Deuteronomy 1: ‘
Where are we headed
As I write this from my home in England, we have been in lockdown for three months. During this time, we’ve had to adjust to a new and very different way of life. My husband and I have both been working from home, our 6- and 7-year-olds have been home schooling (some days anyway), and we’ve been getting used to long queues to buy food and learning a new routine, which includes a daily walk. This is not what any of us would have wanted and it has not been easy. Just as the Israelites grumbled in the desert as they remembered Egypt, it has been hard not to long for the way life used to be.
We are now at a point where things are slowly opening up and our lives are adjusting once again to another new routine. Life won’t go back to the way it was; there are people that we have lost and new practices that are now becoming part of our new normal. Also, even though it has been exhausting, I have loved seeing my children enjoying new things, learning how to bake and ride a bike, enjoying gardening, learning the names of birds and flowers, and setting up a wildlife pond in the back garden. I don’t want to rush back to what was and end up losing what we’ve gained. As we begin this study in Deuteronomy, we encounter Moses drawing the people of God together. He speaks passionately because he knows that their lives are about to change again and he wants to make sure that as they enter into this new land, they remember the God who saved them.
Read Deuteronomy 1:1
The Israelites had been travelling through the desert for many years. They had been given the law, they had developed their patterns of worship, and created systems of community and governance. Moses knows that things are going to be very different for the people of God in the new land. They will change from a nomadic people, travelling from place to place being led by God, to a settled people, building homes and villages. The way they worship will change as they move from the Tabernacle that moves around with them to the settled Temple. They will also encounter the religious practices of those already in the land and he knows that this will tempt them away from worshiping the one true God.
Moses implores them through the book in an impassioned speech to remember all that God has done for them and to commit to live their lives to God as they live in a new way.
Despite all that they had been through and all that God had done for them, they nearly fall at the first hurdle. They had a choice to make: do they listen to those saying, ‘Look at this good land that the Lord is giving to us’ or do they listen to those voices saying, ‘It’s too difficult, they’re too big, we can’t do this’?
They end up doing what is a fundamental urge in all of us when things are going wrong: they blame someone else. ‘Well maybe I would have gone in to the land, but when they came back they told us it was too scary, so now we don’t want to. It’s all their fault.' Moses reminds them of God’s love and gives them an incredibly tender picture of God carrying his people as one would carry a child.
When what we’re facing seems so big or complicated, it can be difficult to remember all that God has already done for us. As we’ll see through these reflections in Deuteronomy over the next number of weeks, it is the
of redemption that is critical for the people to remember and to continue to tell to one another. It is their story that shapes them as a community;
are the ones who God rescued from slavery and is bringing to a new land. If they can remember their story then they can do anything with God, but if they can’t remember then their eyes move to other things: to idols, to other people, to those things that are intimidating and fearful.
Questions for Reflection
- Have you ever had the experience of leaving a place or situation that is familiar and needing to go somewhere new and different? How did that feel? Did that help you feel closer to God or did it make you angry or frustrated?
- To what extent might life post-lockdown feel like a ‘new land?’ Is there anything in these passages that might help you prepare for what’s to come?
- Are there times when you’ve found it difficult to trust in God? What helped you in that time? Was there something that wasn’t helping you?
- God told Moses that he would not enter the Promised Land. He had worked so hard to get the people to this point, but would not be going in. Have you ever had to put your energy into something that you wouldn’t see to completion? What was this like?
- Is there something new that God has been saying or revealing to you over the last few months? How are you going to hold on to that as things gradually change?
A Prayer for this Week
Heavenly Father, we know and can trust that You call and carry us. Help us to face the future knowing that You are with us every step, help us to have confidence to keep our eyes fixed on You and not be pulled aside by those who might say that the new land is too difficult or too complex. Give us the courage we need to hold on to the good things and the promise that You are giving us. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Jenny Corcoran
Chaplain to the Bishops of Canterbury