Deuteronomy 1:17 His Judgements
My Bible has a note in the center column that answers to an asterisk after the name of the book we are about to look into stating that the word Deuteronomy is the English form of the Greek word meaning repetition of the law. Obviously it needed to be repeated because the adult males who heard it originally were all now dead and standing on the verge of the promised land God wanted the new generation to be aware of the rules of engagement, that is, how He and they were to interact in this new world they were about to enter.
It is a wonderful reality to contemplate that the Sovereign God of the universe has communicated His words to us in a language we can understand and I wonder if we actually are anywhere near as thankful for is as we ought to be.
I remember years ago riding up to Sherman Station on the train from Bangor having been invited to hold some special meetings at a little church there. As always when faced with a ministry opportunity my heart was much in prayer and anticipation as I sought the face of the Lord. He had directed me to the opening chapters of this book and I still recall how He blessed my soul as I meditated in their rich themes. I never forgot how impressed I was about the Bible being God’s word and my appreciation for Deuteronomy was firmly established.
Later we shall consider what well might be the theme verse of this book, 11:21. For Israel her days in the land would be indeed “days of heaven on earth” if she would only walk with the God who loved her in the ways He prescribed.
Finally, note in verse seventeen the brief statement “for the judgement is God’s.” In addition to His written word, God speaks to us through the people He has put in our path, especially men called into His service. Let us listen to His pastors as the impact of His word is perhaps doubled as they minister to us.
Deuteronomy 2:7 “Thou hast lacked nothing”
Now there’s a switch! Who would have thought such a thing! Plodding through the wilderness or watching while over 600,000 men died one way or another, did you hear anyone say, “hey, isn’t this great, aren’t we just having the time of our lives, what a blessing this trip has been!”
Yet here in verse seven we see it in black and white, during their forty years, “the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.” Well, just look back for a minute. No, you didn’t have everything you wanted to have (leeks, onions and garlic) but was there anything you needed that God did not supply? How about life lessons learned? You would have meddled where you had no business (v.5) and brought distress to some were I not there to stop you (v.19). In fact you don’t know how many giants from whom you have escaped or how I hardened (or softened) hearts to alter or direct you way (v.30). You thought you were winning battles when it was really My hand (v.33). Yes, I have been with you and have seen to it that you lacked nothing. Is that not being blessed?
Can we relate? Who knows we might have won the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes had God not caused our entry to escape the notice of one of the judges. We might have ended up with that vivacious model for a wife if God had not intervened. Think of how many cars we have met on the road with drunk or drugged drivers that our angel maneuvered around us (Ps.91:11 & 12). Yea, there are doubtless hundreds, perhaps thousands of instances where we have been blessed and we don’t even know it....yet.
Paul had it right when he said to the church at Ephesus, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (1:3) and to those at Philippi, “but my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (4:19). Isn’t it great that in this wilderness of life we get all we need and not always what we want?
Deuteronomy 3:28 “Charge Joshua”
If you ever happen to drive through the town of Nackawic in New Brunswick, Canada you will see a symbol of their chief industry located prominently, a huge double bitted lumberman’s axe. In Bangor, Maine you will see a large statue of Paul Bunyan the legendary north woodsman reminding us that this city was once considered the lumber capital of the world.
I don’t know if the bedstead of the king of Bashan was prominently displayed in Robbath, the royal city of the Ammonites or not, but Moses knew it was there and knew its dimensions. Unlike Bunyan (not John) Og was not a fictitious character but his unusual size has inspired fanciful legends such as his age being 3000 or one of his bones forming a bridge over a river. “An apocryphal Book of King Og which probably contained these and other traditions was condemned by Pope Gelaius” (Smith’s Bible Dict.). Actually he was a big man to have a bed thirteen and half feet long and he was a powerful king over sixty Amorite cities.
Israel conquered Og as they had Sihon his Amorite cohort (Num.21:21 - 35) and their land was given by Moses to Reuben, Gad and half of Manassah as their tribal inheritance. It appears that like their battle against the Midianites they did not lose a man (Num.31:49). The success of these battles is mentioned often in Scripture as evidence of God’s assurance to them that He would go with them into the promised land and that they should not fear the enemy for He, the Lord God, would fight for them (v.22).
Though Og was strong and formidable, he was no match for Israel and for Israel’s God. How Moses wished that he could see His great and mighty works in the “good land that is beyond Jordan.” God said to him, however, “speak no more unto me of this matter.” He told him to climb Mt. Pisgah and be satisfied to see it from there. God’s decision to discipline Moses for his failure at Meribah (Num.20:12) coincided with His obvious plan to have Joshua lead Israel into the land of Canaan typifying an end to the old order under the law represented by Moses and the beginning of the new under Joshua as a type of Christ (John 1:17).
Deuteronomy 4:38 Out but not in
It was a great thing that Jehovah did in bringing His people out of Egypt, the iron furnace (v.20). These people were very blessed to have His statutes and judgements and thus be a wise and understanding people, that is, if they would keep them and do them. This chapter begins with God telling them these things and reminding them not to forget what their eyes had seen, teaching them also to their children and grandchildren.
Continuing there are many important points that are made as Moses sought to impress upon these people what a special people they were. He reminds them that they are God’s inheritance (v.20), that they had heard God speaking to them (v.33) and had experienced His mighty hand and stretched our arm (v.34).
He warns the people that Jehovah is God in heaven and upon earth and that there is none else. They are doubly (vs. 16 & 23) warned not to make any graven images in their worship of Him lest they be driven out of the land by a “jealous God” who is described as a consuming fire (v.24).
In conclusion, this chapter has some choice words that we can use in application to ourselves as we think of our position in Christ. They are also found in two other places, namely, Exodus 6:6 - 8 and Deut.6:23. Here they are seen in verses 37 and 38 and I suggest you underline them in your Bible. “He brought thee out....to bring thee in.” The enjoyment of our inheritance like theirs depends on our appropriation of what He has given to us. They had yet to place their feet upon the land and take it by faith and it was this that Moses was preparing them to do under Joshua.
Many Christians, though out of Egypt (saved), are not yet in the land where victory and rest are provided for in every way. Sadly Israel did not and still does not have Jesus, but we do. He is in us and we are in Him.
The picture of a victorious life was displayed in Israel’s absolute destruction of Sihon and Og and the promise that no enemy would be able to stand against them. Their every need would be cared for and “days of heaven” on earth would be their continuous experience. So it should be with us but in even deeper and more spiritual ways. Unfortunately some believers are still back at Kadesh-barnea, afraid to abandon all to God’s promises, yielding to His will.
If you find this to be true
Try Romans twelve, verses one and two
For if you have been born again
He brought you out to bring you in.
Deuteronomy 5:29 Who Will Give Them Such an Heart?
“O that there were such an heart in them.....” (v.29). Calvin says of this statement, “He figuratively assumes a human feeling because it would be vain and absurd for Him to desire what it was in His power to confer. Certainly He has the power of bending and directing men’s hearts whithersoever He pleases... speaking in the character of a man. He shows that it was rather to be wished than hoped that the people would constantly persevere in their fidelity.” Others would call this an anthropomorphism.
Matthew Poole gives us the Arabic version as follows: “who will give them such an heart, etc.”
Certainly Moses had no such hope as we see in Deut.31:27 - 29 and it was because God foresaw their disobedience that He had Moses write a song to be used as a witness against them (31:19 and ch.32).
Dispensationally, we know, on the one hand, that the full experience of hearts in absolute obedience to God would not be known until the coming of the Holy Spirit into the church, for no law was given that could produce life as God wished man to have it (Gal.3:21), and so far as Israel was concerned, God’s new covenant for them alone would be essential to their having His laws written upon their hearts (Heb.8:10).
Yet, on the other hand, it certainly was possible under the law for men to be righteous before God by “walking in the commandments”as indicative of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1:6. Especially should this have been true under the conditions that existed as Israel entered the promised land. We will see these promised blessings when we get to chapter 28 and verses 1 - 14 but there is no law that I know of that forbids you take a sneak peek right now – I recommend it!
Deuteronomy 6:7 Teach Them Diligently
There was a man in my congregation that had not done a good job of raising his family. He had been saved later in life and though an intelligent man with excellent skills he had left the spiritual training of his family to his wife who unfortunately knew the Scriptures far better than he did. I felt sorry for that man whenever I got to preaching on the family for I know it seemed to him that I had him in my sights.
Well today men, I’ve got you in my sights and you had better duck or quit reading this right now unless you are doing what you are supposed to be doing according to this chapter. On the other hand, perhaps if you need this it is important that you read it and plan as of today to practice this text.
It is a crying shame that so many Christian men know less about the Word of God than their wives. In most cases this is due to not having their priorities right. Start by confessing this as sin, yield yourself to the Lord and tell Him you will begin, by His grace and with His help, changing all of that.
Take a look, if you haven’t already, at what has got me wound up on this subject. Verses 6 - 9, which I grant you do not specifically speak to fathers, must of necessity include them - especially in a Jewish household where such responsibilities belong the males.
Men, it is up to you to teach the Scriptures not only to your children but also to your wife and obviously, you cannot do this if you do not know them. Again, prioritize, get into the Book! Ask for help. I have a chart that is especially helpful in getting an overall view of the Bible, pastors will help you one on one and most of them will be delighted that you asked. God tells us that He will restore years of wasted time.
Verses 8 and 9 are no doubt symbolic. The hands, eyes and gate posts are to be spiritualized. God’s word should be prominent in our thinking and actions.
Let the ladies pray much for all their menfolk. The church today desperately needs men full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.
Deuteronomy 7:6 A Special People
Much that we see here is a repetition of what was told Israel back in Exodus 23, but, like the commandments, needs to be repeated for the benefit of the new generation. One thing mentioned before but not repeated here concerns the Angel that God said would be sent before them “to keep thee in the way and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.” I would like to know more about Him, wouldn’t you? The only time we see anyone that comes close to fitting this description is in Joshua 5:13-15 and it seems it must be the Lord Jesus. How wonderful to have Him for a Guide into this new land!
I like the way God speaks about the nations that He intends to cast out before them. “Seven nations greater and mightier than thou.” Ah, yes, nations whose time has come, whose iniquity, as God presaged to Abraham (Gen.15:16) has finally come to the full. There was to be no compromise only utter destruction, a command Israel failed to heed to their ultimate dismay (Joshua 24:13). In fact there is no stronger language anywhere in the Bible than what we will find leveled against this people at the end of this book (28:15-68) if they fail to obey.
Such judgements are the just dues of a people so favored as this nation whom God called a special people which He had chosen “above all people upon the face of the earth” (v.6). Though this is the only place in the KJV of the Old Testament that this word “special” appears, it is actually a word that is translated a peculiar treasure (Exodus 19:5) and a peculiar people (Deut.14:2 and 26:18). See also Psalm 135:4. In Malachi it is translated jewels (3:17)!
The health care benefits alone should be reason enough for these people to be eternally grateful to be so “blessed above all people” (v.15).
There can hardly be any stronger proof of the doctrine of depravity than the failure of Israel in the light of God’s goodness to them and, conversely, no better example of His unmerited favor than that which will be exhibited toward this nation at the close of this age and the beginning of next. (Excepting, of course, the cross of Christ and the grace of salvation through Him).
For us there is I Peter 2:9 & 10. Praise the Lord!
Deuteronomy 8:3 “That He might make thee know”
What is the relationship in v.3 between the fact that God fed them with manna and the truth that man should live by every word that proceeds out of His mouth? That there is a relationship is clear from the words – “that he might make thee know.” Now think – don’t just read. As my mother used to say to me “use your head for something else besides a hat rack.”
I’m not certain but I think the explanation is as follows: when one is humbled he is dependent on someone other than himself. God wants us to be absolutely dependent on Him (we should humble ourselves under His mighty hand). The Israelites were hungry, they needed food to live. God fed them with a mysterious food (they didn’t even know what it was or where it came from) that symbolized their dependence on Him. Since it was closely administered according to His word (it must be gathered daily and not saved over til the next day, for if so it bred worms; it was always just enough; they could gather enough before the Sabbath to last over until the day after the Sabbath; etc.) it was designed to teach them that God was concerned about every aspect of their life and wished to guide them by His word in the minutest of matters.
In being tempted, the Lord Jesus did not answer Satan as the Son of God but as an Israelite man (Man) who knew this truth that man should live by complete dependence on God’s word which even extended to the matter of daily food (Matt.4:4). It was also demonstrated by Jesus’ many statements that He did only those things that pleased the Father (John 8:29) and that He was carrying out the Father’s orders to the letter (He had no orders regarding making stones into bread). This is borne out as well in the Lord’s Prayer, so called, as Jesus taught, give us day by day our daily bread (as the manna was dispensed).
This book shows us how thoroughly God intended to meet His people’s every need. Their clothes didn’t wear out and He kept them from having bunions (v.4). Verses 7-9 show to what a great extent the land indeed flowed with milk and honey.
For us, it pictures the joys of the victorious Christian life. “But my God shall supply ....” you finish it. All this and Heaven too!
Deuteronomy 9:6 A Stiff-necked People
From time to time, we may find ourselves confronted by some sincere person who finds it hard to deal with the attitude of God towards the Canaanites. In our “touchy, feely” society genocide and iconoclasm are not especially popular. In such cases I have often used this verse. The fact was that God had endured the wickedness of these nations far longer than we might imagine He would and in His timing, He both fulfilled the promise made to Abraham and at the same time vindicated His righteousness by judging these inhabitants of the land.
Let me bring some thoughts to your attention from the field of archeology:
THE A.B.C. OF BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY by DR. CLIFFORD WILSON M.A., B.D., M.A.ED.., Ph.D. Former Director, The Australian Institute of Archaeology
28. Another important aspect of Canaanite religion is that the Canaanites had many gods, but at the head of their pantheon were three gods-El the father, Baal the son, Asherah who- according to some authorities-was the wife of both El and Baal and was the mother of Baal. (Asherah, Ashtaroth, and Anath were "sisters" whose functions were sometimes inter- related.) Abominable religious practices, especially in the realms of sex and blood-letting, were associated with these deities. This concept of three deities is a parody on the Tri-une God Who is revealed fully in the New Testament, and it is a reminder that Satan as an angel of light would deceive if possible the elect.
29. In an earlier series we referred to Joshua’s challenge to his people, and to the fact that he mentioned the gods of Abraham’s fathers. In that address Joshua also mentioned the gods of the people of Canaan, and we know much about those gods. As we go through the Scriptures we find that the Bible writers often referred to Canaanite gods and goddesses such as Baal and Asherah.
30. The word for "Asherah" is translated "groves" in the Authorized Version of the Scriptures, but later knowledge from archaeology shows that the goddess Asherah is referred to. It is relatively recent knowledge that this word "groves" refers to "Asherah," the Canaanite goddess who was supposed to be the consort of Baal, as well as being his mother.
Halley’s Pocket Handbook says (p.157) “archeologists who dig in the ruins of Canaanite cities wonder that God did not destroy them sooner than He did.”
God knew if measures were not taken to entirely eradicate such a wicked people it would not be long before Israel would be contaminated which is exactly what did happen.
Moses is such a great example of love and patience with these that both he and the Lord called stiff-necked (vs.6 & 13). Jehovah was apparently ready to destroy them and make of him a nation greater and mightier than they but twice he fasted and prayed for them and delivered them out of God’s hand. How much they owed to Moses whom so often they tended to despise. It is a classic prayer he prays in the last four verses of our chapter in which he pleads the cause of God. His unselfish zeal bears imitating.
Deuteronomy 10:16 Be No More Stiff-necked
The narrative of the events at Sinai when the tablets of stone were inscribed with the ten commandments which has continued from 9:8 (with the exceptions of 22 and 23 added for emphasis) is now continued thru verse five of our present chapter.
A question arises about the matter of the ark spoken of in verse one. Either this is a temporary container or as Gill suggests the meaning of verse three is that Moses gave instructions to Bezaleel to make the ark. In Exodus 37 we find the actual construction of the permanent article and note that it was overlaid with pure gold within and without and was decorated with a crown of gold having also the rings for the staves by which it was to be carried. True, the instructions were given by Jehovah to Moses in Exodus twenty-five which was before the episode of the golden calf. My view is that it was temporary as it also seems that there was a temporary tabernacle (33:7).
Let’s think for a moment about verse 16 which spiritualizes the rite of circumcision. As we know, each Jewish male is circumcised on the eighth day after birth as a physical mark of his being Jewish. There is no doubt that doing this was extremely important to God as we see in the brief story of Moses’ son and Zipporah’s reluctance(Ex.4:25). The question is, what is the spiritual significance? Since circumcised lips (Ex.6:16&30) and a circumcised heart (Deut.30:6, Jer.4:4 and 9:26) are obviously not physical it follows that a spiritual connotation should be sought. I think that it is an Old Testament expression of denying the flesh since a small piece of living flesh is cut away and discarded, a sort of dividing between body and spirit as in Hebrews 4:12 in which case lips controlled by the Spirit would be circumcised lips and the same with the heart. Since the 8th day is associated with the resurrection the timing of the operation might speak of a surrender of the child to God for His service whereas the flesh would want to selfishly hold on to him. A lack of circumcision in the wilderness and the performance of the rite at Gilgal might be seen as fitting this picture. What do you think?
Deuteronomy 11:11 “ The Rain of Heaven”
Frankly, I confess that I have never had a desire to visit the Holy Land. Personally I can think of many places on God’s green earth that appeal to me more, like the magnificent Swiss Alps or the Pacific Northwest with its verdant forests of gigantic trees. Traveling in the Southwest USA, one has only to spend a few hours on roads through the desolate, dry countryside and view the rest areas consisting of a table and a trash barrel in the wide open spaces to kindle a longing for the east and picnic spots among trees and beside lakes or streams.
The big difference is water. Where there is plenty of moisture there will be trees and grass, color and freshness. God’s promise for the future for Israel is that “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isa.35:1). The implication is that it is certainly not in that condition now and the reason is due to Jehovah’s displeasure (v.17).
Probably all that has to happen is for the prevailing winds to come from the west bringing the moisture needed. In Hosea 13:15 the east wind is called “the wind of the Lord” coming from the wilderness causing the spring to dry up. (Often an east wind is spoken of in negative terms in the Word.)
Evidence of God’s pleasure with His people certainly involved the sending of ample “rain of heaven” (v.11) which would contribute to conditions of the land described as flowing with milk and honey (v.9). Irrigation (watering it with thy foot) is not enough but with the Lord caring for it and keeping His eyes on it (v.12) it would certainly be a good land “of brooks of water, of fountains... that spring out of valleys and hills” (8:7).
This is the way things would have been had Israel been obedient, days of heaven on earth and this is certainly the way things will be in the millennium, but now I have no desire to see a land that is so obviously under His judgement. I have many dear friends who would disagree and one especially who has always wanted to live there. I’ll take Maine, thank you.
Deuteronomy 12:8 In Our Own Eyes
The opening words of this chapter have been repeated, sometimes in slightly different ways, for about fourteen times starting back in 4:1 and so Moses has been stressing to the people the fact that they have been given the statutes, the judgements, yea the commandments of the living God. In the chapters to come specific things will be enjoined relating to their behavior “in the land which the Lord God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it” (v.1). Some of these regulations may seem unreasonable but as C.H.M. points out in his “Notes” we must remember that when man fell, his reason fell with him. When reason is in a sound condition it always bows to the Word of God. There can be no exception.
Having said this our first test may be the opening command before us “ye shall utterly destroy ... overthrow...break...burn...hew down and destroy the names of (their gods) out of that place.” It is difficult for us to imagine how idolatry offends the holiness of Jehovah, especially the sacrifice of infants in flames and temple prostitution, but these words help us get the picture.
Furthermore once in the land a place would be chosen from among the tribes where God would have them establish His worship and it would not be arbitrary, it was to be there and no where else. Up til now certain leeway had been given but then men shall no longer do what seems right in their own eyes (v.8).
Is it too much of a stretch to make the application to our current attitude toward church affiliation? Should we make our choices based upon what suits us... that is, is right in our eyes or rather should we be concerned to be where God wants us? For one thing I think He would want us near where we live so we can, by our personal support, be providing a place we can recommend to our neighbors whom we should be concerned to reach. There are probably other valid considerations but at the least we should seek His guidance and be ready to obey even if it seems unreasonable.
Deuteronomy 13:11 “All Israel Shall Hear and Fear”
We have three situations before us. First, the defection of an individual member of the congregation, second, that of a close personal relation or friend and last, the corruption of a whole city. The solution in each case was immediate and drastic if one were to follow the Old Testament code to the letter, it was to be capital punishment with no mercy shown.
In example number one it should be noted that the problem arises from their midst with one claiming the powers of a prophet and to make it even more complicated, this compatriot seems to be authentic in his claims because his signs are undeniably confirmed, in that they “came to pass.” There is just one thing wrong, he is promoting the worship of a false god and the whole thing is being allowed by Jehovah as a test (v.3). Nothing solves this problem but death that “evil be put away from the midst of thee” (v.5).
Next, the solution grows more difficult because of the intimate relationships suggested but no situation allows for toleration. You must kill the enticer to false gods, even if it be “the wife of thy bosom.” Whew, this is pretty intense.
Lastly, an offending city must be utterly destroyed and the spoils burnt. What are we to think about all of this?
One thing is absolutely clear, our God hates the worship of false gods. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” were the first words He uttered from Sinai punctuated by the thunder, lightening and the noise of the trumpet (Ex.20:3 & 18). Most of this younger generation were not there and they must be taught to hear, fear and hate wickedness (v.11 and Ex.20:20). Summing up the law Jesus said that we should love the Lord with the whole heart, soul and mind. This is the other side of that commandment. To love Him with the love He desires from us must require an equal and opposite revulsion of whatever would dilute or besmirch that love. No suggestion of disobedience to the Word even from within our assembly, no enticement allowed from those nearest and dearest to us, no toleration of an enemy camp that might lead us away. This land had been the playground of demons and nothing but sheer determination not to do as the previous occupants had done would win the battle of good and evil.
Happily, we do not live under the Jewish economy and our dispensational understanding totally influences our actions. Theirs was an absolute theocracy whereas we live under man’s governmental laws which we are commanded to obey (Rom.13:1). Besides, I do not know of any actual historical incident where any of these judgements were carried out, do you? Does this make them any less emphatic?
Deuteronomy 14:2 A Peculiar People
Throughout this book we will frequently be looking at verses that are repetitious for, as we have said, the new generation must be taught these statutes before entering the promised land. The material here was viewed earlier in Leviticus eleven and twenty. We too must be a bit repetitious since our reader may not have reference to the previous work. It is suggested that you go to Lev.20 and carefully read verses 24 through 26 where you will note that Jehovah clearly taught that the division between clean and unclean animals was for the purpose of providing an object lesson to His people on the subject of separation. I think He used food to do so for two reasons, eating was done every day so this would be a constant reminder and it is simply true that physically we are what we eat. By letting certain animals represent acceptable food and other, unacceptable He established the principle that a sense of separation must be constantly maintained in the minds of His people; that they were His and thus were different in that respect from all other people on earth. You see this emphasized in Leviticus, “I am the Lord God which have separated you from other people” (v.24) and “I the Lord am holy and have severed you from other people” (v.26). Note especially in verse 25 the word “therefore” which indicates purpose and points out the reason clearly for His making a difference between animals that may and may not be eaten.
Coming back to our current passage I believe an interesting statement in verse 21 may help us realize that there was not necessarily anything intrinsically wrong with the forbidden food. Here, though a slightly different situation, food that Jews were forbidden to eat could be given or sold to a Gentile.
We cannot handle this subject without, again, pointing out the experience of Peter in Acts 10. The sheet vision was sent to him while on the roof top in Joppa to help convince him that the gospel was now going to the Gentiles and therefore the ancient laws of separation were abolished (Eph.2:11-19) in the new dispensation.
It is worth a second exposure to this subject just to be able to say again that we are His special people, separated unto His purpose and for His glory as indicated in I Peter 2:9, which you are now going to read, right?
Deuteronomy 15:2 Released
When we find a word in a text that is not used anywhere else in the Bible and especially if it is in an interesting context, it can make for a worthwhile word study. We have such in our chapter today. That word is release. (8059 in the Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon which probably half of my readers possess, in their Strong’s Complete Concordance, and the other half should go and buy.) (Warning, do not buy it unless you have a King James Version and this is one excellent reason why you should!)
This word shem-it-taw (in Hebrew) speaks of remission of debt or suspension of labor. It only appears five times (Deut.15:1, make a release; 15:2, manner of release and Lord’s release; 15:9 and 31:10, year of release). The word, however, from a root word shaw-mat (8058) meaning to fling down or jostle as when Jezebel was thrown down (II Kings 9:33) or when the oxen stumbled at the threshing floor( I Chron.13:9) figuratively means – to let alone, desist, remit, it is also translated release as in 15:2 “his neighbor shall release” and 15:3 “thine hand shall release.” In Exodus 23:11 our translators of the KJV help us by translating the word as follows, “but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest.”
To sum up, the seventh year is to be flung down, as it were, the ground was to be let alone (not sown or harvested), debts were to be remitted (cancelled). Those who had sold themselves into servitude were to be released. See also Exodus 21:2-6; 23:10-11 and Lev.25:1-7.
For us the picture is that we who are sinners in debt to God for our sin are by grace released from servitude to our taskmaster and our debts are cancelled. We enter into rest through Christ’s death and resurrection. “ Six days shalt thou labor,” yea how about six years (the number of man, “born into trouble as the sparks fly upward” Job 5:7) and what is his release? We turn again to Job who, wishing he might have died in childbirth, said that in death “the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.--- and the servant is free from his master.”(Job 3:17-19). The seventh year is the time of Jehovah’s release, His shem-it-taw for in Christ we died (Gal.2:20). What next? – To the door to have our ear pierced (v.17). I love my master and will be His bond slave forever (Rom.12:1). Commentators agree that it is this picture in view when the NT word servant is used. (The Greek word doulos implies a bond servant - Rom.1:1).
Deuteronomy 16:16 Times Have Changed
Our subject today is summed up in verse 16 and was first introduced back in Exodus 23:14. These three feasts are outlined for us here: Passover, 1-8, Weeks (Pentecost), 9-10 and Tabernacles, 13-15.
The place which God chose for these feasts to be celebrated was, of course, Jerusalem and the rule He gave was that every male was to be there on all three of these occasions. Ideally, a man’s family would be with him if at all possible for the Jews are very family oriented.
There are several important observations that should be made and of these we have often spoken in the past but since most ofour fathers are so dead physically or spiritually that they cannot remind us, we must needs go over them again.
Speaking of fathers, how many were there in Israel who decided on that certain year when Jehovah had planned to send the Holy Ghost into the world as a follow-up to His Son’s advent, that they were just too busy with matters that must take precedent or whatever, so they, not being as devout as most of those who attended, missed the birthday party of the church when tongues of fire danced on the heads of 120 spirit baptized believers like so many candles on a birthday cake?
“Three feasts a year is just too much even if it is being legislated by the sovereign God of the universe. He must just not understand how busy we are these days.” They ought to have lived in our day when parents are so busy driving their kids to extra curricular activities that they are worn out when Sunday comes and they just can’t make it to Sunday School.
Another point in our text is the emphasis on rejoicing. Verses 11, 14 and 15 along with other passages, 12:7, 12 and 18; 14:26 and 26:11. It certainly sounds like God expects everyone to have a good time doing His bidding. Don’t forget the Levites (your pastor) and your neighbor and don’t come with empty hands (v.16).
God expected a lot didn’t He? But of course today things are different or are they?
Deuteronomy 17:13 “Hear and Fear”
I suppose we may eventually get to the kings and prophets in our devotionals if I live that long, but in the event that we don’t, here is an excellent place to bring attention to the fact that these were no idle warnings being given.
Regarding blemished sacrifices, it apparently began to happen soon enough that calloused worshipers were bringing animals of that kind. Malachi wrote “ye brought that which was torn and the lame and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of you hand? saith the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver which hath in his flock a male (obviously an acceptable animal for sacrifice) and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great king, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.” (1:13 & 14).
We know what happened in the New Testament church when Christians, also as deceivers, tried basically the same thing (Acts 5)!
As to prohibitions for kings (v.6), Solomon couldn’t have done a more thorough job of violating the divine standard related to horses (1 Kings 4:26), wives (11:3) and gold (II Chr.9:13)! Certainly he was forewarned and it could not have been that he didn’t know better if he read his Bible (what he had).
Speaking of which, we could make the same mistake in thinking surely that our leadership in our local churches knows the importance of reading and studying the Word of God yet they may be spending too much time watching TV. Cursed be the deceiver who puts on a good front Sunday morning but is trading off quality time to that monster.
In Psalm 19 we read concerning the Scriptures: “more to be desired are they than gold...moreover by them is thy servant warned” etc. We can’t understand how a wise man like Solomon could have missed such an important principle but as my pastor pointed out recently, there is no record that he had the benefit of being personally warned by a prophet. Thank you Lord for the priests who stand to minister to us (v.12) but beloved, we must be in the word daily. Please, please do not neglect this exercise and pray especially for the leadership in your assembly that they and yes “all the people shall hear and fear and do no more presumptuously!”
Deuteronomy 18:15 “Unto Him Shalt Thou Hearken:”
In today’s passage we have a unique reference to the Messiah. Matthew Henry says of it that it is the clearest promise of Christ in all the law of Moses. In it Christ is referred to as a Prophet (note the use of the capital letter) and it is the basis for many of the N.T. references to Him as such. Here Moses makes reference to the fact that God will raise up such a Prophet probably in contrast to the false “diviners” that he mentions in the preceding verses. This he does in verse 15 and then in v.18 he quotes the words of Jehovah seemingly spoken at Sinai at the time of the giving of the law when the people requested that they no longer be required to listen to His fearsome voice. He promises that He will raise up such a Prophet and that He will be “like unto thee” that is, Moses (v.18). In quoting this episode Peter in Acts 3:22 states that this is prophetic of Christ.
As to the similarities between Moses and Lord Jesus Christ, in the commentary by Jamison, Faucett and Brown (J.F.B.) five are noted.
In His mediatorial character; in the peculiar excellence of His ministry; in the number, variety and magnitude of His miracles; in His close and familiar communion with God; and in His being the author of a new dispensation.
Two special references come to mind where the names of Moses and Christ are used together in our New Testament: John 1:17 “for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” and Hebrews 3:5 & 6 where Moses as a servant and Christ as a Son are contrasted.
There is a warning given here that applies to us today since it involves the words that God put “in his mouth” (v.18), that is, the mouth of the Lord Jesus (Jn.17:8). It is this: “ and it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto my words (Jehovah, v.17) which He (the Prophet Jesus) shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (v.19). We say that the Bible is God’s Word and it is, and what we read in it we are responsible to do, according to this verse. Let us be “doers of the word and not hearers only” deceiving our own selves (Js.1:22).
Deuteronomy 19:5 Flee and Live
One thing that makes it a bit more difficult writing on Deuteronomy is, since there is a lot
of repetition and not wanting to say the same things over again, the subject matter left to comment on in a short chapter is often rather limited. On the other hand, as in our present chapter sometimes additional material on a subject previously handled is given that helps our understanding of the Scripture.
If we didn’t have this chapter we would miss a couple of thoughts that I don’t think we find anywhere else. One such is the very graphic illustration that I always think of when explaining the subject of the cities of refuge, that of the woodsman with a loose axe-head on the helve. The iron (Num.35:16) instrument flew off striking a neighbor in which case the slayer could flee to the place of refuge and hopefully get there before the avenger caught up with him. In the case that it could be proven that it somehow was premeditated and he be found guilty the elders of his city could send and fetch him delivering him to the avenger of blood (11&12). This section also is an addition to material on the subject furnished by other passages. By the way in case you haven’t picked it up anywhere before, the other locations on this subject are: Exodus 21, Numbers 35 and Joshua 20. (See my comments on Numbers 35).
There is an interesting little problem between verses 7-9 and Numbers 35:12-14. Compare these and see what you think. Don’t ask me for the answer because I don’t know it.
On a slightly different subject though relating to legal matters it is an interesting principle that when men stood before priests and judges who were making “diligent inquisition” it was to be understood that they were standing “before the Lord” (17&18). How much more in matters brought before the church should it be considered so, especially since He lives in us? (I Cor.6:1)
Deuteronomy 20:1 “Be Not Afraid”
There seems to be but one subject in this chapter and it concerns warfare with other than the people of the promised land which are here referred to as cities which “are very far off from thee” (v.15).
First, since apparently the divine protection given them when battling the former would not be in force they were given exemptions from battle and almost any excuse, it seems, could get one off the hook and when all else failed all one had to do was beg off because they were afraid (v.8). This, it would seem, left only the courageous and those who had not much else to do. Even then a battle could be averted. A peace delegation was dispatched to a city under attack and if they surrendered they became tributary but if not Israel was victorious by virtue of the fact that God delivered it into their hands (v.13).
Frankly I wondered why it should be necessary for Israel to be going abroad to fight and that with God’s approbation but I think verse 20 holds the answer. These are apparently cities that threatened their security as implied by the words in verse 20 “ the city that maketh war with thee.” We don’t really need to understand since it is obvious that they have God’s approval. It is better to carry the war to the enemy rather than wait until they attack first.
Israel is reminded, however, that none of these conditions pertain to the people of the nations that He gave them for an inheritance (v.16). As for them, they were to be utterly destroyed. Nothing that breathed was to be left alive (v.16) lest they teach Israel to do after all their abominations which they have done unto their gods.
Lest there is any doubt in our minds may these words burn themselves into our hearts and minds, “so should ye sin, against the Lord your God.” We read in Romans 11:33, “how unsearchable are his judgements and his ways past finding out!” We dare not question His judgements. Rather let us ask Him to adjust our own thinking to bring it into line with His. Let us do it now because we will need His help when we get into our next chapter.
Deuteronomy 21:8 “Thy People Israel”
Here we begin and end with the sacrifice of our Saviour though at first one is so taken with the strangeness of these five examples of God’s peculiar handling of Israel that we may be temporarily distracted. We must remember that this nation is very special and so are His dealings with them. We may find it difficult even to come up with some application to reward us for reading such foreign sounding concepts. Be assured that God blesses even the reading of His precious words and His Spirit will guide us into all truth even though the mining process may at times be tedious.
The beheading of the heifer in a rough (uncultivated) valley must, as the death of every sacrificial animal, turn our attention to the whole subject of substitution. God’s people are special and so is His land. Blood shed in murder cries out from the ground (Gen.4:10 and 9:6) and requires satisfaction. Israel as God’s people must be especially attendant upon such matters and the severity of God’s judgement at the end of the world must surely be related to the overwhelming magnitude of unrequited crime against His holiness.
Of course, the N.T. (Gal.3:13) comes through for us, loud and clear, in bringing our attention to the Lord Jesus with regard to one being hanged on a tree (v.23). Note however that it is the land of Israel that would be defiled if this were not done.
Our sentimental nature may be somewhat disturbed by the action required of parents with a rebellious son, but when we are told that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (I Sam.15:23) and we know how God thinks about that (Ex.22:18) it helps us a bit in adjusting our thinking while bringing it into line with His. And we must do so if we want God to be happy with us and that, beloved, is more important than that we understand His ways.
Again, in the story of the unfortunate man with two wives, sentimentality, must give way to consistency.
This leave only the matter of the beautiful woman whose very mention has at least the attention of all men who read about it. Unfortunately I am at the bottom of my page and can only comment that about such things as the complicated affairs of male and female relationships, we must yet have a lot to learn. (Phew)
Deuteronomy 22:9 “Thou Shalt Not”
It was never intended that these brief devotionals of about 300 to 350 words would serve as a commentary on each chapter as we would come to it. Whenever there have been passages where it would be helpful to the reader to perhaps have some clarification, we have attempted such but we must be clear that if we leave some subjects untreated that we are not, by doing so, neglecting our original intention.
When we read a chapter of God’s Word we should seek to find something edifying and we should not be discouraged if we must leave a portion without feeling that we completely understand it or know why it was included in the holy canon of Scripture. Even after studying sometimes for hours and reading several commentators I personally have to conclude as much. Remember, we have the rest of our lives to read and study this Holy Book so let us not be too surprised if we have to leave behind some things feeling unsatisfied. Besides, I think if we arrive in heaven without at least a few questions that we hope there to find answers for, our Father may think and perhaps with good reason, that we have just been too taken up with the things of this world that our minds have been in neutral so far as spiritual matters are concerned.
In today’s portion, several very interesting prohibitions are made on which I would like to say a word. These are spoken against mixture and are verses 9-11. This I believe is God’s way of reminding Israel about the need for separation. It was for Jews as were the dietary laws, but the principle is an important one. It is emphasized by Paul in II Cor.6:14-7:1. Mixture is not a good thing when it comes to light and darkness or to heat and cold (Rev.3:15&16). There can be no fellowship between the believer and the world. Some of the early Christians apparently thought they could have things both ways so they tried mixing idolatry with the worship of Jehovah. “Wherefore come ye out from among them and be ye separate,” He said to them then. Today He might say, “keep the world out of your music!”
Deuteronomy 23:14 Our Ever Present God
It is certainly a test to approach some of these rather “down to earth” section of the Bible with the same reverence held for others but we must try to appreciate the fact that all men are not culturally on the same page. It is hard to imagine, however, the Queen of England hearing the reading of this chapter while at her devotions. It is, though, at just such a time as when we are at private devotions that we will actually confront these verses for I am sure they are rarely mentioned from the pulpit. Take, for example, the matter of God walking in the midst of their camp. Here let me reproduce for you what C.H. M. said in his “Notes.” “What precious privilege to have Jehovah walking in their midst! What a motive for purity of conduct, and refined delicacy in their personal and domestic habits! If He was in their midst to secure victory over their enemies He was also there to demand holiness of life. They were never for one moment to forget the august Person who walked up and down in their midst. Would the thought of this prove irksome to any? Only to such as did not love holiness, purity, and moral order. Every true Israelite would delight in the thought of having One dwelling in their midst who could not endure aught that was unholy, unseemly or impure.” (P.343).
Picture children being taught these inspired words that would conjure up a realization that the Supreme Ruler of the universe might at any moment be only the thickness of a tent’s cloth wall away from them. Yet it is no less real in instructing our children today to seek to impress upon them that, for the believer, this same holy God indwells our very bodies, and to inculcate in our youth that the reason for abstinence from sexual impurity is not just to avoid an unwanted pregnancy but because Christ actually indwells our bodies and therefore there must be no illicit physical relationships else we force Him to be involved (I Cor.6:15&16).
One final thought. Just think of the grace of God overruling His own rigorous measure against the Moabites not many years hence when He brought a heathen Moabitess maiden not only into the Israelite congregation but into the ancestry of the Son of God (Mt.1:5)! Ruth, what an exceptional person!
Deuteronomy 24:19 That the Lord May Bless
A great set of verses to keep in mind when reading these chapters in Deut. is Isa.55:8&9; “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In dealing with the chapters previous to this one I have made reference to Rom.11:33 which reminds us that His ways are “past finding out.”
Our God is a sovereign, all wise heavenly Father and sometimes we see what He does and hear what He says and we shake our heads in bewilderment (but not unbelief). He understands and has already warned us that it would be like this. If we could understand everything He does the above verses would not be true.
Now in this chapter we see Him in a bit different light. We wonder what exactly is meant by the affect upon the land that is “caused to sin” when certain proscribed procedures are practiced but we can’t help but sympathize with the poor woman of v.4 who is not forced to go back to her first husband. Note, there is no evidence of a love that might overlook certain things which obviously were not so serious as might have called for her death. Her defilement seems to be anticipated much like the woman in Matthew 5:32 of whom it is said that the condition “causeth her to commit adultery.” In both these cases the men seemed to have been to blame for the defilement of both women and it is expected by God that they will remarry for they are women who in that culture needed husbands. What I am pointing out is that it is not the woman here that is being blamed for causing the land to sin, but the men. The woman being a victim is like all or almost all of the other victims in this chapter that are being cared for by a loving Father (Note how many there are).
And take note also of the two references (v.18 & v.21) that remind Israel that they had been in bondage in Egypt so they should be compassionate on the poor, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. (This is found several places in our book such as 15:15. The passage I especially like is vss.19-22 and it always makes me think of Ruth and Naomi.)
Deuteronomy 25:19 “And Don’t Forget it”
As you know, there are several different places in Scripture where Amalek is mentioned beginning back in Gen.17:8. One should bring all of these together in order to have a full comprehension of God’s teaching on the subject. As we have said, this is one of the positive uses of this book as it often sheds further light on subjects covered earlier for, as you know by now, this younger generation going into the land must be taught to love what God loves and hate what He hates.
If the Moabites were not allowed to enter the congregation of the Lord even to the tenth generation because “they met you not with bread and water in the way when ye came forth out of Egypt,” (23:3) the future of the Amalekites was even more bleak.
Notes in the Scofield Reference Bible suggests that Amalek is a type of what Paul calls “the flesh” or the old nature, something we should “remember” (v.17) and “not forget”(v.19). Our old nature fears not God i.e. is “not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be” (Rom.8:7) in fact it was against the Spirit (Gal.5:17) and certainly attacks us where we are weakest and where our guard is down (Rom.7:23). ( Faint and weary [v.18] speaks of languishing and being exhausted.)
Here Jehovah our God indicates what is to be done to Amalek once Israel is firmly entrenched in the promised land. The very remembrance of their perpetual (Ex.17:16) enemy was to be blotted out. Paul says “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (sinful nature) etc.(Rom.6:11). That is what we are to do about our old nature once we enter into the victorious life in Christ, or perhaps we should say in order to enter it experientially for of course we enter positionally and potentially when we are born again.
Sadly, Saul, who was given the responsibility indicated here failed of his mission by sparing Agag, the king (I Sam.15:9). It was of greatest significance that it was an Amalekite who killed Saul when he was in a “faint and weary”state, taking his crown (II Sam.1:8-10). Samuel and David both knew what to do with Amalekites (I Sam.15:32; II Sam.1:13-15).
Deuteronomy 26:9 Milk and Honey Goodness
We come to the end of this section that has been filled with a great many dos and don’ts, some of them quite difficult to understand but let us not be so taken up with all of the commandments, statutes and judgements that we fail to get the great sense of blessing that abounds in this book. From chapter 27 blessings and cursings will be contrasted as Israel is warned about what will happen (and did happen) if the statutes were not kept, but in this transitional chapter, as it would seem, we are reminded especially of all of the positive things we have heard as we have progressed along through the preceding pages.
The land to which they go will be an especially fruitful land. They were made aware of that even as the spies were sent in at Kadesh-Barnea. They had brought back such a bunch of grapes that it was carried suspended on a pole between two of them.
Here they are being reminded about bringing to God an offering of these first fruits. They are to remember (a favorite word in this book) how God had brought them out of Egypt with “an outstretched arm and with great terribleness and with signs and with wonders” (v.8). They were being brought into “a land that floweth with milk and honey” (v.9) (a phrase that has been spoken of at least five times) and is a typical expression of the richness of the life they could expect.
Have you noted how often the word “rejoice” occurs (v.11) as we have made our way through these pages? It is a wonderful descriptive word of the kind of attitude God wants us to have. Does your heart rejoice in the abundant life He has given us in Christ.
And there is the sharing of the good things which the Lord has given us. This is what witnessing should be (v.12).
Verses 18 and 19 seem to conclude this section which starts with almost the same words back in 4:6 - 8. They were certainly a special (peculiar) people very highly favored of God (v.18).
The land of victory that the Lord has given us as believers is truly one that abounds with the riches of His grace. We are a special people and we should rejoice in all He has done for us. Praise the Lord!
Deuteronomy 27:26 All the People Said, Amen.
The elders joined Moses in the pronouncements of this day as if to confirm and reinforce the words of this old man who was soon to pass off the scene. When the land was entered the people were to go through a ceremony involving setting up several stone monuments which thing they did under Joshua (see 8:30-35). They were to stand in the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim by the monument with certain tribes elevated on the sides of each with the Levites in the middle which would address first one side and then the other with the blessings and curses to which the whole company would say, “amen”. It was a declaration being made, while standing in this new land, of their intention to be obedient to Jehovah and in doing such it was something of a new beginning for them. “This day” that is, the day this ceremony was carried out, Moses said, “ thou art become the people of the Lord thy God” (v.9).
As to the monuments, they were to erect plastered stones inscribed with the law (commentators differ as to how much was written on them) and in addition there was to be a stone altar upon which burnt offerings and peace offerings were sacrificed.
Significantly the altar for burnt sacrifice is present as symbolic of the necessity of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, who “hath redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us” (Gal.3:13).
Trapp says “the blessings are not mentioned by Moses that we might learn to look for them by the Messiah only.”
It is interesting that there are twelve curses mentioned as if relating to the twelve tribes.
“And all the people shall say, Amen.” Being repeated twelve times the point is made that the people were agreeing with what the word of God had to say about sin. God hates our sin, every sin, and our hearts must agree with His. The more we grow in grace the more heinous we see our sin to be. Christ is our sacrifice that sin may be forever expiated and that we may have His peace. Beyond all this are the blessings in the land. And all the people said, Amen!
Deuteronomy 28:63 “The Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you”
We have come to a section of our Bible that is exceptionally clear. There is not a doubt left in our minds as to what God is saying and of such forcefulness of words there is not the like to be found. It would have been well if the first verse of the next chapter had been left appended to this one for it tells us that “These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel.” Which covenant is commonly called The Palestinian Covenant.
Did you notice as you read it (and I implore you to do so) that there is a certain theme repeated over and over “until thou be destroyed?” It is found eight times in this one chapter and believe me, when that happens there is no doubt that it is indeed the theme! These words should be marked in red so that whenever we turn here they will stand out in bold relief. God is making an exceedingly strong statement!
When we read at one sitting this lengthy passage we can’t help but realize that whatever has happened to the Jews over the years, as for instance the holocaust, may be traced back to these strong words. Do not be afraid of being called anti-Semitic for believing this! God loves the Jews and this book of Deuteronomy is proof of that, but His wrath against sin and unbelief is a proof of the same rather than a denial and so it is with us. We can pity their plight and commiserate with their sufferings but we place ourselves in danger of the very wrath they have experienced if we question His righteous dealings.
To say they were to be destroyed is not to say they were to be annihilated for that just never could be the case. Looking ahead to 30:1-3 we find a return promised. Another verse yet to come in our reading, 31:17, perhaps looks forward to the day of their national conversion. It will come and our responsibility is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem knowing, of course, there can be no peace until they look upon the Prince of Peace as their Redeemer (Ps.122:6; Zech.12;10; and Is.54:7-8).
Deuteronomy 29:29 “Those Things Which Are Revealed”
If I had a son or daughter I think that I would often read to them or have them read these last two chapters (28 & 29) and I would tell them that they had better be certain that they are in the will of God when they marry for it must be something like the curses that Israel brought upon themselves to be married to the wrong person, especially to an unbeliever. Do you think that a bit strong? But, we see here (vs.17- 28) that it is primarily the sin of idolatry for which God chastens Israel and if we look in our New Testament at II Corinthians 6:16, an unequal yoke brings the child of God into just such a position only worse, for this marriage relationship is to be a picture of Christ and His bride (Eph.5:31 & 32).
Every effort should be made by Christian parents to help their children avoid the unequal yoke, hence great use should be made of these Scriptures for that certainly is a root that beareth “gall and wormwood” (v.18). Even in the light of such curses found here, those who hear may follow their heart saying, “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination (stubbornness) of mine heart.” Such, the Word declares will add drunkenness to thirst. How soon the thirst for marriage can turn to a condition of saturated woe and how often is indicated by divorce, far too often even among Christians.
What a great miracle of grace (v.3) our Lord has wrought for us in bringing us out of bondage to such a position as we now have in Christ and how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Yet like the Emmaus disciples we are so slow of heart to grasp what great things He has done for our souls. We continue as though living in the world to lust for the things of pleasure rather than finding our complete satisfaction in the promised land. Oh, if only we could really know the things that belong unto our peace (Lk.19:42). May there be such a heart in us to perceive, eyes to see and ears to hear (v.4), what riches of His grace are ours if we only could trust and obey. They are revealed to us and to our children in order that we might do them.
Deuteronomy 30:20 “He is Thy Life”
Paul was quoting a passage well know to the Jews when he paraphrased it for the Romans. Only here in this chapter it is the commandment to which Moses referred when he said it is not in heaven nor beyond the sea but he had set it before them (v.15), whereas Paul put Christ in place of the commandment. Israel’s righteousness was to obey which would produce a life of blessing in the land in contrast to what the curse would bring if they disobeyed, even “death and evil.” Our word that is, likewise, very nigh unto us (compare 30:14 with Rom.10:6) even in our mouth and heart is, as Paul says, the word of faith. As Paul preached this Word he must have thrilled to make the application to the Romans of their great Old Testament passage “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved.”
Moses was describing “the righteousness which is of the law,” (Rom.10:5) here in our present chapter but Paul described the “righteousness which is of faith, for with the heart man believeth unto (producing) righteousness” (Rom.10:9 & 10).
If Israel really loved the Lord God (v.20) they were to demonstrate it by obeying the laws of this book that we have just read through which, if they had done they were guaranteed a quality of life far exceeding anything that they had ever known heretofore. In that sense, to choose God (and His commandments) was to choose life and a long life at that but to turn from Him to idols (v.17) was to choose death.
Paul might have gone on with his analogy a bit further to tell us that when we choose Christ we too choose life only, because of the fact that we have the Holy Spirit, the life that we have is the very life of Christ Who by His Spirit indwells us and this life is far more than a quality of physical life but is eternal life so we may say, with added understanding, that indeed He is our life!
Deuteronomy 31:2 Moses’ Birthday
We might think of this as Moses’ one hundred and twentieth birthday, and in fact it might have been if we can take the words “this day” to be literal. Anyway, every body seems to be involved in the six movements of this chapter.
First, Moses addresses “all Israel” and the subject is the changing of the guard. Joshua is taking over and victory will be as assured as that over the kings of the Amorites, God is with thee “he will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
Next, Joshua is called in for a brief audience where the same message, “fear not neither be dismayed,” is delivered.
Thirdly, it is the turn of the Levites who are commanded to see to it that every seven years this deuteronomic version of the law be read at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (“the place which he shall choose”).
Center stage, the spotlight is on Jehovah (this is some birthday party!) with the cheery news “thou must die.” God calls Moses and Joshua to come to the tabernacle and what do you know, Moses found strength “to go out and come in.” Actually the reminder that he would soon “sleep with thy fathers”was a lot better news then what God had to say about what Israel would do after his demise and what He, in turn, would do to them (v.17). We still wait for the last part of this verse to happen when they would say “Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” Would that they might realize today that this is the root of their problem in the Middle East. It is at this point that Jehovah told Moses to write a song ( to which we will be introduced in our next chapter). Now we know how Moses spent the rest of his birthday (22).
There was still time left for a second meeting with Joshua (v.23) where Moses added his charge to the awesome one delivered at the tabernacle door (v.14) by the Sovereign God of the Universe.
Finally Moses (perhaps on another day) levels a double-barreled charge against the Levites accusing them of rebellion and of being stiff-necked while he was still alive and wondered “how much more after my death?”
Deuteronomy 32:18 “The Rock that Begat Thee”
For Moses to write this song in a day (31:22) it must have been direct revelation. From beginning to end is all about Israel with God as their Rock. He is in view in verse 4 where it is said that His work is perfect, “a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.”
I am not sure what it means in verse 8 when it says “he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel,” but it implies that everything He did was with them in mind. Then the passage goes on to say “For the Lord’s portion is His people” and in poetic parallelism, “Jacob is the lot of his (God’s) inheritance.”
As C.H.M. says, “What a glorious fact is here unfolded to our view! A fact but little understood or taken account of by the nations of the earth. How little do men consider that, in the original settlement of the great national boundaries the Most High had direct reference to the ‘children of Israel’! When we look at geography and history from a divine standpoint we find that Canaan and the seed of Jacob are God’s center. Yes; Canaan, a little strip of land lying along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, with an area of 11,000 square miles is the center of God’s geography and the twelve tribes of Israel are the general object of God’s history.”
In verses 22 -25 we read of God’s severe dealing with a wayward nation. So severe that we might wonder at it but for the fact that since they are the chosen ones from among all nations therefore their responsibility is of the very highest order (Amos 3:2).
Of course these verses such as v.26 anticipate Israel’s future and the reason why He didn’t do what He threatened is extremely interesting and deeply purposeful. How could it be possible for Israel’s enemies to treat them as they have been and are treated? Only because “their Rock had sold them.” Of these enemies the song said, “the day of their calamity is at hand.”
To close, verse 43 promises that God will render vengeance to Israel’s adversaries and “be merciful to His people.” Let it be soon, Lord.
Deuteronomy 33:28 The Fountain of Jacob
How wonderful to be in the Lord’s hands, at His feet and receiving His words! From the fountain of Jacob there issues forth twelve streams (though we do wonder why Simeon was omitted from today’s list). We note as we compare Moses’ words with those of Jacob in Gen.49 that there is practically no similarity with the exception of what is said of Joseph. Here we read of the “precious things” of the earth, there of the “blessings,” there of the “everlasting hills,” here of the “lasting hills,” but it is in verse 16 that we have word for word from Gen.49:26 “of him that was separated from his brethren.” This is indeed striking and brings back to our mind the whole story of how God used Joseph in Egypt to preserve his brethren and father during the famine. He was “separated” by the Lord and made a picture of the Lord Jesus! Going back to the Genesis account in chapter 49, it is verse 22 that I like best. It is really one of my favorites. Joseph is also a type of the faithful (Christ-like) believer, a branch abiding in the vine, hanging over the wall (separation), bearing fruit for the world to pluck but especially being located “by a well.” “He shall be like a tree (Ps.1:3)...bringing forth fruit”! “Herein is my Father glorified...”John 15:8.
Note, if you will, that Joseph too is a fountain from whose springs flow the thousands and the ten thousands (v.17).
Oh, reader do you see that Fountain flowing deep and wide? A Fountain for cleansing opened to the house of David (Zech.13:1), yes, but wonder of wonders, a well of living water from which even Samaritans may drink (John 4), rivers in the desert opened by merely speaking to the Rock, living water flowing from the depth of each believer (John7:38) producing a river of water of life that grows “deeper all the way” (Ezekiel 47:1 - 9).
You will say, “yes, but this river comes from the temple and from the throne,” and I will say, but my fellow believer, our bodies are His temple and (hopefully) Christ is enthroned in our hearts!
Deuteronomy 34:5 Moses, The Servant of the Lord
Here we have the epitaph of God’s great servant, Moses, than none better save our Lord Jesus Christ. That he was not really in his tomb (Mt.17:3) is as true of him as it was of Christ three days after His crucifixion and though the body of the former is, that of the latter is not.
It is suggested by Jewish writers that perhaps Michael the archangel was the one who actually buried Moses’ body there is the land of Moab. This might be the reason why it was with him that the devil disputed over it, we know not why (Jude 9).
What we do know is that Moses was the greatest of all the prophets and that was true because Jehovah knew him “face to face.” He was the meekest of all men upon the face of the earth (Num.12:4) so we have in him an excellent example of what God looks for in that aspect of godly character. We also know that Moses was a faithful man (Heb.3:2).
We have a wonderful glimpse of Moses’ faith in Hebrews 11:24 - 28 where we read of him, that, “choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season...” he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. May we like him have respect unto the heavenly recompense of rewards. It is said here also that “he endured as seeing him who is invisible.”
With the laying on of his hands the transition was made to his faithful understudy Joshua which we have anticipated now for some time and with the closing of this book and the Pentateuch we also transition to a new book and look forward to the conquest of Canaan.
A good prayer as we back away from this burning bush and slip into our sandals, might be: Let the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush be upon our heads as we seek to walk in the separated path of Joseph, Moses and Joshua (33:16).