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The second half of this chapter is filled with many inspiring words and ideas. But what about the first half? What can we get out of that? It seems to just be some random historical details jumbled together.
First of all, the ark (10:1-5). Made by Moses of acacia wood, its job was to carry the ten commandments written by God on two stone tablets. It doesn’t sound very exciting here, not glorious like it is described back in Exodus 25, and definitely not as thrilling as in the Books of Samuel and in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In this Deuteronomic telling of the tale, it was just a wooden box.
Now jump down to 10:8-9. Who carries the box? The Levites, set apart (note that this is not the word for ‘holy’) for a special purpose. Not only were they to literally carry the word of God, they were also to stand before Yahweh to minister to him and to bless others in his name. Because of this privilege, Levites were not assigned an inheritable portion of land like the rest of the tribes. Instead, Yahweh himself was to be the inheritance of each Levite. (I’m not sure how this really worked out in the long run for the Levites. Does it mean that this kind of service to the LORD was passed on from every father to every son in this tribe? Perhaps that partially explains the collapse of the priesthood in later centuries.) I wonder whether our modern-day full-time Christian servants might follow the financial model given here somewhat; our whole lives dedicated to him, we do not look to financial gain or security. The LORD himself is my portion.
The other little historical detail thrown into this section is in 10:6-7, where we learn about some other journeys of Israelites, hitherto barely mentioned (cf Num 33:31-33); and also the death of Aaron and how he was succeeded by his son, Eleazar. Why is this included here? Not that this explains the strange juxtaposition entirely, but it is perhaps in response to what Moses described in 9:20. It could only be because of Moses’ intercessory prayers for Aaron that he survived beyond Sinai through much of the journey to the land, all the way to Moserah. And the priesthood does not end with him, but is passed to his own descendant, just as Moses will pass on the law to the people without being allowed to enter the land. This is yet another example of God’s grace.
Finally, Moses re-starts the narrative about the mountain-top giving of the law on the tablets in 10:10-11. There is a little phrase in there that I find fascinating. Moses is back up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights the second time (I think, it feels like about five times by now!). But he does not say that he was listening to God, which is our normal assumption of what was happening up there, but that Yahweh listened to him. I suppose it must have been a two-way conversation. Here we learn that Yahweh consented not to destroy the Israelites for their sin of disobedience when they made the golden calf. Lastly, Moses is commanded by God to get up and go ahead of the people so that they enter and possess the promised land.
What I can distill from these random vignettes is that serving the Lord generates a legacy. Aaron’s legacy for the priesthood was his son Eleazar. Moses’ legacy was the law itself. For the Levites there would be nothing except the LORD himself, but what a great inheritance! I keep hearing about leaders leaving a legacy, and being asked to ponder what my legacy will be. In contrast to what the world is asking these days, I leave you with this song.
Prayer: Lord, be my legacy, the mark that is left by my life. I desire nothing glorious for myself, no gold or land or descendants, only that you are glorified by my service for you.