Learning From God's Word: Deuteronomy
This is the continuing story of God's mighty working on behalf of His chosen people. He is leading them on to the land He had promised to them. Entering this land will not be easy. There will be plenty of opposition. The enemy will be defeated. The Lord will triumph over all who stand against Him.
There is a real challenge here - Continue in the way of the Lord. Don't turn back from following Him. This is important - not only for ourselves but for generations to come. The Word of the Lord must never be dismissed as something which is to be left in the past. Love for the Lord is not to be set aside as a thing of the past. We are to preserve the Word of the Lord for the next generation. The call to love God must be passed on those who come after us.
The contrast between God's people and those who worship false gods is so strong. It would be easy for God's people to feel superior. God's Word gives us no encouragement to have a superiority complex (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). How are God's people to remain true to Him when there are so many pressures to conform to the world? - We must remember that we need the Word of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Without His Word, we will be easy victims for Satan. The Lord warns His people - We must remember to obey Him, or we will, by our disobedience, bring ourselves under His judgment (Deuteronomy 8:19-20).
The Lord's people were on a 'journey' (Deuteronomy 10:11). They were journeying with Him. He was leading them in the way of His blessing. In our journey through life, how are we to experience an ever-increasing measure of God's blessing? - "Fear the Lord your God, follow all His directions, love Him, and worship Him (Deuteronomy 10:12). This is the way of blessing. It is "for your own good" (Deuteronomy 10:13).
God had blessed His people greatly. They were to live in obedience to Him. This is the way of further blessing (chapter 11). At the heart of our obedience to God, there is worship, true worship, worship which glorifies the Lord (chapter 12). At the heart of worship, there is to be the Word of God. Without the Word of God, we will be easily led astray (Deuteronomy 13:1-2). The central message to us here is summed up in Deuteronomy 13:4 - "Worship the Lord your God, fear Him, obey His commands, listen to what He says, serve Him and be loyal to Him."
"The Lord has chosen you to be His own special possession" (Deuteronomy 14:2). This is a great blessing - We have been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:5,8). "You are people who are holy to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 14:21). Those who have been saved by the Lord are to live for Him(Ephesians 2:10). "Be generous to the poor and needy" (Deuteronomy 15:11) - Living for the Lord involves showing kindness to others. We have been loved by the Lord. We are to love others.
"Honour the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 16:1) - We are to worship the Lord. Our worship is to be filled with thanksgiving, praising the Lord for His redemption - "The Lord your God brought you out of Egypt." Moving from the land of bondage, we move, by faith, into the land of salvation: "You will enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You will take possession of it and live there" (Deuteronomy 17:14). As the Lord leads us on, our praise to Him increases. Let praise increase as grace increases.
"The land the Lord you God is giving you" (Deuteronomy 18:9; Deuteronomy 19:1,8,10,14): In all the practical instructions given to the people of Israel, there is always this reminder of the spiritual dimension. They are the people of God. They have been blessed by the Lord. They are to live as people who appreciate God's blessing. The spiritual dimension must never be forgotten. We are not talking only about social matters. We are talking about the life of God's people, "the redeemed of the Lord."
The conflict between the Israelites and the other nations was really a conflict between the true God and the false gods (Deuteronomy 20:17-18). Everything in life must be seen in connection with our relationship to God: Are we being true to Him? Or, are we being false? We must seek to do what "the Lord considers right", what is "clean" in His eyes (Deuteronomy 21:9,23).
We read the detailed instructions regarding morality. We feel that we are in another world, the world of ancient Israel. Nevertheless, we get hints, here and there, of the timeless, spiritual principles, which are still applicable to us today. Deuteronomy 23:5 - "The Lord your God loves you." Deuteronomy 23:14 - ""The Lord your God moves around in your camp to protect you and hand your enemies over to you." God gives us His guidelines for life because He loves us and wants to protect us from everything that would endanger our enjoyment of His blessing.
Doing "the right thing in the presence of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 24:13), living "a long time in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Deuteronomy 25:15) - the two are vitally connected: obedience and blessing. Together with obedience and blessing, there is prayer. The blessing is not earned by our obedience. It is God at work, answering prayer (Deuteronomy 26:7). Together with the prayer which asks God for blessing, there is to be the prayer which thanks God for His blessing (Deuteronomy 26:8-10). We show our thanksgiving to the Lord by "faithfully obeying His Word with all our heart and with all our soul" (Deuteronomy 26:16). As we keep on obeying the Lord, He will keep on blessing us (Deuteronomy 26:18-19).
Obedience and blessing or disobedience and curse - This was the choice which was set before the people of God. It is still the same choice today. What a difference there is between the two ways - the way of obedience and the way of disobedience, the way of blessing and the way of curse. So much has changed since these words were written - yet the spiritual principles remain the same.
"Today I offer you life ... Choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:15,19). The meaning of these words concerning life is expanded on in Deuteronomy 30:16,20 - "Love the Lord your God." Loving God - This is what life is all about. This is life as He intended it to be. This is the meaning and purpose of life. This is to be the direction of our life.
Moses' time of leadership was coming to an end. Joshua would replace him as the leader of God's people. With God's command - "Be strong and courageous" - and promise - "you will bring the Israelites into the land that I swore to give them, and I will be with you" (Deuteronomy 31:23), Joshua set out into the work of the Lord. Moses still had a Word to bring to the people from the Lord - a Word which proclaimed the Lord as "a faithful God" (Deuteronomy 32:4) and called the people to be faithful to Him (Deuteronomy 32:5-6).
The Lord's work is moving on. the Lord's servant - Moses - is looking towards the future. He is pronouncing God's blessing on the people of Israel. He pays special attention to each tribe. There is a Word from the Lord for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The people of Israel had been "blessed" - "a nation saved by the Lord" (Deuteronomy 33:29). The future lay with the whole people of God, as they moved forward together. there was, however, to be one man who was called to special leadership among the people - Joshua. For this work, Joshua was "filled with the Spirit" (Deuteronomy 34:9). The people of God were moving forward, but they would not forget where they had come from - how the Lord had led them. They remembered Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10-12) - and they gave thanks to God.