The Book of Deuteronomy may very well be the longest farewell speech in history. It is definitely the longest recorded in scripture. But it is really much more than a farewell speech. Here in a series of addresses Moses sought to equip the new generation for their new life in the promised land. One of the most important responsibilities of the older generation is teaching the next generation the Word of God and what godly living looks like. The nation of Israel is poised at the entrance to the promised land and Moses takes one more opportunity to remind God's people what it means to have Him as their one and only God.
First Moses reviewed Israel's past and reminded them of their unfaithfulness and its consequences. He then reminded them of the law. Their obedience to the covenant would determine their success or failure in this new land. They had wandered for 40 years and now they would have a chance to have their own land, a place to live and time to put down roots. If they obeyed the Lord, God would bless them abundantly and they would be a beacon, and a witness to the pagan nations around them. Over the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering God had proved His faithfulness to them over and over. But once they crossed over the Jordan River, they would have numerous battles to fight. There would be physical clashes with the Canaanites and spiritual battles within, in order for them to remain God's holy people. Both battles would test them to the end of themselves. Both God and Moses knew there would be many challenges in this new land and this generation needed a refresher course. Moses was doing all he could knowing he could not enter the promised land with the Israelites.
There are three major themes in this book of the Bible. The first is the covenant relationship between God and His people. God's unmerited love is the basis not only of the covenant but also the people's trust In Him. The second theme is choices. The covenant exhorted God's people to teach, remember, and obey. God promised that obedience would bring blessing and He warned that disobedience would result in harm. But the choice would be theirs. The third theme is the poor. Jesus told us we would have them with us always. Here we see God's love for society's vulnerable, the widows, orphans, and the poor. Deuteronomy designated special protections and commands involving the inclusion of widows, orphans, resident foreigners, the disabled and the elderly.
But does Deuteronomy have a message for us today? Here are three thoughts. All scripture is God inspired and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Deuteronomy is quoted in the New Testament nearly 100 times. Jesus quoted more from Deuteronomy than from any other book in the Old Testament. It was Deuteronomy He quoted from when he was tempted by the evil one in the wilderness, and when he was questioned by His enemies. Matthew 22:34-40. The word Deuteronomy means “second law” or “repetition of the law.” In this book Moses reviews the Law originally given at Mount Sinai and applies it to Israel's life in the land of Canaan. Deuteronomy also contains instructions and exhortations concerning the conquest of the land and Israel's relationship to the inhabitants of the land.
The first five verses answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. God was giving His people a second chance to enter the promised land and Moses didn't want them to fail as the previous generation had. We tend to look at God in the Old Testament and see a very different God than we do in the New. But the Israelites were at Mount Sinai for nearly a year to both give them His law and to teach them how to worship. The Lord didn't give the Israelites His law to save them from their sins. The law never saves. Under the old covenant people were saved by faith just as we are today. The law simply reveals our sins and the saving grace of the Lord. The civil law allowed Israel to have a civil and just society and the religious law enabled them to live as people of the one true living God, set apart from other nations to glorify His name.
Much of what we read was a review of other Old Testament books written about Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. But what we do see here is how Moses tried to persuade the Lord to allow him to enter into the promised land. In chapter three of today's reading Moses pleaded with God to be allowed into Canaan. Notice what God's response was. The subject was not open to discussion and Moses was not to bring it up again. And Moses reminded the Israelites that it was because of their continued complaining and grumbling that he was angry and lost his chance to go into Canaan with them. Throughout Deuteronomy Moses will remind the Israelites exactly who God is. Notice 4:29,31. The words are as valid for the Israelites as they are for us. If you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look with all your heart and with all your soul. And the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not abandon you, destroy you or forget the covenant He made with your forefathers. Again, in verse 35 Moses reminds all of us we have been shown things so that we never forget that the Lord is God and besides Him there is no other.
What we read here is not just a good reminder and reinforcement for the Israelites. It is good for us to remember as well...who God is, what He has done, and what He can do for us and in our lives.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.