The Scriptorium

Eleven Days, Forty Years

What were they waiting for? Deuteronomy 1.1-8

From Egypt to Moab: Deuteronomy 1, 2 (1)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 78.1-5
Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children…

Psalm 78.1-5

(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Give ear, O my people, attend to my word,
dark sayings and parables sent from the Lord,
things we have before by our fathers been told,
which we would not dare from our children withhold.

The glorious deeds of our God in His might,
and all of the works He has done in our sight,
together with all of the words of His Law,
would we on ourselves and our children bestow.

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 1.1-8

1. What’s strange – and sad – about the time parameters mentioned here (vv. 2, 3)?

2. In verse 5, what is suggested about the Law of God and the land of promise?

The book of Deuteronomy caps the Law of God and leads into the next phase of divine revelation and the unfolding of God’s covenant promises to His people. This is one of the most important books in the entire Bible, for reasons we will see as we proceed through it.

We must be willing to receive God’s Word, embrace His promises, and go forth in faith and obedience if we are to realize the blessings He has in store for us. Which is precisely what the generation of Israelites who were delivered from Egypt did not do. Verses 2 and 3 rate high on my list of saddest verses in the entire Bible: An eleven-day journey that took forty years to complete. That’s what disobedience, fear, and thinking we know better than God will get you.

In our text we find the people of God assembled on the plains of Moab east of the Jordan River. Moses is about to remind them of their covenant obligations to God and all the glorious promises that come with obedience to His Word. The people had already seen what God could do, when He led them to victory over the two kings of Moab who sought to resist their passage into Canaan (v. 4). Now, because this was a new generation, who had not received the Law from Moses before, he begins to put it before them with new urgency, beginning with a preamble reviewing God’s history with them since their deliverance from Egypt (vv. 5-8). Moses recalled the time, after the Law had been declared to Israel, when God commanded them to get moving (v. 6). Moses was getting ready to rehearse the Law once again, at the end of which this new generation of Israelites would be instructed to go forth in faith, following Joshua into the land of promise.

This is the pattern that confronts us every day: Read God’s Word. Hear Him. Then go forth in obedience, following Jesus into the promises of God. Just as the land of Canaan was spread out before the people of Israel (v. 7), and the precious promises given to Abraham were recalled (v. 8), so God holds out to us the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior and the precious and very great promises that are ours in Him (2 Pet. 1.4; 2 Cor. 1.20).

Will we get moving, or stall around for forty years, thinking we know better than God how to find the way to full and abundant life in Jesus?

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119,162
Peter was perilously close to espousing the “Eleven Days, Forty Years” theology when he said to Jesus, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matt. 16.22) What Jesus proposed sounded too hard, too awful, too frightening. When He told Peter exactly how things were going to be – He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes; and be killed and raised on the third day. To Peter, this sounded too much like giants and grasshoppers (Num. 13.32, 33). But Jesus’ response to Peter – and to us – is: “You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 6.23, 24) Now. Not tomorrow. Not in forty years. Now. And really, why do we wait? Full and abundant life is ours in Jesus today, as we go forth in faith and obedience, following our Lord into the promises of God.


1. What has the Lord given you to do that you’ve been putting off, avoiding, or failing to carry out?

2. How can believers help one another to avoid the “Eleven Days, Forty Years” theology?

3. How do you hope this study of Deuteronomy will help you in your walk with and work for the Lord?

And here this other fact will not appear to be without significance, that it is Moses who hears from God all that is written down in the law of Leviticus, whereas in Deuteronomy it is the people who are represented as listening to Moses and learning from him what they could not hear from God. This indeed is why it is called Deuteronomy, meaning the second law.
Origen (185-254), On First Principles 4.3.12

Thank You for Your Law, O Lord. I know it is holy and righteous and good, and so today I will…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 78.6-16.
Pray for the rising generation of Christians – the children of our churches. Pray that they will know and  love the Lord and His Word, and that they will embrace their calling to His Kingdom and glory.

Psalm 78.6-16.
(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Lord, let all our children arise and declare
the truth of the Lord every day, everywhere,
and set all their hopes in God’s wonderful Word,
and never forget all the works of the Lord.

Our fathers were stubborn; they would not obey;
when faced with their foes they in fear turned away.
God’s work of redemption they wholly despised,
forgetting the pow’r He had shown to their eyes.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore