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This passage opens with a repeat of the command to love Yahweh and keep his commandments. It then goes into a curious digression about what their children have NOT seen and known. Why is that important? Perhaps there is a suggestion that this is the special generation, standing here in front of Moses and the promised land, right now. They are not the rebellious generation of their fathers, nor are they the ‘spoilt’ generation which is to come. They are the ones who have seen:
- God’s discipline
- the greatness and power of God through the miracles in Egypt
- the provision of God while they were in the desert
- the punishment of those who rebel against God (eg Dathan & Abiram)
Having seen God’s power, provision, and punishment, the Israelites must be inspired to obey his commandments. They will then be empowered to enter and possess the land, with the result that they will extend their days there.
In 11:9-12 Moses goes into a description of what makes this promised land so good. Egypt was a flat and dry land which could be made to yield by hard labour. But in contrast, the promised land is full of mountains and valleys, with streams not only of water but even, again metaphorically, milk and honey. What really makes it different, however, is not its geography, but that Yahweh cares for it and watches over it, always and year round. Have you ever noticed that before? God cares for this specific physical land.
In the next few verses, we suddenly discover, as readers, that we are listening to God himself speak, not Moses – for Moses does not have power to provide rain and grass, and they are not Moses’ commandments but God’s (11:13 mentions ‘my commandments’ but this is obscured in some translations). It is somewhat jarring, and makes me wonder how long I have been listening to God when I thought I was listening to Moses. Has it been since 10:11? Is that why it feels like the track is on repeat, because God is echoing all that Moses has already said?
God is promising to bless the Israelites if they obey his commandments. But note the content of the command: to love Yahweh, and to serve him with all one’s heart and being. It is not a list of do and don’t, of shalts and shalt nots. The essence of the commandments is love and service of God. The result will be satisfaction; though it is specified that this satisfaction is particularly material – coming from grain, wine, oil, and meat – I would like to think that there might be spiritual satisfaction also.
So to return to the beginning of the passage: did these ones listening right now actually see the exodus from Egypt? Or is this Moses’ (or God’s) artistic license once more? After all, haven’t they all died out in the wilderness? My thought is that there may be some in his audience who did experience the plagues and the passing through the Red Sea, although they were children at the time, and now they are mature men and women. Their parents would then be the ones who died in the desert. These elders are being addressed here: “You have seen what God can do, both in grace and judgment, now take his commandment to love and serve him seriously!”
So my question for myself, and for you reader, is whether we have seen and experienced the grace and judgment of God in our own lives. Speaking for myself, I can say, unequivocally, yes, I have seen how God has provided for me, and I have also been disciplined by him as a Father when I have gone astray. How then, can I fail to hear his word and respond with obedience, to love and serve him? May I be satisfied in the blessings that flow from obedience!
Prayer: You have shown me, O Lord, your power and your might, your providence and your punishment. Give me a heart and mind to love and serve you faithfully, and bless me with satisfaction in your service.