SCHOOL, reunions, scrapbooks and photo albums, familiar songs, and old neighbourhoods – like long-time friends they awaken our memories and stir our emotions. The past is a kaleidoscope of promises, failures, victories, and embarrassments. Sometimes we want to forget memories that are too painful. However, as the years pass, remembrances of unpleasant events usually fade into our subconscious. But there is a time to remember: mistakes should not be repeated; commitments made must be fulfilled; and the memory of special events can encourage us and move us to action.
The book of Deuteronomy is written in the form of a treaty between a king and his vassal state typical of the second millennium B.C. It calls Israel to remember who God is and what he has done. Lacking faith, the old generation had wandered for 40 years and died in the desert. They left Egypt behind, but never knew the promised land. Then on the east bank of the Jordan River, Moses prepared the sons and daughters of that faithless generation to possess the land. After a brief history lesson emphasising God’s great acts on behalf of his people, Moses reviewed the law. Then he restated the covenant – God’s contract with his people.
The lessons are clear. Because of what God has done, Israel should have hope and follow him; because of what he expects, they should listen and obey; because of who he is, they should love him completely. Learning these lessons will prepare them to possess the promised land.
As you hear the message of Deuteronomy, remember how God has expressed his kindness in your life, and then commit yourself anew to trust, love, and obey him.
PURPOSE: To remind the people of what God had done and encourage them to rededicate their lives to him
AUTHOR: Moses (except for the final summary, which was probably written by Joshua after Moses’ death)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the new generation entering the promised land)
DATE WRITTEN: About 1407/6 B.C.
SETTING: The east side of the Jordan River, in view of Canaan
KEY VERSE: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (7:9).
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Joshua
KEY PLACE: The Arabah in Moab
What God Has Done For Us – Moses’ First Address (1:1-4:43) Moses reviewed the mighty acts of God for the nation of Israel. Remembering God’s special involvement in our lives gives us hope and encouragement for the future.
Principles For Godly Living – Moses’ Second Address (4:44-28:68) Obeying God’s laws brought blessings to the Israelites and disobeying brought misfortune. This was part of the written agreement God made with his people. Although we are not part of this covenant, the principle holds true: obedience and disobedience carry inevitable consequences in this life and the next.
- The Ten Commandments
- Love the Lord your God
- Laws for proper worship
- Laws for ruling the nation
- Laws for human relationships
- Consequences of obedience and disobedience
A Call For Commitment To God – Moses’ Third Address (29:1-30:20) Moses called the people to commitment. God still calls us to be committed to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
The Change In Leadership – Moses’ Last Days (31:1-34:12) Although Moses made some serious mistakes, he had lived uprightly and carried out God’s commands. Moses died with integrity. We too may make some serious mistakes, but that should not stop us from living with integrity and godly commitment.
EXPLANATION: Moses reviewed the mighty acts of God whereby he liberated Israel from slavery in Egypt. He recounted how God had helped them and how the people had disobeyed.
IMPORTANCE: By reviewing God’s promises and mighty acts in history, we can learn about his character. We come to know God more intimately through understanding how he has acted in the past. We can also avoid mistakes in our own lives through learning from Israel’s past failures.
EXPLANATION: God reviewed his laws for the people. The legal contract between God and his people had to be renewed by the new generation about to enter the promised land.
IMPORTANCE: Commitment to God and his truth cannot be taken for granted. Each generation and each person must respond afresh to God’s call for obedience.
EXPLANATION: God’s faithful and patient love is portrayed more often than his punishment. God shows his love by being faithful to his people and his promises. In response, God desires love from the heart, not merely legalistically keeping his law.
IMPORTANCE: God’s love forms the foundation for our trust in him. We trust him because he loves us. Because God loves us, we should maintain justice and respect.
EXPLANATION: God reminded his people that in order to ratify his agreement they must choose the path of obedience. A personal decision to obey would bring benefits to their lives; rebellion would bring severe calamity.
IMPORTANCE: Our choices make a difference. Choosing to follow God benefits us and improves our relationships with others. Choosing to abandon God’s way brings harm to ourselves and others.
EXPLANATION: God commanded the Israelites to teach their children his ways. They were to use ritual, instruction, and memorisation to make sure their children understood God’s principles and passed them on to the next generation.
IMPORTANCE: Quality teaching for our children must be a priority. It is important to pass on God’s truth to future generations in our traditions. But God desires that his truth be in our hearts and minds and not merely in our traditions.
©Kingsway International Church, 1973.