We read in the Book of Deuteronomy 31:2, “And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.” The venerable old Moses was quite apparently celebrating his 120th and final birthday on earth as he spoke these words. Some alternate translations render it: “I am 120 years old today. I can’t get around any longer.” Despite his age and its related infirmities, he delivered one of his most important warnings for those of us living today.
In thirty verses of this chapter, Moses instructed his listeners to retain the moral laws of Scripture, hold them in high regard and teach them to “all Israel.” Yet he foresaw that God’s people would fall morally astray, and his message was particularly directed at those of us living in these end times, often referred to as the “latter days.” Moses warned, “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and EVIL WILL BEFALL YOU IN THE LATTER DAYS; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.” (Verse 29) Moses has been called a prophet, and his words have certainly proved true in these latter days in which we live.
We seldom realize that our own actions have caused the problems we see around us today, and that a return to God’s design for individuals and the nation would turn around the sin, corruption and immorality that plague us as a nation. This especially comes to mind at the end of the year with the rank commercialism, greed and materialism we are bombarded with for weeks on end.
Christmas used to be a religious holiday celebrating our Lord’s birth, but today it has been transformed into “the holiday shopping season.” Thanksgiving Day in America used to be a quiet time of dinner and fellowship with family and friends, with thanks for the Christian founders of this nation. Now our forefathers are maligned in the newspapers as religious extremists, and the day is associated with buying gifts. The ghoulish and destructive American “Halloween” on October 31 has totally replaced the religious holiday that spawned it, known as “All Saints Day.” My family and I make a valiant attempt to separate ourselves from all of the worldliness we see around us at this time of year, but recent events forced me to witness first-hand the “Black Friday” mayhem in our area.
Southeastern Michigan experienced a very unusual strong wind storm with high-force winds subjecting us for hours before the American Thanksgiving holiday. Unlike many others, neither our home nor church suffered a power outage, but over thirty feet of our church parking lot wall blew over in a heap. What a mess! With hardware stores closed on Thanksgiving Day, our church volunteer repair crew needed materials and supplies, so I went out shopping on the following day, known as “Black Friday.” My wife reminded me of the crowds and mayhem, but repairs could not wait, so I joined the hubbub at the local stores. It was difficult to find a parking space, and there were long lines at each checkout. I was amazed at what the crowds of people were willing to put up with just to save a few dollars on items most of them probably don’t really need!
There is a common misconception that the term, “Black Friday,” refers to the sales that often put merchants “in the black” and profitable for the year. Actually, the term was instead coined by law enforcement personnel in reference to the often dangerously overcrowded highways and stores on this day.
America used to be a lighthouse in the world, exporting the concept of freedom and liberty to other nations. Instead, it is not the Thanksgiving family holiday that we have exported, but the “Black Friday” turmoil now associated with it. According to the Wall Street Journal, most Britons have no idea what Thanksgiving is, but Black Friday is becoming a popular event there too.
In his birthday address, Moses said, “The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them…” (Verse 3) It seems that the heathen and immoral are possessing us instead! Moses again stated, “And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you.” (Verse 5) Instead, the Lord’s commandments are banned from public display in schools and institutions, and our people are largely ignorant of them.
There was a cure for such ignorance: “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.” (Verses 10-12)
Teaching the people God’s moral laws would bring peace and righteousness. That was the plan, but God knew our wayward ways. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?” (Verses 16-17)
You might think that at least the priests and religious authorities could be counted on to obey God’s Word and teach it correctly to the public, but that would not be the case. “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Verses 24-27) Should we be surprised that it is often the ministers of the Gospel who oppose not only our teaching, but the continuing validity of God’s moral laws?
When Moses stood before Pharaoh he was eighty years old (Exodus 7:7); and forty more years had elapsed during the wanderings in the wilderness. During his long life he learned the importance of faithfulness to God and His Commands. How sad must it have been for Moses to give the people such sad words on a day—his birthday—that should have been one of celebratory gladness!
Why is this history important? Joseph Parker stated, “We do not study the events which happened thousands of years ago. That would be too narrow a way of putting the case; we might then be mere antiquarians, deeply interested in something that transpired innumerable centuries since. We are not studying the events. We are studying the God that overruled them.” Indeed, let us study God’s Words, learn from them, and apply them to our own life and the teaching of others. There is still time to learn from the mistakes of the past and present!