Summary: Israel had been at Mr Sinai for a year, building the tabernacle, training an army, and learning God's instructions (Torah). The God told Moses, "you have been at this mountain long enough". It was time to move on and accomplish God's plan for Israel.
Our Torah Portion today is the beginning of the book titled Deuteronomy. It comes from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and means “second law” or “repetition of the law. We know that when people say law, the actual Hebrew word Torah means instruction. God gave us His instructions on how to live a holy life while the Israelites were camped around Mt. Sinai, or Mount Horeb as it is called in Deuteronomy.
Years ago there was a song about the Israelites during their wanderings. It was a silly song with catchy lyrics and tune. The first verse and chorus were (Cue YouTube)
Now I’m not endorsing the theology behind this song, but maybe it has a lesson for us today.
Moses wrote the Book of Deuteronomy just before his death. The Bible says he was across the Jordan. That means he was in the trans-Jordan region east of the Jordan river. He could not have been on the west side because God did not allow him to cross over to Canaan.
In this book, Moses recounts the entire history of the Exodus with an emphasis on the Torah as it would now apply to the Nation of Israel as they were about to enter Canaan and posses their promised heritage.
Today I want to concentrate on one verse and how that might apply to us today. Verse 6 says “You have stayed long enough at this mountain”.
What mountain was God talking about in verse six? It was Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai. It was the mountain where Israel became a nation instead of a mob escaping from slavery in Egypt. It was the mountain where God gave us His standard of holiness by which we should govern our lives. It was the mountain where we saw the awesome and frightening power of God.
Egypt has been defeated.
There was ample water and food.
But God said it was time to leave the mountain.
Last week we talked about God telling Israel to get up and leave Egypt. Now a year later He tells them it is time to leave again.
Here is a map of what God planned for His people
It was God’s plan that they would leave Mt Sinai and go directly up to Canaan and take possession of the Promised Land. They started off well and got as far as Kadesh Barnea. It was from this large oasis that Moses commissioned the 12 spies to go into Canaan to check it out. Again this was part of God’s plan for when they left the mountain.
Turn, journey on, and enter the hill country of the Amorites and all their neighbors, in the Arabah, the hill country, the lowland, the Negev, and by the seashore—the land of the Canaanites and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the Euphrates. (8) See, I have set the land before you. Enter and possess the land that Adonai swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob—to give to them and to their descendants after them.’
You can see that the plans God had for His people were never realized, not even during the reigns of King David or Solomon.
So what happened?
A couple of things.
They did not handle change very well. And….
They did not want to face the challenges ahead in order to achieve God’s will in their lives.
At what point in the time line did God say it was time to move on? It was a year after arriving at Mt Sinai. They had had settled in. They had the task of building the Tabernacle. It was now completed. God had given his instruction to his people to accomplish his purposes. Now it was time to do something about it.
Generally speaking, we do not like to get out of our comfort zone. It makes us….well…uncomfortable. It’s like settling in to the recliner with a big glass of iced tea by our side and the remote in our hand. It’s cozy. It’s comfortable. But it won’t get the yard mowed, or dinner prepared or the house cleaned. Whatever the task, it won’t get done as long as we are in that comfort zone.
Spiritually we get into a comfort zone. Maybe we read our Bible every day and pray for a few minutes and then go our way. But we need to get out of the comfort zone. For some of us it may be doing more prayer than reciting the Shema every morning. How about getting into the practice of testifying about what God has done for you and your family?
It’s comfortable to sit in a cushioned chair every Shabbat and listen to the music, watch the dancers, and sleep through the sermon. But did you know there is a need for teachers for the kids? How about someone to be committed to being here 15 minutes early with a cheerful smile to greet people as they come in. Or maybe getting here an hour early to help set up for the day? There are many things to do just to get ready for the service. Let’s get out of the comfort zone.