“Love’s Identification” – Deuteronomy 1:37-40

January 29th, 2017

Deuteronomy 1:37-40

“Love’s Identification”

Call to Worship: Selected verses from Psalm  106

Aux. text: 1 Corinthians 5:1-11

Service Orientation:  God loves and disciplines us because our actions affect more than just us.  Who we are, what we do and do not do affects everyone around us.  For our own good and the good of the world, we must love as Jesus loves.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. — 1 John 2:15-16


Background Information:

(v. 37) He blames the Israelites that he is unable to enter the Promised Land with Caleb and Joshua.  The statement is remarkable on several counts.  (1) Far from associating Moses with the rebellion of the people, in the narratives of Numbers 13-14 Yahweh offered to start over with Moses and to have his descendants replace Israel as his covenant people (Nm 14:12).  (2) The reasons given for God’s refusing Moses entrance into the Promised Land in the earlier narratives relate to an entirely different incident–his failure to treat Yahweh as holy by striking the rock rather than speaking to it at Meribah (Nm 20:2-13; cf. Dt 32:48-52).  With this act of faithlessness, Moses personally disqualified himself from achieving the prize.  How then could he blame the Israelites for his failure to enter the land?  The answer is actually simple.  If the Israelites had trusted Yahweh at Kadesh Barnea and entered the land at his command, the event recorded in Numbers 20 would never have occurred.  However, since the people’s faithlessness precipitated a series of unfortunate events, including Meribah, in a sense Moses was right.  However, as we will learn from Dt 3:23-26, Yahweh will not listen to such arguments.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 73-4)

  • (v. 39) The parents had used their children as an excuse to rebel against the Lord’s command. It is ironic that the little ones, who were weak, would be able to conquer and possess the land, while those who were strong would not.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 50-1)
  • (v. 39) The fear that the people’s children will become a prey in the wilderness is expressed in Nm 14:3 and in Nm 14:31, where Yahweh says what he says here, that they are the ones who will be brought in. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 182)
  • (v. 40) In verse 40 Yahweh called for a literal and figurative turning point in Israel’s history. He commanded the people to retrace their steps back to the desert and set their sights on the Red Sea.  In one stroke the exodus was annulled and the nation’s history reversed.  Those whom Yahweh had brought out of Egypt were rejected as heirs of the promise to the fathers.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 74)


The question to be answered is . . . Why does God direct Moses to include these 4 seemingly irrelevant verses?


Answer:  I believe God is wanting us to realize the more we love something, the more influence it has on us.  Be careful what you love.



The current of society always moves in the direction of conformity. (Andy Stanley; Visioneering; 210)


The Word for the Day is . . . Influence


What is God teaching us here?:

I-  Love identifies with the beloved so they prosper and suffer together.  (Dt 1:37, 40; see also: Rom 12:3-21; 1 Cor 1:10; chps 12-14; Gal 5:13; Heb 3:12; 10:24-25)


“Edwards saw a whole town gripped by Isaiah’s vision during the Great Awakening—a simultaneous awareness of the glory of God and the identity and seriousness of sins—and he saw the town purged as a result.  In every subsequent awakening, deep conviction of sin has worked upon large numbers of people, resulting in broad changes in society.   When great numbers of Christians straighten out crooked patterns of living, and start making a prophetic and evangelistic appeal to those around them, a culture can be shaken to its foundations.”  (Richard Lovelace, Renewal as a Way of Life,  71)


The increasing presence of the entertainment media over the course of the twentieth century has reconfigured our social arrangement and has redefined the roles of other institutions as a result.  At the beginning of the century, when motion pictures were born, the most influential nurturing institution in American life was the family, followed by the church, school and finally the media; today the order is almost completely reversed.  Aspects of marriage, family and church were slow to adapt to the changes that occurred in the transition from a rural, agricultural setting to an urban, industrial one.  With the need for more extensive education in our technological society, schools have replaced families as the primary source of education.  Also, the entertainment industry became a significant social institution, not only filling leisure time but also, as the Payne Studies showed, serving as a “quasi-educational institution.”  (William D. Romanowski; Pop Culture Wars, 317)


Principle:  Leaders are ultimately responsible for the decisions of their people.  Moses’ identification with his people meant that he also accepted with them the penalty for their failure to obey.  This incident took place before the time when Moses presumptuously struck the rock with his rod and was told he would not enter the Promised Land (Nm 20:10-12).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 50)


According to Nm 20:2-13; 27:12-14, Moses (and Aaron) were denied entrance into the promised land because of their sin at Meribah, where they did not render Yahweh as holy in the eyes of the people (cf. Dt 32:50-52).  This incident happened years later (Driver: 37 years).  But here–as elsewhere in Deuteronomy–Moses is punished because of the people’s sin (3:26; 4:21-22).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 181)


By using the expression “for your sakes,” Moses did not wish to free himself from guilt.  Even in this book his sin at the water of strife is not passed over in silence (cf. 32:51).  But on the present occasion, if he had given prominence to his own fault, he would have weakened the object for which he referred to this event, viz. to stimulate the consciences of the people, and instill into them a wholesome dread of sin, by holding up before them the magnitude of their guilt.  But in order that he might give no encouragement to false security respecting their own sin, on the ground that even highly gifted men of God fall into sin as well, Moses simply pointed out the fact, that the quarreling of the people with him occasioned the wrath of God to fall upon him also.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 289-90)


The idea, therefore, is, that it is the nature of evil to diffuse itself.  This is true with regard to individuals and communities.  A single sin, however secret, when indulged, diffuses its corrupting influence over the whole soul; it depraves the conscience; it alienates from God; it strengthens all other principles of evil, while it destroys the efficacy of the means of grace and the disposition to use them.  It is no less true of any community, that any one tolerated evil deteriorates its whole moral sense.  (Charles Hodge; Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 86)


We cannot live only for ourselves.  A thousand fibers connect us with our fellowmen; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.  —Herman Melville


No man is an island, entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of they friends or of thine own were;

any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.   -John Donne


II-  We should love our leaders enough to encourage them to be who God has called them to be.  As the leader goes so go the people.  (Dt 1:38; see also: Jer 23; Ez 3:17-18; ch 34; Heb 13:17)


The leaders stay with the congregation, are vigilant in caring for the members, nurture them spiritually, ward off deceitful attacks, and administer discipline when necessary.  Writes John Calvin, “The heavier the burden they bear, the more honor they deserve; for the more labor any one undertakes for our sake, and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to him.”  These leaders are accountable to God, for he is their overseer.  That is not to say that members are not held accountable.  Certainly they are.  They, too, are told to work together harmoniously so that the task of the leader is a joy and not a burden. (William Henriksen and Simon Kistemaker; NT Commentary:  Hebrews, 426)


They received the Lord’s blessing by obeying the leaders God has given them.  If they all respond favorably the work of their leaders becomes increasingly joyful.

When the members refuse to obey and fail to respect their leaders, the work in the church becomes burdensome.  The members ought to realize that neither they nor the leaders own the church. The church belongs to Jesus Christ, to whom the readers are responsible.  Should they make the work and life of the leaders difficult, they would be the losers.  (William Henriksen and Simon Kistemaker; NT Commentary:  Hebrews, 426-7)


While human politics is based on the premise that society must be changed in order to change people, in the politics of the Kingdom it is people who must be changed in order to change society.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 140)


When Paul lists qualifications for leadership in the Pastoral Epistles he says that “an overseer must be . . . self-controlled” (1 Tm 3:2) and that “an overseer . . . must not be . . . quick tempered . . . but . . . self-controlled” (Ti 1:7,8).  Sometimes our eruptions cause us to lose credibility with those we lead.  It also causes nervous and inexperienced younger colleagues to panic because our behavior suggest that God is not in control of the situation.  Leaders have to control their anger and vent it only when it is appropriate to do so.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 78)


Most of us instinctively turn to government to solve our social problems.  It’s a habit reinforced from the time we’re young.

Listen to these quotations from the teachers’ edition of a fifth-grade social studies textbook.  “Today, when people lose their jobs,” the textbook says, “they can get some money from the government.”  A few pages later the book says, “Today, families who do not have enough money for food can get money from the government.”  A few pages later we read, “Today families who cannot afford to pay their rent can get help from the government.”

The message is obvious:  Government is the solution to every social need.

Here’s a remarkable quotation that sums it all up.  Explaining why the national government has grown so large, a junior-high civics textbook says that over time, “people were no longer content to live as their forefather had lived.  They wanted richer, fuller lives.  They wanted the government to help make their lives rich and full.”  

This goes far beyond the traditional philosophy of limited government, in which the state is given only certain specified tasks, such as operating a police force and regulating traffic.  And it shows that Americans have fallen prey to what political writer Jacques Ellul calls “the political illusion”:  the idea that government is actually capable of creating the good life, the good society.

This is nothing short of idolatry, treating the state as a god.

But like all idols, the state inevitably disappoints those who worship at its shrine.  A government that can’t even manage the simple accounting task of balancing its budget is certainly not capable of making people’s lives “rich and full”–not by turning to government but by turning to God.  The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will rule in human hearts for eternity.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 125-6)


III-  Be careful what you love.  (Mt 22:37-38; 1 Cor 15:33; Jam 4:4; 1 Pt 2:11; 1 Jn chpts 3-5)


The Book of Deuteronomy is going to constantly warn about where your affections lie and using caution and wisdom in what you allow around you to influence you.


  1. Moses momentarily failed to love God.  (Dt 1:37)


Moses had to bear the responsibility for his action even though it was their sin that prompted it.  The event is described in Nm 20:10-13.  God asked him to speak to a rock to yield water when the people were grumbling for lack of water.  But Moses struck it twice instead.  A summary of what happened in Ps 106:32, 33 suggests that he also used rash words at the same time:  “They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 77)


Moses’ impatience with God in this story would surely be overcome if he had more faith in God’s power and wisdom to turn all things for the good of his people.  God has promised again and again in the Bible to do just that (2 Chr 16:9; Ps 23:6; 84:11; Jer 32:40-41; Isa 64:4; Rom 8:28, 32; 1 Cor 3:22-23).  In fact, the only thing misleading in this legend is the comment put in the mouth of God that, “For once and only once, I will give you an explanation.”  The fact is, God has given us explanations like this repeatedly in the Bible with enough illustrations to fill a book.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 174-5)


Only ten months before this, Moses made a tragic error in front of this new generation.  The Lord commanded him to speak to the rock at Kadesh Barnea, and it would pour out water.  Instead, Moses called this new generation of Israelites “rebels” and stuck the rock twice in anger.  The Lord wanted Moses to give this new generation a demonstration of his gracious power that he would exercise for them.  To put it another way, the Lord wanted Moses to speak gospel to them.  But Moses lost his temper, and his angry behavior disclosed the wrong message—law instead of gospel.  The Lord told Moses, “Because you did not trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Numbers 20:1-12). (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 28-29)


B-  Joshua (and Caleb) faithfully loved and trusted God.            (Dt 1:38)


     C-  The Israelites did not faithfully love nor trust           God. (Dt 1:40; see also: nearly every prophetic chapter from Isaiah 1 thru               Malachi 4; 1 Jn 4:5)


The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it. George Orwell


Abortions, “mercy killing,” using a woman or child to gratify sexual needs, active homosexuality—these are hardly new tendencies.  What is new is that in Western Judeo-Christian culture none of these things were considered acceptable behavior until we convinced ourselves that we are qualitatively no different from a community of overachieving amoebas.  Slowly society has been conditioned, and is continuing to be conditioned, to tolerate, accept, and even value such “modernity.” …Underneath its scientific facade, the doctrines of the evolutionary world view demand that the strong survive, the weak must move aside, and that ultimately none of it matters much.  (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 122)


We have misplaced our values as a society.

In 1999, Princeton University selected Peter Singer, a world renown animal rights activist from Australia, to serve as the chair of bioethics at its Center for Human Values.  Singer has been teaching at the university ever since.  According to a New York Times article, “To Singer, a newborn has no greater right to life than any other being of comparable rationality and capacity for emotion, including pigs, cows, and dogs.”  Singer claims, ‘Some members of our species are persons; some members of our species are not.”  Peter Singer wants to determine which is which.  He has gone so far as to suggest a 28-day trial period in which parents can decide whether or not their baby deserves to live.  George McKenna of City College, New York made this statement, “Princeton has declared as legitimate, as academically respectable, a line of reasoning that could culminate in a moral catastrophe.”  Singer has defined a wide range of “living human beings whose lives may be intentionally terminated.”  That list includes the newborn and the handicapped, the elderly and the infirm and, of course, the unborn.  Yet, Singer is passionate about defending the rights of animals.  Today, Peter Singer continues to advance his corrupt agenda, by suggesting that it is perfectly moral for humans to crossbreed with animals.

The president and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said, “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”

The president of an animal rights group called United Poultry Concerns was quoted as saying it is “speciest to think that the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was a greater tragedy than what millions of chickens endured that day and what they endure every day because they cannot defend themselves against the concerted human appetites arrayed against them.”

Joseph Farah, writing for WorldNetDaily, reported, “The latest issue of Animal Times, the quarterly publication of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, announces the group’s grants to companies developing human embryo testing as one of the alternatives to the use of rats and other beasts in product safety tests.”

In Michigan, Senate Bill 605 was designed to punish people who abused or killed animals by charging them with a felony, giving them a jail term and a steep fine.  A supporter of the bill said, “We need to protect those in our society who cannot protect themselves.  We need to protect those in our society who cannot speak for themselves.”  (Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! But what about the babies…, a Right to Life of Michigan publication May 2002)


Worship Point:  We tend to become like what we love.  We were created in God’s image.  We find our rest, peace and joy when we are living in harmony with our design.  Worship the God of the universe who is encouraging us to live in harmony with our design.  (Psa 115:8; 135:18; Mt 11:28)


In the end; we will conserve what we love, we will love what we understand, and we will understand what we have been taught.  —Baba Dioun


“Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord.”  —St. Augustine


There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.  —Blaise Pascal


Gospel Application:  Jesus vicariously suffered for us so we would not have to suffer.  Jesus vicariously lived a perfect life for us so by our being “In Christ” we can begin to enjoy all of the benefits of a perfect obedience and love of God.


The statement in vs. 37 does not refer to this or any one single incident.  It is rather an interpretation of the figure of Moses in a very different and more profound manner.  He was unable to enter Canaan because he bore the divine “wrath” in Israel’s behalf, i.e., the denial of his dream was a vicarious burden laid upon him, not because of his own but on account of his people’s sin (cf. 3:26; 4:21).  The idea here is undeveloped, but it contains the germ of the central conceptions in the figure of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 and in the atoning office of Christ.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol II, 339-40)


Brichto (1963, 158-9) notes, too, Yahweh’s unusual action in penalizing Moses for the people’s action, but cites Gn 3:17 as another example of “vicarious penalization” in the OT.  One might add even more strikingly the “suffering servant” figure of Isaiah 53, which Christians see as having been fulfilled in the atoning death of Jesus Christ (G. E. Wright; Moran).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 181)


Spiritual Challenge:  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  (Prv 4:23)


Each of us has a life view.  For most of us, our life view results more from where we were born, who our parents were, and what schools we attended than a careful examination of issues.  Yet our life view influences every thought we have, every word we speak, and every action we take.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 38)


Watching political commercials is hazardous to the intellectual health of the community.”  (Neil Postman).  Indeed, he warns, “the television commercial has mounted the most serious assault on capitalist ideology since the publication of Das Kapital.”  (Os Guinness; Fit Bodies Fat Minds, 133)


“What you do influences who you are and how you feel about yourself.  By changing what you do, you change who you are.”   (Steve Brown; Living Free, 149)


There should be no direct one-to-one relationships in the body of Christ.  All relationships are “in and through” the person of Jesus Christ.  The Christian community is like a bicycle wheel.  Jesus is the hub, and we are the spokes.  The closer we are drawn into the “hub,” losing ourselves in Christ Jesus, the closer we are automatically drawn to one another.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem by, 201)


You don’t think TV has a powerful influence on your life?  Then why do advertisers pay 5 Million for 30 seconds to advertise on the 2017 Super bowl?


So What?:  Our hearts and our minds end up being jerked back and forth all over the place because of our unsettled affections.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and find rest, peace and joy.  (Ps 115:8; 135:18; Mt 6:24; 22:37; Jam 4:4; 1 Jn 2:15)


Until you can confidently state your values, every philosophy, every behavior and every desire known to humankind is a potential substitute.  Your values become the filter through which you determine right from wrong, value from worthlessness and importance from insignificance.  If you do not specifically identify your values, they will be defined for you by the whims and influences of the world.  (George Barna; Turning Vision, 91)


We live in a society that luxuriates in the therapeutic and the exculpatory, condemns judgment as authoritarian, dismisses acknowledgment of sin as an assault on self-worth, and resists discernment of spirits as the imposition of arbitrary standards.  The devastating consequence of these societal shortcomings is the perennial gnostic retreat from personal responsibility.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 170)


“Abiding in Christ means staying in touch with other parts of his body (Jn 15:7).  Being in community with members of the body of Christ is essential to spiritual renewal.”  (Richard Lovelace; Renewal as a Way of Life, 161)


“Addiction” might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates contemporary society.  Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love.  These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs.  As long as we live within the world’s delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in “the distant country.”  (Henri J. M. Nouwen; The Return of the Prodigal Son: a Story of Homecoming, 42-3)


The cultural environment for a human holocaust is present whenever any society can be misled into defining individuals as less than human and therefore devoid of value and respect.  —William Brennan  (Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 29)


The moral measure of a society, the Torah constantly implies, can be gauged by how it treats its weakest members.  (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, 503)


“Our influence on others for good depends greatly on what they see in us.  The children of the world measure Christianity quite as much by their eyes as by their ears.  The Christian who is  always at a standstill, to all appearances the same man, with the same little faults and weaknesses and besetting sins and petty infirmities, is seldom the Christian who does much good.   The man who shakes and stirs the minds, and sets the world thinking, is the believer who is continually improving and going forward.  Men think there is life and reality when they see growth.” (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, 84-5)


When people observe perseverance, endurance, and courage, their moral fiber is reinforced.  Conversely, your choice to bow out of life can and does weaken the moral resolve of that same society.  (Joni Eareckson Tada; When Is It Right To Die?, 71)


Your self-determination to die has strings attached if it adversely affects the rights of others.  That’s why more than half the states in our country have laws against aiding a person in suicide.  Think it through:  If everybody ended their lives as a solution to problems, the very fabric of our society would ultimately unravel, and with it all the other individual rights you enjoy.  (Joni Eareckson Tada; When Is It Right To Die?, 72)







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