From Deuteronomy 1-2
Deuteronomy starts with the words of Moses. He is about to go into some detail describing the story of Israel from Horeb. Horeb is also called Mount Sinai, where Israel received the Law of Moses and here the LORD showed them the promised land (Dt 1.1-8).
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Our passage picks up with Moses asking for help in leadership.
9 “At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. 10 The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11 May the LORD, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! (Dt 1:9–11)
One might remember from a recent post the number of counted men over 20 years of age and ready for war was 601,730 (Nu 26:51). If we include women and children, their total number was well over one million. Moses says they are as numerous as the ‘stars of heaven’ echoing Gen 15.5. To see one million people in one place would have amazed.
The LORD has been faithful to his covenant promise to Abraham.
Moses boldly asks for more! May this number be multiplied a thousand times. ‘ a lot of descendants. Moses asks for a blessing.
So far Moses is the only one to lead them. But now he says he cannot bear them.
12 How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? 13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ (Dt 1:12-14)
Moses mentions their ‘weight’ and ‘burden’. Understandable considering their numbers. He also refers to their ‘strife’. They have been troublesome thus far. Unfortunately it will get worse. Moses calls for wise, understanding and experienced men. They will be their ‘heads’, their leaders. They agree and chains of leadership are setup.
What’s amazing about this is how Moses could have led all these by himself without the same help.
15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. (Dt 1:15)
The structure looks a little like this.
16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do. (Dt 1:16–18)
“The function of these leaders is both military and civil. The first of these is clear from the common divisions of military forces—thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens—over which the new commanders would exercise authority. This may almost be described as a standard military formula in the Old Testament by which to characterize military forces (1 Sam 8:12; 22:7; 2 Sam 18:1; 1 Chr 13:1; 2 Chr 1:2; 25:5), although only here and in the original setting to which Moses was referring (Exod 18:21) do all four divisions occur. The “tribal officials” (Heb. šōṭĕrîm) are the civil leaders including magistrates and judges.” (Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, p. 70). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)
They were to lead and make legal decisions over various issues among the people under them. Their judgment is God’s judgment. They had an awesome responsibility. They were also accountable to the ones over them.
Story of Israel
The judges continued in their role for many years. The faithfulness of the people was greatly influenced by the faithfulness of the judges over them. As Ezekiel records, there was a time when they lead the people astray.
34 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. (Eze 34:1–6)
Israel scattered. Faithful shepherds and judges were.
Story of Jesus
Jesus is the one who will judge us, as the gospel proclaims.
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed:
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:34–43; cf Mt 25.33; Acts 17.31; Rom 2.16; 2 Cor 5.10)
Are you living as if you will be judged by Christ?
You will be judged by Jesus. So live accordingly. His justice will be done. But there is something else. Paul says the saints will judge.
2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Cor 6:2–3)
Paul says, the Saints will judge the world and the angels.
Are you preparing to judge the world when Jesus returns?
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