The Scriptorium

A Lesson in History

Moses brings the people of israel up to speed. Deuteronomy 1, 2

Opening Prayer: Psalm 135.5-12
For I know that the LORD is great,
And our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the LORD pleases He does,
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places.
He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
He makes lightning for the rain;
He brings the wind out of His treasuries.
He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt,
Both of man and beast.
He sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, O Egypt,
Upon Pharaoh and all his servants.
He defeated many nations
And slew mighty kings—
Sihon king of the Amorites,
Og king of Bashan,
And all the kingdoms of Canaan—
And gave their land as a heritage,
A heritage to Israel His people.

Psalm 135.5-12

(St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
Great and sovereign, Jesus rules o'er all above,
doing as He pleases, sovereign in His love.
Clouds and seas obey Him, lightning, too, and rain;
He the winds brings forth in pow'r and sends them back again.
Refrain v. 1
Praise the Name of Jesus, you who serve His Word!
Raise your voice and praise our good and glorious Lord!

Egypt's firstborn fell to God's redeeming pow'r;
kings and nations crumbled in redemption's hour.
He the land of promise to His people gave;
thus His Kingdom Jesus gives to all He's pleased to save.
Refrain v. 1

Today’s Text: Review Deuteronomy 1 and 2; meditate on Deuteronomy 1.8 and 2.14

1. Why did the people turn away from the land?

2. To whom was Moses speaking in these two chapters?

It might seem strange, after 38 years of wandering in the wilderness, having defeated two kings on the east side of the Jordan, and now primed and poised on the plains of Moab, ready at last to enter the land, that the people should be forced to endure a history lesson. Chapters 1-3 recount the history of Israel’s journey from Egypt to Moab, an eleven-day journey that ended up taking thirty-eight years because of Israel’s disobedience at Kadesh Barnea.

The people to whom Moses spoke were a new generation. All those who disobeyed God, except Caleb and Joshua, died in the wilderness. Moses himself was forbidden from entering the land because of his own act of disobedience at the waters of Meribah. Before He gave them God’s Law again, and turned the reins of leadership over to Joshua, Moses considered that a lesson from history was in order, lest the people, once the real fighting began, should lose heart and repeat the mistake of their parents.

History plays a large role in the life of a believer. Paul reminded us that the things written in Old Testament are there for us to ponder, so that we might be comforted and have hope (Rom. 15.4). The past holds two important lessons for us. First are the promises of God. He gave those promises in the past, and from time to time throughout the Old Testament, He renewed His people in them, and thus demonstrated His faithfulness and unchanging will. Jesus fulfilled all the promises God made in the Old Testament, and now He Himself is our great promise, that through Him we might actually participate in God (2 Pet. 1.4). By familiarizing ourselves with the course of Church history, we can learn about the many ways in past generations God showed Himself faithful to His Word in furthering His Kingdom and glory on earth as it is in heaven.

But history also shows us the mistakes of those who have gone before, so that we, like that generation listening to Moses on the plains of Moab, might not repeat the errors of our forebears. If we turn our backs on God’s history with us, we will soon lose our bearings and our goal, and the faith we hold will become all about us – what makes us feel good, keeps us from fears and inconvenience, and allows us to enjoy God on our terms.

Which is precisely what they did who died in the wilderness and failed to attain to the promises of God.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“You have dwelt long enough in this mountain. Turn…You have skirted this mountain long enough, turn…See, I have set the land before you, go…” (Deut. 1.6, 7, 8; 2.3). “For we are aliens and pilgrims before You…” (1 Chron. 29.15). “Blessed is the man…whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (Ps. 84.5). “Get out of your country…come to a land that I will show you” (Acts 7.3). “…they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11.13). Pilgrims, travelers, wanderers – this is not our final home. And we should always be on the move toward holiness, and away from sin. We have a tendency to circle around sins, and complacency, like a dog looking for a good place to lie down. We have Jesus to follow, our Personal Mission Fields to work, and heaven to look forward to. He goes before us, leading us, loving us, prodding us, moving us. History shouts to us: “He is faithful!” Let’s get going!


1. Why does history matter in the life of faith?

2. What especially can we learn from being well-versed in Scriptural history and the history of the Christian movement?

3. How might a better knowledge and understanding of Biblical and Christian history enrich your prayer life?

When mention is elsewhere made of forty years, the two years are then included which were spent both in Mount Sinai and in other places; and with good reason, because, during that time also, their sins prevented them from passing to the enjoyment of their inheritance immediately after the promulgation of the law.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 2.13, 14

Remind me of Your promises, Lord; point me to Jesus; and send me forth today to…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 135.1-4, 13, 14
Praise God for His exceeding great and precious promises, for Jesus and His salvation, and for His daily compassion on us, His servants. Seek His will for your journey today.

Psalm 135.1-4, 13, 14
(St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
Praise the Savior, praise Him, for His Name is good;
sing, for it is pleasant, to our glorious God!
All whom He has chosen and redeemed by grace,
praise His Name together, praise Him in this holy place!
Refrain v. 1
Praise the Name of Jesus, you who serve His Word!
Raise your voice and praise our good and glorious Lord!

Evermore Your Name, O Savior, shall endure!
Your renown throughout all ages is secure.
For You have compassion, vindicating all
those who serve Your Name and on Your saving mercy call.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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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