Vs. 1, “This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death.” Moses was chosen by God to help deliver His people from Egypt. What a whirlwind of a life Moses led: found in a basket on the river, 40 years in luxury, 40 years as a shepherd, and 40 years shepherding God’s people through the desert! And now, like any great prophet and patriarch, Moses passes on blessings to the tribes of Israel. I preached last weekend a special message on Saturday morning regarding Jacob’s blessings upon his sons in Genesis 49. Here, we see Moses do the same for the tribes, but the tenor is lighter. We see the forgiveness and love of God and the hopeful future blessings, even though they will fail many times. Moses could have complained that he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Moses could have lamented for himself rather than bless others. Moses was Israel’s example of a father figure and how appropriate to pass on these last words of blessings to God’s children.
Regarding application…Rise up in Faith. Vs. 29, “Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.” We are a blessed people! Because the Lord fights for us, we can rise up and go forth in life with no fear. Like Israel, the church is looking for people who are ready to embrace the blessings of God; people willing to stand up in the midst of a world that is sitting down. Question: Will you rise up? Don’t get disheartened, that is why we have the bible to testify that it can be done! When I read books about exercise, each author loves to show before and after pictures of clients who have adhered to their program. These people who have lost all this weight are testifying that it works! We can rise up in faith because we have people in the Bible and people in our history since, that have risen up in faith.
Vs. 46, “he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law.” Moses’ song is a beautiful and sobering collection of pictures and metaphors illustrating God’s heart towards His people. Undeniable to any, are God’s just ways (vs. 4). Sadly, His people would be tested and fail in learning the easy way. Throughout the song, we are given this metaphor of God being the rock (vs. 15, 18, 30-31). The Israelites found much benefit from the rock, but their prosperity and pride were their downfall (vs. 15). Moses’ song is also prophetic for it would sadly predict Israel’s response (vs. 19-33). However, God would not allow the evil nations who unknowingly did His bidding be without their consequences (vs. 34-43). Lastly, we see Moses instructed to go up to get ready for God to deliver the last consequence of death (vs. 48-52). But this was only a physical death, for Moses eternal life was witnessed on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus & Elijah (Matthew 17).
Regarding application…Word is Life. Vs. 47, “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” King Solomon would tell us, “words are meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 5:7). But the words passed on through God are not just words spoken or written down; they are life! If Israel would abide by God’s word, abundant spiritual life would come. Moses’ song for Israel was to serve as a deterrent from turning away from God. For Christians today, not much has changed. The Bible is God’s word that gives us life. If we turn to His word daily, then we will do have the strength to “just say no” to the things that the world entices us with.
Vs. 7, “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.” The passing of the baton of leadership has come; God will now have Joshua take over for Moses. Moses would gather all Israel together to remind them to strong and courageous (vs. 7) as they would now lose their leader and go into a new land. The reading of the Law every seven years (sabbatical year) at the Feast of Tabernacles was important for all to hear. Bear in mind, they didn’t have the words of God written for every household to possess. Notice that the children were also to be present at the reading of the Law (probably the whole book of Deuteronomy). There is something very powerful about the spoken word! Afterwards, Moses and Joshua would go into the Tent of Meeting and would be told some incredibly sad news (vs. 14-23). Put yourself in Joshua’s place; when you take over in leadership everything will crumble! And lastly, after the completion of the written law, it was to sit aside the Ark of the Covenant (vs. 24-29).
Regarding application…Faithful Love. Vs. 16, “And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.” I don’t know what is more shocking; Israel forsaking God or God’s faithful love. It almost seems absurd that after all the obvious ways God provided that Israel would turn away from God. Yet, it is a sobering reminder of my own journey of life. I had the faithful love of the Father, yet I turned away from God for five years. There is shock value from both perspectives because God’s love is so extreme even in our rebellious times. Take time today to consider what is most important to you. Israel was going to be in the right location (Promised Land), yet their hearts were not turned to God. You too may be in the right place (work, church, etc.), but not walking with God. Thank you Lord for your faithful love.
Vs. 4, “Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.” Question: Do you see what’s going on here? Moses is declaring to the people that they will indeed fall away from God, but that still won’t stop His faithfulness (vs. 1-5). It wasn’t a matter if; it was a matter when. God is omniscient (all-knowing). The promise of a circumcised heart looks to the new covenant through Jesus (vs. 6-10). Question: Where would they find this type of new heart? It was already created in them (vs. 11-14). And lastly, Moses gives a fresh reminder of the two paths we can choose; God (life and prosperity) or the world (death and destruction) (vs. 16-20).
Regarding application…Relationship in the Law. Vs. 16, “For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” In good Christian theology, we are reminded the law revealed to us our sin. The Law is also a sign of the covenant made between God and His people. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, but don’t misunderstand; God wanted a relationship with His people. The Law was not setup to be a burden to the people. Look at the phrase, “Walk in his ways” from this verse. Question: Do you see it? God wants a relationship. In our sermon series at my church, we are addressing this very matter. Going on a walk is a very intimate way to build a relationship. This is what God wants for us! May our response to God’s Law and Jesus not be one of rebellion and burden, but of a heartfelt love.
Vs. 29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” God’s covenant he made to Moses & the Israelites is a continuation of the covenants from Abraham, Isaac & Jacob (vs. 13). Because of God’s covenant promises, the natural response of the all the people (vs. 10-13) should be to follow. Question: How did they know to trust in Him? God proved Himself time and time again through all the signs and miracles (vs. 1-9). He did not have to, but His love for Israel’s chosen was poured out to them. I appreciate how we are reminded the covenant law given to them in Deuteronomy was not to just bless the current generation (vs. 15). The future generation would either live out the blessings or the curses of the sins of the descendants before them (vs. 16-29). Question: Why such destruction and consequences? We are told because the people abandoned the covenant of God (vs. 25). It is not God who abandoned them.
Regarding application…Open Our Eyes. Vs. 4, “But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.” Certainly, the Jews today still have blinded eyes. They did not understand or grasp the Lord’s ways. God has not given to those who do not understand because they have not tried to genuinely see or hear. When I think about believers today and God’s church, I can’t help but wonder if we too are headed down the same direction. Our eyes are not open to the heart of God. But, I take much comfort because in the midst of spiritual darkness; there are people who have been faithful over the ages. We in the church who have opened eyes, let us continue to not grow weary! Let the Word (Jesus) that became flesh dwell in our hearts each and everyday (John 1:14).
Vs. 2, “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” The cognitive word in this verse and the chapter as a whole is “if.” Moses does not pull any punches when it comes to the consequences of turning away from the LORD. I want to address something very important: This chapter is only a part of the context of who God is and how God works. It’s only one piece of a masterpiece of who God is. It certainly seems that the blessings (vs. 1-14) are outweighed with the judgments (vs. 15-68). While God is patient and loving toward His creation, He is also a holy God. Moses was speaking on behalf of God and the LORD certainly understood the propensity of His creation to turn away from good. The severity of the judgments lies in having a proper fear. Even the role of laws in our society today serves as an instrument to deter us from having no fear about breaking the law.
Regarding application…Trusting God. Vs. 15, “However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” I think of Janet Jackson’s hit song, “What have you done for me lately.” We live in a society that lives by this standard. I’ll trust in God and follow him “IF” my life is going well. However, if the struggles of life come, we often turn away from God either blaming Him directly or just not caring anymore. Brothers and sisters, this should not be. Trusting God is tested most when the difficulties of life come. Question: Are you trusting God? As we continue to walk with God daily, I encourage you to remember the full context of the Bible. Even when Israel failed many times, Jesus came as a fulfillment of God’s faithfulness to the covenant He made with Abraham.
Vs. 2, “When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster.” Through the direction of the LORD, Moses would instruct the Israelites to set up large stones (vs. 1-8). The stones were to have the recorded Law they had been learning in the book of Deuteronomy. Question: Why do this? They would have been familiar with such a process for this was an Egyptian practice. But most importantly it was to commemorate God’s faithfulness to them. Mount Ebal was of significance for it was just north of Shechem where Abraham built his first alter to the Lord. The latter half of our chapter consists of the “curses” and “amens.” (vs. 11-26). The tribes were to split up in two: six on Mount Ebal and six on Mount Gerizim with the priests in the middle of them. As the Levites and priests recite the curses, the people on Mount Ebal were to say “amen” while the people at Mount Gerizim were to affirm the blessings. It’s notable that the blessings are not recorded, perhaps because Israel did not live out the blessings in obedience. The curses would transpire if they were guilty of any of the twelve offences. It’s also notable that the offences were not easily detectable.
Regarding application…Declaring God’s Commands. Vs. 14, “The Levites shall recite to all the people of Israel in a loud voice.” There was a definite significance for the people of God to join in the declarations of the Levites and Priests. It is not enough to just hear, but to respond with words and action. We must be teachers and doers of God’s word. Our lives should declare the holiness of God to a world that does not know Him. The laws of God still live with us in spirit and in truth! As Christians we live under grace, but we still must abide by laws (of our country). I shared this morning in my sermon how we should be “Walking with God.” There are so many ways we can walk and declare God’s commands in our lives: Quite times, witnessing, singing, fellowship. I pray that this week will be a blessed one for you!
Vs. 2, “take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name.” Notice that it is God who gave the people the Promised Land as their inheritance. It is only natural to respond with thanksgiving, so God instituted two rituals to have them present the best of their produce. They would benefit from an agriculturally rich land and these rituals would serve as an outward expression of their love and dependence upon the Lord. Rituals without understanding are pointless, that is why Moses would have them declare God’s hand of providence (vs. 5-9). In essence, they were sharing the testimony of not only their lives, but of their lives of their people. What a wonderful ritual that God instituted to have them bring another tithe three years later to care for Levites, alien, fatherless and widow (vs. 12-15). And lastly, we read Moses exhortation for complete commitment from all to honor the Lord and follow His commands (vs. 16-19).
Regarding application…We Are Treasured. Vs. 18, “And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.” Perhaps you have heard this phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” We were once sinners destined to death. Now we love the Lord with our heart and soul (vs. 16) and follow His ways. You are of high value to God. You are of high value to the church. Though this is a simple truth, I believe many of us don’t realize this. Question: Why is church involvement so slim? Because people undervalue themselves. Many Christians don’t live for the Lord because they have spiritual low self-esteem. They have forgotten their value. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we were bought at a price (I Corinthians 6:20). That price was the cross. Take time today to embrace who you are in the eyes of our Lord! You are loved and treasured!
Vs. 1, “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.” Moses continues sharing additional various laws. In the first section of our chapter, we deal with corporal punishment (vs. 1-3). While lashes seems inhumane to some, the purpose of this law was to ensure that this would prevent excessive punishment. The muzzling of an ox should not be done out of kindness to it (vs. 4) and it is a picture of God’s kindness to us. Moses then goes on to share a circumstance where it was permissible to marry a close relative (vs. 5-10). If an older brother died and left a widow and the younger brother was not married, he was to take on the role of the husband. The two brothers needed to have shared in the same inheritance and the older brother did not yet bear a son. If the younger brother did not agree to marry his sister-in-law, there were ramifications that would bring shame upon him. We then see the only place where mutilation of the body served as a punishment (vs. 11-12). Moses goes on to share how we must have integrity with our business dealings (vs. 13-16). And lastly, the Amalekites who were descendants to Esau had showed cowardice by attacking the weakest of Israel’s people (vs. 17-19); consequences would ensue.
Regarding application…Respecting Others. Vs. 4, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” The Apostle Paul would refer to this law (I Corinthians 9:1-14; I Timothy 5:17-18) in the context of treating and respecting others fairly. If God wanted the Israelites to show kindness to their hard working animals, how much more should we respect and show kindness towards each other. Throughout our chapter, we see this idea of respect in how we treat each other in punishment, in family, in business dealings, etc. Aretha Franklin was on to something with her famous R.E.S.P.E.C.T. song! I realize many of us put conditions on respecting others. We have the mentality that a person must earn our respect. But that is not the biblical way. Question: Are you respecting others? Take time to honestly answer this question today and consider how you can surrender this part of your life unto the Lord.
Vs. 1, “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house.” In the first section of our chapter we come across the controversial topic of divorce (vs. 1-4). Bear in mind marriage is a covenant before God. Though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), there were stipulations that did allow divorce to transpire. Though there are differing thoughts as to what was “displeasing”, most biblical scholars point out that it must have been either a sexually indecent act, but not full intercourse or a previous encounter before the marriage covenant. Jesus makes clear in Matthew 19:3-12 that God allowed divorce due to the hardening of our hearts. It is my belief that if both parties are willing, reconciliation should be sought if there has been adultery. In the next section (vs. 6-22), we come across more various laws concerning thoughtful action upon others. I love how a soldier was given a year to spend strengthening his marriage before he went back to the army (vs. 5)! There is a sadness that came upon me as I realized some of these laws were to counter against the sinful nature. Depriving people of their millstones (livelihood) (vs. 6), kidnapping others (vs. 7), treating people with dignity who owed money (vs. 10-15) must all have been made because a precedent had already been set. The death penalty should not passed onto a father or to a son as a alternative (vs. 16), for this is what pagan nations practiced. And lastly, the rich should always ensure that they are leaving portions for the poor in their land. Not only did it provide food for the poor, but it kept the rich from judgment upon them from God (vs. 17-22).
Regarding application…Don’t Forget. Vs. 22, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.” The Israelites had been rescued from dire circumstances and enslavement. Yet, over the years there was a tendency to begin taking for granted where they came from. While we don’t come from oppressive slavery, we were once enemies to the cross (Philippians 3:18). We were once slaves to sin (Roman 6:6). Now that we have been freed, let us not ever forget where we came from. God goodness and grace is something we now have the task to pass on to others. When I was young, I used to wait tables at a couple of restaurants. Now, that is hard work! I remember how many customers were rude and left no tip. I worked in a state (Indiana) that paid waiters/waitresses less than half the minimum wage because they figured you would get the rest of your pay by tips. Thankfully, most states don’t do that anymore. When I go to dine at a restaurant, I try to never forget how hard they work and what it felt like to be them. I always tip minimum 15% and more if it is great service! Just a small example of ensuring we treat others as we ourselves would wanted to be treated!