuteronomy, we find Moses and the Israelites camped in Moab, just across the Jordan from the promised land. Moses wanted to remind them what they had been through, what would be expected of them in this new land and reiterate that God had carried them every step of the way for the past four decades. Admittedly, Deuteronomy can be cumbersome and dry with the laws, statues and consequences. But as I read each day, I noticed a refrain that caught my eye – and my heart.
The common refrain is a variance of, “…the land the Lord is giving you” (emphasis mine). It seemed to be on every page. Reading Deuteronomy chapter by chapter allowed me to plainly see this repetition and that Moses clearly wanted to communicate that the Israelites were not taking a gamble walking into their new land – it had already been given to them. They needed only do what the Lord told them to do. Every enemy would fall at their feet. Every battle was already won. The Lord had claimed the land for them.
Moses reminded them nearly 60 times in his final sermon that the Lord was giving them the land. If your pastor or Bible study leader repeats a phrase 60 times in one teaching, that’s something he or she wants you to know and take hold of in your life. While Deuteronomy is known for being a book of law, statutes and ordinances, it also deserves the reputation of being a book that offers security to an insecure people. Here are just a few of the passages including the refrain:
“…you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you….” (4:40)
“Go up and possess the land I have given you.” (9:23)
“Appoint judges and officials for your tribes in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you.” (16:18)
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you….” (18:9)
“When the Lord your God annihilates the nations whose land he is giving you….” (19:1)
“…set apart three cities for yourselves within the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” (19:2)
“…in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.” (19:10)
“When the Lord your God hands it over to you….” (20:13)
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance….” (26:1)
And it’s no wonder Moses repeated this phrase almost 60 times. Anytime things got dicey or the Israelites couldn’t see exactly what God was doing, they either wanted to hightail it back to slavery in Egypt, build idols to worship or complain (or a combination of the three). They had to be reminded constantly with Whom they were dealing. They had to be reminded as they camped on the border of the promised land that the Lord had already given it to them. They only needed to walk in VICTORY and take it.
Deuteronomy is full of directives, but it’s the repeated comforting phrase that serves as a security blanket to the Israelites. Even though they saw God part the Red Sea, drown an army of their enemies, bring forth water from a rock and rain down food from Heaven, the Israelites still had trouble trusting God with their next step forward. Who can relate?
In my own life I have seen Him carry me through crises, make a way where there seems to be no way, rain down miracles like donuts from Heaven and display vivid evidence that He’ll never leave or forsake me. In this chaotic time, we are aching for security. Perhaps that’s why Moses’ words of “…the land the Lord is giving you…” jumped off the page each day of the past month. Moses was assuring the Israelites that God had already gone before them, He knew what they would face, and they need only walk forward with Him. All other circumstances, fears and what if’s bow at His feet.
And so it is today.
Jesus told us plainly this world would be filled with trouble, but that He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We, too, can walk in these uncertain days certain of the One who controls everything. Even as the headlines tempt us with defeat, we can walk in VICTORY into the future the Lord has already secured for us.
Dear Lord, remind us often that You have gone before us and it is not up to us to know every detail of what lies ahead (nor can we). You are on Your throne and none of this chaos is a surprise to You. Lord, may we forever give You thanks for what You have done and for what You’re going to do. We love You and we trust You. Thank You for all You’ve given us and for what You want to give us now. We know the answer to what You want for us begins and ends with Yourself. May we seek and receive You gladly. Amen.