Scripture Reading for February 21st: Deuteronomy 1-4
The name “Deuteronomy” literally means “second law”. Deuteronomy is quoted directly in 17 of the twenty seven New Testament books and alluded to nearly 80 more times. This book is a record of four sermons given by Moses to the congregation of Israel in the last months of his leadership. It records lessons he learned and wanted to pass on to the next generation who would possess the promised land.
Moses has led the nation for forty long years around the wilderness. A journey that should have taken less than two weeks stretched out because of grumbling and complaining and doubt and unbelief. (Deuteronomy 1:26-27) Moses, himself, will not get to enter the promised land due to his own dishonoring of God at Kadesh. (Numbers 20:8-12) Moses seems to blame the Israelites for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 1:37) God does hold leaders to a higher standard because of the revelation and intimacy they share with Him. Moses is trying to impress upon this next generation why their parents suffered consequences of the wandering and death.
Moses also preaches to this next generation to inspire faith in God. His questions to them are typical of the Jewish style of teaching. In chapter 4 he asks them about God. “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” “And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:7-8) The obvious answer is “none!” They are a special people marked by God traveling with them. They are marked by the holiness and love of God’s law which sets them apart from all other nations! They must be careful to teach these truths to their children and grandchildren!
From these first chapters of Deuteronomy, I see several key lessons for us today. First, a record of the past history of God’s dealings helps the next generation learn faith. Moses wanted to pass on the lessons he learned so his children and grandchildren would enter in and possess all God intended for them. We must honor our elders and learn from them. Secondly, the Law, represented by Moses cannot take us into the promised land on our own effort. We need grace and faith in the sacrifice for sins and cleansing. Moses, himself, disobeyed God’s holy Word and was forbidden to enter Canaan. Third, God promises victory to His followers. He disciplines and warns them of potential trouble so that they might succeed. God is truly for his people!
“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:39-40