We are pressing on in this book by book thematic overview of the Scriptures by digging in to Deuteronomy. In this study we will look at only the first eleven chapters.
When we left off at the end of the book of Numbers we saw that the nation of Israel’s time in the wilderness was coming to an end. They had arrived on the plains of Moab, on the eastern side of the Jordan River, Jericho lying to the west on the other side. God had commanded a new census of Israel be taken, a census of the generation that would possess the land, after the previous generation died in judgment for their dissatisfaction with God in the incident with the spies. Joshua was appointed as Moses’ successor in Numbers 27, that the people would not be like sheep without a shepherd. And the last verse of the book lets us know the presence of YHWH remains with His people.
Deuteronomy, then, picks right up where Numbers ends: “These are the words which Moses spoke to all israel across the Jordan in the wilderness.” Most of Deuteronomy is like a sermon from Moses, a final farewell address to the nation to instruct them before they take the land. There is little in the way of narrative in the book, so it’s kind of like Leviticus in that respect. However, if you’ve read both Leviticus and Deuteronomy I think you will agree that Deuteronomy is much easier reading, yet still very rich reading.
For years I grew up knowing that the word “Deuteronomy” meant “second law,” the second giving of the Law, so I kind of dismissed the book and did not give it the prominence in the canon it deserves. I thought it was just a rehashing of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers and then Moses dies. But the book is so much more than that.
This is YHWH with His people speaking through His servant and telling the nation how He has loved them, still loves them, and will love them, and how they ought to respond to that. They will fail and there will be judgment because they fail, but God will remain faithful. God will bring them out of exile, not merely physically, as in the Babylonian exile that would be in their future, but out of spiritual exile as well, through the life, death, and resurrection of His own Son Jesus Christ. Deuteronomy, like all of the other books, points to Christ, who epitomizes God’s glory in salvation through judgment.
In the first paragraph of the book we find out that it’s the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year when Moses began to expound the law for a new generation of Israelites. Those who were too young or not even born yet when the Law was given at Sinai needed to hear it themselves before they went into the land. But first, Moses would recant the failures of the previous generation as a warning to them.
In verse 19 he brings us the failure at Kadesh-barnea. That was Numbers 13 and 14, the ten spies with the bad report, Joshua and Caleb trusting in the LORD. Moses reminds the people in verse 21 that He had told their fathers, “I, the God of your fathers, have placed this land before you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Yet they wouldn’t go. They rebelled. The people in Canaan were bigger and taller than them. Their cities were large and fortified to heaven, they said. They might as well have said that the people were bigger and taller than YHWH and more powerful as well. The key verses in this recounting of what happened are 31-33:
‘The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ 32 “But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, 33 who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.
But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God. What an indictment. And as judgment, they are died in the wilderness, all but Joshua and Caleb, a marker to the dying generation of God’s mercy, by the way, that the nation would carry on through their progeny. And that progeny was told all of this that they might not repeat their fathers’ errors.
In chapter 2 the nation’s wanderings in the wilderness are recounted. God tells the people not to provoke Moab to war, not to harass the sons of Ammon, because He hasn’t given Israel their land. What this does for Israel is show them that ultimately YHWH is the LORD over all lands. He decrees which land He will give to His people and which land He will not. His lordship is not relegated to any specific acreage or to the place where His people dwell. He is God and Lord over all.
Some of the wilderness conquests are recounted in the early part of chapter three, but toward the end of the chapter we get another succinct picture of God’s glory manifesting itself in salvation and in judgment. Moses pleads for God to change His mind and allow Him to cross over the Jordan and see the fair land. God’s grant half of his request and rejects the other half.
“But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the LORD said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter.” – Deuteronomy 3:26
God has spoken and Moses won’t be crossing the river. But…
‘Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.” – Deuteronomy 3:27
Moses would get to see the land from a distance, from the eastern side of the river. So God does give some mercy while at the same time upholding His holy decision.
So then we get to chapter four. And we could spend weeks in chapter four, because this is the start of a section of this book, going through chapter eleven, where YHWH doesn’t merely lay down the Law again for this new generation of Israelites, but lovingly shows them their motivations to obey Him. This is important stuff. This is stuff that is absolutely crucial for us to get, having believed in Jesus Christ. This is stuff we see repeated in the New Testament, from the mouth of Jesus Himself and His apostles.
In verse 1, not to steal Allen’s thunder here, but He says He’s teachings them so they may live and go in and take possession of the land which YHWH, the God of their fathers, is giving them. So He’s appealing to His faithfulness to that previous generation, despite their unfaithfulness to Him.
Verse 2: There is a warning not to add to the word of God, a warning just as applicable today as it was 1400 or so years before Christ when this was happening.
Verse 3: They had seen with their own eyes what God did to those who followed Baal-peor. This is a reference to Numbers 25 where God punished the people under Balak when Israel played the harlot with them.
Verse 4: But those who have been faithful live. Therefore, pay attention. Believe Me and obey that you might still live.
Look at verses 7-10:
“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? 8 Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? 9 Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart ball the days of your life; but cmake them known to your sons and your grandsons. 10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words aso they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’
Verse seven is a motivation to obey. Israel has God so near, not like the other nations. YHWH’s presence among them is, once again, what sets us apart, just as now the Spirit of Christ dwelling in the hearts of believers is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. Verse eight shows us that Israel’s laws were given by a holy and righteous God, and they reflect the character of a holy and righteous God. The laws of other nations were merely self-serving, unjust, unholy. God’s Law for Israel was different. And in verses nine and ten, God makes it clear that His law is for their good and for the good of their sons and grandsons. What a reminder to us, as we are going through this series on family worship in our adult Sunday School, that we need to obey God from the heart if we ever expect our own children to. In that respect, while the law is a judgment in an of itself that was necessary for Israel because of the sinful hearts of men, there is the mercy of salvation found in the obedience borne of faith in YHWH. And that is the point here.
Watch yourselves carefully, Moses reminds them again in verse 15, and he gives them an example of why they need to continually watch themselves carefully in verses 21-24 — YHWH was angry with me. I’m going to die. I’m not crossing the Jordan, so watch yourselves. Still God knows Israel WILL disobey, and Moses goes on in verse 25 to begin preaching about what will happen when they do.
- Verse 25: They will act corruptly and make idols and do evil.
- Verse 26: You will not live long in the land God is giving, but will be utterly destroyed.
- Verse 27-28: The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and there you will serve gods made with hands.
- Verse 29: But there you again seek YHWH and find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and soul.
- Verse 30: You will return and listen to His voice.
- Verse 31: You will seek Me and I will be there. God appeals to His own character as a compassionated God, not forgetting the covenant He made with their fathers. Notice again the appeal by God to their fathers, and His own faithfulness.
Now look at Deuteronomy 4:32:
Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it?
In this verse through verse 40 God is basically saying, “There is no one like Me. What other god has done what I have done? What other god has done for people, any people, what I Have done? No other god. That’s who.” Look at verse 33: “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived?” What a privileged position Israel found themselves in. Therefore… consider verses 39-40:
Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. 40 So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that bit may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.
God’s glory in His saving and in His judging is just oozing out of Deuteronomy 4. What other god has taken on flesh and dwelt among us, then Himself provided the sacrifice for our sins so that we might be reconciled to the one true holy God? No other god. Only YHWH. Only in Christ. And so we are to hear His voice, just as Israel did in the fire, hear His voice through His word, and know Him, and obey Him.
In chapter five, of course, we have the recounting of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, introduced, remember, by YHWH’s declaration of His own identity: “I am YHWH your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God is the most important thing about the Ten Commandments. And when He’s done, in verse 24, Moses recounts how the people responded, “Behold, YHWH our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives.” An answer to Deuteronomy 4:33. They’ve seen His glory and His greatness and live, by His grace and mercy.
In chapter six…
In the first three verses Israel is again reminded to do the commandments. Believe this is how God wants you to live and live that way, so that their sons and grandsons might fear YHWH. Again there is the multigenerational component to being in YHWH’s favor, and we would be fools to think this isn’t still true for us today, Christ’s church.
Verses 4-9 are beautiful. Let’s look at them:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
What other god do you know of who loves people and wants people to love Him back? Only YHWH, and that is why He says love Me and teach your sons to love Me, and then you’ll remember Me and fear Me only in the land. But if you fail, verses 14-15, there will be judgment. You will be wiped off the face of the earth. Therefore…
Verses 16-19: Don’t test YHWH. The first generation of Israel did so ten times. Don’t test YHWH.
And in verses 20-24 we find an admonition to remember history. Our sons and daughters stand a much better test of fearing and loving and obeying God if they hear us recounting to them the grace God has shown us… if they hear us tell them about how God has been good to us in our histories. We don’t glory in our shame to them, but we can communicate to them how God’s love has overcome the sin in our own lives, how He has proven Himself faithful. If we don’t test YHWH and remember and tell our history, verse 25: “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just He commanded us.” Righteousness based on works? Again, no. Righteousness based on believing God and doing on the basis on that faith.
When we get into chapter seven… In 1-6 God says He is going to clear out the other nations. Israel is to be God’s instrument of judgment against them. No covenants. No favors. No intermarriage. But tear down their altars. Smash their pillars. Hew down their Asherim. Burn their graven images. Be sure. Stay pure. Make pure. Because You have been saved through judgment. Saved through judgment not because of who you are, but because of who I am, YHWH says. Verses 7-8 tell us that YHWH has loved Israel because He wanted to.
So in verses 9-10, Israel is to know YHWH as He has revealed Himself:
Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.
Notice how closely that language is to how God revealed Himself to Moses in that passage we keep coming back to, Exodus 34:6-7. Starting in verse 11 God says that faithfulness will result in blessing and triumph. In verse 17 to the end of the chapter a reminder not to fear the nations, because YHWH is with you. Once again the presence of YHWH amongst His people is emphasized.
Beginning in Deuteronomy 8:1 and going through 10:11 Moses recounts the history of Israel’s disobedience. God has been gracious to them and they have responded by provoking His anger. For the sake of time we won’t look at all of it, but go to Deuteronomy 10:10-11:
I, moreover, stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights like the first time, and the LORD listened to me that time also; the LORD was not willing to destroy you. 11 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.’
YHWH’s love remains on Israel. He has saved them through judgments for His own glory.
Then we read this in Deuteronomy 10:12-22:
Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and blove Him, and to serve the LORD your God with call your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, bthe earth and all that is in it. 15 Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16 So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. 17 For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 He executes justice for athe orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and byou shall swear by His name. 21 He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, band now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
What does YHWH require of you? Fear Him. Walk in His ways. Love Him. Serve Him with all your heart and soul. Keep His commandments and statutes. Of course, Israel wouldn’t be able to do any of these things apart from faith. The writer of Hebrews says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Well, God hasn’t changed. So we know it is by faith that Israel would do any of this.
And the last three words of verse 13 are telling. These things are for their good. God is big but He set His affection on Israel, so they must response by circumcising their hearts and stiffening their necks no longer. We know they will fail at this, but later in Deuteronomy we will see that it is God who circumcises hearts to begin with. But what this shows us is that when God does this in a heart there is a change of volition, a change of the will, a change of desires. Israel had spent too much time being dissatisfied with YHWH and desiring their own thing. Now, before entering the land, they were being called to have different desires.
As Dr. James Hamilton put it, “Yahweh is to be the central reality of their existence. He is to be the most relevant thing in their lives. He is their praise, their God, who has done magnificent and fearsome things for them, making a small tribe into a myriad of people.”
Therefore, in chapter 11…
Verse 1 is another call to love YHWH. They are to remember what He did for them in Egypt and along the way and love Him. He has given them good law, good land, and good life, and they follow other gods at their own peril. Instead of forsaking the LORD they are to remember Him, know Him, talk about Him, teach His words to their progeny, and serve Him with all their heart and soul.
Beginning in chapter 12 there will come laws and stipulations for His covenant, so the second half of chapter 11 is a reminder that there will be multiplied blessings for obedience, but a curse if they do not listen to Him.
There will be salvation through judgment and God will be glorified.
I hope you are able to see better the glory of God in Deuteronomy. He is with His people. He has made Himself known. He has acted on their behalf. He has saved them through judgment for His own glory. He loves them. They are to love Him back. They are to know Him, to listen to Him, to serve Him, to obey Him, and to teach their sons and grandsons about them, lest they fall into error and come under judgment. It is a very relevant lesson for us this evening. May we respond to the presence of God accordingly.
A Closing Prayer
Father, You are our praise. You are our God. You are the holy, omnipotent God who has brought us up out of the kingdom of darkness, out of the house of slavery to sin. By grace You have made Yourself known to us and given us Your commandments. Help our unbelief, Father, and help us to know You and make You known. As You have allowed us to see Your glory in Christ, just as Israel heard Your voice out of the flames and lived, so too we live in Christ. Guide us to know You and love You and serve You and teach others, especially our own sons and grandsons, about You. Give us repentant hearts and new, holy desires, that we might walk in the good life You have given us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.