Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Book of Decision

If you're following the Bible-reading plan discussed HERE, then yesterday you finished Deuteronomy.

It adds so much color to this book when you put yourself in the scene:  Moses is now an old man who knows that he will soon die.  God's people stand at the bank of the Jordan River, poised to (finally!) enter Canaan---the promised land.  

But Moses can't go with them.  He will die on this side of the Jordan, and then enter the Eternal Promised Land.

Yet God's people---whom Moses has been pastoring, shepherding, leading for four decades---need to be prepared for the challenges and tests in front of them.  There will be giants, there will be wars, there will be temptations, there will be troubles and trials of every kind...

What will Moses do?  How can he best prepare them?

He essentially preaches a sermon.  The book of Deuteronomy is that sermon.  34 chapters... 958 verses... of one of the greatest sermons of all time.  It's actually God Himself speaking to his people through Moses.

And it's a sermon that calls God's people to a great moment of decision: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live." (Deuteronomy 30.19)

Jesus actually quoted Deuteronomy fairly often.  Think of the trial when he was facing down Satan's temptations in his own moment of decision (see Matthew 4.4,7,10).  

It's a moment when this whole generation of people who were born in the wilderness---having not experienced the Exodus or the first giving of law at Mt. Sinai---are about to do that which their parents could not do... what Moses himself could not do... they are about to enter the promised land.

What kind of people will they be?  Who will lead them?  After all, Moses is dying.

Moses calls them to center and re-center all of their lives on God and his Word.  After all, God is the ultimate Pastor, Shepherd, Leader of his people.  "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?" (Deuteronomy 4.7)

This sermon is a constant call to remember your God, who he is, what he has done in the past, what he has promised for the future.  It's a call to worship him alone, "at the place he himself will choose."

There are so many rich treasures in this sermon/book:  the rehearsal of the great covenant acts of God, the 2nd giving of the Ten Commandments, the beautiful summary of what the law means in its essence, the exposition of its details, the "shema," the Song of Moses, the blessing and the curses of the covenant.

"Deuteronomy is a book about a community being prepared for a new life.  Though the scene is set more than three thousand years in the past, Deuteronomy is still a book of considerable contemporary relevance.  Then, as now, the surrounding world was experiencing a time of change, of political tension and military engagement.  But in the midst of world events, a relatively small community was being urged by Moses... to commit itself wholeheartedly to the Lord.... The book provides a paradigm for the kingdom of God in the modern world; it is a time for renewing commitment within a New Covenant and turning to the future with a view to possessing the promise of God."
~Peter Craigie
"At first glance, Deuteronomy has the appearance less of a story than of law or preaching.  However, it is cast in the form of a narrative, with all the components of plot, scene, character and dramatic tension. The reader of Deuteronomy is drawn into its world.... [The Israelites'] immediate situation is outside the land, poised to enter it.  In that pause, the possibility of divine blessing spread before them, lies the dramatic power of the book.  Israel is in a moment of 'decision.'... This is more than covenant renewal; it is the establishment of a pattern of grace after failure that reaches all the way to the resurrection."
~J.G. McConville
"A rhythmic unity is implanted in [Deuteronomy]---rhythmic unity that turns to exultation.  Sweetness of reminiscence and bitterness of rebuke, law and justice, words of confession and words of promise and assurance---a special tenderness bathes it all."
~Jacob Finchman
"The book comes even to the modern reader in much the same way as a challenging sermon, for it is directed towards moving the minds and wills of the hearers to decision: choose life, that you and your descendants may live (30:19).  The work as a whole was evidently intended to give Israel instruction and education in her faith and to press home to her the demands of her faith."
~J.A. Thompson
"Moses speaks like a father who before his death earnestly and in love exhorts, admonishes, and warns his children."
~Jan Ridderbos



  1. Thanks for those great quotes! Deuteronomy has always been one of my favorite books. And how cool is it that God Himself buried Moses?!!! God disciplined Moses and would not let him enter the Promised Land, yet God loved him so tenderly and completely that He buried him as a loving father would do for his child. I love that part!

  2. I do too! Can't believe I forgot to mention that part.

    But it always reminds me of those commercials when I was growing up---commercials selling the books about the old west. And they said of one Indian chief who was buried by his people: "no white man will ever know where." I remember planning to go find that grave. I wanted to be the one white man who knew where that guy was buried.

    But... back to Moses & God. It also reminds me of this wonderful verse from Psalm 116: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."