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Dividing Lines

Deuteronomy 9:1
“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven.”

When it comes to devotionals, I’m not generally one for word-by-word exposition as my allegorical leanings tend to drive me up a hill to see a wider scope of the terrain, but Deuteronomy 9:1 is rebuffing that impulse remarkably right now. Every word of Moses’ imperative feels exactly that: imperative. So, let’s look at them together one by one.

“Hear!” This is the paramount command, isn’t it? Before we can become doers of God’s Word, we must become hearers. Hearing is the starting point.

“O, Israel!” Get that: not just “you people” or “fellow pilgrims” or “Promised Land seekers” but “God’s chosen nation! A special tribe of earthlings among whom Heaven dwells!”

You are to cross!” That’s right: not just the elite fighting men who’ve trained for war their entire lives, nor just the priests and Levites who hold in their possession sacred armaments, nor just Moses with His miracle-staff and his prodigy, Joshua, but you, too. This is a plural ‘you’ for the entire commonwealth but also a singular ‘you’ for every individual—young or old, male or female, slave or free. This isn’t someone else’s commission, but yours. Your father can’t take the step for you. You’ll have to step out on your own two feet and walk.

“To cross over the Jordan!” Ah, the great divide between a wilderness wandering and a Promised Land! The border between an old, withering past and a blooming future! The line between death and life that can’t be straddled any longer! The point of decision, the crucible, has come.

Today!” Oh what a terrific word! What a terrifying word! Jordans are easy to cross in our imaginations, when we still have miles of road ahead, when the weight of the moment hasn’t yet been heaved on our shoulders as a crossbeam. Moving mountains, fighting giants, conquering devils—that’s easy in our fantasies, right? But in reality; when the time comes to step forward, to lead the line, when the cold water clutches our toes and sends a chill into our hearts, that’s when we learn what we’re made of.

No more time to parse words, friend. Time to cross!