Moses wrote the book as some kind of checkpoint for the Israelites as they were about to enter the promised land. Here, Moses recalls God’s commandments, and highlights the importance of obedience. It’s in this book that we see that God’s blessings come conditionally: He demands utmost obedience from His people.
I recall a pastor’s sermon from last year, when we were talking about the subject of purity and holiness (= being set apart), and he used the story from Exodus as our basis:
1) God is our deliverer — He was the one who made a way for the Israelites to be set free from centuries of slavery, in the same manner that He is the only One who can deliver us from our past, our burdens, from our sins.
2) God makes a way — with limited human hands and resources, there was no way for Israelites to cross the Red Sea, but God commands what He created and parted the sea for them. He also destroyed the Egyptian army — the source of Israel’s slavery, the source of their suffering.
3) God draws us close to Him — crossing the desert, if one would journey from the edge of the Red Sea to the river Jordan, only takes four days. God, through the pillars of cloud and fire, lead the nation around and around the desert for forty years — two generations’ worth — just so He can show His people as to who faithfully watches over them, provides for them, and that they do not need any other god but Him.
4) God shows that the “promised land” is not a physical place, but it is His presence, that He is more than enough for us. — Moses did not cross the river Jordan because God punished his generation for worshiping the golden calf. But here’s the thing: God was beside Moses all this time. Moses looked at God face to face until his own face was so radiant, the Israelites found it hard to look at him. Moses spoke with God as would a friend, and this Friend took him body and soul to join Him in heaven. The Israelites may have gotten to the promised land, but Moses got an even better deal 😉
This presence, even if we fail to realize it, or fail to remember it, is available to us through Jesus. Paul speaks true when he says that it is not good deeds, but faith daring faith that pleases God. It pleases God that we choose to trust and rely on Him. It pleases God that we choose to obey Him even if nowadays, His commands seem counter-cultural.
Moses wrote Deuteronomy (with the final chapters penned by Joshua as leadership was passed on to him) to make sure that the Isrealites know what Yahweh has done, what He is done, and what He is about to do. Moses also stresses the character of God, over how loving and faithful He is, and Moses wants to make sure that the following generations know about it.
As my study Bible says, Deuteronomy is like a coach’s peptalk before the big game. The promised land is within reach, the blessing that was promised is right there, and Moses is telling Israel do not mess up. Here is the Almighty God who moved the seas, the skies, and lit the night with fire; the God who heals and blesses more than He punishes; the God who can summon water out of rock, have food fall from heaven, and who goes before them to fight their battles for them. This powerful and fearsome God also loves His people with such a love that He commands nature to do what seems to be impossible. How then do you respond? With love and obedience.
God’s commands are not unreasonable. As Jesus said, the ten commandments can be summed up in two statements: Love the LORD your God with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself. The blessings are there already — our job is to love, obey, and claim.
Next week, I’ll be dissecting more key concepts that would help frame the Book of Deuteronomy, along with cross references from other books and passages from the Bible. Have a great weekender!