Deuteronomy 31:7-13, 31:24-32:4
7Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: “Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it. 8It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
9Then 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. 10Moses commanded them: “Every seventh year, in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, 11when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12Assemble the people – men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns – so that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, 13and so that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.”
24When Moses had finished writing down in a book the words of this law to the very end, 25Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, 26“Take this book of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God; let it remain there as a witness against you. 27For I know well how rebellious and stubborn you are. If you already have been so rebellious toward the LORD while I am still alive among you, how much more after my death! 28Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officials, so that I may recite these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly, turning aside from the way that I have commanded you. In time to come trouble will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.”
30Then Moses recited the words of this song, to the very end, in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:
1Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth. 2May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth. 3For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! 4The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he;
If you have watched the movie rendition of the musical “Hamilton” this week you may hear a tune in your head when you read the above story. If you haven’t seen or heard any of the Hamilton cultural phenomenon in the past five or six years, the musical is a short biography of Alexander Hamilton as he rose from anonymous immigrant to Secretary of the Treasury and died in duel with Aaron Burr. Hamilton benefited from the patronage of George Washington, who hired Hamilton as a staffer during the Revolutionary War and then appointed him Treasury Secretary. At one point in the musical, Washington surprises Hamilton with the news that he is not running for President and is instead “going home.” A song follows with the repeated refrain: “George Washington’s going home/to teach ‘em how to say goodbye.” The shock of the news draws a contrast between Washington and Hamilton. Hamilton has been an outsider his whole life and so he works to acquire power. Washington who was born into great privilege relinquishes the power he has. In our reading today, Moses displays similar restraint as he teaches Israel how to say goodbye. He appoints Joshua to continue his work. He finishes his record of the law—his life’s work. He warns Israel about the cost of disobedience. Then he blesses them with a song. This preparation is important. Moses realizes that despite his “specialness,” the work of God is greater than any one person. It doesn’t belong to him but to the whole people of God. What is required, then, is humble work that can be shared. None of us is indispensable, which is just what brings us into appropriate knowledge of how we can exercise power in executing God’s mission—only by relinquishing it in the end.
God, help us let go of what we need to give to others, not to be important in ourselves, but that you may be all in all, in Jesus Christ. Amen.