Deuteronomy 31: Lessons for Spirit-Led Succession and Continuity

Introduction. Deuteronomy Chapter 31 marks a return to the narrative of Deuteronomy that ended in chapters 3 and 4. From Chapters 5 through 30, Moses gave the Ten Commandments, the statutes that interpret them, the blessings and curses that come from following or rejecting the Law, and the summary of God’s teachings regarding the First Covenant. Here, Moses returns to his discussion in Chapter 3 regarding Joshua’s succession to lead God’s people. From Moses’ final exhortations, God reveals seven lessons for ensuring the successful succession of Spirit-led leaders and the continuity of God’s teachings from generation to generation.

First, God must be the leader of every organization. No leader is indispensable. Every leader must plan for succession by allowing the Spirit to select a godly successor. Second, continuity requires that leaders continually exhort the people to put their trust in God. If not, the people will quickly resort to fear and trust in the things of the world. Third, another part of continuity requires that Spirit-led leaders build up other leaders with encouragement. Fourth, to ensure the continuity of God’s teachings, He requires that Law be publically taught at least once every seven years. Fifth, also to ensure continuity, the people must be taught to fear the consequences of sin. Sixth, continuity further requires that leaders teach the people to have faith in both the power and the truth of His Word. Finally, because God’s people are like sheep and are easily led astray, Spirit-led leaders must continually guide the people to stay on the path of righteousness. If not, the continuity of God’s teachings will be lost, and the people will regress into sin.

1. Always Let God Lead. Dt. 31:1-3, 23.

  • God, not Moses, would lead the people into the Promised Land. Near the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses revealed that he pleaded with God to allow him to enter the Promised Land (Dt. 3:23-27). God instead directed Moses to prepare Joshua to take over as the new leader (Dt. 3:28). By the end of the book and on his 120th birthday, Moses had accepted that God would use Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land: “1 So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them, ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’ It is the Lord your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken.” (Dt. 31:1-3). To keep His leaders humble, God frequently uses different people to reap and to sow the fruit of His Kingdom (Jo. 4:38). Although Moses gave the Law, Joshua would bring them to the Promised Land. God wants us to look to Him to lead, not His appointed leaders. This point is stressed in the Hebrew wording of Deuteronomy 31:3. There, God’s name is the first and last name in the sentence regarding who would lead. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). If you are someone who openly boasts in your accomplishments, you are most likely not ready to be a leader in His army. Conversely, if you have placed your trust in a religious leader, you have taken your eyes off your one true leader, God.

  • Moses foreshadowed the revelation that none can be saved under the Law. Because Moses gave the Law, he symbolized it. The people therefore had the right to expect that he would live by the standards that he preached. Yet, like everyone else, he was not able to avoid breaking the Law. At one point toward the end of the 40-year-journey in the wilderness, God told Moses to “speak” to a rock to draw out the water (Nu. 20:8). Yet, instead of listening to this instruction, Moses followed God’s slightly different instruction from 40 years earlier to “hit” the rock (Ex. 17:6). His disobedience stemmed from his anger at the Jews’ constant rebellions. The lesson is that no one is righteous enough under the Law to enter into the eternal Promised Land (Rom. 3:23). If Moses broke just one part of the Law, he was guilty of breaking all of it (Jam. 2:10). Thus, Moses symbolized our inability to get to heaven by complying with the Law. By faith alone you are saved (Jo. 3:16; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8). Yet, unless you study the Law, how will you know the full extent of the mercy and grace that you have received?

  • A leader also cannot cause others to stumble. Another lesson in this story is that Church leaders are held to higher standards because they are role models for others (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Tit. 1:7). Every believer must watch his or her behavior to make sure that they do not cause others to stumble: “It is good not to . . . do anything by which your brother stumbles.” (Rom. 14:21; Tit. 2:3). Are your actions in life worthy of being a role model?

  • Joshua foreshadowed Jesus. Near the end of this chapter (presented out of order here), Moses gave Joshua the formal commission to lead: “23 Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” (Dt. 31:23). Hoshea, Joshua’s original name, meant “deliverance.” Moses later renamed him as “Joshua,” which means “the Lord is deliverance.” (Nu. 13:16). Although Joshua as a man was a sinner, he foreshadowed Christ. Joshua in Aramaic (the language of Christ) is translated as “Yehoshua.” “Yeshua,” the Hebrew name for Christ, is a shortened version of this word. Joshua, like Christ, delivered God’s people to the Promised Land (Ps. 18:2; 68:20). While Joshua delivered God’s people to the physical Promised Land, Jesus delivered His believers to the eternal Promised Land. Moses’ commission of Joshua also foreshadowed John’s baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:14-15). Although Joshua was sinful by nature, he acted righteously before God and was unstained by the sins of the world (Jam. 1:27). Unlike the disciples who abandoned Christ, Joshua patiently waited for Moses at Mount Horeb when others gave up hope of his return. Joshua also did not participate in the building or worship of the golden calf (Ex. 32:17). He also patiently waited outside the Tabernacle tent for God to return after He stated that He would not stay because of the people’s sins (Ex. 33:11). Joshua was also one of only two Jewish spies to have faith in God’s promises after scouting out the Promised Land (Nu. 14:9). Are you trying to live like Joshua? Are you trying to stay faithful and unstained by the sins of the world so that God can use you?

  • Seven lessons for selecting a Spirit-led leader. If we look to God’s selection of Joshua as a model for succession, believers can learn seven important lessons about succession. First, believers must let the Holy Spirit pick a successor (Jo. 14:16-18; 26). If Moses had taken control on the process, he would have most likely chosen one of his own children to succeed him as most human leaders do in ministry and in government. The Spirit also did not reveal Moses’ successor until the end of his life. For believers today, the process for God to reveal a successor also usually takes prayer and patience: “do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim. 5:22). Second, like Joshua, a prospective leader must be content (1 Tim. 6:6-9). In other words, the person should not covet the leadership position. Third, also like Joshua, the leader must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2). Fourth, also like Joshua, the leader must not be “addicted to wine or be pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” (1 Tim. 3:3; 6:6-10). The leader must also manage his own household well (1 Tim. 3:4). Fifth, like Joshua, the leader must also not be a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6). Sixth, the leader must also be a servant leader (1 Tim. 6:2). Finally, like Joshua, you will also know God’s appointed successor by that person’s fruit (Matt. 7:16, 20). Every believer is a potential leader as part of God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). Mediate on this list of leadership attributes and ask God to show you where to improve.

  • The lesson for the Church parishioners. As a related lesson, the people did not have a choice in submitting to Joshua as God’s appointed successor (1 Pet. 2:13). God commands that believers submit to His appointed leaders. First, believers must submit to God through His Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20; Heb. 13:17). Second, believers must submit to their civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, believers submit to their families (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). Only when authorities refuse to follow God’s Word can believers ignore them (Acts. 4:19). Satan’s goal has always been to break down authority through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan’s first rebellion led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen 3:16). All of Satan’s 12 rebellions in the wilderness sought to depose Moses as the leader of the Jews. Jesus warned that when a leader is struck down: “ . . . the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mark 14:23(b)). Are you submitting to your leaders? Or, do you gossip and murmur about them?

2. Encourage God’s People to Put Their Trust in Him. Dt. 31:4-6.

  • A Spirit-led leader also seeks to build up the faith of God’s people. As he had done previously, Moses sought to encourage a frightful and doubting people by reminding them of God’s past victories for them against two Amorite kings on the plains of Jordan: “The Lord will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. The Lord will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:4-6). At the very beginning of this book, Moses also exhorted the people to “go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you.” (Dt. 1:21). He further advised them to take the land without fear: ‘“Do not fear or be dismayed.’” (Dt. 1:21). The people had no reason to fear. God had crushed Pharaoh’s army before their eyes at the Red Sea. He fed them manna in the wilderness. He also led them by a pillar of light. He also promised to send an angel before them (Ex. 23:23). Ten times previously, He had also promised that He would give the Jews this land (Gen. 12:6-7; 13:14-15; 15:7; 17:8; 26:4; 28:13-15; 50:24; Ex. 12:25; 23:20-31; 33:1-3). He further promised to “completely destroy” “the Amorites, Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites.” (Ex. 23:23). By defeating the first enemy on this list, the Amorites, God showed that He is faithful to keep His promises. As God previously told Abraham: “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). Are you doubting that God will be there for you in any of your battles? Like Moses, are you seeking to encourage others who either lack faith or feel beaten up by sin?

Place your trust in God1

  • If you accept that God will never forsake you, there is no reason to covet. As part of Moses’ encouragement to the people, he advised that God “will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6(b)). The writer of Hebrews later quoted this passage to encourage believers never to turn to avarice, greed, or coveting: “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”’ (Heb. 13:5). Even when God sent the Jews into exile, He never stopped loving them and providing for them. If you are facing desperate times, never let the flesh allow you to covet the things of the flesh. Instead, allow God to fill you with the Holy Spirit to find true contentment. Jesus warns that you cannot love both money or the things of the flesh and God (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13).

3. Encourage God’s Leaders to Put Their Trust in Him. Dt. 31:7-8.

  • A Spirit-led leader also seeks to build up other leaders. In addition to building up the faith of the people, Moses showed himself to be a Godly leader by building up the faith of God’s appointed successor: “Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Dt. 31:7-8). Near the beginning of his address in Deuteronomy, Moses also encouraged Joshua to reflect on God’s victory over the two Amorite kings: “I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings.” (Dt. 3:21). Moses then encouraged Joshua not to be afraid because God would deliver the Promised Land to the Jews, just as He promised: “so the Lord shall do to all the kingdoms into which you are about to cross. Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.’” (Dt. 3:22). Thus, even though Joshua had proven himself to be a godly man, Moses continually encouraged him.

  • The lesson for the Church. The lesson here is that even Spirit-led leaders need ongoing mentoring and encouragement. Never commission a leader and cut the leader loose without a spiritual support system. Every leader must be under another leader for guidance, encouragement, and rebuke if needed. Sadly, this model is not always followed today. Many mega churches commission small group leaders but then fail to set up any systems of accountability to encourage and build up the leaders. Are you mentoring and encouraging someone in your life? Are you raising up a leader in God’s army? Or, are you merely looking for someone to help you? Conversely, if you are a leader, have you placed yourself under another person’s supervision?

4. Ensure the Public Teaching of God’s Word at Least Once Every Seven Years. Dt. 31:9-13.

  • God requires that His people study the Law at least once every seven years. God did not want His people to forget His Law. Thus, at least once every seven years during the festival of Tabernacles, also called or Booths or “Sukkot”, God required that Jews listen to the public reading of the Law as a body: “So 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. 10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.” (Dt. 31:9-13). Unlike the three normal assemblies of God which were restricted to the men of Israel (Dt. 16:16), this special assembly included men, women, children, and even foreigners (Dt. 31:12). Unlike today, the typical person did not have God’s printed Word. The public reading of the Law took place during the eight-day feast called the “Feast of Tabernacles.” (Dt. 31:10). This was the week when the Jews joyfully celebrated that God dwelt with them in the wilderness (Ex. 25:8; 29:45-46; Lev. 23:42-43). The festival also foreshadowed when Christ came to dwell with us and when He will dwell with believers during the Millennial Reign. This was also the festival when people were released from their debts (Dt. 31:10). The requirements for this festival were a “perpetual statute throughout your generation. . . ” (Lev. 23:41). If you celebrate it, “your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands. . .” (Dt. 16:15). Some Christians might find it curious that God would have His Law read on the same day that He freed people from their debts. Yet, there is important symbolism here. Christ freed every believer from a legal obligation to follow His Ten Commandments out of obligation (Matt. 5:17-20). Yet, if you make the voluntary effort to observe His Ten Commandments, it is a sign of your love for Christ: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6; Matt. 19:17). Although freed from the Law, Paul became a “bond-servant” and obeyed out of love (Ro. 1:1).

  • The lesson for the Church. Some churches teach that you do not need to observe the Ten Commandments. Others teach that you still should do so out of love, just as Jesus wrote. For many churches, the Ten Commandments are only occasionally studied. Yet, no matter which view you and your church adopt regarding the Ten Commandments, you should study them as a body at least once every seven years, just as God commanded. There is wisdom in God’s Law. After Hilkiah the priest found the previously misplaced Torah scrolls in the Temple, King Josiah tore his clothes in grief after reading all the Law that Israel had ignored (2 Kgs. 22:11). Even after Christ’s death, Paul urged that believers continue to publicly read God’s Law, just as Moses commanded: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:13). He was not referring to the public reading of the New Testament because it had not yet been written. He was instead referring to the public reading of the Torah, as was and is still the practice in every synagogue. The only difference between the Jewish reading and the Christian reading of the Torah is that the Christian churches would have explained and celebrated what Christ fulfilled after every public reading. In case any believer assumes that the writing of the New Testament either negates or changes the meaning of Paul’s instruction, that view is also mistaken. During the Millennial Reign, the nations will come to Jesus where He will read the Law to the masses: “And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Is. 2:3). If we take Paul’s instructions seriously, how can a church spend the vast majority of its time publicly reading only the New Testament and ignore harder parts of the Torah as is common in many churches? How can a church justify failing to return to the reading of the Law at least once every seven years?

  • The lesson for you. As beneficiaries of God’s Law, the Jews were obligated to teach it to their children: “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7; 4:9-10; 11:19; Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6; Eph. 6:4). Do you know God’s Law well enough to teach it? Do you teach your children God’s Law?

5. Teach the People to Fear the Consequences of Sin. Dt. 31:14-21.

  • A Spirit-led leader also teaches people to fear the consequences of sin. Because humans are inherently sinful, a Spirit-led leader cannot ignore or sugar coat the consequences of a sinful life. A Spirit-led leader must instead warn the people repeatedly about the consequences of sin, just as Moses did: “14 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, the time for you to die is near; call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.’ So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. 15 The Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent. 16 The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ 18 But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods. 19 Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. 20 For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. 21 Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.” (Dt. 31:14-21). Moses’ warnings of the “many evils” that would come upon the Jews was again a reference to the multiple plagues listed in Deuteronomy Chapter 28. These include, but are not limited to, wars, diseases, natural disasters, invasion, exile, and despair. Today, the Church needs to be salt and light against sin in our nation (Matt. 5:13-16). If not, America faces the same curses.

  • God’s warning that He will hide His face. As part of Moses’ warnings, he stated: “18 But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.” (Dt. 31:18). Isaiah later repeated this warning: “There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.” (Is. 64:7). “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “And I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him.” (Is. 8:17). God promised both the Jews and believers in Christ that He will never leave them or forsake them (Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). How can God hide His face without forsaking the Jews or believers? The answer is a matter of duration of time. A believer’s sins can temporarily separate the believer from God. The New Testament warns that sin can “hinder” your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Yet, if and when a believer repents, God is faithful to forgive (1 Jo. 1:9). Are there any sins in your life that you need to repent of?

6. Teach the People to Have Faith in God’s Word. Dt. 31:22, 24-26.

  • Moses’ claim that he authored the Torah. Although many scholars today claim that Moses did not write the Torah, the Torah contains multiple claims that Moses was its author: “22 So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel . . .” “24 It came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, 26 ‘Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you.”’ (Dt. 31:22, 24-26). “So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests,…” (Dt. 31:9). “Then the Lord instructed Moses, ‘Write this down as a permanent record’” (Ex. 17:14). “Then Moses carefully wrote down all the Lord's instructions.” (Ex. 24:4). “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down all these instructions, for they represent the terms of my covenant with you and with Israel.’” (Ex. 34:27; Lev. 1:1; 6:8). If at least five different people wrote the Torah as many now claim, all five had to be in on the conspiracy to falsely claim that Moses wrote it.

  • Moses’ authorship of the Torah is repeated throughout the rest of the Old Testament. If modern skeptics are right, multiple other Old Testament writers were also in on the same conspiracy to falsely claim that Moses authored the Torah. Joshua, for example, claimed that Moses wrote the Torah: “He followed the instructions that Moses the Lord's servant had written in the Book of the Law...” (Josh. 8:31-34). “...Obey all the laws Moses gave you.” (Josh. 1:7-8). “...obey all the commands and the laws that Moses gave to you.” (Josh. 22:5). The author of the book of Chronicles also claimed that Moses authored the Torah: “...Hilkiah the high priest...found the book of the Law of the Lord as it had been given through Moses.” (2 Chr. 34:14). Other Old Testament authors also claimed that Moses wrote the Torah (1 Kgs. 2:3; 8:53; 2 Kgs. 14:6; 18:12). Paul, who studied under one of the top rabbis in his day, also claimed that Moses authored Deuteronomy (Ro. 10:5). If all these writers were all wrong, they could not have been speaking under divine inspiration.

  • Jesus’ authentication of Moses’ authorship. Jesus also repeatedly referenced Moses as the drafter of the Torah. In fact, Jesus pointed out that those who doubted Moses’ authorship would also likely have trouble believing His Word: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (Jo. 5:46-47). “They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.’” (Mk. 10:4-5; 7:10; Matt. 19:7-8; 22:24). “...haven't you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush...” (Mk. 12:24). “...I told you that everything written about me by Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must all come true.” (Lk. 24:44). “For the law was given through Moses...” (Jo. 1:17). “ it, so as not to break the law of Moses...” (Jo. 7:23). During Jesus’ encounter with Satan in the wilderness in a weakened state, He quoted from Deuteronomy three times to rebuke Satan (Matt. 4:1-10; quoting Dt. 8:3; 6:16; 5:7-9). After hearing these words, Satan fled (Matt. 4:11). Satan would also have little reason to flee something penned hundreds of years after Moses under false authorship. As God, Christ also could not lie about Moses’ authorship (Heb. 5:18). Modern skeptics apparently claim that they were able to figure out a fraud that had escaped the prophets and even Jesus. If we can’t trust God’s claim that Moses wrote the Torah, what can we trust?

7. Teach the Leaders to Lead the People Down the Path of Righteousness. Dt. 31:27-30.

  • Without strong leaders, the people will naturally drift into rebellion. Finally and for the second time in this chapter, Moses exhorted the elders and the officers warning them that the people would return to rebellion and disobedience without their guidance: “ 27 For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more, then, after my death? 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands. 30 Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete:” (Dt. 31:27-30). The Jews’ journey from Mount Horeb to the Promised Land should have lasted only 11 days (Dt. 1:2-4). Yet, when 10 of the 12 spies told the people that they could not defeat the inhabitants of the Promised Land, the people rebelled and wanted to return to Egypt (Nu. 14:4). As a result, the Jews spent 38 additional years wandering in the wilderness. When Spirit-led leaders fail to lead, a nation can become cursed with “spiritual blindness”: “and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” (Dt. 28:29). “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, …” (Is. 59:10(a); Job 5:14; 12:25; 38:15; Lam. 4:14; Amos 8:9). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:19). America also has fallen into a curse of spiritual blindness as its Christian leaders have stayed silent or fallen into sin.

  • The lesson for the Church. America finds itself in the same place that the Jews did not long after Moses’ death: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). America has celebrated “relativism” where each person’s view of right and wrong are accepted as equally correct. Yet, God’s warns: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Is. 55:8). He also warns: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil . . .” (Is. 5:20(a)). The Church needs strong leaders to keep Jesus’ flock and the nation from being led astray. The road to Christ is narrow. The path to destruction is broad (Matt. 7:13-14). Every believer is a potential leader as part of God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). Just as Moses did, the Church must build up, develop, and encourage its leaders so that they can lead others down the straight and narrow path to Christ.