These Are the Words

The beginning of our study on Deuteronomy.  The last book written by Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, at the end of his life, just prior to Israel entering the promised land.  This book was delivered orally over three days, as a renewal of the covenant relationship into which God has called His people. This is the most quoted book in other books of Scripture, so as you read and as we study together, hopefully you will notice things that sound familiar.  For my own personal study, I am also reading through Peter Craigie’s commentary.  

The Hebrew title for this book is ‘elleh haddebarim’, or “These are the Words.”  Our English Bibles call the book after their Latin and Greek Septuagint title, meaning “second law.”  This book is not a second giving of the Law, or even a mere exposition. It is so much more. From beginning to end, God is reminding His people that He has called them into His love, as His people, giving them a new identity after redeeming them from servitude–and He speaks often of love as the only proper motivation for their deeds.  

A very fitting theme for a study on Deuteronomy are the bookends found in Chapter 6:4-9 and 30:1-10.  After reviewing the history of God’s redemption, we are told to LOVE YHWH with your whole being, and reassured that He will make it possible as He circumcises your heart.  (sigh, rest in that Gospel truth beloved) YHWH is usually seen in our English Bibles written as LORD, and is the covenant name Israel was to call God. Pronounced “Yahfeh” and sometimes seen transliterated in English as “Yahweh.”  

After more than 36 years of fruitless wandering through the desert–the just reward for disobeying God when He told them to trust Him to fight their battles and they wouldn’t.  They feared giants, even though they had recently seen God part the Red Sea and swallow up all of Pharaoh’s chariots.  

Three discourses, and appendices.  

The first is found in 1:1-4:43 historical review of God’s dealings 

The second is found in 4:44-26:19, hortatory and legal, a resume of Israels’ statutes, testimonies and judgments.  5-11 on the ten commandments and theocracy, 12-26 a code of special statutes concerning worship, purity, tithes, feasts, justice, war, offices of kings priests and prophets…  Tone of a father rather than mere legislator

The third is found in 27:1-31:30, predictive of the blessings and curses; antiphonal ritual, fresh exhortations to accept the covenant terms and choose life.  Farewell charge, song, blessings from Moses, poetic chapters, found in 32-33 are sort of appendices.

As we enter this study, let us keep these words from Jesus in the forefront:

John 5:46-47  For if you had believed Moses you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?  

Deuteronomy is a book about a specific community being prepared for a new life…the old lay behind, and is reviewed; the new lies ahead and requires a fresh commitment to God, to His plans and His ways.  This book sets the stage for our understanding of the Kingdom of God, and helps greatly in understanding what Jesus taught concerning His Kingdom, and our new life in union with Him!

God moved first toward His people, in love, and they are called to respond in love.  The law expresses the love of God and indicates the means by which a man must live to reflect that love to God and neighbor.  Not merely a legal contract, the nature of the covenant is an expression of a living relationship; demanding of man not a legalistic acquiescence, but a loving commitment to God. (see Craigie, 37-43) 1 

A book about a God committed to redeeming His people, asking us to be committed to Him alone.  No longer in bondage or slavery; but a loving relationship with a King willing to give them everything.

It is in our nature to forget, hence all the calls to remember.  In Deuteronomy alone He calls us to keep His words or listen or remember 30 times!  It is in our nature to be faithless, hence the call to choose, to commit, and gives the promise of restoration should we go astray.  Our obedience must be of the Spirit not the letter; of the heart not of rote.  

Moses spoke these words, wrote them, then died.  Enter Joshua! The whole book has the feel of urgent love, a call to love, by a man who knows his time with these people is limited.  The Exodus showed God’s community that He was indeed the one fighting their battles, going before them. He will fulfill His promises and bring them into the new land–going before, fighting for them still.  They must trust, cling, obey. Or mess it all up…

  1. Peter Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, (Eerdmans, 1976).

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