Deuteronomy - Suggestions of the Upper Room (Part 3)

Joel Portman

Deuteronomy is usually considered with the previous books of Moses as the Pentateuch, and we properly do so. However, if we separate it from the four, since it is of a different character than they are, and link it with the books that follow, we get a perspective that suggests dispensational truth that specifically applies to us.

This book gives us the last recorded words of a man who is shortly going to die. Moses spoke these words so that the people might be preserved, blessed, and encouraged to go on without him. It is truth that would enable them to possess and inherit the land (4:1). He gives teaching that directly links their love for God and keeping His commandments. Moses in this book is the Mediator and Deliverer linked with his people, but he must die before they can enter the land and possess it (3:23-29). Joshua replaces him to lead them in and divide the inheritance for their enjoyment.

In this way, Deuteronomy suggests the precious truths we enjoy in John 13-17. We have the last words of our Lord to His own, ere He would lay down His life for His sheep and accomplish that death that was ever before Him. Those words were given for their preservation during the coming days of His absence, intended to encourage and minister blessing to them, to stabilize them in their life and exercise for Him, and to prepare them for the possession of spiritual blessings to come. Those blessings would result from His death and ascension to God’s right hand, and they would come through the ministration of the Holy Spirit sent down from above. Again, the Lord’s teaching repeatedly links their love for Him with their obedience to His blessed commands (John 13:34-35; 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:9-10). That love would be demonstrated practically by their obedience, but also by their genuine love one for another (15:17). One may see many other correlations by studying these passages together.

If this is so, then Joshua reminds us of the coming of the Holy Spirit to carry out the work of the Risen, Exalted Man at God’s right hand. That work brings the believer into the inheritance of "the heavenlies" and makes real to his heart the blessedness of having been risen with Christ (Col. 3:1 Eph. 1:3). The following book of Judges gives a picture of the course of the present age with its degenerating condition unto the end, but Ruth takes us forward to the coming marriage of the Gentile bride and the restoration of a widowed nation on the ground of the grace of a heavenly Boaz. Following that book are the events that lead into the establishment of the kingdom when Christ will rule supreme and be exalted in all the earth.

That being the picture, we should appreciate even more the fact that in Deuteronomy, God is seeking to draw out His people’s hearts (us included) to greater and genuine love for Him. This is love that motivates obedience to His word, love that is expressed in our obedience, and a love that is the only proper response to what He has done for us. Paul without doubt entered into this blessed truth, when we hear him in 2 Cor. 5:14 and Gal. 2:20. We should express it as well, when we think that we are no less debtors to our blessed Lord because of how He has expressed His love for us!

Separated People unto God

God emphasizes in Deuteronomy that they were a separated people, different from all the peoples of the earth. They were not reckoned among the nations and were not to behave like the nations around them. This issue of separation and its importance has always been a point of difficulty for many, since it is abrasively opposed to the desires of the flesh and those who tend toward natural things do not like it. Many balk at the teaching that the believer is not of this world though passing through it, and they don’t like to hear that he is not to have a part in its different aspects of living that are associated with a world system that is opposed to God. This separation is first of all unto God, and as a result of recognizing that we are His entirely and uniquely, one responds with conditions that are in keeping with the character and will of God. We have no part in its entertainment system, its sports system, its political system, its social structure, its business ambitions that center on self, or anything else that links us wrongly with a system that is under God’s judgment.

The Israelites, and we, were separated by the elements that are emphasized in Deuteronomy. The first issue, in Deut. 1-3, is a separation on the basis of their PATHWAY. His survey of that pathway marks that it, though accompanied by their failure and unbelief, was a path on which God had led them. This is marked in 8:1-2, and it gives the realization that the believer has been led on a path of life that is different from the man of the world. No other nation had been led by that path and come to that point in the same way. They were separated by the PRECEPTS of God’s Word, chapters 4-11, that were to be obeyed and taken to heart. Notice 4:8, 10, 5:1, 29. No other people of the earth had such a Word given to them, and its truth received would separate them from the world. Any appreciation of this blessed truth will cause a true believer to respond in a life of separated devotion to our Lord.

In chapters 12-13, God emphasizes they were separated by the PLACE of the gathering. It was not determined according to principles of the unsaved, but it was the Place of His own determination, the place of His Name, the place where HE was. May we recognize that our gathering to His blessed Name acknowledges His authority and rights over our entire lives, and that being identified with an assembly thus gathered is a point of our separation from the religious world in which we live.

Another point of their separation was the PERSON of God revealed to them (4:7, 15-16, 34; 32:4, 33:26). What other people had come to know the true God Who had made Himself known to them? Knowledge of God made them different from others who might make gods of their own imagination that expressed their own corrupted spirit. We are separated by the truth of God, received, known and upheld in life and doctrine in a way that makes compatibility with religious men holding erroneous ideas of God impossible. 2 Cor. 6:14-18 would teach us this along with other Scriptures.

Last of all, they were separated unto God by their PRACTICES that are emphasized in chapters 14-26. They were marked as a Holy People, linked with a Holy God and a Holy Place, and thus expected to continually display Holy Practices that showed this to be true. What we do in our lives and how we live before the world must show consistency with the truth we profess to believe and the One Whom we profess to know. Those were practices that set them apart from the nations around them, and we believe that the lives of the believers today should show that we belong to the Lord and that we are not our own, for we have been bought with a price and must therefore glorify God in our body and in our spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

May God impress these practical truths on our hearts and preserve us in our lives for His honor and usefulness until He comes.