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Famous Last Charges

Deuteronomy 32:44-47 • March 10, 2024 • g1288

Pastor Chris Amaro teaches a message through Deuteronomy 32:44-47 titled “Famous Last Charges.”

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Pastor Chris Amaro

March 10, 2024

Sermon Scripture Reference

We’ll be looking at Deuteronomy 32:44-47. I’ve broken it up into two parts: verses 44-45, which I’ve titled, The Change, because we see a change in leadership; and verses 46-47, which I’ve titled The Charge, because we will see Moses’ last charge there.

I’ve titled our study “Famous Last Charges.” That’s a play on words, because we’ve all heard the phrase “famous last words.” That phrase can be intriguing, especially as it pertains to the last words of a leader or entertainer.

According to his sister, Mona, Apple founder, Steve Jobs’ last words were, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!” Old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra, died after saying, “I’m losing.” He did it his way and found out he was losing. How about the last words of Union General John Sedgwick at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse during the American Civil War on May 9, 1864? He was heard saying, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance!” speaking of the Confederate Army. He scarcely got those words out when he was killed by a Confederate bullet. One of my favorites is from Dr. F.B. Meyer, a Bible commentator, shortly before his death. He wrote a very dear friend these words: “I have just heard, to my great surprise, that I have but a few days to live. It may be that before this reaches you, I shall have entered the palace. Don’t trouble to write; we shall meet in the morning.” Wonderful last words.

Those are famous last words, but what about famous last charges? And by “charges,” we mean directions or instructions. Mark Gruenwald, who was a long-time Marvel comics editor, who oversaw the adventures of Captain America and Ironman, succumbed to a heart attack in 1996. He had a very specific, final request. He wanted to be cremated and have his ashes mixed with the ink Marvel used to print their comics. Marvel honored the request. Imagine that! You’re reading a comic and say, “What is this on my fingers?!”

Or Angel Pontor Hamidina, who made sure he had a final request in place. He wanted to attend his own funeral. So a funeral home in his native Puerto Rico embalmed Angel and stood him up in his mother’s home wearing his beloved New York Yankees cap. He stood in the corner for three days while friends and family got to “hang” with Angel one last time.

And perhaps the most bizarre of the ones I found was that of James Booth, a London, vintage gun expert at Sotheby’s auction house, who had a fitting and unusual final request for his remains. When he died in 2004, his wife, Joanna, honored his wishes by having his body cremated and his ashes loaded into shotgun shells. A gathering of about 20 friends and family members then loaded Booth up and literally shot him. So bizarre!

And Moses had a famous last charge. I’ve titled this Famous Last Charges, because these actually weren’t Moses’ last words. His last words are found in Deuteronomy 33, which is Moses speaking blessings over all the children of Israel. But at the end of chapter 32, we have Moses’ last charge to the people. As you go through the book of Deuteronomy and you back up into Exodus and Leviticus where his story begins and then on to Deuteronomy, you find this wonderful story of God the Father leading His children. But you also find that Moses has a father’s heart. That is seen in our text.

We are very familiar with this as parents when our kids are leaving—either going off to summer camp, going to stay overnight at a friend’s house, going to school, leaving to go off to college or moving out. Moms are so persistent, so consistent by continually saying, “Be careful, honey!” Moms always want their kids to be careful above all else. Dads usually have some practical bit of wisdom for them like, “Watch out for other people. Watch the other drivers” or whatever else it might be. But we always have some parting words.

And that is what Moses is doing here. He is giving some parting words, because he is actually getting ready to die. He knows it and Joshua knows it and everybody listening to him knows it.

I’ll read verses 44-45, and then I’ll give you some background, context and tell you what’s going on here. “So Moses came with Joshua the son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. Moses finished speaking all these words to all Israel.”

This is the first of our two main divisions called The Change. This is about former and future leaders. Moses is the former leader, and Joshua is the future leader. Moses technically is still leading at this point, but he is transitioning out, and Joshua is transitioning in.

This gives me an opportunity to give you some context. Forty years prior, God came to Moses in a burning bush. God told Moses to go back to Egypt—he was actually born and grew up there—to lead the Israelites out from their slavery. They did leave Egypt and about a week later, they had gotten to the border of the Promised Land. God had said, “I’m saving you from slavery in Egypt, and I’m going to give you a land of your own.” God lead them to the Promised Land, and it was “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). It sounded like a wonderful land.

They got to Kadesh Barnea, but the people didn’t know if they could trust God. So they decided they were going to send a group of 12 to spy out the land to make sure God was telling the truth about the land. After a month, the 12 returned, and said it was a wonderful land. There were grapes there and indeed it was “flowing with milk and honey,” and there were things there they needed. But 10 of the spies said, “No way we can go there! There are giants in the land! They’ll devour us!”

Those 10 had what I call the “mall mentality.” You’ve heard of the “mob mentality,” doing whatever the mob is doing. They head the way of the mob without actually knowing what’s going on. I call it the “mall mentality,” because there are crowds at the mall. They all seems to be wandering around aimlessly.

Or it might be Costco. (The husbands are groaning.) It’s so hard to navigate in Costco. All you want is to get your free crackers, but someone parked their basket in the way. You can’t get around, you’re so mad and angry. Wherever everybody is, that’s where people want to be to see what’s going on.

So the 10 spies said, “We’re not going in! No way!” And everybody listened to the 10 spies. But two of the spies said, “No; we can go in! Yes, there are giants, but God is with us! What’s there is be afraid of?!” The two spies were named Caleb and Joshua, the son of Nun, the same one mentioned in verse 44. But because of their disobedience the people wandered around the wilderness for the next 40 years.

Now in Deuteronomy 32:44, we read that “Moses came with Joshua the son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people.” What just happened? Previous to our text, God told Moses to write a song. This song was to help the people. They were to memorize it, so they would remember God’s Commandments, statutes and judgments and remember what they were supposed to be doing.

I thought that was genius. I love music. Some of you still remember songs from way back in the day when you were little and when you were a teenager. Just a little jingle or song brings back all those memories. There are some songs I could sing, and you would remember the lyrics and could finish the song.

So Moses had finished writing the song, and God led Moses, the former leader, and Joshua, the future leader, out from their meeting with God, verse 44. And there is a bridge between the two generations, between Moses and Joshua. The bridge is built by God, and it is the Word of God. We’ll come back to that.

Now our second main division, in verses 46-47, is called The Charge. What is this about? Moses says in verse 46, “And he said to them: ‘Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today.’” Moses is giving the people his final charges or instructions, and he is telling them “set.” What he is telling them to do is to “set” or “fix” or “build” or “establish” their hearts in this safe place. More about that later.

When we say “heart,” what does that mean? We know it doesn’t mean that organ inside the body. The word “heart” is symbolic for our entire being, all we are. We might say “the core of who we are” or “at the heart of who we are.” So Moses is telling the people that all of who they are should be set on “all the words which I testify among you today.”

I find this fascinating and somewhat comical. In Exodus 4:10, we see the middle of a conversation between God and Moses. This is 40 years prior to the time of our text to when God and Moses first met. Moses had been in the wilderness with his father-in-law’s, Jethro’s flock, and God showed up and spoke to Moses. What God revealed to Moses was that God was sending him back to Egypt to lead His people out of slavery. But Moses began to back-pedal. He said, “No! Hold on! I don’t want to do that!” What he did was he began to come up with excuses. He questioned God. “Well, God, what if I go, but the people don’t want to listen to me? What if I go, but Pharaoh doesn’t respond?”

You know how some people come up with excuses. “Not us! Use other people.” When they don’t want to go somewhere or take part in something they make excuses. “Ah, my car’s giving me trouble.”

“That’s okay; I’ll pick you up.”

“Ah, I would go, but I’ve got to give my dog a bath.”

“But you can do that later.”

So we come up with all these excuses. And maybe that friend or family member has an answer for everything.

Some of you got to church that way. Some of you got saved that way. You kept coming up with excuses. Your friend, your partner, your cousin—whoever—kept after you.

“That’s okay; I’ll pick you up.”

“Well, I’m really hungry.”

“I’ll buy you lunch” or “dinner” or whatever. You just kept coming up with excuses.

And that was Moses. He’s grown weary; he’s run out of excuses. So in Exodus 4:10, Moses said, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” He said, “Lord, I have a speech impediment; you can’t use me. Use somebody else.” Verses 11-13, “So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have no I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” Then Moses finally said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” So Moses basically said, “I don’t want to go. Send somebody else. I don’t even care who You send.”

Isn’t that funny that when we’re younger, we want to let people down gently. The older we get we just say, “No, I don’t want to go.”

Then your friends will ask, “Well, why?”

“You didn’t hear me? I said ‘don’t want.’ ‘I don’t want to go.’”

“What are you going to do? Sit on your couch all day?”

So Moses is coming up with these excuses. I get it. I understand. When I was in junior high, I found out that teachers were evil people. They not only wanted me to write out a report; they expected me to stand up in front of the class and share that report orally. So I discovered a secret. If I don’t want to stand in front of anybody and share a report, I can ditch and not do that. And I found out if I don’t share my report, I’d get a D for that assignment. I said, “Is that still passing?” Yes. That’s fine; I’ll take it. That carried on when I went into high school. Who wants to stand in front of people and talk?! Not me. So I understand Moses’ pain; I didn’t want to do it either.

But if we go back to our text, you need to know this. He said to the people, verse 46, “Set your hearts on all the worlds which I testify among you today.” “You need to listen and build your life upon everything I’m saying today,” he tells them. Forty years prior, he was saying, “I don’t want to talk to anybody! I’m with Jethro’s goats!” We’re told in Exodus that Moses was in the back side of the desert.

The book of Deuteronomy is 34 chapters long, but it’s 33 chapters filled with Moses talking. Forty years prior he said that he didn’t want to talk in front of anybody. He didn’t like public speaking. But 40 years later, 32 chapters later, you can’t get him to shut up! What happened? He was changed by God. God will take a man, break a man and make a man. That’s what He did with Moses.

Now Moses is on his way out. In Deuteronomy 31:2, he said that he was 120 years old, and he couldn’t “go out and come in” the way he used to. Essentially he said he was 120 years old, and he was tired. But he knew he was going to die—God had already told him that—and he must have felt the pressure of that. He only had a few moments left with the people. So the last charge on his mind, on his heart, on the heart of a father, on the heart of a dying man is to set their hearts “on all the words which I testify among you today.”

And Moses also told them to set their children on that same path, verse 46. “…which you shall command your children to be careful to observe.” He said that you have to teach your kids these things. “Set your heart and set your kids on that same path,” he told them.

I have been involved in youth ministry for most of my Christian life—many, many years. It’s fascinating that I have seen some wonderful, godly families with some rotten kids. And I have seen some rotten, ungodly families with godly kids. Generally speaking, setting your kids on that same path leads them to that godly place, but not all the time, because we get to an age where we begin to make our own choices about what it is we believe.

But Moses is talking to the adults and telling them to set their hearts on what he’s telling them, and then they have to set their kids on the right track also. It doesn’t just mean to set them on the track and let them go, but he means to point them to the right track and take them there.

There’s an obvious lesson there for all of us who are parents. Take your kids to the Word. We need to get their hearts set on it also. But there is only so much we can do. We know the statement, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” But we have to do our best to get them there.

I’m the high school pastor. If you have high school students at Revival and they come to our high school services, they have heard me say this before: “You can find a ‘funner’ high-school ministry—they’re all over the place—where they will play a bunch of games, sing a song or two, spend a few minutes in the Word, give you some candy and then more games.”

“But when your Mom and Dad come in and sit you down and say, ‘We need to talk. Mom and Dad are getting a divorce,’ or ‘Dad’s got cancer’ or your friend messages you and says, ‘I can’t take it anymore; I’m going to end my life’ or ‘I’ve been having sex with my boyfriend; I think I might be pregnant’ or you yourself get a medical diagnosis so that life begins to fall apart, a game isn’t going to help you. Only the truth of God’s Word is going to sustain you during that time. So when you come here as a junior-high or high-school student, you’re going to get the Word of God. You’ll get some goofy games once in a while; I’m not a very fun person. But you’ll get some worship, and we’ll spend some time in the Word.”

We have in Revival Christian Fellowship every Sunday and every Wednesday junior-high and high-school students who show up week after week. They sit in the front rows, open their Bibles, pull out their notebooks and pens and feverishly take notes on what’s being taught from God’s Word.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at the high-school students and told them, “You guys amaze me!” What was I doing at 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19? I wasn’t reading my Bible, that’s for sure! That happens to them largely because of the man who fills this pulpit week after week. I have known John Miller for almost 30 years. The only thing I have ever heard from him when he steps into the pulpit is God’s Word being proclaimed. Nothing else. Why? Because God’s Word alone is truth (John 17:17). You’re not going to find truth anywhere else. And only the things that are based on, built on this Word are true.

You and I have to understand that and set our hearts on it appropriately. That’s what Moses was telling the people. It’s revealed for us in verse 46. “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today.” He said “testify”; they were not his own words. He was testifying about the words he was giving the people. What words was he talking about? It also says in verse 46, “…which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law.”

We could say, “This is a command for the children of Israel. It wasn’t written to anybody else.” That is partly true; it was written directly and specifically to these people. However, our pastor is a pastor’s teacher. John Miller teaches us the Word of God faithfully. So what you and I know is from throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament through the New Testament; that same principle applies, so set your hearts on God’s Word.

When Moses said to them “all the words of this law,” he meant not just the law that he had just finishing giving them—it was that—but he also meant everything in God’s Word. He meant God’s law, statutes, judgments, rulings—God’s wisdom. He was telling the people to set their hearts, build their lives on all of God’s Word.

Why did Moses say that? What is it that is so important about this law of God that they should build their lives on it? David said in Psalm 138:2, “I will worship toward Your holy temple and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth.” And then David proclaimed this, speaking about God: “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” He said that God had taken His Word and put it above the authority of His own name. That’s how important the Word is; it is above even God’s name.

Then Moses went go on to tell the people why they should do this, to give them some reasons. Verses 46-47 I titled The Charge, and the first part, in verse 46, was to “set.” “Set your hearts on” these things and your kids on this path. Now in verse 47, he tells them to see. In verse 47, he tells them three things. The first reason is, “For…” which means “because” “…it is not a futile thing for you.” It’s not an empty thing.

Those of us who were not raised in a godly home know what emptiness is. There were times when we stood in the midst of a party with a drink in our hand, the music going. You could have been in a night club with flashing lights, people dancing and laughing, but your heart was so desperately empty. But you didn’t know what it was until God’s Word found you. And as you began to dive into and devour God’s Word, you found out what it meant to be fulfilled. Then you didn’t need to be back in those places anymore.

I had just gotten saved many years ago, and my girlfriend at the time and my cousin and I drove into Riverside from San Bernardino to go to the Metro. Some of you know what I’m talking about. And it was “alternative night”; they were playing Depeche Mode and Morrissey and all that stuff. And because it was a weeknight, they would give out free snacks, and we were poor. “Let’s go have dinner and dance a little bit.” We got in there and got our cheap rolled taquitos, and we sat down and started to eat. We planned to stay there and dance and have a good time.

But the Spirit of God spoke to my heart and said, “Fool! You don’t belong here!” And I looked at my girlfriend and I looked at my cousin. We had all gotten saved at the same time. I said to them, “Hey, I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.” And they said to me, “We don’t think so either.” This was not our place anymore. So we got up and walked out after being there for only about 20 minutes. We never went back. It’s not that I couldn’t; I just didn’t need to anymore. I was no longer looking for the eternal party. I had Jesus and Jesus had me. And I had His Word in my heart. I didn’t need that stuff anymore.

Moses tells the people here the secret of success in the first reason: “It is not a futile thing.” It’s God’s Word. It will fill your life up. The second thing he tells them is “because it is your life.” You have heard Pastor Miller tell you from this pulpit that we should be known as a people of the Word. That should be our life. That should be what we do. That should be what we base all of our decisions on. That should be what our lives are built upon, what our hearts are set on: God’s Word. That’s our lifeline. If we do not have God’s Word, we have no life.

Thirdly Moses tells them, “By this word you shall prolong your days.” It’s going to prolong your life. Those of us who are older know that. Think back. How many times did you almost die in a car accident or in some kind of shooting or you were taking drugs or you were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Eventually you surrendered your heart to God and to His Word, it began to change the way you think, you stopped going to those places and hanging out in those scenarios and your situations in life changed. That’s what God’s Word does. This is the secret to success. It is to build your life on or set your heart on God’s Word.

Christian, if you find your life is lacking, the first thing I’m going to ask you is, “How much time do you spend with the Lord? How much time do you spend with the Lord in reading His Word?” And nine times out of ten, if your life is lacking, it’s probably because your time spent with the Lord is lacking, time spent in His Word. We’ve got to get into His Word. It’s our life. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re known for: this Bible. That’s why people hate us: because of what we have here, this book, God’s Word; because we believe it to be true. It’s “not a futile thing…It is your life.” It “shall prolong your days.”

Matthew Henry said, “It is not an indifferent thing but of absolute necessity. It is not a trifle but a matter of consequence. A matter of life and death. Mind it and you are made forever.”

I want to point out something else in verse 44. “So Moses came with Joshua the son of Nun.” God led Moses and Joshua out together, because what God is attempting to do is to tell the people that Moses is on his way out. Right after these verses, Moses is told by God, “I want you to climb that mountain and die.” I thought that was hilarious. “God, You didn’t know this man was 120 years old?! How’s he just going to go climb a mountain?!” He knows Moses is going to die and is transitioning out, and Joshua is transitioning in.

This is a beautiful picture of God saying, “Here’s your former leader. He was faithful. Here’s the future leader. He is also faithful.” But what is going to bridge the two? It’s God’s Word. As they come out together before the crowd, Joshua, who is younger than Moses, hears Moses say, “Set you hearts on all the words which I testify among you today.” He hears Moses say that this Word was going to prolong and preserve his life.

Joshua’s got it in his mind and in his heart also; let alone the last 40 years that he was with Moses. He knows that the key to success is dependence on God’s Word. And it was God who was bridging the gap between the two. Though the leadership was transitional, God’s Word remains transcendent. That means it doesn’t change from generation to generation, from age to age, from one place to another. It is outside of time and space. It transcends time and space. It never changes. Though the leadership was changing, God’s Word was still the same. It was still the same recipe for success. So set your heart on these things.

Now I feel for Joshua. Can you imagine? Moses, 120 years old, had been working for the Lord for 40 of those years. And now Joshua has to take over for Moses?! God help him!

We’re all praying that our pastor will live for 1,000 years. I am. “Lord, just let him live for 1,000 years.” That way I can continue to be taught by him and my kids and perhaps my kids’ kids also. We just want him to live forever. God forbid that he should ever have to exit the pulpit. But if he ever does, God help the man who would have to take over for him! Can you imagine that?! Who would want to do that?! Never mind; just play videos of him.

Joshua is about to take over for Moses, and Joshua is inadequate. But Moses was inadequate also. What was it that sustained Moses? What was the key to his success? It was God’s Word. It was a commitment and an obedience to God’s Word.

This is a simple lesson: set your heart on His Word. If you find that you are lacking, that you are wandering, that you need questions answered, that you feel you are empty, that you need some wisdom, that you need some joy—whatever it is that you need—set your heart on His Word. He will be faithful. He put His Word above His name.

Pastor Photo

About Pastor Chris Amaro

Pastor Chris Amaro is the High School Pastor at Revival Christian Fellowship

Sermon Summary

Pastor Chris Amaro teaches a message through Deuteronomy 32:44-47 titled “Famous Last Charges.”

Pastor Photo

Pastor Chris Amaro

March 10, 2024