Even though Moses will not be privileged to lead the nation into the Promised Land, he does lead them to it. Deuteronomy serves as the ‘boot camp’ of Moses as he exhorts the nation to remember and renew the call of the Lord to covenantal faithfulness. He outlines what faithful living and faithful worship looks like, acknowledging that there will be opposition to both. You will recall that the unbelieving spies saw insurmountable danger in the number, size, and strength of the Promise Land’s inhabitants. These are not the concerns of Moses; he writes, “You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you. (3:22)” The external concern Moses has is the idolatry and immorality of the Canaanites.
This is a danger they have faced, and succumbed to, before. It was Canaanite idolatry and immorality that preceded Israel’s journey in Egypt. In Genesis 38, Judah left his kinsmen and married a Canaanite. After his wife died, he had a sexual encounter with a woman whom he thought was a Canaanite cult prostitute (vv 21-22), a woman that turned out to be his own daughter-in-law. Most commentators agree that the description of idol worship at Sinai of the people who “rose up to play (Ex 32:6)” involves cultic sexual practices. The Canaanites worshipped fertility gods, and so it is little wonder that sexual immorality would be involved in their ‘worship’. And thus, Moses warns this new generation of the dangers of idolatry repeatedly (see 4:25-26; 5:8-10; 11:16-17; 29:17-20, for example). They are even warned that they will turn to idolatry in the future (31:16, 20; 32:15-23). Their hope is to take severe preventative action:
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you…seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods … you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth (from 7:1-6).”
Something to Understand:
Idolatry and immorality are intimately related. Where there is sin, there is defective worship. Notice God called Israel to holiness not to become his treasured possession, but because they were his treasured possession. You, likewise, are his treasured possession in Christ; set apart to worship him and enjoy him forever!