There are many stories I am not going to cover in the book of Numbers. I would encourage you to read through the book and share some of the stories as a family. You might really enjoy the story with the talking donkey.
This morning I want us to look at Deuteronomy.
The word itself means second law, which does not relay the depth of this book. It is the second time the words of God have been stated to the people, so it is the first repetition of the law. Or it is the first re-telling of the laws that God gave in Sinai.
While the title makes the book sound like it is a boring tome of rules and regulations, this book is smothered in verses that reveal God’s heart to us. When you understand the reason behind (the WHY) to these laws the book becomes less of a legal guide and more of a window into the heart of God.
The book of Deuteronomy is quoted over 80 times in the New Testament. Though we often skim it, the Jews were very serious about remembering and retelling it. Again, living up to its name.
The Israelites left Egypt under God’s power and journeyed to Mt Sinai where they received the “ten words” and many other words or commands.
Exodus 20:1 || 1 Then God spoke all these words: [CSB]
Now, after their 40 years of wandering, actually after 40 years, on the 1st day of the 11th month, the book of Deuteronomy begins.
Deuteronomy 1:1 || 1 These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness... [CSB]
The wilderness experience began with God speaking to Moses, and ends with Moses speaking on behalf of God to the people – all the “words” of God.
This book is the end of the wilderness wanderings, a farewell to Moses and the final book in the Torah or Pentateuch.
Last summer as Pastor Len was getting ready to transition to Clay, NY, one of the things that was on his heart was what to share with this church family in the time he had left. This is very much what Moses is doing with the Israelites.
Though most people choose to skip this book, it is a great summary of what took place. It is a great story of a great leader, Moses, who made sure his days, especially his last, were spent teaching and modeling what it takes to honor God.
REMEMBER: The Bible is a complete story, written over hundreds of years to tell the big picture story of God. Let’s watch a quick video about this book:
While there are many famous passages in Deuteronomy, as well as many pages of simple rules on how to treat each other, there are some key passages that highlight the overarching theme of The Story of God through the book of Deuteronomy.
One of those passages is Chapter eight:
Deuteronomy 8 || 1 “Carefully follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase, and may enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to your fathers. 2 Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these forty 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. 3 He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, 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. 4 Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these forty years. 5 Keep in mind that the Lord your God has been disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. 6 So keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper. 10 When you eat and are full, you will bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 “Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep his commands, ordinances, and statutes that I am giving you today. 12 When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, 13 and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, 14 be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 15 He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint rock for you. 16 He fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. 17 You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ 18 but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm his covenant he swore to your fathers, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve them and bow in worship to them, I testify against you today that you will perish. 20 Like the nations the Lord is about to destroy before you, you will perish if you do not obey the Lord your God. [CSB]
In this chapter we have Moses telling us the “WHY”. We actually get an answer to a why question!!!!
God put them on this journey to humble them. Not humiliate, but humble. To help them see that they are poor at being god and Yahweh is a great God.
HOW did God humble them? VS 3 - He humbled them by making them do without so they could learn to trust Him. He also provided a solution that was not one they could have known about. God allowed them to go hungry? What? Yup. Then he showed them how he can provide in ways they cannot even imagine. Don’t trust the past, don’t trust what you know alone, trust in God.
THINK ABOUT IT: God may choose to test you by putting you in a place where you cannot meet your own needs. While it is good to want to try to care for yourself, be careful not to trust in yourself more than you trust in God.
God put them on the journey to test their hearts.
Convictions are just opinions until they are tested.
You can say that you believe something until you have to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life – then you find out if it was just a good thought or a real conviction.
WHY did God humble them? Because he wanted to bless them! That was the promise made to Abraham back in the beginning of this people. He mentions this covenant in verse 18, and in verse 16 says:
Deuteronomy 8:16 || He fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. [CSB]
Moses tells Israel what God wants to do for them, IF they will trust and obey Him. He wants to bless them! Let me tell you what God WANTS TO DO FOR YOU IF you will simply learn to trust and obey him:
- Lead you.
- Protect you.
- Provide for you.
- Bless you.
- Make you his people.
God mentions these several times in this book. For instance, 28:1-14.
WHY does God want to do this for them? Because he LOVES THEM.
Remember, this entire book, the Bible, is about God and His story. And in this section, we call Deuteronomy, LOVE is one of the primary themes. Not just that we need to love God, but how much God loves his people: 4:37, 7:8, 7:13, 23:5, 33:3
In Deuteronomy 8:5 it says that God was disciplining Israel like a man disciplines his son. So, even in this passage we have an indirect reference to God’s love for his people. Check out Proverbs:
Proverbs 3:12 || 12 for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights. [CSB]
But the problem is NOT God’s love for His creation. The problem is that we, the creation, are not always good at loving our Creator.
We want God’s blessing, but to experience these gifts from God we must be humble. Pride is what will keep us from experiencing what God has for us. Pride that we do not need God. Pride where we give ourselves credit for what we have.
Pride is a heart condition.
If you have a bad heart, is medication that can help for a period of time, and there are devices that can keep you alive. But if you heart is truly bad there is only one real remedy – a NEW heart. [Ezekiel 11:19 talks about this]
If we love someone, especially some one in authority over us, we will obey them. Right? Not a new or bizarre teaching. We get this, and we don’t need a bible verse to tell us.
Moses knew that the problem with the people of God was that their hearts were bad, and their love for God was weak. If they had a chance of experiencing God’s blessing it would require a change of heart, and a commitment to love God not just in word, but also in actions.
One of the most quoted passages of the Old Testament is probably this one from Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 || 4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates. [CSB]
Jesus quotes it, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day quoted it.
Why is this verse so clutch? It takes us back to the root, to the problem. Even more importantly, this shows us the CURE! Want to experience God’s blessings? Love him.
Deuteronomy 11:13, 13:3, 30:6, 30:16, 30:20 – in all these passages, Moses implores Israel to love God and prove it by obeying Him.
Deuteronomy 10:12–16 || 12 “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? 13 Keep the Lord’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the Lord your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord had his heart set on your fathers and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. 16 Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer. [CSB]
Perform some heart surgery, cut away the parts that do not belong to God, and prove your love for God by obeying Him. Listen, GOD CHOSE YOU, to BLESS YOU WITH HIS WORD – read it and obey it!
IT IS THE MARK of a person of God, that they follow in the teaching of God. That makes sense, right? As Moses was saying his final farewell blessings, he thought it important enough to share that thought with them one more time:
Deuteronomy 33:3 || Indeed, [God] loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands. They follow in his steps and accept his teaching. [NLT]
The book of Deuteronomy is a reminder that God loves us, and our response ought to be to love Him back. That love is proven when we listen and obey Him (shema).
To listen to God means to spend time with Him, hearing is Word, reading His Word. It means not just talking to Him in prayer but listening for Him in prayer.
We started out the book with the “word” of the Lord. That is the beginning of a journey towards God. But that story continues with “listen and obey”. That is the way we live each day reflecting God, being his image bearers – being iconic.
- You and I cannot experience the blessing of God without obeying God.
- You and I cannot obey God if we are not listening to God.
- You and I will not obey God if we do not love God.
Let me flip that into the positive:
When you and I love God, we will obey Him, and we will experience his blessing.
When my boys were in high school they used to have this thing they would say. When someone said, “I can do this or I know that” they would often call someone out and say “prove it”. Any of you experience that in your house? (prove it!)
1 John 2:3–6 || 3 And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. 4 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. [NLT]
In closing, let me ask you, in of what this verse says, “Is your love for God just a passing thought or a conviction? Do you really love God?”