Deuteronomy - The Preservation of the Saints (Part 4)

Joel Portman

In Deuteronomy, God expresses His desires for His people so that He might ensure their good, blessing and preservation. Nothing was intended to be burdensome or detrimental to them. We should always remember that everything that God designs and works for His people has two purposes: His glory and their blessing. If God receives the glory that He is due, then we can be sure that His people will receive blessing and enjoy what His open hand bestows.

Enjoying the Possessions

Four times at the point of going in, God emphasizes their possession of the land to show that His desire is that they might fully inherit all that He has brought them so far to enjoy. They were the second generation, that of the Spirit in contrast to those who had fallen in the wilderness through unbelief, and He encourages them to go on to enjoy the land. Wilderness training and experiences are purposed to make the Lord’s people want to go in to possess this inheritance, which for us is composed of the wealth that is ours as seated with Christ in heavenlies.

In every case, possession of the land is linked with obedience to the statutes and commandments God had given them (4:1, 8:1, 11:8) and with righteousness and justice that would result from such obedience (16:20). His Word established the conditions that were essentially part of that inheritance, for His commandments were given to them as an inheritance forever (33:4). They could hardly expect to inherit and receive Divine blessings, though earthly, without upholding the conditions that made those blessings possible. Many people in every day want God’s blessings and prosperity of life without any regard for the required conditions that God righteously expects. The world is dominated by those who think this way, desiring the blessings but not the One who gives the blessing. The commands were not to be burdensome (and they would hardly be so to any exercised Israelite any more than the Word of God is burdensome to an exercised Christian) but an appreciation of God’s blessings would cause an appreciation of God Himself and the commands would preserve this inheritance to them.

For the child of God, we know that for us to enjoy spiritual riches and abundance of blessing in Christ requires certain conditions of heart, soul and life. Without that exercise, one cannot enjoy spiritual things and becomes more inclined toward the elements of an earthly existence and then neglects his relationship with the Lord. In the Upper Room before He left them, the Lord repeatedly told His own that the mark of their love for Him was keeping His commandments (John 13:17, 34-35; 14:21, 24; 15:10). His intent was that they might be preserved to enjoy the blessings of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter Who was coming. Those principles are also for us today, and we do well to pay close heed to the observance of them for our good.

"That it might be well with you"

Another repeated phrase (10 times) emphasizes God’s desire for their welfare and lasting good. This expression no doubt refers to their health, prosperity and freedom from oppression physically, but it applies to us spiritually. We can link it with the expressions found in the pastoral epistles that emphasize "healthful" or "health-giving" ("sound") such as in 1 Tim. 1:10, 2 Tim. 1:13, 4:3, Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1,2. John desired Gaius’ health, even as he prospered spiritually (3 John 4. God’s desire is that His people might be healthy, not so much physically, since we know that many of the most godly believers have suffered physical affliction, but in spiritual well-being. Charismatic teaching that emphasizes physical health and material prosperity is guilty of missing the purpose of God’s blessings to His people today and putting the perspective on the wrong object.

In Deuteronomy, wellness is associated with their obedience, (4:40, 5:29, 6:3, 12:28) a thought that also carries through into the epistles. In addition, it is linked with practical application of those commands, such as walking in those ways (5:33), honoring parents (5:16), doing right and good (6:18), judging sin (19:13) and many other facets of the commands of God. Not only is a correct overall attitude to be maintained but there must also be care for the personal observance of those commands in everyday life. May we see the need for continual application of the principles and precepts of God’s Word to our daily living so that we might enjoy spiritual health as well.

"That Ye may Rejoice"

The possessions enjoyed and their welfare assured would result in their joy being full. This desire of God, found in many places in this book, is always linked with their gathering together into the presence of God (12:7, 12, 18; 14:26; 16:11, 14, 15; 26:11; 27:7). If they were truly obedient to God’s Word and appreciating the inheritance, they would gladly come together at such times to acknowledge their God. Those gatherings were to be times of festive joy when God’s people would put their ordinary cares aside and come apart to enjoy their God and fellowship with His people. It seems, though, that these times of gathering were neglected very quickly, possibly because the people felt them to be a burden or through lack of exercise, and as is often the case, they were TOO BUSY and self was more important.

Their coming together into the place of God’s choosing in the order He had given, being occupied with worship and the enjoyment of spiritual things speaks to us of our gathering in local assembly meetings. 1 Corinthians speaks often of "when ye come together" especially in chapters 11-14, and this refers to those times when all the saints came to the appointed place with others in assembly fellowship. Yet even in that case, those gatherings were neglected and corrupted by their refusal to bow to the principles of God’s Word. Of old the feasts of the Lord, or Jehovah, had been corrupted by our Lord’s time so that they were the "feasts of the Jews" (John 5:1, 7:2) and it seems the same condition prevailed in Corinth.

There can be a condition of heart among us that does not appreciate the value of assembly gatherings so that some come only to the Lord’s Supper and forget the importance and necessity of all the gatherings of the assembly. It may be through coldness of heart or other reasons, but often the problem is "too busy." Such busyness of life is designed by the world system to rob God and rob God’s people of the blessing that results from regularly attending ALL the meetings of the assembly and seeking to give God His rightful place. In addition, conditions can exist in such gatherings as we find in Corinth that prevent the saints of God (or the Lord Himself) from receiving joy from His people. Our exercise should be to know the joy of spiritual gathering around the Lord Who is in the midst.


Lastly, we find that worship is mentioned in this book eight times in various forms, sometimes found as "bow down," though the word is the same. Sadly, only in one case does it refer to true worship; the others are warnings against false worship and what it would lead them to. We could not emphasize this most essential spiritual activity too much, but space is limited. Worship is to be the central point of a believer’s life, more important than service or fellowship, and yet it is neglected more than the rest. Perhaps that is because there is so much to distract our hearts and keep us from giving the Lord the place and occupation that He deserves. Perhaps it is because the devil seeks to rob God of the worship He should have. It may be because worship is the most difficult to maintain. Far easier to be busy with "the Lord’s work" and forget the Lord’s worship!

John closes his first epistle with the poignant warning, "Keep yourselves from idols," and this suggests that idolatry can creep in to cause our hearts to be taken away from true worship. The Israelite worshipped in Deut. 26:10 when he brought his basket of firstfruits of the land to God’s presence, confessed God’s grace in His dealings with him, and in God’s presence, worshipped before the One who had done it all. May the Lord preserve in our hearts, or rekindle the exercise, to be true worshippers. "The Father seeketh such to worship Him," (John 4:23) is still true today.

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Begin the day with God! He is thy Sun and Day!
His is the radiance of thy dawn; to Him address thy day.

Sing thy first song to God! not to thy fellow men
Not to the creatures of His hand, but to the glorious One.

Horatius Bonar