Deuteronomy 32-34

Deuteronomy 32-34…The song of Moses, and his death.

Moses’ final words to Israel include a reminder of their history, an outline of God’s blessings on them, and a dose of reality regarding God’s sovereignty and wrath. This section in Deuteronomy contains the famous verse in 32:35, which the Lord used powerfully during The Great Awakening in early to mid-18th century New England. Jonathan Edwards used this text when he preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Enfield, Connecticut during the summer of 1741. It is probably the most famous of all American sermons. The sermon lays out the dreadful consequences of man’s sin, and Edwards sought to persuade his listeners that they might at any moment be called to judgment for their sins. Reportedly some in Edwards’s audience cried out in response to his terrible imagery. At the end of the sermon, though, Edwards preached about “an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open.”

This serves as an example to us in our evangelism. The objective reality of both God’s wrath against our sin, and the amazing grace He has extended us in Christ need to be presented. We certainly want to hold out the hope of being with God in heaven as a reason for repentance and faith in Christ. We should also emphasize that we were made for something more than what we can see with our eyes today. However, we do not want to neglect the whole truth, and the bible is clear about hell. In fact, no one in the bible talked more about hell than Jesus. So, while it is not popular, the doctrine of hell needs to be woven into our evangelism. A right view of hell should in fact motivate us to tell others about Christ, because according to Deuteronomy 32:35, “their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” Outside of Christ, God wrath is terrible; and this life is short, so we should seek to share the gospel with those God has placed in our lives today.

Deuteronomy 29-31

Deuteronomy 29-31…Covenant renewal.

Centuries of misunderstanding of the place of God’s law in history and in the life of the believer have caused a lot of confusion over the way the Law relates to us today. As we trace the biblical understanding of the Mosaic law through the canon of Scripture, we should develop a true appreciation for this part of the Bible.

Getting a better grasp on the purpose and use of the Law requires us to remember the context in which it was given and read in the old covenant period. These three chapters of Deuteronomy outline the renewal of the covenant. This describes the reading of the Law that was to take place every seven years when all the Israelites assembled to celebrate the Feast of Booths (“tents,” Deut. 31:9–13). This was not the only time the people heard or were taught the Law, for it was to be a part of their everyday life. Still, the seventh-year reading of the Law to the whole nation was unique in that the people collectively professed their allegiance to the Lord and their countrymen under His statutes, being reminded of their need to live in submission to their awe-inspiring God.

Notice that the covenant renewal involved the whole community of believers. This is because God has called us to live in a community of believers committed to each other. The covenant was not just vertical, but horizontal as well. It is impossible to obey scripture outside of the context of a local church. The “one another” commands are designed for us to live out the Christian life in submission to elders (Hebrews 13:17), with a group of believers (Acts 2:42-47), who meet together regularly (Hebrews 10:25), hear the gospel preached (Romans 10:14), and display God’s glory to the world (Ephesians 3:8-11). When the local church functions this way, as one body, united in holiness and love, the world sees how powerful the gospel really is. When the church looks like the world, God is not glorified, and His name is misrepresented.

Deuteronomy 26-28

Deuteronomy 26-28…Offerings, the altar at Mount Ebal, and blessings/curses for obedience/disobedience.

There are a number of Old Testament passages that figure prominently in the New Testament. In Galatians 3:10–14, several of them are quoted by Paul, and he uses these Old Testament passages as proof texts for the doctrine that sinners are justified through faith alone. Those who trust in Jesus Christ to save them from their sins understand that it was Jesus’ suffering upon the cross that turned aside God’s wrath and anger. But this was not yet clear in the Old Testament when these passages first appeared.

A key text quoted by Paul in Galatians is Deuteronomy 27:26. Moses writes, “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.” This passage makes it plain that God is not going to grade the final exam for eternal life on a curve. In order to avoid God’s curse, God demands that we obey His law perfectly. Those who fail to do so come under the wrath of God. That this is what Moses meant becomes clear in Matthew’s gospel, where a rich young man claimed to have obeyed all the commandments. When Jesus exposed him as a law-breaker and therefore subject to the curse, the young man went away with great sorrow. Witnessing this exchange, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Who then can be saved?”. Jesus reminded them that people do not obey God’s law; they cannot save themselves — it is impossible. But all things are possible for God.

This is why the Bible needs to be understood as systematic and interconnected. The Old Testament is rich with clues, riddles, and pictures, all pointing to Christ. We must interpret these Old Testament texts in light of the New Testament, and vice versa. Deuteronomy 26-28 clearly shows that we need a Savior, because we cannot fulfill the law. Thankfully Christ did perfectly, and His life can be counted as ours if we repent and believe in Him.

Deuteronomy 23-25

Deuteronomy 23-25…Assembly exclusion and miscellaneous laws.

We see the manifold wisdom of God playing out in community in Deuteronomy 23. In verses 7-8 we see this:

“You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. 8 Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the Lord.”

This is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 3:10-11 as well. The beauty of the church is that God has called us all to be holy and to love Him in a particular Christian community. In the local church our love for Him will be reflected in the way we love others, especially those who aren’t like us. The corporate witness of a spiritually healthy local church is very powerful, and the world will see God’s glory in the unity, love, and holiness of such a body. Conversely, churches that aren’t careful and intentional about who is claiming to be saved will confuse unbelievers. When a local church looks no different than the world, she lies about Christ, both in word and in deed.

Deuteronomy 20-22

Deuteronomy 20-22…Laws concerning warfare, murders, inheritance rights, and immorality.

When we read the Mosaic law, we often find some of its regulations quite baffling. Take Deuteronomy 22:28–29, for example. This passage orders an arranged marriage following abuse, hardly a custom we find in today’s society.

However, this teaching is not a cruel injunction designed to have the wife bitterly remember the harm to her body and soul. In fact, this law protects the woman. During the period in which Moses lived and wrote about, women were extremely vulnerable members of their society. A woman like this was considered untouchable in most places, but the Mosaic law protects the victim by prescribing marriage to her attacker. In this way, the Lord guarded the woman from any further economic or social harm. It’s important to note that the bible absolutely, positively is opposed to any abuse like this, and recognizes the act as sinful. This part of the law does not excuse the behavior in any way whatsoever.

In our day, older men in the church need to teach the younger men to respect all women, and treat them as sisters. This is counter cultural, and will take very intentional steps in discipling. Our culture does everything it can to reduce women to objects, and all men, young and old, are being conditioned to think and act this way. Young men who are of the faith need to train themselves now to not look at women this way. The way they are treated by all men, especially at a young age, will have a big impact on them.

Deuteronomy 17-19

Deuteronomy 17-19…Laws on Israel’s Kings, and a new prophet like Moses.

The king was required to carefully study the law of God, and apply it to his life. It is not enough to have Bibles, but we need to use them daily as long as we live. The king’s reading was useless if he did not practice what he read. We too must obey God’s word, as mere agreement with it is not obedience.

God promises to Israel that he would “raise up a prophet like you from among their brothers.” Jesus would save sinners by becoming human like us, taking on flesh, and perfectly fulfilling the law. His human component takes on just as much importance as His deity. We needed someone to live a holy life in our place, and God’s wrath needed to be exhausted for sin. All the more reason for us to esteem him highly, because His rescue of us came at a great cost. Also, knowing that God’s wrath is set on those who don’t submit to Christ as Lord, we should be fervent in evangelism.

Deuteronomy 14-16

Deuteronomy 14-16…Tithing, sabbaticals, and feasts.

A second portion from the produce of their land was required in Deuteronomy 14. This was done to oppose the covetousness, distrust, and selfishness of the human heart. It promoted friendliness, liberality, and cheerfulness, and raised a fund for the relief of the poor. They were taught that their possessions were not really their own, but belonged to God. Accumulation of wealth is a tenet of the prosperity gospel, making it a false gospel according to God’s word.

In Deuteronomy 15, the sabbatical year (or year of release) was when every creditor would exercise grace toward debtors. This is symbolic of the gospel, as God extends grace to us. We cannot pay, and are greatly indebted to the Lord for what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.

The laws for the three yearly feasts are repeated in Deuteronomy 16. These were done to remember sin, and to rejoice in God’s righteousness and goodness. As believers, we should never forget to be laid low in the dust because of our sin. However, this reminder should also stir up joy and gratitude because we’ve been pardoned in Christ.

Deuteronomy 11-13

Deuteronomy 11-13…Love and serve the Lord, the place of worship, and warnings against idolatry.

In Deuteronomy 11, we see a connection which is consistent throughout scripture. Love toward God will equate to obedience. This is how we can be assured of our salvation (1 John 5:1-3), and why spiritual fruit is the true measure of one’s faith, not just mere agreement with the gospel.

Moses recounts some of the great works of God’s wrath which their eyes had seen. It is important that in both our evangelism and our discipling relationships we include an accurate presentation of God’s wrath, and of what conversion looks like. Hell is real, and according to Jesus, many are deceived into thinking they are saved from Hell (Matthew 7:21-23):

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Are you doing the will of your Father in heaven? How do you know if you are? This is why the local church is so important in our Christian walk. We are prone to being deceived, and therefore God’s manifold wisdom includes locking arms with other believers to build them up and to be built up. Our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ help us see our blind spots. The bible gives us clear instructions on how we’re to live, so if you have questions about what God’s will is for your life, ask your pastors/elders, or those you are closest to in your church.

Moses warned about the trouble that might come from the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 13. He cautions against the rise of idolatry. It is so important for us to be well-acquainted with the Bible, because just like the Israelites, we live among those who worship idols. We also are in the midst of a daily spiritual battle, and attempting to fight without any armor or weapons is foolish. We’re prone to worship idols, and need to be brought into conformity with God’s word daily.

Deuteronomy 8-10

Deuteronomy 8-10…Remembering God and His grace, and the importance of heart change.

Chapters 8-10 in Deuteronomy outline the key components of the gospel. Israel did not have the full revelation of God’s plan of salvation that we have, but the call to turn to the Lord and away from their sins is the same. Here are the key components of the gospel laid out in this text.

1) The objective reality we see in these chapters is that the Lord is their God. Regardless of what we believe, this is true for us as well. He has authority as creator to require our obedience, as we’re living in His kingdom.

2) Israel rebelled and stubbornly refused to submit to His authority. We are the same, and according to Deuteronomy 8:19, we “forget the Lord and go after other gods and serve them and worship them.” The warning here is that we will “surely perish.” He’s not talking merely about a physical death, although that is a component of the result of our rebellion against a perfectly holy and perfectly just God. The main point is that there is eternal punishment for our souls because we do not love God and obey Him like we should.

3) But God, being rich in mercy and abundantly patient and gracious, provides a rescue plan. Israel didn’t yet fully understand how God would execute the promise made in Genesis 3:15, but some believed, and the righteousness of Christ was counted as their own. God makes it clear that the people did not have a righteousness of their own to offer, and that it was only because of His faithfulness and love that they could be saved (Deuteronomy 9:5):

“Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

4) The way for us to be made right with God is not by our own righteousness. This is true for us, and was true for Israel. We see this clearly in Deuteronomy 9:6:

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

The right response to knowing that we need a righteousness outside of ourselves, is to turn from our sins and believe God’s promise of salvation. Those saved in the Old Testament had faith in God, and He credited to them as righteousness. We can look back today and clearly see that this perfect righteousness came from God the Son, and is imputed to us if we repent and believe.

Deuteronomy 5-7

Deuteronomy 5-7…The ten commandments, the greatest commandment, a chosen people.

Moses demands attention giving God’s word to the people. When we hear the word of God we must both hear and obey. This is the goal of hearing and learning. We are not to fill our heads with merely notions, or our mouths with talk, but to direct both our affections and actions to the Lord.

In Deuteronomy 6, we read of the greatest commandment. The fear of God in the heart will be the most powerful principle of obedience. It is highly desirable that not we only, but our children, and our children’s children, may fear the Lord. If we’re saved, we’ll desire that all those in our church fear Him as well. He is glorified particularly by the corporate witness of Christ’s bride.

Here is a strict warning in Deuteronomy 7 against all close fellowship with idols and idolaters. Those who are in communion with God, must be very careful relationships. We will become like those whom we spend the most time. Therefor, Christian, find someone who is growing spiritually and be intentional about spending time with them.