Notes on Deuteronomy
1:1-46 - With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, the older generation - including Moses - was not to enter the land (34-38). For the new generation, there was a challenge. There must be no more failures. One wasted generation was enough. This was the time for real commitment to the Lord. He loved them - He had ‘set the land before’ them. They were to rise up in faith and ‘take possession of the land’ (8). We are called to go on with the Lord. ‘You have stayed long enough’ at a low level of Christian living. God is calling us on to maturity: ‘go in and take possession of the land; (6,8; Philippians 3:13-14). Do not hesitate to move forward with God: ‘do not fear... It is a good land which the Lord gives us’ (21,25). Will we be the new generation, ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?
2:1-37 - During their wilderness years, God’s people had many problems. God is greater than all the problems! Israel’s journey began in the land of ‘bondage’ (Exodus 2:23-25). From there, He led them to the land of promise, ‘the land which the Lord our God gives to us’ (29). This is ‘amazing grace’: ‘Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home’ (Mission Praise, 31). In the giving and taking of the land, we see both grace and faith: ‘I have begun to give... this land over to you; begin to take possession...’ (31). We are not saved by grace apart from faith. We are ‘saved by grace through faith’. We are not saved by faith without grace. We are ‘saved by grace through faith’. Saved by the Lord, let us press on to a life of ‘good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10).
3:1-29 - The promised land was near. For Moses, it was ‘so near and yet so far’. He was excluded. Together with the sadness of Moses’ exclusion, there was the joy of the people’s entrance (27-28). When we consider Moses’ sadness and the people’s joy, we must remember this: Nobody deserved to go into the land! The land was God’s gift. Without His strength, the people of Israel would fail. With Him, they would be victorious: ‘You shall not fear them; for it is the Lord your God who fights for you’ (22). There is here a basic principle of Christian living: ‘not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’ (Zechariah 4:6). ‘In heavenly armour we’ll enter the land. The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand. The battle belongs to the Lord’ (Mission Praise, 639). 4:1-43 - The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God - not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would ‘not go over the Jordan’. As God’s man. he was to prepare the people for their task: ‘you shall go over and take possession of that good land’ (22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage ‘by a mighty hand and outstretched arm’ (34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: ‘Obey His laws and commands’ (40). The Lord our God is ‘a merciful God’ (31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be ‘no other besides Him’ (35). Flee to Christ for refuge (42-43), and live each day with ‘the attitude of gratitude’.
4:44-5:33 - Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: ‘I am the Lord your God’ who brought you... out of the house of bondage’ (6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him - more!
6:1-25 - ‘Hear’ and ‘do’ (1-3; James 1:22-25). In our obedience to God, there is to be the fear of the Lord and love for the Lord (2,5). Fear and love: the two belong together. God is holy - fear Him. God is love - love Him. This is for every generation: ‘you and your son and your son’s son’(2). ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’ (5). Teach the children well so that the blessing of God may be ‘prolonged’ among us (7,2). Our promised land - heaven (John 14:1-3) - is far better than Israel’s promised land. Through faith in Christ, we have received ‘eternal life’ (John 5:24; 6:40). Never take the Lord’s blessing for granted. Always remember to thank Him for all that He has done for you (10-12). Teach the children what the Lord has done for them (20-23). Then, and only then, tell them what they must ‘do’ for Him (24-25).
7:1-26 - Enter, Destroy, Possess (1-2). Don’t try to jump straight from entering to possessing. Don’t forget to destroy. We enter the Christian life through faith in Christ. We will not ‘take possession of’ a fuller enjoyment of His salvation if we refuse to ‘destroy’ the obstacles to His blessing in our lives. Sin is like a ‘cancer’. It will ‘kill’ us if we let it (Romans 6:23). This is why we must fight it - with ‘the whole armour of God’ (Ephesians 6:10-17). From beginning to end, our salvation is the work of God: ‘...it is because the Lord loves you... that He has... redeemed you...’ (6-8). The Lord’s love speaks of His keeping power. He will complete the work He has begun (17-19; Philippians 1:6). Saved and kept by the power of God, we travel from Christ’s Cross to our Crown (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2:24-25; 5:4).
8:1-9:21 - The ‘wilderness’ was a place of ‘testing’. God was ‘disciplining’ His people. He was teaching them to ‘walk in His ways’ (2,5-6). In the ‘wilderness’, we must remember this: ‘man does not live by bread alone... man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord’ (3). Everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord - His warnings as well as His promises! He speaks to us in warnings: ‘Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God...’ (11). He speaks to us in promises: ‘the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land’ (7). ‘God forbid that I should glory...’ (8:17-18; 9:4-6; Galatians 6:14). God gave Israel the land. He gives us ‘the Kingdom’ (Luke 12:32). As earthly kingdoms rise and fall, ‘the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed’ (Daniel 2:44).
9:22-10:22 - ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:4). Moses was an intercessor (25-29). The ministry of the Word needs to be grounded in prayer. Prayerfully seeking the Lord’s help, we are to place His Word at the centre of the life of His people (5). God shows His mercy by providing His servants to carry His Word in a ministry of blessing to the people, a ministry which helps the people to ‘go in and possess the land’ (8,10-11). In gratitude to God, our Creator-Redeemer, we are to give ourselves to Him in obedience (12-15). Let your heart and life be changed by the Lord, never forgetting this: ‘He is your praise; He is your God, who has done for you... great... things’ (16-21). ‘God... gives the growth’ (22; Corinthians 3:7). Read Psalm 126:6 and pray!
11:1-32 - God is at work among His people, teaching them many lessons. Through His precious promises and strong warnings, He leads us in the way of obedience and blessing (31-32). If we are to enjoy the Lord’s blessing, we need the whole Word of God - the warnings as well as the promises. Obedience to God - This is the most important thing in the life of faith. Obedience demonstrates the reality of faith. By our obedience, we show our ‘love’ for the Lord. We rejoice in ‘all the great work of the Lord’. By ‘His mighty hand’, He has provided for us a great salvation. Our enjoyment of His salvation increases as we live in obedience to Him (8-15). Without obedience, there can be no blessing (16-17). Teach others to obey God - especially the ‘children’ (18-21). God is good. He loves us (22-25). Obey Him. Choose blessing (26-28).
12:1-32 - In our hearts, nothing else must compete with the Lord. There is no room for idolatry. ‘Destroy’ everything that threatens to take the place of God in your life. (2-3). We are not to ‘do what is right in our own eyes’. We are to worship as the Lord ‘chooses’ (5,8,13-14). Remove every distraction. Get rid of those things which keep you from crowning Christ as Lord of your life. When you are tempted to put other things before the Lord, ‘be careful not to be ensnared’ in the ways of the world (29-31). When we are tempted, we must take our stand on God’s Word. ‘Everything’ He has given to us - This means more than our favourite passages! Don’t ‘add to it’, making ‘the traditions of men’ more important than the Word of God. Don’t ‘take from it’, ignoring the parts you don’t like (32; Mark 7:8; Acts 20:27).
13:1-14:21 - Obedience to God involves an uncompromising attitude toward those who would lead people away from God. Those who say ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (13:2,6,13) must not be permitted to exert their evil influence on God’s people. God says, ‘You must not listen to them (13:3,8). Temptations to ‘idolatry’ can come under the guise of ‘spirituality’ - ‘a prophet... a dreamer of dreams... a sign or a wonder’ (13:1; 1 John 4:1). ‘Idolatry’ can come from within one’s own family. The Lord must come first (13:6-11; Luke 14:26). God’s judgment is upon ‘idolaters’ so that others may see their folly, turn from ‘idolatry’ and receive God’s mercy (13:12-18). Remember God’s purpose of love (John 3:17). In our worship and in the whole of life, we are to be ‘a people holy to the Lord our God’ (14:2,21).
14:22-15:23 - ‘Tithing’ (Giving the tenth to God) emerges out of holiness: ‘You are a people holy to the Lord your God... You shall tithe’ (14:21-22). It is more than giving things to God. It is giving ourselves to Him. It also involves caring for others (7-11; Isaiah 58:6-7). We have been ‘earmarked’ as servants of the Lord (17). Being ‘earmarked’ for God involves listening to God (Isaiah 55:2-3). Bring ‘the firstling’ to God (19). ‘We are here to bring You the best that we can bring. And it is our love rising from our hearts’ (Mission Praise, 717). ‘Just as I am... to be the best that I can be for truth, and righteousness, and Thee, Lord of my life, I come’ (Church Hymnary, 448). No second bests - Only the best will do for God.
16:1-17:13 - Blessed by God, the people of Israel had much to celebrate. They had been brought out of the land of bondage. They were about to enter the land of promise. The keeping of the feasts (16:1-17) was a response to God’s love, a way of celebrating His love. Why did God bring Israel to the promised land? It was because He ‘loved them’ (Psalm 44:3). The Passover was a continuing reminder of God’s mighty work of redemption. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of what God has done for us in Christ. In remembering His dying love for us, we remember what we were without Him and we give thanks for all that He has done for us. As well as ‘joy’ (45), there is to be justice (16:18-17:13; Micah 6:8). Note the effect of justice: ‘And all the people shall hear, and fear, and not act presumptuously again’ (17:13).
17:14-18:22 - Even the king is subject to God’s ‘law’. His supreme responsibility is this: Pay careful attention to God’s Word (17:18-20). Politically, he may be in an elevated position - a ‘king over’ others (17:14-15). Spiritually, he must not allow ‘his heart’ to be ‘lifted up above his brethren’ (17:20). There must be humble obedience to God’s Word. Priests speak to God for us. Prophets speak to us for God. We need both - ‘prayer and the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:4). In our worship, we must keep the Lord at the very centre. Anything or anyone who distracts our attention from the Lord is no help to true worship (9-14). ‘A prophet like Moses’ (18:15): Jesus is the ultimate prophet - to see and hear Him is to see and hear God (John 5:19; 12:49; 14:9). He preaches God’s Word. He is ‘the Word of God’ (John 1:1).
19:1-20:9 - Justice is concerned with (a) the protection of the innocent - ‘innocent blood will not be shed in your land’ (10); (b) the punishment of the guilty - ‘you must purge the evil from among you’ (19). Through justice, God is to be glorified among His people. We are to fight for the Lord without fear, confident of His glorious presence (20:1-4). In the service of the Lord, we must not be ‘fearful and fainthearted’ (20:8). We are to be ‘good soldiers of Jesus Christ’ (2 Timothy 2:3). We need to give careful attention to the Word of God: ‘When you draw near to the battle, the priest will come forward and speak to the people, and say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel...’ (20:2-3). God’s Word is not concerned only with ‘Church work’. It sends us ‘back to our house’ - ‘dedicated’ to the Lord (20:5-9).
20:10-21:23 - The offer of ‘peace’ is made (20:10; Romans 5:1). Some refuse to ‘make peace’. They choose to ‘make war’ (20:12). When the enemies of Christ and the Gospel are raging, we must be resolute in our commitment to living ‘as the Lord our God has commanded’ (20:16-18). We are to ‘do what is right in the sight of the Lord’. This will involve ‘going forth to war against our enemies’. It will involve ‘purging the evil from our midst’ (21:9-10,21; Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-2,11). Our life of holiness is grounded in the death of Christ who, on the Cross, was ‘accursed by God’ so that we might be saved by God (21:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24). Through faith in Him, we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1,3-5,9-10).
22:1-30 - Care for ‘your brother’ (1-4). Our caring is not to be selective - ‘If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is’ (2). When Jesus says, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Luke 10:27), He means much more than loving the people who live near us, the people that we know. The ‘Samaritan’ didn’t know ‘the man who fell into the hands of robbers’ (Luke 10:30,33). ‘Jews did not associate with Samaritans’ (John 4:9). Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love your enemies with the love of the Lord - ‘when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son’ (Romans 5:8,10). Don’t love the ways of those who ‘live as enemies of the Cross of Christ’ (Philippians 3:18). ‘Purge the evil from the midst of you’ (21-22,24).
23:1-25 - God sees us as we really are. He ‘looks on the heart’ as well as ‘the outward appearance’. We must live to please Him, praying, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139: 23-24). God calls us to be holy: ‘you shall keep yourself from every evil thing’ (9). This ‘holiness’ is not to be a proud, arrogant thing. It is to be filled with compassionate caring. Don’t write anyone off, saying, ‘They’re not our kind of people’ (7). Don’t be out for all you can get for yourself without any thought of how your actions affect other people (24-25). Let your holiness be real. Don’t say one thing and do another. Don’t pretend to be more ‘holy’ than you really are. Choose to be holy - every day (21-23).
24:1-25:29 - Justice for the vulnerable is grounded in God’s redemption (24:17-18). This is an important principle for us. God loves us. He has done great things for us. He cares. We are to care. Let His love be the guiding light in every part of your life. Scripture speaks of both salvation and judgment. Israel was given ‘the land’ as ‘an inheritance to possess’. The Amalekites were blotted out (25:19). The Christian life is a spiritual warfare. When we are ‘faint and weary’, we will be ‘attacked on the way’. If we ‘lag behind’ in our walk with God, those who ‘do not fear God’ will try to ‘cut us off’ from the Lord and His people. This is the work of Satan. We must not be ‘ignorant of his devices’. God is with us in the battle. He is leading us on to our eternal ‘inheritance’ (25:17-19; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
26:1-27:10 - The people of Israel had a testimony. They had been redeemed by the God of love. Thankful for His love and salvation, they brought their offerings to the Lord (26:5-9). The call to obedience is grounded in the gift of salvation. Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be ‘a people holy to the Lord our God’ (26:16-19). There is no privilege without responsibility. Israel was privileged: God was giving them ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’. Israel was responsible: God was saying to them, ‘Keep all the commandments which I command you this day’ (27:1-3). God blesses us. We obey Him. We enjoy more of His blessing. This leads us to obey Him more. Break the ‘vicious circle’. Get on to God’s ‘victorious circle’: He shows us His love. We love Him. He shows us more of His love. We love Him more... (John 14:21).
27:11-28:24 - Through His strongly worded warnings, God calls us back from the way of disobedience (27:15-26;28:15-24). Through His promises of blessing, He calls us to the way of obedience, the only way to true happiness (28:1-14). God’s blessing cannot be taken for granted. Where there is disobedience, there is no blessing. Our ‘enemies’ will triumph over us (28:25). We need not be defeated. God has shown us His way of blessing. It is the way of obedience (1-2). We are not blessed because we deserve to be blessed. We can never earn the Lord’s blessing. The blessing comes from Him (8). He blesses us because He loves us - not because we are worthy of His blessing. You can be in ‘the promised land’ without enjoying the promised blessing. Don’t ‘suffer loss’ - ‘saved, but only as through fire’ (1 Corinthians 3:15).
28:25-68 - There is nothing inevitable about the chain of events described in these verses. These are the consequences of disobedience. God is warning His people: ‘If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God...’ (28:15). Why does God warn His people of the consequences of disobedience? He wants them to draw back from the way of disobedience and follow the pathway of obedience and blessing. These ‘curses’ were avoidable. They would only happen if Israel persisted in rebelling against the Lord. We can bring ‘curses’ upon ourselves. Don’t imagine that God doesn’t care how you live. He does. That is why He calls us back from the pathway of disobedience. That is why He exhorts us to choose holiness. Read Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25-29. Pray for God’s mercy (Luke 18:13). Ask Him to make you more holy (Hebrews 12:14).
29:1-29 - God has done great things for His people - ‘in the land of Egypt... in the wilderness’ (2,5). Acknowledging Him to be the Lord their God, they were to live in obedience to Him (6,9). The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of obedience (16-28). Turning away from the Lord leads to judgment - ‘anger and fury and great wrath’ (24-28). There are ‘secret things’. There are ‘things that are revealed’. Some ‘things’ we will never understand. These ‘things belong to the Lord our God’. There are many ‘things’ we have learned and have firmly believed. ‘The things that are revealed’ are found in ‘the Holy Scriptures’. Through God’s written Word, we are brought to ‘salvation’ and we are ‘thoroughly equipped’ for Christian living (29; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).
30:1-31:13 - For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with ‘all the heart and soul’ involved obedience to ‘His commandments... written in this book of the law’ (30:10). We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - ‘...the Word is very near you...’(11-14). Through His Word, God ‘sets before’ us a choice. He calls us to ‘choose life’ (15-20). Joshua was to succeed Moses (31:1-2,7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God’s people needed His Word of encouragement: ‘Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them’. Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: ‘It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you’ (31:6). Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (31:12-13).
31:14-32:18 - ‘Write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel’ (19,22). Moses did not delay his obedience to God. ‘Write... Teach...’: God is speaking to us about the renewal of our worship. Don’t say, ‘It’s never been done that way before’ - ‘the seven last words of the church’! Moses’ song was ‘a witness for God against the people of Israel’ (19). It can still help us, in this generation, to confess our sin - We ‘have dealt corruptly with Him’ (5) - and glorify our God - ‘I will proclaim the Name of the Lord’ (3). Modern music can help us to hear afresh the ancient message: ‘Ascribe greatness to our God...’ (3-4; Mission Praise, 40). Let us praise God ‘in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ (Ephesians 5:18-20).
32:19-33:17 - Here, we have both the warning of judgment and the promise of salvation. Rebuking ‘a perverse generation’ - ‘They are devious people, children who can’t be trusted’ - God says, ‘I will hide My face from them’ (20). When, in our need, we look to Him for mercy, we have His promise: ‘The Lord will... have compassion on His servants, when He sees their power is gone’ (36). ‘This is the blessing...’ (1). For each tribe - Reuben (6), Judah (7), Levi (8-11), Benjamin (12), Joseph (13-17) - , there is a different Word from the Lord. Each of us is different. Our circumstances are different. God knows what we need to hear. He speaks the Word which is just right for each one. He ‘loves’ every one of us. We are ‘in His hands’. Let us ‘follow in His steps, receiving direction from Him’ (3).
33:18-34:12 - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’ (27): This is no guarantee of peaceful tranquillity. For Israel, there was conflict. ‘Saved by the Lord’, Israel had found true happiness. Still, there were ‘enemies’ to be ‘thrust out’ and ‘trampled down’ (27,29). Knowing the blessing of God’s salvation is no guarantee that life will be easy. When the enemies of the Gospel see a believer intent on glorifying the Lord, they do all they can to create problems. We have ‘enemies’ in ‘high places’ (29; Ephesians 6:12). Their argument is not with us. It is with God. If God’s work is to do well, there needs to be spiritual leadership. Moses had led God’s people in his day. Joshua was to take his place (9). Moses was important. Joshua was important. The Lord is more important - ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).