Moses' Final Words to God's People

Steve Viars April 2, 2006 Deuteronomy 31:1-8

- where were you during the winter Olympic Games in 1980?
- I realize that the answer for some here today will be – I wasn’t born yet...
- but if you were alive, and old enough to understand what was going on, you probably remember this event even if you aren’t very interested in sports...

- 1980 was the height of the Cold War and the Soviet Union was a feared super power...
- many in our country, and probably other countries were tired of the nuclear buildup and all of the fear and uncertainty that went with that...
- people needed a distraction...something to cheer about...

- of course that wasn’t going to happen at the hockey stadium...
- the Soviet Union’s hockey team had achieved legendary status...they appeared unbeatable...
- this was before the days of professional athletes competing on United States Olympic teams...so Team USA was comprised of a bunch of college students...

- just before the team took the ice...Coach Brooks gave them his pre-game speech...
- from the adaptation in the 2004 movie entitled Miracle...the coach said...
- Great moments are born from great opportunity.  And that’s what you have here tonight, boys.  That’s what you’ve earned here tonight.  One game.  If we played them ten times, they might win nine.  But not this game.  Not tonight.  Tonight we skate with them.  Tonight we stay with them.  And we shut them down because we can.  Tonight we are the greatest hockey team in the world.  You were born to be hockey players.  Every one of you.  And you were meant to be here tonight.  This is your time.  Their time is done.  It’s over.  I’m sick and tired of hearing about hearing what a great hockey team the Soviets have.  This is your time.

- now, you could say...that was just a bunch of hype...they still had to go out and play the best team n the world...
- true...but on this night, they beat the best team in the world...Coach Brooks’ words came true...prompting broadcaster Al Michaels now famous question...Do you believe in miracles?...

- this coach had undoubtedly talked to the team about all kinds of things as he worked with them...
- but because of the uniqueness of the setting...the final words before the big game...he chose his words carefully, and they had tremendous impact on the team...

- we’ve been studying the book of the Bible that functions in a very similar way...
- God’s people are at a place called Beth Peor...they’ve completed 40 years of wandering in the wilderness...and they are preparing to go into the promised land...
- and Moses, their great leader has been instructing them in what to expect, and how to live during the conquest but especially after the victory has been achieved...
- now, we’re at the end of the book...and these final chapters comprise...Moses’ Final Words to God’s People.
- they too were carefully chosen...
- like anyone’s final words...what was emphasized here was especially important...

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Deuteronomy chapter 31?...page 156 of the Bible under the chair in front of you, page 266 of our Chinese/English Bibles...

- our church’s theme this year is Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...
- these are very exciting days for us...because we have spent a lot of time:
- analyzing the ministry opportunities around us...
- praying about our strengths, and weakness, and resources...
- and we have decided as a church family that it is time to reinvest what God has given us in a new level of ministry outreach and hopefully ministry effectiveness...
- we don’t want to be like the fearful steward who simply buried his talent in the ground...that was the “safe play”...that was the “easy choice”...but it was also the one that dishonored His Master...
- the Scripture is clear that when God gives you opportunities and resources...He wants you to honor Him by investing them wisely, and faithfully, and aggressively...to honor Him and advance His purposes...
- so we’re especially trying to move forward in three areas over the next 14 months...
- building our community center to greatly enhance our community outreach...
- establishing a strategic partnership with Christian leaders in Moldova to explore new ways of accomplishing the great commission...
- and starting a church based seminary to be a blessing to families seeking training for full time Christian service...
- so a lot is going on around here...and a lot more is planned for the days ahead....so as faithfully as we can, we’re trying to gear up...we’re trying to get ready...we’re trying to be prepared to serve the Lord even more effectively in the days ahead...
- we’re in a very similar situation to the children of Israel...

- that is why the message of this book has been so helpful to us...
- I don’t know how you responded when we said we were going to study the book of Deuteronomy in the first quarter of the year...but I hope you’ll now say...
- the apostle Paul was right...al Scripture is profitable...
- these gearing up themes for the children of Israel are breathtakingly relevant to God’s people today...

- with that in mind, please follow along as I read beginning in Deuteronomy 31:1 – read 31:1-8...
- now, for sake of time, let’s fast forward to verse 30...read 31:30-32:18...
- the passage continues in a similar fashion...but that gives us enough information to get the point...

- there’s a lot that can be learned from these final words...but this morning we are going to especially focus on...
- 3 Key Emphases from a great leader’s final words.
- what were the take-aways that Moses especially wanted His people to remember?

I. Be Strong and Courageous.


- is there any question in anybody’s mind that that was one of Moses’ major themes?...
- and would it be fair to say that Moses especially believed that if God’s people were going to accomplish this task He had set out for them...they were going to have to be characterized by strength and courage in the Lord?...
- and would it also be fair to say that if you are going to accomplish what God wants you to accomplish as an individual, and if we are going to accomplish what God wants us to accomplish as a church, then we are going to have to be characterized by strength and courage in the Lord?....[and of course you can already be asking the evaluative question...Am I, ...Are we?]

- now, let’s look closer at the text...
A. The importance of courage in God’s servants.
- Deuteronomy 31:6 - Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
- Deuteronomy 31:7-8 - Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
- Deuteronomy 31:23 - The LORD gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”

- a couple pages over after Moses dies, guess what the Lord Himself speaks to Joshua about?...
- Joshua 1:6 - Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.
- Joshua 1:7 - Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
- Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

- do you think maybe the lesson here is that some of us, as God’s people, in the way we serve Him...at times struggle with possessing and acting on the strength and courage God desires us to have?...
- if He said this over and over to Joshua...I wonder what He would say to some of us?...

- the other side of this equation is, we can’t put on courage until we...
B. Put off fear.
- how many times did we read that...don’t be afraid...don’t be dismayed...don’t be discouraged...
- someone has rightly said...courage is not the absence of fear but the conquest of it...
- that’s true...but how does that work?...
- part of it is identifying the kids of fears that might stop us from accomplishing what God wants us to accomplish...
1. I might be rejected or ridiculed – My reputation won’t be sufficient.
- some have concluded, it would be better to do nothing that to face the possibility of being rejected by somebody else in my...
- that’s referred to biblically as “the fear of man”...and it can be a powerful force in an individual’s life...
2. I might fail – My power won’t be sufficient.
- what if I mess up?...what if I’m not as good as so and so...what if I can’t live up to other’s expectations...
- this is the view that says...failing is the worst thing in the world...which freezes many persons in inactivity...
3. I might not know the answer – My knowledge won’t be sufficient.
- someone might challenge my beliefs....they might ask me a question I don’t know...
- it would be better not to speak to those around me about Christ than to speak and perhaps admit I don’t know everything...
4. It might be too hard – My endurance won’t be enough.
- what if I start and I can’t finish?...
- what if there are unknowns?...what if something comes up I hadn’t anticipated?
5. I might be criticized – My performance won’t be sufficient.
- and friends, are you noting the repetitive words there....I, I, I...my, my, my...
- Paul told Timothy...- 2 Timothy 1:7 - For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

- and the argument of that text is critical...fear focuses on self---it is a form of selfishness...it’s the opposite of biblical love...
- which focuses on the need...on the other person...and is therefore willing to stretch...is willing to reach...is willing to risk...
- fear closes in...loves reaches out...

- now, this passage also gives us....
C. Reasons for strength and courage.
- it’s not like we have to conjure this up out of thin air...
1. God’s presence – verse 31:3 – It is the Lord your God who will cross ahead of you.
2. God’s power – verse 31:5 – the Lord will deliver them up for you.
3. God’s promises – verse 31:7 – ...the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them...
4. God’s provision – verse 31:8 – He will not fail you or forsake you.

- and every one of those principles is even truer for followers of Jesus Christ...
- that’s why Paul told the Ephesian church... Ephesians 1:18-20 - I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
- Paul says...I want you to know that...
- and some of God’s people will not put themselves in the position where they need the power of God...
- and therefore they won’t ever really learn about it...
- they won’t ever live in it...they won’t ever experience it or enjoy it...
- now, you might say...but if God is the one who’s really powerful, and God is the One who’s going before me...then why do I have to be strong and courageous?...
- why can’t I just be passive?...why can’t I just let go and let God?...
- why can’t I just saunter along behind Him?...

- what’s the answer to that question?...because God has designed the Christian life to be a cooperative effort...
- He works, and you work...He plans, and you plan...
- He reaches, and you reach...He draws and you draw...

- the more committed you are to doing your part shows the depth of your belief that He is going to do His...
- Be strong...because God is going to be strong...
- Be courageous...because God is going to do His part...

- and what excites me is...there are a lot of people around here who believe that...and it is enjoyable to watch men and women try things that are only going to work if God is who He says He is...and that strength and that courage is infectious...
1)  I want to thank Deb Garner for writing a new script for the passion play this year...
- I am sure that is a mountain of work...
- and you might not think about Deb as being muscle bound...as being strong like a prize fighter kind of strong...
- but the kind of courage that says...if on the one hand God has given me training in this area and God has given me giftedness...
- and on the other hand God has promised to draw men and women to Himself through the faithful proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son...
- then I’m going to do this work...
- and I’m not going to let the fear of failure, or the fear of fatigue, or the fear of criticism stop me from getting the job done for God...
- and I’m sure H the Lord will bless those efforts...
- way to go Deb, for being strong and courageous...

2) I appreciate Pastor Aucoin and Pastor Green saying that they will lead our church based seminary...
- so they and their family are sacrificing like crazy to get their Ph.D’s, one in Old Testament, and one in New Testament...because we want the students to receive an excellent education...
- and they are putting plans together for a housing unit because we want to provide free housing for our students so they don’t leave with debt and then try to serve on the mission field or in a pastorate somewhere...
- and you might say...but what if the Lord doesn’t do His part?...
- friends, He already is...

- one of our concerns for the seminary was that we really wanted a professor to teach systematic theology...we could handle that in-house but we preferred to bring in a leading professor in the country to help us with that if possible...
- so I’ll tell you what we did...we contacted Dr. George Zemek...
- Dr. Zemek was my thesis advisor when I was in seminary...
- he taught for many years at Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles...
- now he is serving as one of the teaching elders at the Bible Church in Little Rock and I just learned recently, they too are starting a church based seminary...
- we asked the elders of their church if they would allow Dr. Zemek to fly here and teach modules on systematic theology to our students...
- we have been working on that for months and just this week received an e-mail response...guess what...they said yes...our students are going to be taught systematic theology by one of the best, most experienced theology professors in the country...
- what happens when people like Brent and Rob say...I’m going to be strong and courageous and step out and do what our church believes God wants us to do?...
- the answer...God shows up and does His part in an unbelievable way...

- you say...what about the housing?...well, if you weren’t around here last fall, you might not know that part of the story...but the Lord brought a family that had no formal connection to our church and just gave us 100 acres of beautiful property...
- Be strong...and watch Him...be strong...
- by the way, we have finalized the plans for that housing building for our students and it is going to cost about $200,000 to build...
- maybe one of the ways God wants you to strong isn’t by teaching OT, or NT, but by getting Brent and Rob aside and saying...could I be part of helping you guys construct that facility...
- I want to have a part of providing that for generations of students who can be served by this church...and I’m not going to place my faith, and strength, and confidence in the accumulation of material things...
- I don’t want to miss that opportunity to be strong and courageous...

3) By the way, I want to thank you for your generous giving in the month of March...
- not even counting the giving toward the community center...our church family’s giving exceeded our budgeted amount by $48,000 in one month...
- to God be the glory for helping His people say...we want to be strong, and courageous and then enjoy how God will bless, and multiple, and use that...

4)  [if time, could talk about the accounting provision...]

5) Now you might say. OK PV, but what about the cost of this community center...that’s a large project...and we’ve made these 3 year financial commitments...
- but what if the contractor’s estimates don’t hold?...
- that’s a great question...because sometimes that happens...
- we’ve been basing our plan on an estimating process completed last summer...
- but then as we finalized the plans and bid it out for a formal contract, we were sort of bracing ourselves for sticker shock...
- our contractor came back to us 2 weeks ago, and said...I’m within $100,000 of the target you set for me...which was pretty good in light of the size of the project and the number of months that elapsed...
- but he said...could you give me 2 more weeks because we don’t have all the bids back I’d like to have and I think we can get closer to you target...
- so we said, OK, take two more weeks and try to shave $100,000 off...
- we met again this week...and guess what...he was able to shave, $120,000 off the contract price...
- see, our congregation did its part...back a year and half ago when we launched all of this...and what happens when we try to be strong and courageous?...
6) of course the most exciting aspect of that is the people side...we had an intro to faith dinner at our house last Friday night...
- it is thrilling to see the kinds of men and women God is drawing to Himself and bringing to our church...
- I would encourage you to be here tonight for our church family night...[develop]...

- and all of this is infectious...[develop – the storage facility being constructed, Andy’s skate park...]

- now, what else did Moses say, as He moved into this song?...


II. Focus on the Greatness of Our God.


- Deuteronomy 32:3 - For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God.
- why?...what is the theme of the beginning of this song?...

A.  His unchanging character.
- did you notice the theme throughout the song?...
- verse 4 – The Rock!
- He is the One who is stable...He is the One who is dependable...He’s the One who is permanent...His character and attributes never changes...

B. His righteous ways.
- verse 4 – His work is perfect.
- verse 4 – all His ways are just
- verse 4 – A God of faithfulness and without injustice
- verse 4 – Righteous and upright is He.

- I’d like to suggest to you that this is amazing for several different reasons:

1)  Moses...singing?...
- remember what Moses was like when God first told Him about His mission?...
- what was one of His excuses?...
- I’m not eloquent...I’m not good with words...
- he seems to be doing pretty well now!...Mr. Songwriter...

2) And also...singing about the character of God...
- remember the other objection he had at the burning bush?...
- well, who are you?...the people might ask your name...Pharaoh might ask your name....I’m not sure I can describe you very well...

- those days are over...I know you so well I can write a song about your attributes...
- I think there’s a lot of hope right there...

1) You might be here this morning and you’ve never even been willing to trust Christ as savior and Lord...
- and maybe for you, its because of fear...I don’t want to have to admit that I don’t know Christ...that I’ve never trusted Him...or that I need His forgiveness...
- I remember what it was like as a teenager walking around not being sure I was saved but too ashamed to admit it and ask for help...
- friend, perhaps the first step of courage for you is to speak with someone [e-mail us, whatever] and find out from God’s Word how you can know that you know...[that’s another reason to be here tonight...]

2) someone else might be here and would say...I know there’s an area of my life that I need to change...but I don’t know much about God, His Word...I’m afraid I might fail again...
- that’s “old Moses talk” right there...
- but the good news is...if God can take old Moses and make him new Moses...then God can take old you...and give you the strength and the ability to get busy changing...

3) you might be thinking about one of these ministry opportunities...
[cf. teaching children – yet another reason to be here tonight – graduation celebration – there will be some folks wiping their eyes tonight – explain]...

- one other reason what Moses is saying here is so significant is that this proves God can protect you from bitterness...
- because it is the very attribute that Moses is exalting that is keeping him from entering the promised land...God’s holiness...
- this book is in a context of judgment --- the judgment of God’s people in the wilderness, the judgment of God’s leader by not allowing him to enter the land, and the judgment of these other nations because of their wickedness and what was about to happen to them...
- and Moses could have allowed that to make him bitter...[develop]

- this is a great song Moses is singing...and it had the potential to help a lot of people think correctly about the character of God...
- I wonder about some of the songs you and I sing...and what others are motivated to think about God when we’re done...

III. Adopt a Realistic View of the Future.

- regrettably, this song ends on a fairly negative note...
- because God knew that after His people entered the promised land...they would become proud and forsake Him...and that’s exactly what they did, even though Moses warned them in advance...

- but what about our future?...
- if we’ll stay humble...if we’ll follow the gearing up lessons from this gearing up speech...there could be great, and unexpected victory...
- [show a picture of the coach...and then the victorious team]

- [tell the story of how he missed the cut on the 1960 team...and how he understood what that victory could mean to them, and when it even meant to him...]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987.  He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and they have three children. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church.  He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of Vision of Hope and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video