Overview of Deuteronomy
Pastor Harrell takes us through the book of Deuteronomy in a way that’s easy to understand and practical to your life today.
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The Full Transcript
Welcome. Once again, everybody to “The Bible for Life Podcast.” There is nothing more amazing than God’s word. That’s why it’s our mission to make it come alive to you today because it’s our goal to lead and equip you in a growing relationship with Jesus. In today’s episode, pastor Ken Harrell takes us through the book of Deuteronomy. If you’ve ever wanted a study on the book of Deuteronomy, that’s easy to understand and is so applicable to your life today, then you’re in the right place. We’re so glad you’re with us. Here’s pastor Harrell.
As we look at the book of Deuteronomy, I want to remind us that rather than going verse by verse, our objective is to gain context and a better understanding of the overarching themes that will emerge in this book. We all face times in our life where we need counsel or advice for one thing or another. When you go from high school to college and you leave home maybe for the first time, or an individual goes through a career change in their life, or we move from being single to married life, these are transitional periods, a tragic loss of a parent.
When you go through these kinds of transitions, we all need counsel. A young man or a young lady leaves home and they go into military service, you need counsel, you need advice. Deuteronomy is a book of specific counsel and advice that’s given right before a big transition in the lives of the people of Israel. This book was addressed to the people of Israel at a vital time. You see, they had experienced 40 years in the wilderness led by God, by a cloud by day and a fire by night.
They’ve had the same leader, Moses. God gave him manna. God gave them quail to eat, and they’re about to enter Canaan and they’ve never been there before, at least for 500 years. The land of the Canaanites, well, they’re idolaters, they’re immoral, they’re unbelieving, they’re corrupt, degenerate people. God says, you’re mine. You’re my people. Don’t lose what sets you apart, what makes you. Don’t compromise the distinctives of your life because you’re going into a new land, and as you go, I want you to remain the same.
Remember who’s you are. What God does is he gives them counsel and advice. I remember when I was in elementary school, Lafayette School there in Lincoln Park, Michigan, I was on the safety patrol for a short period of time. I remember they made you memorize, stop, look and listen. Before you cross the street, use your eyes, your ears, and then use your feet to walk across the street. Those three words are what I want us to carry through this time in our study on Deuteronomy.
Stop, look and listen, because God is saying to the children of Israel, you are about to enter into the biggest transition of your life. You’re going to cross over Jordan and finally get into the land of Canaan and I want you to stop and look back. I want you to look up and then consider my holiness, who I am. Then I want you to listen to me because I want to warn you about the future. Now, let’s cover three or four things real quick. First of all, the name. The name Deuteronomy simply means second law.
It’s not a meaningless, just repetition of the same law, but rather a concise summary of that law. God has led his people to the edge of Canaan. Then he told Moses, Moses, you get them alone, and you emphasize, you underscore some very important principles of my law. The reason for this is that they’re going into a new land and they could quickly forget. Life is going to be easier even though they don’t realize. It’s going to bring all sorts of temptations once they get in to Canaan and God doesn’t want them to slip into the lifestyle of the Canaanites, so they must be reminded.
God tells Moses of my word. I want you to emphasize the law. That’s what Deuteronomy means. Now what’s the location. Where are they when this book begins? Well, you find that in the first couple of verses of chapter one of Deuteronomy, these are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of Jordan in the wilderness. In verse five he says, “On this side of Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law.” They’re in the land of Moab. They’re right there at the edge of Jordan, and they’re just about to cross over and invade and conquer in God’s power.
Now the location is significant. Don’t miss this, because they’ve been here before. If you recall, in our study in the book of numbers, they came right up to the land of Canaan to Kadish Barnea in the land of Moab. That’s when Moses sent out the spies, 12 of them. But when they came back, 10 of them came back and said, “We can’t take the land.” They’re giants. Even though God said they could take those giants, they didn’t. As a result, judgment came upon them and they’ve wandered in the wilderness and it’s been 40 years now.
Every one at 20 years and above died. Now there’s a whole new generation and the fact is they’re right back where they started. What’s been happening is for all those years, they literally were going in circles, setting up grave sites as a constant reminder of their unbelief. Now what’s the time of this instruction that is to be given? Well, verse number three says, “Now it came to pass in the 40th year and the 11 month on the first day of the month that Moses spoke to the children of Israel.”
Well 40th year, 40th from what? 40th from the Exodus, from the time of the Exodus. Remember, as you go through the old Testament, the dating always goes back to the Exodus. Since the Exodus, now it’s the 40th year in the 11th month and the first day that Moses began to instruct his people. Now, when you get into the book of Joshua, you find the next date that’s given is in Joshua 4:19. The Bible says, “Now the people came up from Jordan on the 10th day of the first month and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.” The 10th day of the first month of the next year.
The first act of the invasion into the land of Canaan, they crossed the Jordan river. Now, if you take from the 11th month in the first day to the 10th day of the first month of the next year, that’s 70 days. But in order to really understand what time it is, in the book of Deuteronomy when you get to the end of it in chapter 34:8-9, the Bible says, “And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab three days. The days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended. Now, Joshua, the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses had laid his hands on him. The children of Israel’s heeded him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
There was a 30-day period of mourning for Moses’s death. If you subtract 30 from 70, 40 days, that’s the time that Deuteronomy was declared. For five weeks they listened to Moses, God’s man, the prophet. Now, I want to stop here. I want to ask you as you listen to the rest of this podcast, I want you to listen through these ears like Moses is speaking to you just before you’re going into the greatest transition of your life. Listen this way. Well, the fourth thing is what’s the theme? Well, the theme of the book of Deuteronomy is to make God the center of their lives, with an undying loyalty.
When you get into chapter six, you find this. In chapter six… In fact, these are the key verses I believe in the entire book of Deuteronomy. In chapter six verse number four, the Bible says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Then God says, don’t keep these to yourselves.
In verse six, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and I’m the gates.” Why all of this? Because they’re going into the land and to a culture where this is not going to be true.
They’re about to get into Canaan with the Canaanites and they’re going into a completely different culture. Some of you experienced a little this, maybe when you went to college. Maybe you attended a Christian high school or you were homeschool and all of a sudden you get to a state university and it’s a whole different animal, a whole different culture, a whole different experience. I recently was talking with one of the young men in our church who is now in the military. We talked to a few months before he left.
I shared with him just be alert ahead of time of the dangers when you get there, because you’re going to wind up in a barracks with men that don’t know Christ, and you are forever going to be outnumbered. I shared with them, you have a decision either to be a salt shaker and shape a few lives for Christ or simply give in and let them shape you. He had already determined before he entered of the way that he was going to live. In fact, he sent me a picture of a tattoo that he had placed on his body and there was a cross and there was a flag.
In that tattoo, was the verse 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” He had already made a decision because he knew he was going into an environment, a culture, a situation that he had never been before and it was just going to be a whole lot different that it wasn’t going to be like the home where he’s he grew up. The last words I shared with him is, you just be a witness for Christ. Now, as we go through the book of Deuteronomy, there are three things I want you to remember. First of all, remember, stop, then look, and then listen. The first section of the book of Deuteronomy, God says, “Stop, remember your past, God’s faithfulness.”
The first four chapters, one, two, three, and four, Moses basically is just tracing their steps in past days. He says, “Stop and look back.” You see that in chapter one in verse number six, Moses said, “The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, that’s Sinai, Mount Sinai saying, you have dwelt long enough at this mountain, turn and take your journey and go to the mountain of the Amorites. I have set the land before you, go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them.”
40 years earlier, they were in the same spot. God said, “Go in and take it. It’s yours.” But they didn’t. Folks, there will be times when God brings a bad memory to our mind. We like to forget him. There’s some things in our life we just want to forget, but God wants us to remember. He wants us to remember the day or the days in the wilderness. If for no other reason, as a motivation not to go back.
Now, don’t forget this. Moses says, “God, faithfully stayed with us even though we turned.” In verse number 26 of Deuteronomy one, he says, “Nevertheless, you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and you complained in your tents and said, because Lord hates us he brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Verse 29, then I said to you, do not be terrified or afraid of him.
The Lord your God, who goes before you, he will fight for you according to all he did for you in Egypt, before your eyes. Yet, verse 32, for all of that, you did not believe the Lord your God who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go in a fire by night and in a cloud by day. The Lord heard the sound of your words and was angry and took an oath in saying, surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land which I swore to give to your fathers.”
That is except for Caleb and Joshua, the two faithless spies. God says, “The rest of you, will die in the wilderness.” Chapters two to four, Moses retraces those steps. He tells them two things. First of all, he says, “Remember the faithfulness of God, even in your failure.” Secondly, “Remember the faithfulness of God, even in your unbelief. God was faithful to you, even though you weren’t faithful to him, even when you didn’t believe God was faithful.” The truth is we can all look back and see our lives and times in our lives when we failed God and we had unbelief.
The truth is folks, don’t forget this, God never abandoned us. He may have reproved us and disciplined us, but he never abandoned us. One of the motivating factors for living for God in the future is the reminder of those days when we didn’t and the consequences that occurred. I remember David before he took that sling and a few of those stones in the valley of Elah, where Goliath was. Just before that, he was in a conversation with King Saul and David said this, in 1 Samuel 17:37.
He said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, he will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” What was David doing? He was drawing from the past. You see the faithfulness of God, yesterday is proof that God’s going to be faithful in our lives today. You may need that right now. As you’re listening to this podcast, what you’re facing, you may just need to stop and remember, look back in your life at how faithful God was to you at times.
Now, when we move into the next section from chapter five really through chapter 26, it deals with the holiness of God and the emphasis is on his holiness. What Moses is saying is stop and look up. Chapter five in verse number one, “Moses called all Israel and said to them, hero Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful and observe them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb at Sinai. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us.
The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. I stood between the Lord and you at that time. What did he say? What he does. If you read from verse six down to verse 21, he reviews the commandments of God, the second law. Moses said, “Listen, now that we’re back where we started, let’s remind ourselves what God says and get this, God’s word… Listen, folks don’t ever forget this. God’s word, His truth is timeless.” Verse 15 of chapter five is a key verse where the Bible says, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and God brought you out.”
The rest of the section if you were to look, that word remember, is found 12 times in all, but three of them, God is saying, “Remember something that’s gone wrong.” The reason is that God wanted them to remember their own tendency to weakness. Why? So they would be strong in his might not their own. Now you can summarize these chapters with these three statements. Let me give them to you. The first one is this, blessings accompany obedience, blessings accompany obedience. If we obey God, His blessings come us. The second statement is that compromises weaken distinctives.
When the Lord gives you a standard and then you begin to compromise, you weaken you’re distinctive. Then the third statement is that I want to give you is, consequences follow disobedience. Let me repeat those. Blessings accompany obedience, compromises weaken distinctives, and consequences follow disobedience. Let me illustrate this. In chapter 11:13, it shall be that if you earnestly obey my commandments, which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart, with all your soul, then I’ll give you rain for your land in its season.
The early rain and the latter rain that you may gather in your grain and your oil and a new wine. I will send grass into your fields for your livestock that you may eat and be filled.” Now, he says, “Take heed to yourselves lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside to serve other gods and worship them. That’s a compromise and here are the consequences. God says, verse 17, “Lest the Lord’s anger to be aroused against you, and he shut up the heavens so that there be no rain and the land yield no produce and you perish quickly from the good land, which the Lord is giving you.
Now, let’s apply this to our lives. Listen carefully. We’re living in a world where we are always going to be outnumbered. This world system is slick. It’s designed to get us to live lives of compromise to be watered down Christians. They do it. The world system, the enemy, Satan, he can describe his system really how he comes at us in four words, money, fame, power, and pleasure. Every temptation that comes from that system, comes from one of those. Let me illustrate these, money.
Get rich quick, get as much as you can, keep it, hoard it. That’s why the Bible says, “The love of money, not money, but the love of money is the root of all evil, fame.” Build yourself up, man. It’s all about me. Make a name for yourself. Sacrifice whatever you have, even sacrifice your character if it’s necessary. Power. Let’s just control. I got to be in control of people and intimidate. There are books that are written telling folks how to do this kind of stuff. Pleasure.
Do it at any cost. Have fun. Go eat, drink and be merry. You know what, the devil is so slick because it comes with a subtle conformity and we don’t even realize that it’s taking place. You see folks, we’re surrounded by a media that’s telling us how to live, what to eat, what to drink, where to go on vacation, where to go, what to wear, how to live. Listen, this book of Deuteronomy is as relevant as today. God says, “As you live in a system like that, don’t forget me.” So stop and look back and remember my hand in your life.
Even in times of failures and on the basis of that, look up, today right now and say, Lord, I want to get your direction for my life. I want you to know what I’m doing and what I’m thinking. I want to know that it pleases you more than anyone else on the earth. Folks, that sounds so easy. You listen to it in a message, maybe at church or on this podcast, and then you go to work or you go into the university, you go into the high school and it’s a whole new story because you’re going to places where the Lord and His will are not cared for. Not emulated, not obeyed.
That’s really where the rubber meets the road in our life. That’s where the relevance of the book of Deuteronomy comes home to rest. If you’re a businessman or businesswoman or whatever career you have, I want to ask you a question right now. Answer it honestly in your heart. Are you able to say the principles of my life are based on scripture? These principles of God’s word. My home is based on that. My lifestyle is based on that.
Well, before the book of Deuteronomy closes, Moses says one more thing. He said, stop. He said, look in the past. God’s faithfulness, look up. Don’t just look back, look up. God is holy. Then he says, I want you to look to the future. Listen carefully to God’s warnings about the future. He really does it in two sections in chapter 28, the first six verses and then later on in chapter 30. In chapter 28:1, God says two things through Moses to the people. “The land is yours, possess it. The Lord is God obey him.”
Chapter 28:1, “Now it came to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God to observe carefully all his commandments which I command you today, and all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you because you obey the voice of the Lord, your God.” Just listen to the blessings. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of the ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of the cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out. Hebrew colloquialism for a life of prosperity, God is saying, I promise you my blessing if you walk with me. Then he says in verse number 15, “But it shall come to pass if you do not obey.” In other words, a willful act. If you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God to observe carefully, all of his commandments, cursed shall you be in the city and cursed shall you be in the country, cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land and the increase of your cattle and the offspring of the floods. Cursed shall you be when you come in and cursed you shall be when you go out. In other words, what Moses is saying, your life will be marked by God’s discipline. When I think and I look of all the years that I’ve been in ministry and I think of people who have willfully chosen to walk against God and away from God, and we all struggle so let’s put us in the same arena.
Much to my disappointment, there are times in my life where I’ve willfully disobeyed him and you have too. But one of the motivations that catch me from moving in that arena are the times that I’ve spent with people that have lingered in disobedience. I think of the misery in their lives. The Bible says folks in the book of Proverbs 13:15, “The way of the unfaithful is hard.” Listen, if you’re listening to this and you’re on the verge of making a decision to change your lifestyle and take you away from God, I beg of you, stop, look and listen to what God is saying. Take him seriously.
If you know Christ as your savior. You’re His, man. You have been bought with a price. You don’t have the right. I don’t have the right to say, I’ll do it my way. Well, verse number 15, he says, “See, I have set before you.” It’s like a finale to the book of Deuteronomy. “See, I have set before you today, life and good, death and evil.” Look at the contrast. He says, “I have before you a choice.” In verse 16, “In that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways.” Do you see how he’s repeating? You see how important this is to love the Lord our God? To walk in his way, to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his judgments that you may live and multiply and the Lord your God will bless you in that land.
But, if your heart turns away so that you do not hear and are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, God says, “I announce to you today that you shall surely perish. That you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess it. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.” I want to ask you to think about your life. Please, just for a moment, look back for a few minutes and give God thanks for his faithfulness. Regardless of how you’ve lived, in spite of what you have done.
Look at today right now and in your own words, tell the Lord, tell him you’re available. Tell him you take him seriously. That’s the book of Deuteronomy as Moses instructs, the people who for 40 years wandered in the wilderness, all of those grave sites, they had to dig as a constant reminder that folks didn’t listen to God. May that not be said of you and me. May we be individuals that’s seek desperately to love Jesus with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our everything.
Hey, thanks once again for joining us on this edition of “The Bible for Life Podcast.” Be sure and subscribe and share with your friends. We’d love to reach as many people as possible with the truth of God’s word. Take care and until next time, remember, for the issues of life, for the rest of your life, it’s the Bible for Life.