The Book of Deuteronomy consists of a series of farewell messages by Israel’s 120 year-old leader, Moses. It is addressed to the new generation of Israelites who survived the 40 years of wilderness wandering. Deuteronomy can be seen as a document outlining God’s renewal of His covenant with the Jewish people. Many times, Moses refers back to Mt. Sinai when the LORD appeared in a fire on top of the mountain and gave the 10 commandments. Moses is about to die, and he urgently “reminds the new generation of the importance of obedience if they are to learn from the sad example of their parents ” (Wilkinson).
The central message of Deuteronomy is the faithfulness of God. The Book can be divided into 2 main sections: Deut. 1-11, where God recounts his past dealings with the Israelites; and Deut. 12-34, where God looks to the future of Israel in Canaan, the Promised Land. In the 1st part of the Book, we see the gracious, wise and righteous dealings of God with the Israelites. In the 2nd part, the LORD renews His pledge to be faithful to the Jewish nation. The LORD, however, emphasizes over and over again the need for His people to be faithful to Him if they are going to experience the covenantal blessings He has promised.
For example, Deut. 4:1 is typical of the kind of instruction that Moses gives Israel as they camp on the edge of the Promised Land: “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” In Deut. 6:3, we read these words: “Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.”
In Deut.6:4-6, we have the great Shema which is the Jewish people’s “Apostle Creed”. It declares that God is One and urges His people to love Him with their whole heart, soul and strength. They are then exhorted to teach their children the basic truths of their faith (Deut. 6:7-9).
I think Christians can learn a great deal from the Book of Deuteronomy. We often fail to emphasize the need for obedience under the New Covenant. Sometimes we emphasize “grace” so much that we lose sight of our need to demonstrate our faithfulness to our Divine Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Lord Jesus’ farewell message of John 14 – 16, He emphasizes repeatedly our need to be obedient to Him if we are going to experience the full blessings of the New Covenant. For example, His words in Jo. 14:21 are typical: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him”. In John 15:1-17, believers in Christ are likened to branches in a grapevine. Disobedient and unfruitful branches are cut off (Jo. 15:2). Indeed, we are saved by grace and we live under grace, but that doesn’t give us license to be unfaithful to the LORD. If we truly understand the Gospel of grace in Christ Jesus, it will manifested in our faithfulness to the LORD, to our spouses, to our children, to our Christian brothers and sisters and to our neighbors. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pastor John