Deuteronomy - The Preservation of God's People (Part 5)

Joel Portman

God’s expressed purpose in Deuteronomy is His people’s preservation. This takes into account more than the present; it also considers the future and the potential that lies within them through Divine power. Deuteronomy teaches God’s purposes for our preservation as saints in assembly testimony until the Lord’s coming for His own. This preservation lies in our heeding God’s warnings, responding to God’s Word, and passing on teaching to following generations.

We find corollaries to this in the epistles, particularly those second epistles dealing with preservation of God’s people today. Basic apostolic teaching is repeated particularly in 2 Timothy and 2 Peter, though this is true in other epistles as well. We also find concern expressed that such teaching might be imparted to others who would pass it on to following generations (2 Timothy 2:1-2, 2 Peter 1:12-13). We do well to carry this out in our exercise for God today.


Thirteen times God warns them to "take heed" or "beware" of certain things that would tend toward departure or lead them astray. Such warnings were very practical and if heeded, they would have preserved them for God and the privileges of His service.

Four of those warnings have to do with the worship of God (4:15, 23; 11:16; 12:30). This is most fundamental for preservation, for if God is not upheld and worshipped as He should be, nothing else will long stand. The warnings primarily center on substituting man’s concepts of God represented in idolatry for what God had revealed of Himself in truth. There seems to be a human tendency, as men fail to rise to properly apprehend God’s character, to turn aside to ideas of men that represent God in a way that is more comforting and suitable to us. We must be very careful that we do not allow objects, ideas, theories, or anything of our own (or of the world’s) desires to substitute for the truth of God revealed by Him in His Word. Our worship affects our character, and our character affects our service and entire life. Truth concerning God and the proper place He must have in the life is vital to our preservation in any condition of usefulness until He comes.

Closely linked with worship is a warning concerning sacrificing and the place the Lord has chosen (12:13). Others may offer their sacrifices to their false gods in any place, but God expects His people to respond to the claims of the Place of His choosing. This warning emphasizes the link between our offering (of worship and devotion) and the assembly where God has made His presence known and placed His Name. That is to be the place where we focus our worship and service of God. The result, if not, will always be our hearts and lives taken away. Some believers feel they can be involved with worship and service in any place, but this attitude only results in one being taken away from the place where fellowship with God is centered.

Other warnings come in as well. God warns them to be satisfied with His supply for them so they do not desire the elements of the world through which they are passing (2:4). They must concern themselves with their responsibility to support those involved in Levitical service who are working to help and assist the Lord’s people (12:19). Judgment regarding leprosy must be carefully carried out, knowing what God did to Miriam (24:8). Then, possibly of greatest importance, God warns them against forgetting Him when they enjoy material plenty and great prosperity (6:12, 8:11). This is always a danger, and we see it on every hand today as, in their pursuit of material security and plenty in this life, many saints are losing their perspective and neglecting the spiritual life. Many with great potential have lost their usefulness for God, and we can only trust that they will be recovered through the warnings of God’s Word.

"Teach Your Children"

It is evident in Deuteronomy that God anticipates preserving their children for the future; the coming generations were to be instructed so they might be kept for God. Every generation of believers should have an exercise for the continuance of the testimony for God into the future, regardless of our anticipation of the imminence of the Lord’s coming. The children in this sense represent more than our own family and blood relations; they indicate an exercise for newly saved ones that they might be brought along in the faith, taught spiritual truths, upheld, and preserved so that they might preserve the future testimony of God’s people.

This requires an exercise to beget spiritual children. Too many saints don’t have the burden of the "mothers in Israel" who longed for the fruit of the womb. In many cases we are hindered by unexercised, barren saints who do not see the importance of another generation being raised of and for God. We must seek for children, souls to be saved by God’s work and nurtured in the spiritual realities of a life lived in fellowship with God and His people. Then, having seen some saved, we often lack those who can and would care for them, encourage them, show an example for their lives to be patterned upon, and lead them in spiritual truths that would stabilize them in Christian life. We are losing, oftentimes, the very ones who profess to be saved in our gospel efforts, and this can be through lack of ability and exercise to care for such young souls.

In Deuteronomy the children are emphasized. Particularly, parents are to teach them (4:9, 5:29-31, 6:7, 11:19). Notice especially in 6:7 that these truths were to be constantly kept before the young, displayed in every aspect of their lives and lived continually so that the young might see the practical display of this truth in the elder ones. The truths to be taught were to regulate their homes, control their deeds and thoughts, maintain their principles before the world, and manifest the joyful obedience of their hearts to the truth of God.

What is to be done, when in some cases younger believers see practices in older ones that contradict what they are learning from God’s Word? What are they to do when they hear of older believers who are in conflict with others in the assembly, who cannot appreciate others but who constantly criticize and find fault with them? How are they to develop spiritually when personal practices seen in business and home life contradict what is preached by the same men from the platform of the assembly? This introduces elements of conflict that undermine the truths that are so essential for their stability and continuance in assembly fellowship. When they see or hear older saints talking about things on the television or in the world’s entertainment, how are they to know the truths of separation? This kind of practice is seen so often, and then we wonder why younger believers do not show the desire for spiritual growth that we long for. They are learning from us, the older ones!

May the Lord help us to take the lessons of Deuteronomy and apply them to our spiritual condition and needs today. Much more could be seen from these chapters, but we trust the subjects marked in these articles will serve to make us appreciate the purposes and results that are on the surface of this book, God’s Word to His people on the edge of possessing the land. Let us go on and go in, that we may enjoy and prosper in the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.