At this point in the books of Moses, the prophet had finished preaching the word of the Lord to the people. They had made covenants to keep the law, so that they could prosper in the land of promise. Moses was near the end of his mortal life at this time, and was ready to help them finish the final preparations before they continued on their way to their inheritance. This chapter begins as follows:
1 And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.
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.
3 The Lord thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said.
4 And the Lord shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he destroyed.
5 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.
6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
At the age of 120, after about forty years of being their leader, Moses could no longer lead the Israelites. The Lord had told him that his work was done and that he would not enter the promised land. (Side note: Moses lived as an Egyptian prince for about 40 years, then he fled and lived with the family of Jethro, a priest of Midian, for another forty years. At the age of 80, the Lord called Moses to save his people, and then after about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and leading the children of Israel, he was taken from this life. It is interesting how his life was broken up into these 40 year periods, each marking a major change for him.) Moses told the people that God would go before them, with Joshua as their prophet and leader. The nations in the land would be destroyed with the Lord’s help. Moses told them have courage and to not fear the other nations that would be in the land, because God was with them. The Lord’s promise that he would not fail them or forsake them, is a promise to all the people of God today as well. In Doctrine and Covenants 68 we read the following:
5 Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.
6 Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.
Anyone who serves God and strives to live righteously during the constant battle we wage against the adversary, has this promise. The Lord will always be with those who are fighting for His cause.
7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
8 And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
Moses gave counsel of encouragement directly to Joshua, where he again told him to “be strong and of good courage”. Joshua had the responsibility of leading the people to victory, so that the promised inheritance would be received by all the children of Israel. They would have to fight nations that were stronger and more numerous then they were. They would also need to continue to be strong in keeping the commandments, in order for the Lord to remain on their side. Joshua needed confidence in the Lord at this time, because the task he was facing was going to be extremely difficult. He also needed confidence in himself. It would have required a great deal of faith and trust in the Lord, to go forward in this calling and it must have been difficult following in the footsteps of a spiritual leader, such as Moses. I am sure that this counsel was needed and appreciated by Joshua. The fact that Moses was instructed to say these things to Joshua and the people, reminds me of the love of God for each of us. He wants us to know that He is aware of us and our difficulties, and that he can help us to accomplish great things. The Lord promises us help as well, if we will go forward with faith in our own callings in life. I am so grateful for this promise and I believe that it is the power of the atonement that gives us the strength to endure. If we have faith in the Lord and His power, we will have the ability to endure all things well, even the giants that we have to conquer.
9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel.
10 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,
11 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.
12 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:
13 And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.
Moses gave a record of the law to the elders of Israel. They were commanded to read the law every seven years in the feast of tabernacles. This they were to do, so that they would know the law and continue to obey it. It would not have been long, before the message would have been forgotten, so it was important that they have the opportunity to be reminded. We are told to gather often, so that we can be instructed and edified by the word of the Lord as well. In this, we will be able to remember the commandments we have been given, the covenants we have made, and the love of God for His people. The strength that comes from gathering and hearing the word of the Lord, provides the knowledge to be obedient, and the ability to endure through the difficulties that every day life throws our way.
I think it is important for us to realize that because Moses had these words recorded and preserved, we have the words today. The books of Moses were part of the brass plates which the family of Lehi took with them to the Americas, and so they effected the people of the Book of Mormon who would then live the law of Moses. Without the law, they would not have been able to continue in righteousness for the times that they did. The books of Moses were also preserved in the old testament of our bible today, which allows us the opportunity to have these words, so that we might know and live the way God wants us to live. Record keeping is vitally important, especially when it comes to things of a spiritual or eternal nature nature, such as inspirations and commandments received from the Lord.
In their days, they did not have the ability to provide all the words of Moses in every home. They had been told to keep the commandments and covenants written and carried on themselves and placed around their homes so that they could remember, but they needed to gather together in order to hear the complete law. We are so blessed to live in a time when not only can we have a copy of the written word of the Lord in a physical book, but we have devices of all sizes and computers, which mean we can easily keep the word of the Lord with us at all times. This is such a blessing and I think it is taken for granted by many. We need to be grateful for the access we have to these words, and show that gratitude by studying them regularly and making them a part of our lives.
14 And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.
15 And the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.
Moses, who was nearing the end of his life, was commanded to call Joshua to go with him to the tabernacle. They presented themselves there and the presence of the Lord appeared there.
16 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.
17 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?
18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.
21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.
Moses was told that it was his time to die and be with those who had gone before. He was also told that the Israelites would follow after false gods, forsake the Lord and brake the covenants they had made. The Lord told the prophets that this specific law being broken so many times throughout the Bible, and it makes me think about the things that our prophets and apostles warn us of today. I that the some of the sins that are spoken about and warned against quite frequently, are those of sexual nature. One warning in particular is about the effects of seeking after and indulging in pornography, which can lead to destruction of those things that should matter most. I know that the modern prophets continually repeat their warnings, because they know this is a challenge in our day, the way idolatry was in the days of Moses. We can look back at the story of the Israelites and see that if they had listened to the warnings of the prophet, Moses, they would have been able to continue with the Lord by their side, but do we look at ourselves the same way? We have modern prophets called to lead the Lord’s people in the ways of righteousness, and we need to listen to their words of warning, so that we can also have the Lord by our side.
The Lord told Moses that the people would be forsaken and the Lord would no longer be among them. The curses that had been promised, would come to pass among the Israelites. Moses had to record the law as a witness against the disobedient, so that the judgements that would come upon them would be just. The Lord knew their weaknesses and knew what they would do in the face of temptation. I hope that I am a person who the Lord can see as loyal and faithful. I know that having the word of God in my life is the key to remaining obedient to the commandments.
22 Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.
23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.
Moses did as he was commanded by the Lord, both in giving the words to the people, and in charging Joshua, who would be his successor in leading the people, with the responsibilities of leadership and sharing words of faith and hope with him.
24 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,
25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying,
26 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.
27 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?
The written law was to be put in the ark of the covenant as a witness, along with the commandments received at Sinai, and I believe a basket of manna. All these were to be kept there by the Levites, to be had in remembrance of the commandments, covenants, promises and blessings that the people had received from the Lord. Moses knew that the people were not a perfect people, and that the natural man in them was an enemy to God. He also knew that they would grow further from the Lord after he had been taken from them, because greater knowledge and priesthood would go with him, and they would not always remember these things they had been given. It is so important for us to have the law of God, but it is more important for us to live it so that we can be worthy of the spirit. The spirit helps us to recognize truth, and he will continually testify of Christ to our hearts, if we will listen and obey. We can keep the spirit with us, when we hold a remembrance of our own covenants, blessings, promises, and commandments.
28 Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.
29 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.
30 And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.
Moses called the elders of Israel again, so that he could speak to them of those things that were most important. If Moses had not done this, he would have been held accountable for not doing all that he could to bring the Israelites to the Lord. In doing this, his words were a witness against all those who would choose to rebel against the commandments. Moses gave the words to those who were gathered, as he had been commanded.
There are many things that we can fear in the world today. In this day, there is easy access to some of the most dangerous and frightening things. The adversary of us all, is seeking to do all that he can to destroy the happiness of mankind by causing us to fear. The message to have courage and not fear, is so important for us today. We cannot win our own battles without the Lord on our side. We can know that we have the promise of His companionship, if we follow the commandments and put the Lord first in our lives. When we do what is right, in the sight of God, he can bless us with greater courage and faith. We will know what is right, if we make a constant effort to read, study and ponder the scriptures. These books of Moses, as well as all the other inspired words of the prophets, need to be a guide in our lives. I am so grateful that Moses was obedient to the commandments he was given, and that because of his obedience, we have these ancient scriptures today. I know that these words are for us today, as much as they were for the people of ancient Israel. My life as been greatly blessed by striving to learn and live the principles found in the scriptures. My hope is that I can influence others around me, to have a love of the scriptures as well, so that they can obtain the courage needed to endure in our day.