Pastor's wife: God's people complained, grumbled, and balked while He met their every need


Moses is just about to die.  In a few pages, he will climb Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah and then be buried by the LORD (Deuteronomy 34).  I’ve been dreading it for days. 

Reading the Bible chronologically this year, the LORD has breathed new life into the old, old stories I have read so many times.

Over the last several weeks, I have sojourned with the Israelites as they made their way to the Promised Land.  I was with them as they plundered the Egyptians on their way out of town.  My heart raced as they ran through the Red Sea on dry ground.  (You don’t walk when chariots are after you.)  I listened as they complained about no food, no meat, no water and felt Moses’ anger as he struck the rock he wasn’t supposed to.  (I would’ve done the same thing.)  My heart ached in the Desert of Paran when the people listened to the wrong voices instead of Joshua and Caleb.  The journey to the land flowing with milk and honey should have taken only 11 days, yet spanned 40 years.

Today, Moses is giving last instructions to the multitude he has been leading for so long.  One last time, he longs to impart wisdom to the stiff-necked people who have tried the patience of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They have complained, grumbled, and balked while He met their every need.  What could Moses say to leave a lasting impact? 

As I read the Scriptures, I hear pleading in his voice.  He knew these people well, their strengths and weaknesses.  He had walked with them for four long decades.

Moses’ words in Deuteronomy are not difficult to understand.  They were important for the children of Israel and for all of us today:

  • Love God first-with all your heart, soul, and strength (6:5). Then teach that to your kids … when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Basically, all day and all night-even if/when they roll their eyes. 
  • Do not forget the LORD. “When the LORD your God brings you into the land … in houses filled with all kinds of good things … then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD.” (6:10-12)   Humans are good at forgetting the LORD after the crisis has passed.
  • Do not follow other gods (6:14).
  • Do what is right and it will go well (6:18). Simple instructions that pack a punch: Do the right thing. 
  • In the future, when your kids ask why you follow the laws of the LORD, tell them the stories (6:20-23).

Some of Moses’ very last words were filled with encouragement for the children of Israel as they were crossing into the Promised Land. “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified … for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you,” Deuteronomy 31:6.  Good words for us in 2023.

Deuteronomy 34:7 reports, “Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.”  At 120, she was till strong and didn’t need glasses. 

After the death of Moses, the Israelites grieved for 30 days.  I will miss him, too.

Dawn Reed is a pastor's wife and newspaper columnist. Reach her at