Deuteronomy is the final book of the Pentateuch that was written by Moses in which he summarizes everything the Israelites have been through since the journey out of Egypt towards the Promised Land. Moses reminds the people to be obedient towards God’s Law and goes into detail of what God expects of them once inside the Land. God’s selection of Israel as a special people to the exclusion of all others can be explained only on the basis of His grace and hidden purposes. There was nothing in Israel, or even the nation’s founding ancestor Abraham, that commended them to the Lord. Merit or deserving qualities have nothing to do with God’s sovereign choice of nations and individuals, out of all the options available to Him. The vessel has no right to ask the potter why he has shaped him thus. The point is that Israel was helpless in the desert and would surely have perished without divine intervention. The nation was found to be in a needy condition and thus dependent on God’s grace. When they tested God on the journey they manifested a lack of faith.

When the people met with Moses before going into the Promised Land, they had assembled in order to reaffirm their commitment to Him. This was not their initial relationship with Him, for that had taken place at Sinai. By renewing the covenant they became the Lord’s people in a new and fresh way; as though they themselves had been present at the original events. Everyday, we have an opportunity to renew our covenant with Jesus Christ by accepting Him as Lord and Savior of our lives, praying continually, and having sufficient Bible study in order to refresh our spirit by taking us back over 2,000 years ago on the weekend where He died on a cross on a Friday to pay the price for our sins and conquered the grave on Sunday by rising up and sitting at the right hand side of God for all of eternity.

Moses’ statement that he neither ate nor drank for 40 days presupposes supernatural sustenance; of the kind Jesus received when he, too, fasted 40 days in the Judean desert. Those to whom God is a living reality do not find such claims impossible, but receive them by faith. People can do difficult things when they consider them important. In chapter 8, the real issue, of course, is whether or not God could provide for His people in such a miraculous manner; that question is a matter not of science but of faith. The following verses speak for themselves with the fact that one must trust in God with everything. 8:2-6, “Remember that the LORD your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these 40 years. Keep in mind that the LORD your God has been disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. So keep the commands of the LORD your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” 8:10, “When you eat and are full, you will praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you. 8:14, “Be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the place of slavery.”

9:5-6, “You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, the LORD your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness, in order to keep the promise He swore to your fathers. Understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.” 10:12-20, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul? Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good…Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe…Remain faithful to Him and take oaths in His name.” 12:32, “You must be careful to do everything I command you; do not add anything to it or take anything away from it.” In other words, there is no more or no less we can do but love. 13:4-5, “You must follow the LORD your God and fear Him. You must keep His commands and listen to His voice; you must worship Him and remain faithful to Him…You must clean the evil from you.”

4:29, “But from there, you will search for the LORD your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will return to the LORD your God in later days and obey Him. He will not leave you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them by oath, because the LORD your God is a compassionate God.” 2:7, “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness. The LORD your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.” 4:6-9, “Carefully follow the statutes and ordinances that the LORD your God has commanded, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call to Him? And what great nation has righteous statues and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today? Only be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren.” The sum of the statutes and ordinances can be found in 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” The expectation here is not that Scripture should be taught to children in every waking moment, to the exclusion of anything else. By means of a figure of speech Moses uses opposites—sitting and walking, lying down and rising up—to suggest that any time is appropriate for instruction in the ways of the Lord. Taken literally, this passage would suggest that nothing was to occur in family life except the verbal communication of the law. But Moses’ intention here is to impress upon parents that their very lifestyle as well as their words is to be instructive for their children.

Both the Bible and archaeological evidence attest to the depravity of Canaanite worship, which incorporated temple prostitution, child sacrifice, mutilation, and other inhumane features. But it was detestable chiefly because it pandered to nonexistent gods, in defiance of the one true God who reveals Himself through His word and actions, not through ritualistic practice. To destroy a whole city because of the idolatry of a few may seem unfair and a miscarriage of justice. However, the modern dichotomy between the individual and his community was unknown in the world of ancient Israel. The sin of the few became the responsibility of all. Presumably the citizens of the city in question here had done nothing to expose or punish the sin of the idolatrous offenders. The execution of a wayward and incorrigible son is inconceivable in modern secular society, which lacks the standards of a theocratic (ruled by God) community. The possibility described dramatizes the heavy responsibility borne by Israelite parents to see that their offspring held to the standards demanded of the people of God. Parents were expected to be God’s agents of authority and discipline at the family level, ensuring that no dysfunction and destructive influences entered the community of faith on their account. In the Lord’s structure of authority the parent stood in God’s place; lack of respect for the parent was tantamount to lack of respect for God.

11:26-28, “Look, today I set before you a blessing and a curse: there will be a blessing, if you obey the commands of the LORD your God I am giving you today, and a curse, if you do not obey the commands of the LORD your God, and you turn aside from the path I command you today by following other gods you have not known.” The curse in view here is certainly not the use of profanity or anything of the kind but is the technical language of covenant relationship. Blessing comes by obedience and cursing by disobedience. Disobedience resulted in such things as illness, lack of rain, loss of harvest, deportation, or even death. Curses are not arbitrary and capricious acts of God but the penalty for violating a pledge made by the people themselves. Moses returns to the curse element of the covenant declaration, which is considerably longer than the blessing section. Israel’s obedience was a critical matter, and the consequences of disloyalty to the Lord needed to be clearly spelled out. The reason for the harshness of God’s judgment here is to be found in the nature of the offense being punished, idolatry. Such an act was not only intrinsically evil because of the depravity of pagan religions. In the context of the covenant with Yahweh it was nothing short of high treason, the worst of all possible offenses. To worship other “gods” is to deny God His very existence and His sovereignty.

30:1-3, “When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am giving you today, then He will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.” 30:7-20, “The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. Then you will again obey Him and follow all His commands I am giving you today. The LORD your God will make you prosper abundantly in all the work of your hands with children, the offspring of your livestock, and your soil’s produce. Indeed, the LORD will again delight in your prosperity, as He delighted in that of your fathers, when you obey the LORD your God by keeping His commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to Him with all your heart and all your soul. This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach…But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it…Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the LORD your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

The command to avoid the amassing of horses and wives was clearly disobeyed by all the kings of Israel, beginning with David and epitomized by Solomon. This is not an example of contradiction in the Bible. It illustrates the discrepancy between God’s ideal standards and the human incapacity or unwillingness to obey them. Scripture upholds no one as a perfect exemplar of obedience to God’s command, except Jesus Christ. I can not help but wonder what society as well as the current economy would be like if our Congress consisted only of elected officials that work as volunteers without being paid. I have a feeling that there would be little to no corruption and that there would be more money flowing through the economy. If only we small-minded human beings would put our pride aside and follow God’s instructions that are clearly written in His book. Even modern moral relativism has not erased the public’s disgust with duplicity or cheating in business practice. Dishonest dealings are an abomination to the Lord, as well. Such behavior is not just an abuse of another individual; it impacts the ethical equilibrium of the whole community. To rob one’s neighbor is, in a sense, to rob God, for He is the One who dispenses economic blessing as He sees fit. Lack of a governmental welfare system made it necessary for the poor to have access to essentials for survival. Under the covenantal principle of corporate solidarity, the community cannot view itself as a mere collection of independent individuals. What one has is, within limits, the property of all.

In 28:65-67, God warns that when the people continue in disobedience, they will be scattered around the world and God describes that the results are as follows: “You will find no peace among those nations, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and a despondent spirit. Your life will hang in doubt before you. You will be in dread night and day, never certain of survival. In the morning you will say, ‘if only it were evening!’ and in the evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’—Because of the dread you will have in your heart and because of what you will see.” 28:46-48, “These curses will be a sign and a wonder against you and your descendants forever. Because you didn’t serve the LORD your God with joy and a cheerful heart, even though you had an abundance of everything, you will serve your enemies the LORD will send against you, in famine, thirst, nakedness, and a lack of everything.” Talk about being omniscient! Failing to find contentment in this world is the key theme in this passage. We want one thing, and then once we get that, we want another. God knows that contentment will never happen in a world filled with sin. As I look at my own life, I have come to the realization that I am at true peace ONLY when I am either worshipping or serving the LORD. In 29:4-9, “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear. I led you 40 years in the wilderness; your clothes and the sandals on your feet did not wear out; you did not eat bread or drink wine or beer—so that you might know that I am the LORD your God…Therefore observe the words of this covenant and follow them, so that you will succeed in everything you do.” When it comes to spiritual insight, it is possible to look without seeing, to hear without listening. Throughout the entire Bible, God continues to provide us with reassurance, and the final verse for this commentary is one fine example of such encouragement, in 31:6-8, “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you…Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

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