Here we are this evening in our fourth look at Deuteronomy. We’ve attempted to walk through the whole book of Deuteronomy, and you may be thinking to yourself, “This is a very big ask.” Deuteronomy is Moses preaching, preaching under the inspiration of God’s spirit well. And therefore, the book is an absolute feast, a fantastic feast, as Moses speaks to God’s people on the edge of the Promised Land before they move in to take it.
I mention to you each week; we could divide the book into big sections which we’ve tried to do.
- Week 1 we looked at Chapters 1 to 4, which is the story so far. God has led you through the wilderness, through the edge of the Promised Land
- Week 2 we looked at Chapters 5 to 11, which is very much God in covenant relationship with his people, the blessings and the dangers
- Week 3 we looked at the big chunk of 12 to 26, not properly, but we just tried to take a few special parts of 12 to 26, which are the practical details of being God’s people.
This week we come to what is Chapters 27 to 34. We could summarise it as, make a decision. That’s basically what 27 to 34, is about.
I want to say something important to you. There is a great danger if you’re a new Christian or you’re not a very clear Christian, that you will read the book of Deuteronomy which is full of instruction, and you’ll say to yourself, “I better do it.” And you’ll, therefore, read Deuteronomy wrongly, because it’s no point in reading Deuteronomy and saying to yourself, “Well, this is how God instructed Israel, and they were pretty hopeless, but we will do it well.”
No, you need to read your bible from cover to cover and remember that these instructions to Israel were very specific to Israel going into the Promised Land. That had to do with being a nation, as well as a church in the land. And you need to remember that although Israel did fail to keep the instructions, down the track came an Israelite who was totally obedient, whose name is Jesus Christ. And when Jesus walked into this world He obeyed totally. His life was a perfect life. His death was an exchange, taking our punishment, to offer us His blessings. And He invites us through the gospel to come and put our trust in Him, and when we put our trust in Him, we share in His perfection. God sees us in Christ. And not only that, but God’s Spirit begins to work in and through us to help us to be faithful.
So it would be a great mistake if you didn’t read your Bible, Old Testament, Christ-centered. And that’s the critical introductory comment that I want to make.
Here are the three things that I’m going look at;
- Warnings and Promises, (Chapters 27 to 28)
- What the Future Holds Chapters 29 to 30) and
- Words to Sing and Remember (Chapters 31 to 34)
Warning and promises
Here’s the question, “How are God’s people going to be faithful when their hearts are so corrupt and warped, and twisted?” Chapter 27 Verse 2, His Plan A, Moses says I want you to cross the river, that’s the Jordan into the Promised Land, and I want you to collect some large stones and set them up as a monument…” Chapter 27 Verse 2, and I want you to paint them white, and I want you to write the law on the stones, probably the Ten Commandments. So that’s Plan A, there’s going to be a monument to remind you of how to live.
Plan B, Chapter 27 Verse 12, there were two mountains in the plain as you get into the land that face each other. And I want some of your leaders to get up on one mountain and some to get up on the other mountain. And I want the leaders on one mountain to call out the curses, and I want the others to call out the blessings.
If you look at Chapter 27 from Verse 14, you’ll see that there are some general curses. And the general curses are basically, “Do not do this, and do not do this, and do not do this.” It doesn’t go into much detail it just tells you some things not to do.
When you get to Chapter 28:1-14, there are some very specific blessings; If you’re faithful
- I’ll provide you with food
- I’ll make sure you have plenty of crops
- I’ll make sure the rain falls
- I’ll make sure you’re safe, and the nations around you leave you alone, very specific blessings.
But then at the end of Chapter 28 Verses 15 to 68, a very long section, there were some specific curses. “There will be famine if you’re unfaithful. There will be disaster. There will be loss.”
Let’s ask a question, why are there more curses than blessings? Is that because God is more interested in cursing than blessing?
Well, of course, we know that’s not true. In Chapter 5 we’re told that God is interested in giving to the faithful a thousand generations of blessing. That’s a very long time. But to the unfaithful, He says to the third and fourth generation. So His delight to bless is much greater than His need to curse.
But I’ll tell you why there are more curses than blessings, because the curses are part of God’s love, just as a mother in talking to a little child on the way to school will say to a child, “Don’t take a lift from anybody. Don’t step onto the road. Don’t leave your friend. Don’t forget you’ve got a phone in your pocket,” on and on with these warnings, because of great love for the child.
And, especially, Israel is being told to avoid certain dangers because God is going to provide the blessings. And the blessings, if you ever read this section, are echoes of paradise, and the curses, if you ever read the section in Chapter 28, are echoes of slavery. In fact, we read in Chapter 28 Verse 27, that if you’re unfaithful, you will get boils. And that should remind you of what took place in Egypt on God’s enemies.
Interestingly, also, this would interest some of you here this evening, in Chapter 28 Verse 65, the unfaithful people of God will be marked by great anxiety, fearfulness, super anxiety. And for those of us who know what it’s like to have anxious times, sometimes irrationally anxious times, I wonder whether this has got to do with the fact that God, in some measure, is exercising judgment on the world in which we live, and we are being affected by that.
Of course, we’re not under His curses. Once you come to faith in Jesus, He has delivered you from the curses. You’re now to enjoy the blessings. But I wonder whether living in a very ungodly world, whether we experience something of this judgment. We need to read these verses as Christians. Don’t read the curses and say, “Oh, that’s me,” if you’re a Christian. Because Jesus, (Galatians 3:13), has taken the curses for you so that you might enjoy the blessings. So that’s the first point this evening, what I briefly called warnings and promises, 27, 28.
What the future holds
Look at Chapter 29 Verses 2 to 4. This is very interesting. Moses says, in Chapter 29 Verses 2 to 4, “You saw what God did.” You saw what God did because you were children when God did it, but now you’re adults, and you saw what God did. You saw what it was like to come out of Egypt and to cross the Red Sea. You saw what God said. But then look at what He says, a little further on, “The Lord has not yet given you a mind or a heart or eyes to understand.” Isn’t that remarkable? He says, “You saw the exodus, but you don’t get it.”
It’s a little bit like what Jesus said when the crowds came to Him, and He fed them. John Chapter 6, “And He said to them, ‘I fed you and you don’t get it.'” The feeding is meant to be a signpost to me, the bread of life, but you don’t get it. We need to say that every now and again, don’t we, to congregations and to even some friends. The reason that you don’t appreciate Jesus Christ is because you don’t yet get it. That’s what Moses says here.
But he says in verse 5, “God has looked after you, in fact, He’s led you through the wilderness, and you had enough food, and your clothes and your shoes didn’t wear out.”
He says in Chapter 29 verse 12, “I want you to enter into covenant with God.” It’s time to pass over into covenant. You’re about to pass over the river called Jordan, but you’ve also got to pass over into covenant with God. What does this mean? It means you’ve got to ink in your marriage. It means you’ve got to restate your vows. It’s time for you to, as it were, repeat your marriage ceremony and decide whether you are committed.
It’s like a couple who are having a tough time in their marriage. And the counsellor says, “Well,” to the couple, “do you wanna go forward with this?” And he says, “I do.” And she says, “I do too.” And they ink in, mentally or literally, their marriage ceremony.
So this is what Moses is saying. You don’t get it, but God has been good to you, and it’s time for you to decide, to ink in your covenant relationship with God. Look at Chapter 29 Verse 18, “Don’t turn away.” Verse 19, “Don’t think you’ll be safe if you do turn away.” Verse 22, “Your children need you to make this decision.” I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but it seems to me, now that I’m getting old, that every generation is getting just a little more flabby about Christian things.
My wife’s great grandfather was a minister, and her grandfather was a minister, and her father was a minister, and her brother is a minister, and her husband is a minister. It’s terrible. And she has this long list of people. But I imagine if we brought in today her great grandfather, and we talk to him about what it meant to live a Christian life, he would be astounded, horrified, by the way, we conduct our Christian life. May be true of her grandfather as well, maybe even true of her father. But this is what Moses is saying to the people. He’s saying to the people, “You need to make your decision very clearly because your offspring are going to depend on this. There needs to be in the present, a committed group who are going to be a blessing for the next generation, and maybe even for the next.”
And then look at 29:29, this is wonderful verse. It says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children that we may follow all the words of this law.” There are secret things, and there are revealed things. I’ve often used this verse in pastoral tragedies. I’ve often had to open up the Bible to this verse when somebody has had a terrible loss, and they’re utterly bewildered, and they don’t know what to do, “What is God doing to me?” And I’ll say to the person who is suffering; I’ll say, “You see here, this is a secret thing that’s happened.” You don’t know why it’s happened; I don’t know why it’s happened, nobody knows why it’s happened, it’s a secret thing. But there are revealed things; God is on the throne, God is a God of love, God is a God of wisdom, God is a God of eternity.
But in context, that’s not what Moses is saying. Moses is saying to the people, “Yes, there are some things you don’t understand, but what are you going to do with all the things you do understand.”
Yes, there are secret things, you don’t know everything, but what are you doing with what has been revealed. I wonder whether this wouldn’t be a good verse to open up and explain to some of our non-Christian friends when they’re talking to us about the craziness of Christianity. It might be good to open this 29:29 and say, “Yes, there are things I don’t understand but what are you doing with the revealed things? Because I’m not able to solve the secret things, but I am trying to grapple with the revealed things, are you?” That’s the way Moses is speaking to his people.
Now, the future, in Deuteronomy 20, this is what will happen;
- Chapter 30 Verse 1, “You’re going to be scattered.” In other words, things are not going to go well down the track
- Chapter 30 Verse 2, “You’ll return to the land.”
- Chapter 30 Verse 3, “And the Lord will restore you, and He’s going to change your heart.”
- Chapter 30 Verse 6, “He’s going to circumcise your heart.” You’re not just going to be changed outwardly; you’re going to be changed inwardly.
And then we come to the passage which was read for us, Chapter 30 Verse 11, “This is not too difficult. You don’t have to climb to heaven to get the message. No, it’s come down to you. You don’t have to cross the oceans to get the message. No, it’s come over to you.” And we might say to people today, You don’t have to go up looking to heaven in the sky for a message from God because Jesus has come down. And you don’t have to cross the oceans looking for some guru; Christ has come over to you.
Therefore, Chapter 30 Verse 19, Choose life. God has been good to you. God is completely in charge. God will be good to you. Choose life. Bow down your heart that is so rebellious. Surrender it. Get down on your knees, physically, mentally, spiritually, and give yourself to Him, and He will take hold of you, and He will provide for you.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Martyrs of Sebaste, this was a very famous event in Rome, back in 320 A.D. Rome had decided that all soldiers would call Caesar, Lord. And in one particular legion, there were 40 Christians, 40 Christian soldiers, and they said that they could not call Caesar, Lord. And so they took the 40 soldiers, and they took them in the winter out onto a lake, a frozen lake, and they removed their coats, and they left them on the ice, guarded, to die.
And the 40 soldiers sang, “We are the 40 soldiers of Christ.” And in the evening one of the 40 lost courage and slipped away from the ice and went back to the Romans, and said, “I’ve changed my mind.” And there were 39 left on the ice. And watching the 39 continue to sing, one of the Roman guards took off his coat and walked out onto the ice and stood with the 39 for Christ, and began to sing, “40 soldiers for Christ.” Was he doing something insane when he did that? No, he was doing something utterly sane, because he was choosing life. And that’s what Moses says here.
Words to sing and remember
Joshua is to be appointed the new leader. Moses is not going to go into the Promised Land, and, of course, God’s plans are much bigger than Moses. God’s plans are much bigger than individual people. God is going to raise up a new leader called Joshua, and Moses orders that the law is to be read every seven years. See that in Chapter 31 verse 10 “Every seven years the law, the whole law, is to be read.”
Then the Lord orders Moses to write a song which is recorded for us in Deuteronomy 32. It’s about 43 verses long. What a song it is? This is not a jolly song. This is not, God loves me, and I love me too. The song…this is a summary of the song, “God is very great. God’s people are corrupt, crooked, and warped. God has looked after his people very wonderfully. His people grow fat and disobedient. God has been angry and has punished His people. They will die unless they return.” That’s basically the song.
I think somebody should write a good tune to this song. And we should learn it because it is a very different type of song from the normal, sometimes gushy songs that we sing. This is a song that rebukes us and tells us that we need to remember God’s greatness and our sin. Then Moses gives a blessing to the tribes from Chapter 33 Verse 6, just as Jacob gathered is 12 sons and gave them a blessing in Genesis 49. Moses now gathers the tribes and gives them each a blessing before he is buried in Chapter 34.
I’ve been reading a book on final words, you know, there were these books out on final words, some of them are very revealing;
- Joan Crawford, the actress of the 1930s and 1940s, her last sentence was, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me,” as her maid went to pray for her
- Machiavelli, a great pagan, said, “I desire to go to hell, not heaven.”
- Joan of Arc, her last words were, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
- A lady called Lavinia Fisher, her last words, “Any message for the devil? I’m about to meet him.”
- Ayrton Senna, the great Formula 1 driver from Brazil, who crashed his car at a huge speed into a brick wall. And 3 million Brazilians line the streets for his funeral. His last words were, “The car seems okay.”
- Beethoven, the composer said, “I shall hear when I’m heaven.” He was going deaf, he was deaf
- Karl Marx said, “Last words are for fools.”
- Winston Churchill said, “I’m bored with it all.” And
- Billionaire, Rothschild, said to his children, “Obey the Lord of Moses and always consult your mother.”
Now, Moses has some tremendous words, and I want you to look with me at them, Chapter 33:26-29, just 4 verses. And I’m going to read them to you. “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,” Jeshurun is another word for Israel. It means the upright one. “There is no one like the God of Israel, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds, in His majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He’ll drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘destroy them.’ And so Israel will live in safety. Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew. Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield, and helper, and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.”
I want you to notice from those verses where Moses says, “God is…” and we’re told in verse 26 that He is above them, ruling everything. We’re told in verse 27, that He is around them, protecting them. We’re told in verse 27, He is beneath them, sustaining everything. And we’re told, again, in verse 27, that He is advancing everything because He is before them. This idea of being surrounded by God, is a very wonderful biblical picture. It finds its fulfillment, again, when we get to the New Testament, and Paul’s favorite phrase for the believer is that they are in Christ.
More than any other definition of a believer is his phrase, “In Christ,” 164 times in the New Testament, “In Christ,” “In Christ.” This idea of being surrounded, safe, secure, loved, preserved, kept, is very precious. And the everlasting arms are very significant also because you may remember that Moses’ arms failed. There was a time where God’s people were battling and Moses had to hold his arms up in order that they would succeed, and he couldn’t do it. It was too much. “And here, says Moses, ‘the arms of God are everlasting, they will not fail you. He won’t fail to carry you. You cannot fall out of His arms.'” You might think that your sin does that, but it doesn’t. You might think that your troubles do that, but they don’t. You might think that your sickness does that, but it doesn’t. You might think that your death will do that, but it won’t. God makes sure that you cannot fall. He makes sure that the fall does not have the last word.
I want to finish this little series of four in the book of Deuteronomy, by saying to you, dear friends, learn to listen to the word of God the easy way. Find a way to read your bible and love reading, briefly, clearly, helpfully, practically. Take note of something, take it into the day. Learn to read your bible the easy way. Learn to listen to the gospel the easy way.
I was at a dinner on Friday, a lunch, and there was a girl there who’d been converted at one of the crusader camps, and she was telling us that she’d been to the crusader camp, absolutely no idea of Christianity. And there on the crusader camp she’s listening to the gospel being explained. And she says at the end of the week, “This is so wonderful, but I said to myself, ‘It’s too hard.’ So I went away without any commitment.” She said, “When I got home, I’m in my room, and I said to myself, ‘why would I turn my back on the love of Christ?'” And so she gave herself to Christ. And she’s obviously been embraced by Christ and made new by Christ, and has the joy of Christ, and testified to all these business people at this parliamentary lunch, and it was very wonderful.
And this is what you and I need to do is to embrace the gospel the easy way, because why come the hard way? If God wants to bring somebody the hard way, through a tragedy, through trouble, well, He’ll do it. But come the easy way, and listen to the bible the easy way. Don’t listen to the bible the hard way. Don’t wait until God absolutely demolishes your crazy plans and brings you, on your face, back. Listen to the bible the easy way. Remember, Jesus famously said, “My sheep hear my voice. They listen to me. They follow me. I give them eternal life and no one will pluck them out of my hands.”
Let’s pray. Heavenly father, we thank you so much for the way you communicate to us, in person through your Son, in your word, in such clear black and white. We ask that you would have mercy on us for having such deaf ears and hard hearts. We pray that you would open our ears and soften our hearts so that your word would have a very real and great effect on us. And that we would trust you and obey you, and bring honor to you. We pray that you would help us as we walk with Christ, to be those like the sheep who listen, who are grateful for the security, who are faithful in weakness and gratitude. We ask it in Jesus name, amen.