Week 11 Devotion
The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Bible and it is the last book of Moses. The title of the book, Deuteronomy, means “second law” and this title was given because in this book Moses is basically restates the laws that God gave His people at Mt. Sinai. So there is a lot of repetition in Deuteronomy but also we see Moses expounding on the laws, explaining them and applying them to day to day life.
But Deuteronomy is more than simply a book of laws. This is also the last book of the Hebrew Torah and this word Torah doesn’t mean law necessarily; it refers to instruction or doctrine. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible are understood to lay the foundation that forms the worldview for the people of God. The Torah reveals to us the truth about God and how He relates to creation, to mankind and especially to His Chosen People.
Torah is about more than just God’s law, it is also about theology and humanity, it is about God’s holiness and man’s sin, it’s about what went wrong in our world and how God is working to make things right. So, the Torah is history and theology and culture and law and religion all wrapped up in five books.
And this last book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, brings all of these elements together in the form of a sermon where Moses recounts the History of Israel from the Exodus all the way up until that present day. He reminds Israel of the things that God did for them and how they responded with rebellion in the Wilderness. He reminds them of the Covenant that God made with them, He reminds them of the Covenant laws, the blessings and the curses.
The book ends with Moses installing Joshua as the new leader of Israel. He sings a song over them that tells them about what awaits the nation as they enter the Promised Land. Then finally, Moses climbs up into the mountains overlooking the land and Moses dies. That’s how the book ends but there are some really important things for us to talk about, think about and pray about before we get to that point.
Here is something to discuss…
As we read the book of Deuteronomy it become even more clear than before that God wants His people to live a certain way. God wants them to be set apart from all the other nations of the world. Now, when we read the laws of Moses in this book we might think of many of them as woefully out of date, but in that day this system of law was groundbreaking. These laws deal with how to worship God, how to organize the leadership of the nation, and there are laws about social justice; but this system of law was far more advanced than any system in practice at that time.
One of the things we see in this middle section (Deut 12-26) is that God wants the people of Israel to be very generous to one another. In chapter 23 we read that Israelites weren’t allowed to charge interest when they loan money to each other. We also read that the vineyard owners were to allow their neighbors to go through their vineyard and eat their fill of grapes.
God wants His people to be generous to one another and to support one another. The people are supposed to be honest with one another and not try to cheat their fellow Israelite out of money, or property. They are also supposed to keep their neighbors from straying away from God into idolatry or other evil practices. If one man is involved in an accident that takes another man’s life, the first man is protected by the law and has the right to defend himself in a type of early jury trial.
All of these laws establish the nation of Israel as unique among the nations of the world. And at the center of their way of life is the corporate worship of God. They are to worship God together celebrating His mercy and goodness to them and their families. The nation of Israel was called to be a city on a hill, a people who were set apart from the rest of the world because of their relationship to God.
The church is not a nation state but we have a very similar calling. We are to be salt and light within our culture. Jesus even says that our identity as His disciples will be evident to the unbelieving world based on the way we love one another. Jesus wants our lives and witness to be a testimony to the world of our relationship with God.
So take some time to discuss how the church is and can continue to be salt and light in the world. Take some time to discuss how your family or your community group can display our love for Christ and one other to those around us. Talk about how we as individuals can be a witness for Christ in our daily lives.
Here is something to meditate upon…
One of the things that we see in this book is that rebellion for the people of God is a pattern that mankind simply cannot break. The rebellion that started in the Garden just keeps happening with every new generation. Think about the pattern of sin that we have seen thus far. Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s Word and the next generation, Cain and Abel, is highlighted by one brother murdering the other. After God rains down judgment against sin in the flood destroying all of humanity, except for Noah, the next generation rebels against God when Noah’s sons do evil things.
When the story shifts to focus on Abraham’s family we see the same pattern. Jacob rebels against God and is known for being a deceiver. Jacob’s sons rebel against God and sell their brother into slavery. After the Exodus, the people grumble against God, they try to overthrow Moses as their leader, and they refuse to go into the Promised Land because they do not trust God. Every generation is marked by some form of rebellion against God and one of the things that Moses wants to do in this book/sermon is to remind the people of this pattern of rebellion.
He’s not just trying to rub it in their faces though, he is really hopeful that they will learn from the mistakes of previous generations. He wants this new generation to be faithful to God, to trust God, to follow God alone and so he gives them a challenge to be different and to respond to God’s grace with love and obedience rather than rebellion and grumbling.
So he gives them what is known as the Shema, which is the Hebrew word for “Hear.” In Deuteronomy 6:4 Moses says: Hear, of Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.
Now this Shema became a very important prayer in Judaism and it was to be repeated twice each day. It also became known as the Greatest Commandment because it forms the basis for why and how we are to obey all of the other commands. God wants our obedience to flow out of our covenant relationship to Him and out of our Love for Him.
There are two commands in this verse and they are listen and love. The first command to listen means more than just hearing words come out of God’s mouth, it also conveys the need for us to obey those words. Israel’s previous rebellion came when they heard the commands of God but didn’t obey them. So Moses wants this new generation to listen with obedience.
But the second command helps us understand the proper motivation for obedience, which is love. God wants us to love Him for who He is and for what He has done. He wants love to be the real reason we worship Him, trust Him and serve Him.
Now, the truth that I want us to think deeply about here is the fact that our Love for God and obedience to Him is not the starting point for our relationship. The only thing we bring to the relationship is our sin and rebellion. God is the One who reaches out to us, He redeems us, He covenants with Us, He blesses us; the foundation of our relationship to God is not our loving obedience, it’s His grace.
He doesn’t love us because we obey, rather we are called to obey Him because of the love He has shown us. This also applies to the Christian life as well. We aren’t saved from our sin because of our obedience, we are saved from sin by our faith in the obedience of Jesus. And in response to Jesus saving us we are called to the same standard as Israel to, “Love the Lord our God.”
In Matthew 22 Jesus is asked the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” and Jesus responds by quoting the Shema. He answered by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your mind.” So like Israel, we are called to love God with the understanding that He first loved us.
Here is something to pray about…
There are two things I want us to think about as we pray this week. In Deuteronomy 4, Moses recalls the time when God spoke to the people out of the midst of the fire when He revealed Himself on Mt. Sinai. Moses asks this question:
“Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? ...Out of heaven He let your hear His voice.”
God spoke to them and they heard His voice. The words God spoke were written down and became the foundation for their lives together. Israel was a people of the Word and as Christians so are we. We have God’s Word in our hands and we need to read it, study it, think deeply about it and let it shape our lives. Let’s pray that God’s Word would be the foundation that we build our faith, our lives, our families, our churches, and our future upon.
The second thing I want us to remember as we pray this week has to do with what Moses says in chapter 7:6-8.
6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
What reason can we give for the fact that we are God’s chosen people? What have we done to deserve the blessings of God? What do we offer to God that would make Him want to select us as His treasured possession? Nothing! God’s love for us is not based on anything but the fact that He has chosen to love us. We offer nothing to God but He gives everything to us.
As you pray, keep this in mind and let your prayer be filled with gratitude and praise. Let your prayer be filled with thanksgiving for the pure grace and mercy that we have been shown.