“Love: the Next Generation” – Deuteronomy 31:1-13

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

Deuteronomy 31:1-13

Love: The Next Generation

Call to Worship:  Selected Verses from Psalm 148

Aux. Text:  Titus 2:1-8


Service Orientation: Every church is one generation away from extinction. Unless believers actively engage in loving the next generation, we fail in furthering God’s agenda for those he loves.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14)


Background Information:

  • At this point we move finally to the “outer frame” of the book, composed of chapters 1-3 and 31-34. The links between the two sections are very clear, and they could be read together continuously. The common theme, especially at the “Join” (cf 3:21-28), is the commissioning of Joshua to lead the Israelites into the land, in view of the fact that Moses would not do so but would die outside it. However, whereas chapters 1-3 focus primarily on the past, chapters 31-34 shift to the future. Not just the immediate future is in mind, with the transfer of leadership and prospect of conquest, but the long-distance history of Israel is surveyed in the prophetic Song of Moses. This encapsulates a realistic and historically vindicated view of Israel’s unfaithfulness as well as a profound theology of God’s purposes through Israel in relation to the nations; this seals the missiological significance of the book and deeply influences Paul’s missionary theology and vision. (Christopher J.H. Wright, Understanding The Bible Commentary Series, Dt., 294)
  • Even at 120 years of age, Moses’ “eyes were not dim, nor his strength gone” (Deuteronomy 34:7). Yet he acknowledged, “I am no longer able to lead you”; in Hebrew, his words were, “I am no longer able to go out and come in.” He knew he couldn’t endure the exhausting demands of leadership anymore, especially the rugged military campaigns Israel would conduct in the near future. But the Lord’s refusal to let him lead Israel into the land wasn’t because of his advanced age; the Lord disqualified him from entering the land because of his sin at Kadesh (Numbers 20:1-13; Deuteronomy 1:37; 3:23-27; 4:21,22). (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Deuteronomy, 292)
  • 31:3-6. Israel’s fate, however, did not depend on Moses or any human leader. The Lord God himself would lead his people into the land and destroy the nations who lived there. During the period of the conquest Joshua would also be there to serve as their guide, as the Lord had already announced. (Doug McIntosh, Holman Old Testament Commentary, 350)
  • Essentially, at Meribah (Numbers 20:7-12), when Israel complained and cried out for water, Moses misrepresented God. He misrepresented God by lecturing the nation harshly and unnecessarily. Moses misrepresented God by acting as if God needed him to provide water for the people. And Moses both misrepresented and disobeyed God by angrily striking the rock twice, instead of just speaking to the rock as Godhad told him to. (David Guzik, Study Guide for Deuteronomy 31, blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Deu/Deu-31.cfm)
  • There is something wonderfully pathetic in this scene (v. 2). Moses, the great leader whose eye is yet undimmed, is laying down his mantleof leadership before Israel crosses the Jordan. The congregation of Israel could have become discouraged, but Moses here exhibits one ofthose competencies common to all super-leaders—empowerment. Notice how Moses first focuses his attention on the congregation,encouraging them as they face this leadership transition (w. 3-6). Then he turns to Joshua and also encourages him (w. 7-8). Good leadersinspire others by showing confidence in them; great leaders inspire others with confidence in themselves! (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’sCommentary, Dt., 304)


The question to be answered is…

What is Moses trying to accomplish here, and what is the significance for us?



Moses is working to prepare the Israelites for their next adventure; conquering the Promised Land and securing God’s blessings for generations to come.


The Word for the Day is… Next


So what’s next for the children of Israel and what are the implications?

  1. The Next adventure: Conquer the Promised Land (3-6)

(Gen. 24:7; 50:24; Ex. 3:17; 13:11; 17:14; 33:1; Dt. 3:28; Josh. 1:9)

Conquering Canaan wasn’t a self-chosen assignment. The task was already begun, some of the land already allotted. Taking the rest of the land under Joshua’s leadership not only would fulfill the second of the Lord’s three great promises to Abraham, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Genesis 15:18). It also would move God’s grand rescue plan a major step forward. It was from this people, living in this land, that the Savior would be born. We live on the other side of those promises! All the prophets, Peter said, “as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed'” (Acts 3:24,25). (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Deuteronomy, 294)


  1. The Next leader: Joshua (7-8)

(Ex. 17:14; 24:13; 11:28; 27:18; Deut. 1:38; 3:28; Joshua 1)


Transfer of leadership is a critical time for any community, sacred or secular. The Bible actually focuses on the issue quite frequently, and with characteristically consistent features (e.g., Samuel to Saul, David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to his disciples, and even Paul to Timothy). Even when Moses is at the helm, however, the true leader of the people is God. That reality does not change when Moses passes from the scene. Accordingly, the first point Moses makes in his transfer speech is to reassure the people that the LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of Israel into the land (v. 3a). Their survival and success depend on God’s leadership; their victories will be God’s (v. 4). They can face the future with boldness and courage founded on the perennial promise of God’s own presence (v. 6). (Christopher J.H. Wright, Understanding The Bible Commentary Series, Dt., 294)


  1. The Next objective: Love the coming generations enough to pass the torch onto them. (9-13)

(Deut. 5:10; 7:9; Ps. 33:11; 45:17; 71:18; 78:4; 79:13; 102:18; 145:4)


People sometimes want to leave behind a legacy when they retire, and they do various things to ensure that their legacy is remembered by succeeding generations. What a waste of precious time, energy, and resources! The legacy we must leave behind is a people who live to honor God. Building monuments to our memory and having plaques with our name on them will not do that! Teaching the people to be obedient to God will do that. So as Moses prepares to leave, he writes down the Law and gives it to the leaders: “Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel” (31:9). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching The Word: Deuteronomy, 632)



What might be next for you in light of today’s text?


  1. If you’re staring struggle in the face, remember that Jesus goes before you! (Joshua 1:9; Rom. 8:31-37; Eph. 6:12; Heb. 4:15)


Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. (Eddie Rickenbacker, Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, p. 12.)


Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.  (C.S. Lewis, quoted in The Unquiet Grave, pt. 3, Cyril Connolly (1944))


It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies; but a great deal more to stand up to your friends. (Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 306)


  1. Be open and ready for when God sends new leaders. Realize that ultimately, it’s God who raises up leaders to accomplish His will. (Is. 1:6; Rom. 13:1-7; 2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10; Heb. 13:7, 17)


Thomas Carlyle said, “Show me the man you honor and I will know what kind of man you are, for it shows me what your ideal of manhood is and what kind of a man you long to be.”


Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing.” Moses stands before the people he has led for forty years and puts his hand upon their next leader—a man they can trust, a man like himself. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt., 305)


Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be. (Thomas à Kempis)

III. Love the next generation enough to tell about, and demonstrate for them, the good news of Jesus. (Deut 4:9; 5:9; 6; 7:9; Ps. 33:11; 45:17; 78:4; 79:13; 102:18; 145:4; Mat. 18:3; 19:14; 28:18; Mark 9:37)


When interview participants from our study were asked why their church was effective with young people, only 1 in 10 mentioned having younger leaders. Further, when asked why they stay involved in their church, almost no one talked about how their leaders or their overall church is exclusively young. In fact, many of the teenagers and emerging adults interviewed wish they had more connection with those in older generations. (Kara Powell, Growing Young, 59)


Young people don’t just want to be saved from something later; they want to be saved for something now. (Kara Powell, Growing Young, 142)


How often do people expect to see in boys and girls the same solemnity of behavior which is seen in older people! It would be a good thing for us all if we had never left off being boys and girls, but had added to all the excellencies of a child the virtues of a man. (Charles Spurgeon, Come Ye Children, 8)


You do not thoroughly know any truth till you can put it before a child so that he can see it. (Charles Spurgeon, Come Ye Children: A Book for Parents and Teachers on the Christian Training, 43)


Worship Point:

Worship happens when God’s people become active in loving and pointing the next generation to Jesus.

(Ps. 22:31; 79:13; 119:9; 1 Tim. 5; Titus 2)


Let it be carefully remembered all this time, that God, not man, is the physician of souls; that it is He, and none else, who giveth medicine to heal our natural sickness; that all “the help which is done upon earth, he doeth it himself;” that none of all the children of men is able to “bring a clean thing out of an unclean;” and, in a word, that “it is God who worketh in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” But it is generally his pleasure to work by his creatures; to help man by man. He honours men to be, in a sense, “workers together with him.” By this means the reward is ours, while the glory redounds to him. (John Wesley, Sermon 95: On the Education of Children, www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/sermons.vi.xlii.html)


In studying churches growing young, we found that parents’ participation in church worship and programming correlates with more mature faith in young people. But that’s not all. According to pastoral leaders, when parents are intentional about faith building outside of church, overall faith maturity and vibrancy within the congregation rises even more. (Kara Powell, Growing Young, 204)


Gospel Application:

Jesus died so that we might be saved… Saved from sin, saved to have real life, and saved to pass on the good news of Jesus to others! This is great news!


The law cannot take you into the full blessings of God. Grace must do that. So the law could only bring them to the border of the land. Now it’s up to Joshua to take them in. And so, it’s typical of our lives: the law cannot bring you into that glorious rich life in the Spirit. It can only bring you to it, but by grace and faith we must enter in. (Chuck Smith, Commentary on Dt. 31,



Bringing the people into the Promised Land was God’s work. He was going to do it. But God almost always does His work through men and women who make themselves available to Him. (David Guzik, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/deuteronomy-31/)


Spiritual Challenge:

Make it a priority to love and invest in the next generation. As you do, remember you are planting seeds that will last for generations.


We discovered in our previous research that involvement in all-church worship during high school is more consistently linked with mature faith in both high school and college than any other form of church participation. (Kara Powell, Growing Young, 174)


“Train your child in the way in which you know you should have gone yourself” Charles Spurgeon


Quotes To Note _


Joshua, no doubt awed by the prospect of taking over from Moses, need have no anxiety, for the same original promises made to Moses himself—the presence of God with him to empower him to carry out his task—will rest on Joshua. This commissioning and encouragement of Joshua is given great emphasis by sheer repetition (cf. Num. 27:18-23; Deut. 1:38; 3:21, 28; 32:3, 7f., 14, 23; 34:9). It actually becomes the single event that most binds the Pentateuch to the historical books that follow, since the book of Joshua opens with yet another and still fuller account in direct divine speech to Joshua himself (Josh. 1:1-9). The key words in the commissioning are Be strong and courageous (v.7)—words that countless numbers of those called to leadership in God’s people have needed and heeded. These words are not merely for a psychological boost. They are based on two great truths. First, the people one is called to lead are those whose very existence proves the faithfulness of God (v. 7b). God has invested God’s word and name in the future of this people and so ultimate responsibility for them is God’s own—a fact Moses uses so effectively in his intercession (cf. 9:26-29). Secondly, the leader can count on the unfailing presence of God. What was covenantally true for the people (v. 6b) will be no less personally true for their leader (v. 8). (Christopher J.H. Wright,Understanding The Bible Commentary Series, Dt., 295)


Specifically, when we asked about church friendships, those who report more close friends at church also show higher faith maturity. (Kara Powell, Growing Young, 176)


Moses did not choose Joshua; God selected him to be the leader to succeed Moses. I doubt whether Moses would have chosen Joshua if the choice had been left to him. Actually, Caleb seems more impressive than Joshua, and it would seem more natural for him to be the new leader. Or, (after all, Moses is human) wouldn’t he have been apt to choose one of his own sons to succeed him? That was the way the Pharaohs did down in Egypt, and it would be natural for Moses to do the same thing. So God chose Joshua to lead them over the Jordan. Moses is no longer essential. That has a great lesson for us. It teaches us that none of us are essential to God’s program. God uses each man in his own time, but when the time of work for the man is finished, God’s work still goes on. (J. Vernon McGee, Through The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol 1, 605)


“I am afraid our sermons often go over the heads of the younger folk — who, nevertheless, may be as true Christians as the older ones. Blessed is he who can so speak as to be understood by a child!” (Charles Spurgeon, Come Ye Children, 5)


Biblical religion is a covenant faith. In everything we are bound to a covenant—primarily with God. Covenant relationships are a key feature of the culture of a Biblically patterned organization. Christians commit themselves to groups and to each other—not because of the leader but because of God and the mission. Likes and dislikes are not major factors influencing commitment. Sadly, today people join groups and churches with the attitude of consumers. If they like a group, its program, and its leaders, they stay with the group. The moment they think they are more “comfortable” in another group, they leave and join that group. When did comfort become a factor determining the obedience of Christians? Only when they moved away from a Biblical approach to life! (Ajith Fernando, Preaching The Word: Deuteronomy, 630)


Over 80 percent of the young people in the congregations we surveyed agree that their church involvement decreases their stress. Even though church activities and leadership often make young people busier, there’s a significant upside. Congregational involvement seems to lessen anxiety by reminding young people of what’s important and inviting them to step away from the chaos of their lives to refocus on loving God and others. (Kara Powell, Growing Young, 102)


The law is the light that reveals how dirty the room is, not the broom that sweeps it clean. (Dr. Phil Williams, DTS, 1976.)

When parishioners were asked why they attend their church, many talked about the qualities of their leaders. Of those who did so, only 13 percent focused on how their leaders are relevant, while 87 percent talked about authenticity or other qualities unrelated to relevance. (Kara Powell, Growing Young, 61)

The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you: Moses had led Israel for 40 years; he was the only leader most of these people had ever known. Yet the nation could be confident and Moses could go his way in peace because He knew God was with Israel. Israel, Moses, or Joshua did not have to be afraid. Instead, they could Be strong and of good courage, because the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.
(David Guzik, Study Guide for Deuteronomy 31 by David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Deu/Deu-31.cfm)

Bringing the people into the Promised Land was God’s work. He was going to do it. But God almost always does His work through men and women who make themselves available to Him.
(David Guzik, Study Guide for Deuteronomy 31 by David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Deu/Deu-31.cfm)

Joshua was the man; but the work was the LORD’s: He is the one who goes before you.
(David Guzik, Study Guide for Deuteronomy 31 by David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Deu/Deu-31.cfm)

The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them. (Frank A. Clark)

“If we never have headaches through rebuking our children, we shall have plenty of heartaches when they grow up.” (C.H. Spurgeon, The Sword and the trowel, 344)

After Moses and Joshua had passed off the scene and Israel was scattered throughout Canaan, the responsibility for the renewal of the commitment to the covenant would fall upon the priests, the sons of Levi, and upon the elders of Israel. They would have to reacquaint the people with the provisions of the law on a regular basis. The phrase this law often refers to the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament—but in this context it probably meant the covenant stipulations of Deuteronomy 5-26 (cp. 4:44-45; 29:21,29; 30:10; 32:46). (Doug McIntosh, Holman Old Testament Commentary, 350)

This passage is saturated with God and what he did and will do and with the task ahead, which is to enter the promised land.
• God is the one who has decreed that Moses will not go over the Jordan (31:2).
• God has given instructions (31:3, 5).
• He will destroy the nations (31:3, 4) as he did before (31:4).
• He will give the nations over to the people for them to destroy (31:5).
• He will go over with the people (31:6, 8). He will not leave or forsake them (31:6, 8). He himself goes before the people (31:3, 8).
• He has sworn to give the people the land (31:7).
(Ajith Fernando, Preaching The Word: Deuteronomy, 630)

Indeed, we are talking about leadership change. That, however, is never the main thing. Always in an organization, group, or church, God is the main factor with which we must reckon. Then there is the mission of the group, and here the mission is to possess the land. How sad that often when a leader leaves a group or a church many others also leave. The main features of the group do not change—God and the mission of the group. The style may change; the intimacy individuals have with the leader may change. But the most important things have not changed. So there is no need to leave. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching The Word: Deuteronomy, 630)

Leaders can use their authority to avoid getting involved in the battle. It is easy for leaders to become lazy and not do the things they should do, especially because most leaders are not minutely supervised. This is very dangerous. It takes away the motivation of the others. I often call pastors to care for their families without neglecting them because of the ministry. Sometimes laypeople in the audience say that their pastor is at home when he should be working, that his supposed commitment to the family has resulted in his not being committed to his job. This is another kind of laziness—we are called to the tiring task of both caring for our families and for our vocational responsibilities. Such laziness can also open the door to other sins. Not doing what they should be doing, they may end up doing what they should not be doing. This is what happened to David. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle” (2 Samuel 11:1), he stayed home and fell into sin with Bathsheba. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching The Word: Deuteronomy, 631)

Essentially, at Meribah (Numbers 20:7-12), when Israel complained and cried out for water, Moses misrepresented God. He misrepresented God by lecturing the nation harshly and unnecessarily. Moses misrepresented God by acting as if God needed him to provide water for the people. And Moses both misrepresented and disobeyed God by angrily striking the rock twice, instead of just speaking to the rock as God had told him to.
iv. This may seem an excessively harsh punishment for Moses; after all, with only one slip-up, he now must die short of the Promised Land? But Moses was being judged by a stricter standard because of his leadership position with the nation, and because he had a uniquely close relationship with God. It is right for teachers and leaders to be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1); though it is unrighteous to hold teachers and leaders to a perfect standard. It is true the people’s conduct was worse than Moses’ but it is irrelevant.

v. Worst of all, Moses defaced a beautiful picture of Jesus’ redemptive work through the rock which provided water in the wilderness. The New Testament makes it clear this water-providing, life-giving rock was a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus, being struck once, provided life for all who would drink of Him (John 7:37). But was unnecessary – and unrighteous – that Jesus would be struck again, much less again twice, because the Son of God needed only to suffer once (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus can now be come to with words of faith (Romans 10:8-10), as Moses should have only used words of faith to bring life-giving water to the nation of Israel. Moses “ruined” this picture of the work of Jesus God intended.

(David Guzik, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/deuteronomy-31/)

The first we know of a public reading of the law is in Joshua 8:30. The next we hear of it is during the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:7), more than 500 years later. Then, in the reign of Josiah there was another public reading of the law (2 Chronicles 34:30), more than 250 years after Jehoshaphat. Of course, there might have been public readings of the law as commanded here which are not recorded; but the fact that some are recorded probably means they were unusual, not typical. With this kind of neglect of God’s word, no wonder Israel was so often in trouble!
(David Guzik, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/deuteronomy-31/)

From “Wesley’s Explanatory Notes”…
31:1 Went and spake – Continued to speak, an usual Hebrew phrase.
31:2 Go out and come in – Perform the office of a leader or governor, because the time of my death approaches.
31:9 This law – Largely so called, the whole law or doctrine delivered unto Moses contained in these five books. To the priests – That they might keep it carefully and religiously, and bring it forth upon occasion, and read it, and instruct the people out of it. The elders – Who were assistants to the priests, to take care that the law should be kept, and read, and observed.
31:10 The year of release – When they were freed from debts and troubles, and cares of worldly matters, and thereby fitter to attend on God and his service.
31:11 Thou shalt read – Thou shalt cause it to be read by the priest or Levites; for he could not read it himself in the hearing of all Israel, but this was to be done by several persons, and so the people met in several congregations.
31:12 Together – Not in one place. But into divers assemblies or synagogues. Women who hereby are required to go to Jerusalem at this solemnity, as they were permitted to do in other solemnities.Children – Such of them as could understand, as appears from Nehemiah 8:2 ,3, the pious Jews doubtless read it daily in their houses, and Moses of old time was read in the synagogues every sabbath day. But once in seven years, the law was thus to be read in public, to magnify it and make it honourable.

“It is a poor thing to fear that which is inevitable.” (Tertullian, third-century church father, speaking of death.)

Max DePree gets to the heart of things with this succinct formulation: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” Leaders need to have a good picture of what is really going on around them. And they need to help others take an honest look at this reality.” (Richard J. Mouw, Uncommon Decency, 117)

Leadership is the ability to put the plans into practice, and to accomplish the specified objectives through the skillful management of people, time, and tangible resources. A good leader is one who is able to motivate people; one who is capable of making good decisions, even under pressure or in conditions of uncertainty; one who can guide people through actions as well as words. (George Barna, How to Find Your Church, pp. 104-105)

A leader is a person with a magnet in his heart and a compass in his head. (Vance Hainer.)

Wherever anything is to be done, either in the Church or in the world, you may depend upon it, it is done by one man. The whole history of the Church, from the earliest ages, teaches the same lesson. A Moses, a Gideon, an Isaiah, and a Paul are from time to time raised up to do an appointed work; and when they pass away, their work appears to cease. Nor is it given to everyone, as it was to Moses, to see the Joshua who is destined to carry on his work to completion. God can raise up a successor to each man, but the man himself is not to worry about that matter, or he may do harm. One great object of every religious teacher should be to prevent the creation of external appliances to make his teaching appear to live when it is dead. (Charles Spurgeon, in Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, W. Wiersbe, p. 223.)

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 53)

Legalism is nothing but a leader’s way of avoiding suffering. (Gene Edwards, A Tale of Three Kings, 47)

“We commit ourselves to value and nurture children,

guiding them to faith in Christ;”

(Free Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶159)

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