The Covenant of Love

Posted: January 29, 2015 in Deuteronomy, Route 66
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Route 66: Deuteronomy, “The Covenant of Love”

Pop quiz: what is the greatest commandment in the law?  Out of the 613 (or so) commandments in the law of Moses, what is the one thing that if a Jew got wrong, everything else would be wrong?  Jesus was posed this exact question by a legal scholar during a period of testing just prior to His arrest in Jerusalem.  His answer?  Mark 12:30, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment." . What did Jesus quote? The book of Deuteronomy.  When summarizing the law given by God to Israel, one could not do better than turn to the book of Deuteronomy, and how was it that Jesus summarized the book of Deuteronomy?  Love.  God called His covenant people to love Him.  That was His first and most important commandment to Israel.  If they missed that, they would miss everything else.  All of the other 613 commandments flowed from that fountainhead.  Love is the greatest of all motivations, and God wanted to ensure that His people loved Him.

That’s no different today.  When we think of the salvation we have in Christ, we rejoice, and rightly so.  All of our sins of the past are forgiven – we’ve been made brand-new creations – we’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ – we’ve been indwelled with the Holy Spirit – we await an eternity with God that is beyond description.  That is incredible!  All of that is a gift of God’s grace, with absolutely nothing we can do to earn it.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything at all.  Our lives absolutely change.  We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus Christ when our lives still look like we’re following the devil.  As John puts it, the person who claims to know Christ, but does not walk according to His commandments is a liar (1 John 2:4).  When we consistently and habitually walk like the sinful world around us, then it’s difficult to claim that Jesus has saved us from our sin.  Paul goes so far as to write that those who consistently practice the sins of the world “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:21)  Thus Christians behave differently once we become Christians.  Instead of ignoring the commands of Jesus, we cling to them, abide by them, and strive to obey them.  That’s not to say we’re perfect, but the heart of a Christian is to obey our Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s actually one of the proofs of our love for Jesus.  John 14:21, "(21) He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." .

So if we have to obey, does that mean God has put us under legalism?  Does that mean we have a bunch of rules & regulations to follow, and if we don’t, then we’re out?  Absolutely not!  How can we know?  It all goes back to love.  We don’t obey God because we’re forced to; we obey God through the power of the Holy Spirit because now in Christ we love God, and our hearts’ desire is to please Him.  That’s what Jesus was telling the disciples the night of His betrayal, and that’s what God was telling His people through Moses in the book of Deuteronomy.  God called His people – God redeemed His people – God sanctified His people & set them apart to Himself.  The only reasonable response of His people is to love Him and worship Him.  If the Hebrews rightly looked to God in love, then all of the other regulations would simply fall into place.  Those things would come as a part of their loving relationship with Him.

That’s what we find in the book of Deuteronomy.  It is indeed a book of the Law, but the law of God is a law of love.  God first and foremost desired His people to love Him, and He told them as much.  The command to love God is repeated at least 8 times in the book of Deuteronomy…it is the central theme of His covenant relationship with them.

God desires the same thing from us.  Is a Christian to live righteously?  Absolutely!  We have been saved by grace, and we ought to walk as such.  No doubt we fail, and there is forgiveness when we do (1 Jn 1:9), but our weaknesses do not excuse a lifestyle of disobedience.  God does want us to live righteously, but He wants it to come from a starting point of love.  When we rightly love God, we will desire to live according to God’s desires.  Loving God changes the way we live our lives.  That’s the book of Deuteronomy, and it’s just as relevant today as ever before.

BACKGROUND: Author, Date, Title
This is the last of the 5 books of Moses (the Pentateuch), and although Moses’ authorship is questioned among liberal scholars, it was accepted freely by Israel, by the Church, and (most importantly) by Jesus Christ.  Jesus quoted the book of Deuteronomy more than any other book of the Bible (other than the Psalms), and did not hesitate to attribute it to Moses. (Matt 19:8, in reference to granting a certificate of divorce.)  Considering Deuteronomy itself claims Moses as its author (even if Moses only spoke the words & someone else recorded them, Deut 1:1), AND Jesus affirms Moses as the author, the debate ought to be settled.  Liberals will attempt to undermine most anything in the Scripture, but we have every reason to accept the written word of God as it stands.

As to when it was written, the estimates all vary depending on who the particular scholar believes authored the book.  Since the Bible affirms it was Moses, the circumstances of the writing show Israel on the cusp of entering the Promised Land.  The 40 years of wandering had come to an end, the covenant was reaffirmed, the torch of leadership had passed to Joshua, and Moses had died (which is the only account in Deuteronomy we know was NOT written by Moses). 

This is a crucial moment in the life of Israel as a nation.  God had been good to His promise to Abraham to grow his descendants into a nation, to redeem them out of Egyptian slavery, and to bring them to the land of promise.  They were about to inherit a land that would be theirs forever, by the fiat and declaration of God.  They had already been told the things God expected of them in the various other books of the law (Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers), but now it was all compiled into a formal treaty.  Just as the United States has a Constitution that sets out the framework of the nation & shows the expectation of the representative government and the people, the ancient nation of Israel had Deuteronomy as a treaty between God and the people.  What were God’s promises to the nation?  How were they expected to act in return?  What would be the rewards and consequences of their actions?  All of this was formally laid out in Deuteronomy.

As to the name, the English title is derived (like so many of our OT books) from the Greek translation of the OT (the LXX).  “Deuteronomy” literally translates to “Second law.”  Here, “second” is not an addition to the law; it’s a re-telling of the law.  The Mosaic law had previously been spread out through the other books of the Pentateuch, but it is all brought together in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy seems to follow the basic model of an ancient treaty between a king and his people (God & Israel), and thus the basic outline of the book looks like what this kind of treaty would look like.  Scholars have broken it down as far to the level of: preamble, history, general laws, specific regulations, blessings/curses, document clause, and witnesses.

More generally, we can break it into four major sections:
History reviewed (1-4)
The Law reviewed (5-26)
The Law ratified (27-31) – blessings & curses
Final words of Moses (32-34)

History reviewed (1-4)
Preamble – the beginning (1:1-8)
Just as the United States Constitution has a preamble laying out the introduction and purpose of the document (“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”) – so does the book of Deuteronomy have the same.  In Deuteronomy, the author is introduced (Moses, 1:1), the location and time of the word is given (this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the 40th year in the 11th month on the 1st day, 1:1-3), and the purpose is laid out (“go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers,” 1:8).

The preamble actually shows the command of God stretching all the way back to Mt. Horeb (Sinai, 1:6).  Why?  The people had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, but that was a consequence of their sin; that wasn’t God’s original intent for them.  The 40 years was a time-out; it wasn’t their forever future.  God’s plans for them were far grander than that, and although their sin was not ignored (nor would it be ignored in the rest of the book), God’s plans for them hadn’t changed.

  • That in itself ought to give us a lot of hope!  None of us are perfect, and all of us sin from time to time.  We’ll often face the consequences from our sin, some of which have ramifications that last for years (even the rest of our lives).  Yet none of that changes our relationship with Christ.  When we repent, confessing our sins to God through Jesus, He forgives us & cleanses us.  And when we’re cleansed, we’re cleansed.  God does not look at us as “Tim-who-really-messed-up-in-the-past-and-still-needs-to-be-punished,” but just “Tim.”  Better yet, He sees us as “Tim, cleansed by the blood of Jesus – my righteous child.”  Praise God for the grace & cleansing we have in Christ!

Israel’s historical rebellion (1:9-46)
Moses had organized the nation according to the advice of his father-in-law, Jethro.  The nation had been so blessed by God numerically, that Moses was unable to hear every case that required judgment, and thus elders were chosen that could help offload some of the responsibility.  At this point, everything was ready for the nation to enter into their inheritance of the Promised Land; they just didn’t do it.  The Hebrews heard the report of giants in the land & feared.  They rebelled against God & accused God of bringing them into the wilderness to die.  They didn’t walk in faith, and thus they paid a terrible price.  For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, sentenced by God to a death march unto an entire generation.  The children survived, but those who ought to have known better perished in the desert.

  • We miss out on so much when we don’t walk by faith!  God gives us the opportunity to trust Him and experience His blessing, and we’re the ones who lose when we don’t do it.  Maybe we miss the chance to lead someone to faith in Jesus – maybe we miss a chance to experience a spiritual gift – maybe we miss a confirmation from the Lord.  It could be all sorts of things, but we won’t know what any of them are if we never choose to walk by faith.

God’s provision and preview of blessing (2:1-3:21)
The older generation perished in the wilderness, but God still provided for them along the way.  He gave them manna to eat, water to drink, and even prevented their clothes from wearing out.  He took them past the lands of Edom & Moab, showing them the lands they would not inherit (and their cousins who were already IN the land God had given them!), and eventually gave them a foretaste of the military victories to come.  It had been fear that kept Israel from obeying God at Kadesh Barnea, so God proved to them they did not have to fear.  He gave them a mighty victory over the kings who dwelt on the east side of the Jordan, and Israel was so triumphant that two tribes were able to take up residence immediately.  (They could have trusted God for more, but they chose to settle for less…something we do quite often!)

Ch 3 finishes with a bit of personal commentary from Moses as he remembers the punishment he himself received from God.  Moses was good, but he wasn’t perfect.  Having lost his temper, he misrepresented God to the people, and lost his right to enter the Promised Land.  There seems to be bitter over the past, but what was done was done.  Once God made His judgment, it wasn’t changing.

As the historical section concludes, Moses warned the people (Ch 4).  They were not to add to the word, but do the word.  Why?  Because God was their God. (4:6-7)  They were to be careful to obey, because they were the people of God (something that is affirmed often in the book).  Likewise they were not to be fooled by idolatry, but worship the true God.  They would indeed give in, as Moses knew (4:25), but Moses also knew that God would forgive those who repented.

The Law reviewed (5-26)
This is obviously the longest section & the bulk of the book.  Some scholars divide it up into two main sections: general regulations (5-11) & specific regulations (12-26).  Whether “major/minor” or “general/specific” has any real distinction here, there’s no doubt that there is some kind of division.  Deuteronomy 12:1 starts off by saying, “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land…” but it is not as if the last several chapters had not also contained the law.  Ch 4:44 actually introduced the law (beginning in Ch. 5) by saying “Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel.”  So there is an obvious break between 5-11 & 12-26, but it could simply be two different sermon addresses by Moses.  In any case, it is all the law, and one section is not necessarily more important than the other.

We tend to put distinctions upon the law that the Hebrews never did.  We look at one part as ceremonial, another part as moral, etc., generally in an attempt to divide up which sections of the law we should keep as NT Christians & which sections we ought to ignore.  Yet that’s a misreading of the Bible.  We can ignore none of it, but we have no capacity to keep any of it.  The law is good, and it demonstrates the righteousness of God, and thus highlights the sinfulness of our sin.  We might think we can keep some parts of the law, but we’re eventually going to fail at some point.  Say we honored our parents 364 days out of the year, but lost our patience & snapped at them one day…we just broke the law.  Or say we refrained from committing adultery our entire marriage, but we still looked at another person with lust.  According to Jesus, we just broke the law. (Mt 5:28)  The law given to Israel was not meant to be kept 99% of the time, with the mistakes being swept under the rug or excused under the guise of “we’re only human.”  The law was meant to be kept 100% of the time, and Jesus summed it up in the Sermon on the Mount when He taught that the Jews were to be perfect, as their Father in heaven is perfect. (Mt 5:48)  And the obvious truth is that no one is perfect.  None is righteous, no not one. (Rom 3:10)  Even if we kept the law in every respect, but only broke one statute, then we’re guilty of the whole thing. (Jas 2:10)

So if we can’t keep it, but we can’t ignore it (being that it is the righteousness of God), then what can we do?  Fall upon the grace of our Savior.  That is exactly the point of the law…to bring us to Jesus.  Galatians 3:24–25, "(24) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." . We look at the law, and understand our helplessness, and that takes us straight to the feet of Jesus.  Jesus is the only One who is able to keep the law.  Jesus specifically said that He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law (Mt 5:17), and that’s exactly what He did.  Jesus lived an absolutely perfect life, being tempted in every way as we are, yet never sinned (Heb 4:15).  And in His sinless perfection, Jesus gave Himself up to die on the cross for us, paying the penalty for all of OUR sin.  Thus Jesus fulfills all of the requirements of the law on our behalf through His death and resurrection. (Rom 8:3-4)  That means for the Christian, the law is done – it’s fulfilled – it’s been perfected & made complete, all through the work and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Praise God!

That said, we live in freedom from the bondage of the law, but we are not to be lawless.  Our only rational response to the sacrifice of Jesus for us is that our lives would be lived as a sacrifice back unto God (Rom 12:1), and today we are not under the law of Moses, but the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).  What that means practically for us today is that we see how God desires for His people to live when we look at the Old Testament law, but we understand that we are not in the same relationship with God as the ancient Hebrews were.  We see God’s perfect righteousness in the Mosaic law, and that never changes.  But because the law is fulfilled, we look for the principles that point us to God’s righteousness, rather than the bondage of the law itself.  Thus we don’t have to draw up potentially false distinctions between the “moral” law and the “ceremonial/civic” law, or find explanations as to why we have to abide by 9 commandments, but not 10 (the Sabbath day) – or worse yet, try to re-write the Sabbath day commandment to apply to Sunday instead of Saturday.  Those things come from trying to place ourselves under the law, which is something that NT Christians are not to do.  If we place ourselves under part of it, we become debtors to the whole thing (Gal 5:3), and that’s exactly what Jesus died to free us from.
1st Sermon of the Law (5-11)
So with all that in mind, what do we see in the law as given to Israel in Deuteronomy?  We see the righteousness of God commended and the love of God from Israel commanded.

God’s righteousness is clearly seen in the 10 Commandments, which is reviewed in Ch. 5.  This was the part of the foundation of the covenant law for Israel – the way that they could clearly see God’s perfection and His expectation for how they should live with God and live with others.  What’s recorded in Deuteronomy is virtually a word-for-word repeat of what was given in Exodus (any variations are minor), and Moses reminded the people of not just God’s words that were given with the 10 Commandments, but God’s holy presence that was seen at the giving of the 10 Commandments.  The people heard the voice of God & saw His power, and they trembled.  They (rightly) feared God at that moment, and His presence shook them to their core.  Moses had to remind the people of what had happened, in order that this holy fear would stay with them.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and God’s people are to walk in wisdom!

What is interesting is how the account of the 10 Commandments is followed: with a command that is even more important than the rest.  After the 10 Commandments was THE commandment (6:1), and Israel was commanded to be careful to observe it so that it would be well with them, and with their children.  This commandment was to be one they would teach their children & their children’s children, even posting it on their forehead & on their doorposts just to keep it at the forefront of their attention.  What was it?  Deuteronomy 6:4–5, "(4) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! (5) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." . If the 10 Commandments were foundational to the law and covenant, then this commandment was foundational to the 10.  The people were to know God as God (the true God), and they were to love this one God with everything they had & with every part of their being. 

This would be their motivation for all the rest. Would they have any other gods before God?  Not if they loved the Lord with all their heart.  Would they make any graven images to worship?  Not when they loved God.  Would they murder, commit adultery, or covet after material things?  There would be no need if they truly loved the Lord their God.  Obedience to God flows naturally from a love of God.  It’s not burdensome to please someone you love, though it may be burdensome to try to obey a master you hate.  Love makes all the difference in the world.  The Hebrews had every reason to love God, and that’s what He called them to do.

  • If the Hebrews had reason to love God, so do we!  Far more!  We had every reason to be forever cast aside, thrown into hell, and be eternally judged by God.  Even the “minor” sins we committed were still committed against the infinitely perfect God, and we asserted our will above His.  We committed spiritual treason against the Creator God, and we deserved our judgment.  Yet through Jesus, we’ve been given life, forgiveness, and have even been brought into God’s own family.  How could we NOT love a God such as this?  Our thankfulness ought to overflow, and our love ought to be abundant!  Obedience to this God is not a chore; it’s a glad gift!

God also reminded the Hebrews of His grace.  He reminded them that He had chosen them out of the nations, and had promised them a land they did not deserve (Ch 7).  He reminded them of His mercy & His covenant, and proclaimed that He would surely give them the land.  He held out the promise of blessing, and commanded them to remember Him during the coming days when they experienced His blessing and peace (Ch 8).  Like us, the Hebrews would easily forget God when times were good, but that was when it was most important to remember, in order that they wouldn’t fall into idolatry.

God did remind them again of their tendency to fall away (Ch 9).  They had provoked God in the wilderness by refusing to enter the promised land, and they had worshipped the golden calf at the base of Mt. Sinai.  They had continually provoked God through their grumbling, and Moses had continually interceded for the people.  But God was merciful (Ch 10), not only reestablishing the law with His people (though a 2nd set of the 10 Commandments), but also revealing to them His character and nature.  God made it clear what He expected: love.  Deuteronomy 10:12–13, "(12) “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, (13) and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" . God delighted in their forefathers, even when they didn’t deserve it, and God would continue to delight in His people, and shower His grace upon them.

Moses summed up this 1st section of the law by repeating the point.  In light of all of this, the people were to love the Lord their God (11:1), and walk in His ways.  If they loved God and served God (11:13), then God would bless them.  If they loved God and walked in His ways (11:22), then God would give them victory over the nations.

2nd Sermon of the Law (12-26)
If there is value in a “major/minor” division of the law, it’s that Ch 5-11 deal with God’s relationship with Israel as a whole, and Ch 12-26 deal with the day-to-day regulations and statutes in Israel.  Of course even this is based in God’s relationship with His people.  It’s when God’s people love God that they desire to walk justly with one another as well.  We have a right perspective how to treat our neighbor when we have a reverent fear of the loving merciful holy God.

Ch 12 begins with a few changes that would take place among the nation.  For the past 40 years, the people had travelled around the wildness with the tabernacle of God at the center of camp.  When it came time to worship & sacrifice, all they needed to do was walk to the middle.  That would change once they entered their permanent home.  God declared that He would choose a place to put His dwelling, and that the people were to travel from where they were to where God’s altar had been placed. They weren’t to just choose to worship God in their own way; they were to go to the place God told them and continue to worship God according to His instruction.

  • Obviously we do not have to travel to a specific place to worship God today.  As a born-again Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living within you, and your physical body IS the temple of God. (1 Cor 6:19)  Thus you can worship God wherever you want…but we still must come to God in the method He prescribes.  What’s the way?  Through Spirit & truth as we come to faith in Christ.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him. (Jn 14:6)

God reminds people of His holiness in many ways.  Apostates were to be punished (Ch 13) – an act that seems rather harsh to our pluralistic religious culture, but we need to remember that God gave this law to a specific people whom HE ruled.  The greatest commandment was to love God, and one of the greatest dangers was idolatry.  Those who led the people in idolatry did not just themselves sin against God, but they led other people off the cliff in their sin, so it was to be dealt with decisively.

Of course there were many other examples of the holiness of God being commanded to be exemplified among His people.  They weren’t to mourn like other nations or eat like other nations (Ch 14) – God’s people were supposed to be different and trust God for their provision (Ch 14-15).  God’s people were to act justly and with respect towards others (Ch 15), with God’s people acting according to the mercy that they themselves had been shown.

God reminded them of their national feasts (Ch 16), which were all reminders of the grace of God that had been shown them (as well as prophecies pointing to their future Messiah).  God taught them how to deal with disputes and criminal justice, and even taught them what to do in future times when they would eventually ask for a king (Ch 17).  In addition to the prophecy of a king, God also prophesied of an ultimate Prophet, one that would be like Moses who would teach them the word of God (Ch 18).  This would be the Messiah, and everything He said would be true, as opposed to false prophets who would be proven false from their failures.

God continued to teach them of justice, providing cities of refuge for those accused of murders or other crimes, thereby preventing vigilante revenge (Ch 19).  God taught them what He expected of them in regards to warfare (Ch 20), and how to treat those who were taken captive (Ch 21).  Remember that God was about to lead His people into the land of Canaan, and they would have to go to war against the people already living there.  The Hebrews weren’t to randomly decide who they ought to kill & who they ought to let live; matters of life & death are best left to the will of God, and God had already made His judgment known.  The Hebrews were simply the instrument God used to carry out His will.

Internally among the nation, God reminded the people the need to show themselves set apart to God, which manifests itself in a variety of ways from Ch. 22-25.  Be it proscriptions for the people to take responsibility for their own actions, to live lives of sexual purity, to maintain their cleanliness (especially in regards to tabernacle worship), or to deal justly with one another in matters of divorce or hired servants – the people of God were to represent the holiness of God.  They weren’t to act like the nations around them.  Even in the difficult matters of life, they were to show compassion and mercy, seeking to glorify God in all that they did.

  • Our cultural context may have changed in all of this, but the general principle has not.  The people of God are supposed to be different.  The world is supposed to look at the Church & see Jesus.  They are supposed to see our Lord reflected through our actions, and that will be a testimony to them of the reality of God.

This section of the law ends up with a command to Israel to worship God with their tithes and offerings (Ch 26).  It was a practical way of declaring their trust in the Lord, and rejoicing in the things God had done for them.  The end of it all?  They would be the people of God.  Deuteronomy 26:18–19, "(18) Also today the Lord has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, (19) and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God, just as He has spoken." .

  • What is truly amazing is that this is the privilege that WE have in Christ.  For all the reasons God had to cast us away, He actually brought us close to Himself, and gave us this exact same honor.  1 Peter 2:9–10, "(9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." .

The Law ratified (27-31)
Obviously a book entitled “Second Law” is going to deal quite a bit with the law, and that was the bulk of the book.  What happens next?  That law was to be ratified, or confirmed among the people.  Just like any contract or treaty has stipulations included that state what will happen if the treaty is kept & what will happen if the treaty is broken, so did this treaty between God and His people.

The first thing that happened was that Moses commanded the people how they were to ratify the covenant.  The people were affirming the law even as Moses taught it to them, but there was to be a formal ratification of it once the nation actually came into its possession in the Promised Land (something that will be seen in the book of Joshua).  Specifically, the law was to be written out & read in the hearing of the people, and with half of the people on one mountain & half on another (in an area that formed a kind of natural amphitheater), the blessings and curses were to be affirmed.

If the people kept the covenant law, God promised to bless them above all the other nations of the earth.  They would be blessed economically, militarily, among their families, and just in their day-to-day lives.  They would be the envy of all the earth, and an example to the nations of what it meant to live in a right relationship with God.

However, if they did not obey the law, the people would bring upon themselves the curses of God, and they would be despised among the nations.  It’s a matter of historical record which came true.  For a time the Israelites did try to follow the Lord, and God blessed them immensely, but in time all of the curses of Deuteronomy 28 came true in all its awfulness.  This was no surprise to God, as He knew how they would fail – but thankfully, He also spoke of a time that they would repent.  And just as surely as God promised to lead them into captivity, He promised to lead them out of captivity, and restore them to a relationship when they would once again love God with all of their heart and soul (30:6).

The amazing thing here is that some of this is still to unfold before our eyes.  No doubt God was good to His word, and brought the Jews out of the Babylonian captivity, but the relationship between God and those of Israel has not yet been restored to the extent of which God spoke.  But it will be.  When Israel finally comes to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and when Jesus returns in power and glory, He will institute the Millennial Kingdom, and this will be the ideal that God had in mind for His people all along.  During that future time, we will see all of the ancient blessings to Israel come true to the very letter.  (God’s promises are always true!)

Final words of Moses (32-34)
Ch. 31 had shown the installation of Joshua as the new leader of Israel, but the book ends with Moses giving his final prophesies and instructions to the nation.  His song in Ch 32 speaks of the greatness of God and His grace towards a rebellious people.  Though it would mean much heartache on the part of the nation, eventually they would come to the realization that there is no God but God.  (Too often we have to learn the hard way, and the Israelites were no different.)

Ch. 33 records Moses’ final blessings upon the various tribes.  Like Jacob in Egypt so long ago, Moses looks at every tribe with a bit of commentary & a bit of prophecy, speaking of how they would rebel, but also how they would be used of God in the future.  For all the things Israel would do wrong in the future, they were still God’s people, and they could pronounce themselves blessed.  Deuteronomy 33:29, "(29) Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places." .

Ch 34 (most likely written by Joshua & appended to the book) records Moses’ death.  God allowed the prophet to see the land of promise, but not to enter it.  That said, even in Moses’ punishment, he was accorded incredible grace.  He was buried personally by the hand of God, and one day DID set foot in the land when he spoke with Jesus face-to-face on the Mount of Transfiguration.

How could Israel be so blessed & so happy?  Because they had been saved by the Lord God, and declared by Him to be His people.  Their response to Him was simple: love Him.  Worship God as the only God, and love Him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  If they did that, everything else in the covenant would follow.  They would gladly be set apart from the nations because their eyes were upon pleasing the Lord.  They would happily love their neighbors and show justice to them, because it flowed from their love for God.

That was God’s desire for them, and God’s desire for us.  We are not under that same covenant law, but we certainly worship the same covenant God.  Jesus fulfilled all of the requirements of that law on our behalf, and that leaves us free to do one thing: love the Lord our God.  Before Jesus, we had no ability to live righteously towards God, nor (as Gentiles) did we even have the opportunity to do so.  But in Christ, WE are the ones saved by the Lord & made His people.  Now we are free to love God, and then starting from that point, serve Him in grateful obedience.

Maybe you’ve struggled in the past with the burden of legalism.  For you, Christianity has been a bunch of rules (do this; don’t do that, etc.).  Even among the premier book of the law, Deuteronomy, that’s not what the Bible teaches.  God doesn’t call us to rules & regulations; He calls us to a relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our right living directly springs out of our love for God.  There is freedom in that, and every Christian is called to enjoy that freedom.

Maybe you’ve struggled in the area of obedience.  Deuteronomy directly deals with that.  Again, it’s all about our love for God.  We need to love God more than we love our sin.  We need to love God more than we hate our sin.  Our love for God is our purest, strongest motivation.  When we come to grips with who He is, and what Jesus has already done for us, how could we NOT love Him?  That’s the sort of truth that changes lives.

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