Deuteronomy - God's Handbook for Saints (Part 1)

Joel Portman

Many believers appreciate the truths of this fifth book of the Pentateuch and its application to our day. Adam Clarke said of Deuteronomy, "The Book of Deuteronomy and the Epistle to the Hebrews contain the best comment on the nature, design and use of the law; the former may be considered as an evangelical commentary on the four preceding books, in which the spiritual reference and signification of the different parts of the law are given, and given in such a manner as none could give who had not a clear discovery of the glory which was to be revealed. It may be safely asserted that very few parts of the Old Testament Scriptures can be read with greater profit by the genuine Christian than the Book of Deuteronomy." To this could be added many other comments by discerning students of Scripture.

Deuteronomy gives to the people of God the teaching that would regulate their conduct, and cause their enjoyment of the land into which they were soon to enter. It anticipates the outpouring of God’s blessing on them but also looks for expected conditions on their part to continue in the enjoyment of God’s intended blessings. It tells us the conditions of the covenant under which the people would function and through which God would express His loving heart toward them.

Obedience Emphasized

For this reason, Deuteronomy is a Divine Treatise on Obedience. God required their obedience under law and we see similar principles toward us under grace. That is to say, that though God has brought each believer into a position of blessing under Christ, the enjoyment of that blessing and the fullness of his position can really only be known as he seeks to walk in subjection to Divine principles and precepts that God expects. We are not under law, but we are not without guidance as to what God desires to see in each one of us. Deuteronomy teaches us that God’s Word and its truths are for the blessing and benefit of each of His own, yea even farther, of all mankind. Disobedience has always brought ruin and sorrow to the lives of men whether saved or not.

Order of the Pentateuch

The books of our Pentateuch are linked together to typically record God’s delivering work toward the believer, the standing of a believer as a result of that work, and the spiritual progress of the child of God. Genesis, the book of beginnings, tells us of Man going out under God’s judgment on his sin, yet in that same book we also find principles that regulate and are displayed in the worthy ones who walk by faith before their God. In Exodus, we find God’s answer to man’s fall in Redemption by applied blood and power, and we learn of how man can be brought out of sin’s bondage and condemnation through the blood. Leviticus shows us the way into the presence of God and takes up the Redeemed of the Lord, showing them as Priests in the sanctuary with ability to function in God’s presence. Numbers teaches us that though linked with the heavenly sanctuary, we are also moving on through the wilderness of experience under the cloud of God’s presence, being led by Himself. But Deuteronomy contemplates the child of God going on and up in relation to Divine purposes, and shows us God’s principles for the preservation of God’s people and their enjoyment of Divine blessings that are spiritually ours in Christ. It does not show us their position in the land, but it anticipates their going in, and God again gives those principles that would preserve them to that inheritance and preserve that inheritance to them.

Second Law

The name, Deuteronomy, has been said to mean "the Second Law," an expression that we understand is derived from the Latin translation of the title of the book in the Septuagint. This is undoubtedly a characteristic of the book, for in it God repeats those principles and precepts that had been given earlier in their experience, but now it is to the second generation of travelers. It shows us that there is a need for repetition of old truths to younger generations so that those truths might not be lost but preserved for the blessing of each one. Paul surely had this in mind when he told Timothy to commit those things heard of him to faithful men who would also teach others. (II Timothy 2:2) We need not fear repetition of simple, yet vital truths for God’s people and should not always be searching out things that are new or novel to teach. The principle God has given us is that the old truths are proven to be of maximum benefit for His people. So just prior to entering the land, Moses, the great law-giver, repeats those precious things he had heard of God in the mount.

Reasons for Repetition

We find there were at least three reasons Moses had in repeating the law. One was so that they might live (4:1, 5:33, 8:1, 16:20, 30:6, 16). This indicates that the very life of the people would be sustained and upheld by obedience to these truths. And we find that in our day, even under grace, the life of a child of God must be nourished by God’s Word and will only be developed by adherence to those precious truths. God expects and desires that His people might live, thrive and display all the evidences of Divine life that has been produced by the Holy Spirit. We find that He told them, "For it [is] not a vain thing for you; because it is your life" (Deut. 32:47). God anticipates that His Word obeyed and heeded in practice will sustain and bring needed strength to uphold the life that is within each believer. Do we understand and appreciate the vital importance God’s Word has in the spiritual life that He has given us? One observes many cases in which spiritual life and the appreciation of Divine truths are hindered by occupation with too many things that are contrary to the principles of God’s Word.

Then we find that God’s purpose for them is "that ye may rejoice," (12:7,12,18; 14:26; 16:11,14,15; 26:11; 27:7) so that such a life of obedience to His blessed commands will always result in fullness of joy. We think of the Psalmist, especially in Psalm 119, who expressed his sincere delight in the commands and precepts of His God and rejoiced in their goodness to him. Again in Psalm 1, that blessed man (perfectly exemplified in our Lord Jesus Christ) had his "delight in the law of His God." This indicates that the Lord’s purpose through His Word is that the Christian might display a joyfulness that comes from an inward contentment with all that God’s Word ministers to him. Again we might well ask ourselves if His precious Word is the delight of our hearts, and do we express that joy that comes from a contentment in the things of God. If we are getting our source of joy from the world, then we will have little appetite for the things of heaven.

Again we learn that God gave this law again to them so that they might "go in and possess (or inherit) the land," (4:1, 8:1, 11:8, 16:20). It is evidently His anticipation that they will be fit in life and overcome every obstacle that was before them so that they might take full control of that land of rich blessing and enjoy it fully. While the land, with all its spiritual inheritance is ours in Christ, we find that the enjoyment of it lies in our exercise to carry out the truths of God’s Word and to display our desires in life for Him in this way. In Ephesians, the book of Divine inheritance, we learn that the believer must "walk worthy of the vocation (calling) wherewith he has been called," (Ephesians 4:1) and such walking is the characteristic that displays obedience to Divine principles and teaching of God’s Word, resulting in the ability to stand fast and overcome the enemy who seeks to hinder (6: 10-17).

Moses, A Faithful Man

It is precious to observe that despite his failures, Moses was honored of God in his life and in his death. Both Moses and Aaron died in the wilderness, both through their own failures, but both died on a mountain top. One can conclude that God was indicating His approval of the overall tenor and character of their lives and would not suffer them to be dishonored even in death. Deuteronomy begins by telling us that these are the words Moses spoke in the wilderness, words about God and His truth, and it ends with words God spoke about Moses concerning his life and character (34:10). God spoke highly of His prophet after his death as well as during his life (Numbers 12:6-8), but in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, Moses spoke prophetically of the Lord as the far greater Prophet who would come. Israel had failed to hearken to Moses as they should have, but they would ultimately hearken to the greater Prophet who would and will bring them into far greater blessing than Moses ever could. Even with failures (the best of men are only failures at their best), God shows His appreciation of a man such as Moses who "is faithful in all mine house." Does this not teach us that men such as Moses who seek to uphold and teach the Word of God are worthy of honor and God will honor them, even though there may be some failure and will be in any one of us? May God help us in our day to have more men and women like Moses who had a heart for the preservation and blessing of God’s people and an eye to approval from God only!

(to be continued)