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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Who is like God: A Deuteronomy 33 Devotional

                                                          Focus verses: Deuteronomy 33:2-5 & 26-29

When studying Deuteronomy 33, it is easy to get consumed by studying the blessing of the tribes of Israel by Moses. Yet when we step back and look at the scope of the chapter not just the minutiae, we find the chapter begins and ends with statements about God. When writing a letter, memo, report, or essay, what one says first and last are what is most important. The middle parts of these reports are carried by the thematic opening and conclusion.

We need to understand that in this chapter of Deuteronomy 33, too. It should not be read and studied to understand the blessings by Moses – what they were, did they fit the tribe, were they accurate based on the tribes’ history. What we must see is God is the One from whom all blessings come. Our focus should rather be on God and not the tribe.

From this understanding then, what does Moses say about God in these nine verses? First, Moses reminded them of who God is and what He did for the Israelites. He told them wherever they were, God was already there – Sinai, Seir, Paran. He is omnipresent – everywhere present at the same time. Moses continued by stating His holiness based on coming from His ten thousand holy ones. He stated, too, God is majestic and powerful. He displayed flashing lightning from His right hand. Moses reminded the Israelites God loves them and made them righteous when he said, “All your holy ones are in Your hand” (vs. 3). God is supreme and gave laws that His holy ones followed (vs. 3). Besides these, in verse five, Moses told the Israelites, “He was king of Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were gathered, the tribes of Israel together.” Jeshurun is the symbolic name for the ideal character of Israel. It means “upright one.”

In the final four verses of this chapter, Moses returned to the important point – God. He spent twenty verses blessing the tribes, but returned to the Creator, Protector, Provider, and Redeemer. In these last four verses, Moses reminded the Israelites God is the God of the upright (Jeshurun). He cannot be the God of the unrighteous since He is righteous. Moses said God is powerful and majestic One as we understand when we read He rides the heavens and skies (vs. 26). He reminded the Israelites God is eternal, their protector, their commander, and the victor for them. He is the one who defeated their enemies (vs. 27). Because of this, Israel dwelled and dwells in security and are secluded from other nations so they will not be influenced by the pagan practices of the people (vs. 28). In the land God provides, the Israelites would experience abundant and prosperous life with grain and wine because His storehouses brought the dew and rain. These three verses expanded what Moses said about God’s attributes in verses two through five. Through them Moses reminded the Israelites how God took care of, loved, and cherished them.

The final verse, twenty-nine, is a synopsis and recap of what God did for the Israelites and who He is. Moses declared a blessing over Israel in this verse and said they would be blessed, happy, when they remembered Who God is, who they were, what God has done and will do, and how the nations around them perceive God. He reminded them God is powerful and majestic. He saved/redeemed the Israelites. God helps and cares for them in all their needs. His power and might makes the Israelites’ enemies afraid. God makes them strong to destroy their places of worship to false gods. In each of these things, God is the originator for the actions.

Moses blessed the Israelite tribes, but his blessing came from God - from His desire to have them follow Him and be faithful to their covenant. Remember, “blessed” comes from the Hebrew word barak and means to kneel, praise, bless, and salute. It requires kneeling before the one who blesses. In these nine verses, Moses reminded the people God is the One who blessed them in the past and who blesses them now and in the future. He is able to do this as they saw in His actions and know because of who He is – eternal, holy, righteous, majestic, omnipresent, powerful and loving. That is the main point of this chapter – God is the blesser – not the blessing of the tribes. They did not deserve to be blessed, just as none of us deserves God’s blessings, but because God loves us and wants to see us live abundant lives, He blesses. When we recognize God is great, majestic, and awesome and we seek to be in relationship with Him, we are blessed in our spiritual lives and in our physical lives. It requires our kneeling before Him and acknowledging who He is. That is blessing. Kneeling before and praising the Blesser. Moses reminded the Israelites of that and reminds us today of it, too.

Will you choose to acknowledge who God is? Will you choose to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? When you do, then God’s love flows to you as blessings – spiritual and physical. Jesus said, “Come follow me.” Will you answer His call?