Moses reminded the children of Israel that God had kept His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and was now keeping His promise to them, their descendants. Having been delivered from Slavery in Egypt, having received the law, and their constitution, having been disciplined for disobedience for 40 years, and after having been fed and watered in the wilderness, the nation was about to receive the promised land. Moses knew he would not be with them and began to prepare the nation to function without him.  He reminded the nation that they were too much for one man to handle. God had indeed fulfilled his promise to make Abraham a great nation. In Deuteronomy 1:9-10, “At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. The Lord, your God, has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

I can’t help but believe that Moses was well aware of God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants as “numerous as the stars in heaven.” When Abraham looked up in the night, he saw only what was visible. When I was aboard the USS WALLER, a Navy Destroyer, we were in the waters of the Persian Gulf. I remember being at sea where there were no lights of a city. We went to “darken ship,” which cut off all the lights that would be visible to anyone else near us. We only had infrared lighting. As I stepped off of the bridge onto a catwalk, I looked up at the sky and was astounded by how many stars I could see. It was the same night sky that Abraham saw. I suppose this is what it looked like to Abraham and Moses as well. Moses suggests that the number of children of Israel that he led from Egypt already matched the number of stars in heaven. He said, “Today” you are as numerous as the stars. Well, we know now that it isn’t true. The stars are actually innumerable, but the point Moses is making is that just as the number of stars in heaven is unmanageable, so too is the number of Israelites.

Moses is preparing the nation to think about the organization of so many people. We’ll see them organized and assigned portions of the land by their tribe and the number of people in their tribes. Moses knew that the people needed wise and godly leaders. Payne observes, “No single individual, however gifted, could personally look after a whole nation’s needs; but God had already given his approval to a careful system of leadership and control. Every generation has its ‘wise, understanding, and experienced men.’ Not even a Moses is indispensable.”[1] With Jesus, the number of people counted in the household of God is increased even more. All those of faith are now grafted in and included in this great number of people. Ephesians includes us in the count of descendants of Abraham. Paul says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” In Acts Chapter Six, when Gentiles were beginning to be added to the church in Jerusalem, it became apparent that the Apostles were going to need help taking care of the flock. Brown recognized this and suggested that the resolution that the Apostles made to manage the increase was one that followed the pattern established by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy.  He writes, “In this case, men were appointed to care for the concerns of the widows, leaving the apostles free to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. When churches grow considerably—and we must pray that they will—and when problems increase—and they usually do, though we hope that they won’t—it becomes necessary to ensure that leaders are not overburdened and that wise and spiritual people are appointed to meet the needs.”[2]

[1] Payne, David F. 1985. Deuteronomy. The Daily Study Bible Series. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] Brown, Paul E. 2008. Deuteronomy: An Expositional Commentary. Exploring the Bible Commentary. Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.