Back to Our Roots

Message Title: Back to Our Roots
Main Text: Deuteronomy 34:1-12;
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-46
RCL Scripture: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Focus:  Moses dies and transfers leadership to Joshua as Israel enters the Promise Land.
Function: To think about our roots as we plan our future but not feel restricted or bound to repeat the past.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 22:34-46 34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. 35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,[a] and with all your mind.38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”  41 Now as the Pharisees were gathering, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “David’s son,” they replied. 43 He said, “Then how is it that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, called him Lord when he said, 44 The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right side until I turn your enemies into your footstool’?[c] 45 If David calls him Lord, how can he be David’s son?” 46 Nobody was able to answer him. And from that day forward nobody dared to ask him anything.

Series intro: “Know Your Roots”: October ends with a very special holiday and no, I’m not talking about Halloween. I mean Reformation Day. October 31st marks the annual celebration of the Protestant Reformation. Then November starts with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. This is a perfect season to consider our heritage as we look to the future.


  1. History of Covenants:
    1. In the Old Testament, they used covenants as a legal agreement between two parties, much like marriage vows but less romantic. Typically, the covenant would include a sacrificed animal and the two parties walking through the blood of the sacrificed animal saying “let this be done to me if I break our promise.”
      1. Good news! Churches don’t sacrifice animals as a sign of our commitment to the church! Whew!
    2. Frequently churches tied covenants to the act of baptism. You gained “membership” as you committed to Jesus and to a church in the waters of baptism. Covenants showed your level of commitment to a congregation. This was especially important when persecution was high for Christians and is still important in places where being a Christian is illegal.

TRANSITION: In our text for today, we will hear about the transition of power from Moses to Joshua. Will Israel survive the transition of power? Can someone else fill Moses’ shoes?

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Background on Deut

VS 1-3 Then Moses hiked up from the Moabite plains to Mount Nebo, the peak of the Pisgah slope, which faces Jericho. The Lord showed him the whole land: the Gilead region as far as Dan’s territory; all the parts belonging to Naphtali along with the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as the entirety of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea; also the arid southern plain, and the plain—including the Jericho Valley, Palm City—as far as Zoar.

  1. Location: Mt. Nebo in Moab
    1. From this location Moses could see a wide stretch of the Promise Land
      1. Map of planned 12 tribes’ inheritance
      2. Israel square miles: 8550
      3. Indiana square miles: 36000
  2. Significance: Ruth’s country, enemies of the Israelites
  3. God says “here’s the promise land”….and then the next words are a kicker…

VS 4-7 Then the Lord said to Moses: “This is the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I promised: ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have shown it to you with your own eyes; however, you will not cross over into it.” Then Moses, the Lord’s servant, died—right there in the land of Moab, according to the Lord’s command. The Lord buried him in a valley in Moabite country across from Beth-peor. Even now, no one knows where Moses’ grave is. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyesight wasn’t impaired, and his vigor hadn’t diminished a bit.

  1. You don’t get to go in.
    1. Map of Exodus & wandering for 40 years
    2. Moses already knew this; it wasn’t like God just delivered that information in that moment. He lost his privilege to go into the promise land with the rest of his generation and God declared this when Moses was deliberately disobedient.
    3. This is the end of Moses’ story. He leads the Israelites out of Egypt, that generation loses the opportunity to enter the promise land because of their lack of faith. They wander in the desert for 40 years until the next generation is ready to enter the promise land.
    4. So now, Moses is 120 years old but don’t worry, he’s got his vigor and eyesight. And it’s time to die.
  2. But what happens next? Who will take over after Moses? Aaron and Miriam are already dead. What leader get’s to take over?

Vs 8-12 Back down in the Moabite plains, the Israelites mourned Moses’ death for thirty days. At that point, the time for weeping and for mourning Moses was over. Joshua, Nun’s son, was filled with wisdom because Moses had placed his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to Joshua, and they did exactly what the Lord commanded Moses. 10 No prophet like Moses has yet emerged in Israel; Moses knew the Lord face-to-face! 11 That’s not even to mention all those signs and wonders that the Lord sent Moses to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to his entire land— 12 as well as all the extraordinary power that Moses displayed before Israel’s own eyes!

  1. Israel grieved for Moses, and then Joshua stepped into his role as the next leader of Israel. Moses had already blessed Joshua with wisdom to fulfill this role.
  2. Moses was special, no one was going to be exactly like Moses.
    1. Moses knew God face to face.
    2. God used Moses to show miraculous signs.
    3. Moses was special.


  1. We will hear more about Joshua’s story in the next couple weeks.
  2. As we see the closing of Moses’ story, it reminds me a little of funerals.
    1. It’s customary that we don’t air our family’s dirty laundry at a funeral. Though, that’s not always the practice. When saying goodbye to a loved one, you focus on the positive and try to let go of the rest.
    2. Moses was a flawed human being. He made all kinds of mistakes, yet in these final verses he is celebrated.
  3. And then we turn our eyes to Joshua to step into Moses’ roll but not shoes. But the author seems to make it quite clear that Joshua won’t fill Moses’ shoes. Moses had a special relationship with God.
    1. Joshua was to lead Israel but not be Moses.
  4. Joshua has his own story.
    1. Joshua was one of the 12 spies that investigated the Promise Land 40 years ago. He was one of two (along with his buddy Caleb) to say the Promise Land was wonderful and God would provide. He suggested they move forward. Unfortunately, he was outvoted by the other spies.
    2. 40 years later, he’s back at the edge of the Promise Land, ready to step in and let God take the lead. But will he do it perfectly? Join us next week for more of his story.

APPLICATION: To think about our roots as we plan our future, but not feel restricted or bound to repeat the past.

  1. As a lover of history, I love to hear old stories of communities. I love hearing how Prairie Township has changed or the history of the different buildings Liberty has worshiped in. I love hearing the stories of the confederate soldier John McKay enlisting in the Confederate Army because the Union stole his horses. I think those stories shape a community.
    1. I find it important to know our roots from to know where we are growing next.
  2. The past informs the future
    1. Knowing our roots helps us understand the meaning behind our traditions.
    2. Knowing our roots provides us wisdom for the future
  3. Plant – Pot – Roots – Growth
    1. not a green thumb
      1. watering
      2. replanting
    2. rotating crops
  4. God doesn’t only play the greatest hits. (annuals vs. perennials)
    1. God can do new and beautiful things in God’s church.
    2. We need to be attentive to God’s Spirit guiding us.

CONCLUSION: As I think about our church covenant, I think of the importance for us to know why we gather in order to plan for our future.

  1. As we trust we have been brought by Divine Grace to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the influence of His Spirit to give ourselves up to Him, so we do now solemnly covenant with each other that, God enabling us, we will walk together in brotherly love; that we will exercise a Christian care and watchfulness over each other and faithfully warn, rebuke and admonish one another as the case shall require;
  2. that we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together nor omit the great duty of prayer both for ourselves and for others; that we will participate in each others joys and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each others burdens and sorrows; that we will earnestly endeavor to bring up such as may be under our care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;
  3. that we will seek Divine aid to enable us to walk circumspectly and watchfully in the world, denying ungodliness and every worldly lust; that we will strive together for the support of a faithful evangelical ministry among us; that we will endeavor by example and effort to win souls to Christ; and through life amidst evil report and good report seek to live to the glory of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
  4. Reflection
    1. Consider our covenant: How is your commitment to God and to the church?
    2. Roots: What do you love about Liberty?
    3. Growth: What do you hope for Liberty’s future
  5. Benediction:
    1. Our Roots nourish our Growth.
    2. it’s important to know our Roots in order to Grow.

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