Before they went forward, they needed to look back. Before they were to proceed, God told Moses they needed to be prepared.
Entering the land of promise would come with challenges. Foreign people would come with foreign gods. Pagan people would showcase pagan practices. And these gods would be intriguing, these practices enticing. The allure to follow other gods, to bow down before carved images, and to worship the creation rather than the Creator would be real and strong. So they would need to keep their souls diligently (Deut. 4:9).
A land of plenty would come with plenty of temptations. First, the temptation to forget where they had come from. The relative ease of working their own land in their own country for their own welfare would have a way of causing them to forget that they were once slaves in another land serving a cruel ruler.
And then, temptation to think more of themselves than they should. To forget that the cities and fields they possessed were not of their own building but were a gift that came with the promise. And this would lead to forgetting the Giver, and to increasingly behaving as a self-made people who could live self-directed lives. Thus, they would need to watch themselves very carefully (4:15).
And so, before entering the land God promised, they first needed to rehearse the word God had spoken. Before experiencing the milk and honey of Canaan, they needed to be reminded of God’s glory and greatness experienced at Sinai. Before they were ready for their new homeland they needed to have the right heart.
“And the LORD said to me, ‘ . . . Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear Me and to keep all My commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!'”
(Deuteronomy 5:28-29 ESV)
That’s the heart that sets up for success in the promised land. A heart that fears God and keeps His commandments. That’s the posture which rightly prepares for the promise. A humility of soul before the Almighty which causes it to thirst for His precepts. That’s the attitude ready to appropriate life to the full. Always looking beyond the gift and seeing the Giver. Ever thankful to possess what could never be purchased. Always wanting to respond to such great grace with submissive obedience.
Such a heart as this. Oh, says the LORD, that’s the heart I want my people to have.
Me too. A heart that fears His name and keeps His commandments. A heart constantly refreshed with the awe of who God is and thus a desire to do what God wills. A heart that I could never manufacture on my own, but a heart that He has provided in preparation for entering the promise. A new heart.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)
God has provided such a heart as this.
Still learning to follow it. Still figuring out how to do battle with the old man and the flesh which constantly rises up in opposition to it. But, by the Spirit within me, increasingly learning what it is to fear the LORD with healthy, life-giving awe and wonder. And, by His enabling, figuring out how to walk in the way He wants. Longing for, dependent upon, such a heart as this.
By His grace. For His glory.