Deut 31:1 Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel:
Now begins an account of the closing stages of Moses’ life. The links between this concluding section and the introductory section (Deut 1-3) are very apparent. The most obvious common theme is the commissioning of Joshua, in view of the fact that Moses would not be permitted to enter the Promised Land. There is a series of charges to the people, 31:1-6, to Joshua, vv7f, and to the priests, 9-11.
Deut 31:2 “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’
“I am now a hundred and twenty years old” – The Egyptians regarded the life-span of a wise man as 110 years.
Deut 31:3 The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.
“The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you…Joshua also will cross over ahead of you” – ” Divine leadership…is incarnational – it is earthed in human leaders.” (Wright) This verse uses the same words both about God’s and Joshua’s leadership. The people do not need to be anxious. God will not desert them after Moses’s death; neither will he leave them without a human leader.
Deut 31:4 And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land.
Deut 31:5 The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you.
Deut 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.”
“He will never leave you nor forsake you” – Cf. Heb 13:5.
Deut 31:7 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.
Then Moses summoned Joshua – The transfer of leadership is a common theme in the Bible:- Samuel to Saul, David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to his disciples, Paul to Timothy
The commissioning and encouragement of Joshua is given great prominence, Num 27:18-23; Deut 1:38; 3:21; 3.28; 32:3, 7f, 14; 32.23; 34:9. See also the Lord’s speech directly to Joshua, Josh 1:1-9.
“Be strong and courageous” – “words that countless numbers of those called to leadership in God’s people have needed and heeded. These words are not merely for a psychological boost. They are based on two great truths. First, the people one is called to lead are those whose very existence proves the faithfulness of God, v7b. God has invested God’s word and name in the future of this people and so ultimate responsibility for them is God’s own – a fact Moses uses so effectively in his intercession, Deut 9:26-29. Secondly, the leader can count on the unfailing presence of God. What was covenantly true for the people (v6b) will be no less personally true for their leader (v8).” (Wright)
“The Lord himself goes before you” – The transfer of human leadership from Moses to Joshua is underpinned by the continuing, and primary, leadership of the Lord himself.
Deut 31:8 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.”
Deut 31:9 So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.
Deut 31:10 Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles,
Deut 31:11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing.
Deut 31:12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.
Deut 31:13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
Deut 31:14 The LORD said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tent of Meeting, where I will commission him.” So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the Tent of Meeting.
Deut 31:15 Then the LORD appeared at the Tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the Tent.
Deut 31:16 And the LORD said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.
Deut 31:17 On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?’
Deut 31:18 And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
Deut 31:19 “Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them.
Deut 31:20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant.
Deut 31:21 And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.”
Deut 31:22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.
Deut 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.”
Deut 31:24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end,
Deut 31:25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD:
Deut 31:26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you.
Deut 31:27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!
Deut 31:28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to testify against them.
Deut 31:29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and provoke him to anger by what your hands have made.”
Deut 31:30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel: