Brings Israel to Joshua
We come now to the Book of Deuteronomy, the last of The Five Books of Moses. The name “Deuteronomy” means “second law.” This Book is called “Deuteronomy” because in this Book Moses gives Israel God’s law a second time.
This is the thing I want you to see. Once Moses brought Israel to Joshua, once he put Israel into Joshua’s hands, he died, and Joshua brought Israel into possession of their divinely ordained inheritance in the land of Canaan. — Even so, the law is our schoolmaster unto Christ. Once the law has served that purpose, once we have come to Christ by faith, we are dead to the law and the law is dead to us, because “Christ is the end of the law.”
Many who like to cast doubt upon the Word of God question, and others openly deny, that Moses wrote these first Books of the Bible. I will not honor their blasphemy with comment. There is no question that this Book was written by Moses. Not only did Moses claim that he wrote it (De 1:1; 31:4, 9, 24), the Lord Jesus tells us plainly that Moses was the man used by God the Holy Spirit to write these thirty-four chapters of Inspiration (Matt. 19:7-9; John 5:45-47). The last eight verses, those describing Moses’ death and his remarkable character, were obviously written by someone else. We are not told who wrote them (perhaps Joshua or Samuel); but whoever it was, he, too, wrote by divine inspiration.
This is Moses’ last word to the people of
Israel. This faithful prophet of God here delivers the last word from God he
would ever speak on the earth. Unlike most, this prophet knew this was his last
message. We should not be surprised, therefore, to see in the Book of
Deuteronomy a much more personal and intimate, even more passionate language
than we have seen in his earlier writings.
This Book was written during the very last
month of Israel’s fortieth year in the wilderness. It begins with a word about
Moses (Deut. 1:1-5) and ends with the description of his death (Deut. 34:1-10).
Moses is very prominent throughout the Book. We find his name mentioned
repeatedly in these chapters. But Moses is not the subject of the Book. The
subject is Christ. Moses is only the messenger.
Let me remind you again that what we have
before us in these first five Books of the Bible are divinely inspired visual
aids that illustrate the experiences of our own lives. As God led Israel out of
Egypt through the wilderness into the land of Canaan, they endured the same
problems, met the same obstacles, faced the same enemies, and had the same
trials, temptations, and failures you and I encounter in our pilgrimage through
The key to this book is in its name. As we have seen “Deuteronomy”
means "the second law." The law was first given at Mt. Sinai in ten
commandments (Ex. 20). Why was it needful for the Holy Spirit to give the law
twice? What necessity was there for this second law, or second giving of the
The apostle Paul tells us plainly in the
Book of Romans and the Book of Galatians that the law of God has two functions,
two very clearly defined and distinct purposes.
Most people think God gave the law to keep
us from doing wrong and to make us do right. If you ask the man on the street
what was the purpose of the ten commandments, or ask most any religious
legalist why God gave the law, he would probably say, "It is to keep us
from doing wrong," or “The law was given to teach us how to live.” But
that is not the reason God gave the law. It is true that the law (by its threat
of punishment) restrains wicked men and women from performing much of the evil
that is in them (1 Tim. 1:8-11), but God never intended, or even dreamed for a
moment, that the law would keep anybody from doing wrong. “Wherefore then
serveth the law?”
The law was
given to identify sin and condemn it in us personally (Rom. 3:197:6-9). Paul
said, “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except
the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
"Now we know that
what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that
every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God"
(Rom. 3:19). – The law was given to convince us of our own sinfulness and guilt.
That is something of which we must be convinced by God. No one else can do it.
We all have an amazing capacity for justifying ourselves and condemning one
another. It is called “self-righteousness.” We never think that what we are
doing is wrong. It is always what the other person does that is wrong. Do you
not find that to be the case? Let me illustrate.
We have a whole stack of words we use to
describe the things we do, and another whole stack we use to describe what
another person does. – Others have prejudices. We have convictions. – Other
people are stingy. We’re very thrifty. – Others try to keep up with the
Joneses. We’re just trying to get ahead. – He’s a flatterer. I just try to be
friendly. – She’s so flirtatious. I try to be nice to people. – That person is
so unfriendly. I don’t want to intrude.
The law of God steps in and forces us to
acknowledge our own guilt. Not only does the law force us to admit our own
The law of
God is graciously designed to force us into the arms of Christ.
Once we see what we are, guilty, helpless,
depraved sinners, sinners who are utterly incapable of altering their
condition, we are informed that the cross of Christ meets all our needs before
the holy Lord God (Rom. 3:19-26).
That is what we see so clearly set forth
in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus in the sacrifices of the lambs, the goats,
the oxen, the calves, and the other animals. They were pictures of the
sin-atoning sacrifice of Christ in the shedding his precious blood for many for
the remission of sins. There is no way a sinful man and the holy Lord God can
be brought together except by a justice satisfying payment being rendered to
God for sin. And the only one who could make such a payment, the only one who
could atone for our sins is the incarnate Son of God. Blessed be his name
forever, he has done it (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18). The law is our
schoolmaster unto Christ (Gal. 3:19-25). Once the schoolmaster has brought us
to Christ, he has no more dominion over us.
I have a very good
friend in North Carolina, Robert Spencer. He and I became good friends just a
few years ago, after I ran into him and his wife (Lib) in an elevator. He was
then President of the International Lions Club, on his way to one of their
meetings. I was on my way to fulfill a preaching engagement in the same town. I
had known Bob many years earlier as Mr. Spencer. He was my sixth grade school
teacher. I was a young rebel, constantly in trouble. Mr. Spencer, on many
occasions, with the complete authority of the State (and of my parents),
inflicted pain on my posterior because it was his job to do so, to bring me to
maturity. In those days I dreaded his presence and feared his wrath. Now, he is
my friend. I look forward to seeing him and always enjoy his presence. Even if
he thought about whipping me today, he would not dare. He no longer has any authority
or the power to do so. So it is with the law. Once the sinner has come to
Christ, the law has no more dominion over him (Rom. 6:14-15; 7:4; 10:4).
In Romans 7 Paul takes up the matter of the law again. He assured
us that we who are born of God are no longer under the law (Rom. 6:14-15). In
chapter seven he tells us that the law is dead to us and we are now dead to the
law, because we died with Christ. But there is more.
Though we are sinners, not only people who
do sinful things, but by nature sinners at the very core of our inmost beings,
Christ has forever freed us from all possibility of curse and condemnation, has
made us perfectly righteous before God and his holy law, has made us free by
his Spirit to walk with him in the newness of resurrection life in the Spirit,
and assures us of our absolute security and everlasting salvation by his blood
and grace (Rom. 8:1-4, 32-39; 5:10-11).
Still, there is more. Since Christ has
totally and absolutely met every demand of God’s holy law for us as our
Representative and Substitute, all that he is and has as our resurrected,
exalted, glorified Savior is ours by the gift of God’s free grace, upon the
grounds of perfect righteousness and strict justice (John 17:5, 22). Here,
while we live in this world, we are waiting for, and living in anticipation of
resurrection glory (Rom. 8:23).
This is what the book of Deuteronomy is
all about. As Moses delivered Israel into the hands of Joshua, assuring them
that Joshua would carry them into and make them possess all the fulness of
Canaan (all that God promised by covenant to Abraham), the law of God delivers
believing sinners into the hands of Christ assuring us of everlasting salvation
by him. All the blessings of grace and glory that God promised us in his
covenant with Christ shall be ours forever.
As we read Deuteronomy we find two themes running throughout the
entire Book. They are not found in Leviticus or Exodus. The first is our utter
weakness and inability. Though cleansed before God through the blood of Christ
and the washing of regeneration by the Word, we have absolutely no ability to
do anything in ourselves to please God. There is nothing we can do in
ourselves. Our most sincere, dedicated efforts to please God avail nothing.
Right along with this is a second
wonderful, parallel theme. The Lord our God is ever with us. God himself, in
the person of his dear Son, is the answer to the demands of his law; and he
dwells with us and in us unconditionally. We no longer live in the flesh, but
in the Spirit (Rom. 8:8-10). God himself has taken up residence in us. All that
he demands of us, he himself supplies.
Go back to the Book of Deuteronomy. I want
you to see these things for yourself. As the Book opens, the children of Israel
are again camped on the border of Canaan. They had been here before. But they
could not enter into the land of promise because of unbelief. Because of their
unbelief, they spent forty years roaming about in the wilderness (Num.
A Call to Obedience (De. 1:5-4:43)
In Deuteronomy chapters 1-4 Moses issues a call to obedience. The
grace of God is not conditioned upon our obedience to him. Yet, obedience is a
matter of personal responsibility. We are to obey our God in all things. And
grace experienced in the heart makes obedience the inmost desire of the
believing heart. God’s people are obedient to him (Eph. 2:10). His commandments
are no longer grievous to us, but joyful (1 John 5:1-3). We should not fail to
see three things about this call to obedience.
This call to
obedience is issued upon the basis of God’s goodness, grace, mercy and love in
the experience of salvation.
Even back here in the giving of the law, obedience among believing
sinners was not a legal thing. It was never God saying, “Obey me or I’ll get
you.” Rather, the Lord God says, “Obey me because I have loved you and have
been so good to you.”
Before he says a word about what we are to
do, Moses reminds the children of Israel of what the Lord God had done for them
(1:5-3:29). He reminds them of God’s wonderful, tender, fatherly care and love
watching over them as he led them with a pillar of fire by night and the cloud
by day, and guided them through the waste, howling desert. He reminds them of
how God brought water out of the rock to quench their thirst in a vast and
waterless desert. He reminds them of how the Lord had delivered them from their
enemies again and again, how he fed them with manna that did not fail, day by
day for forty years. Imagine that. For forty years God fed more than two
million people every day with manna that fell from heaven. What marvelous
evidence of his tender concern for this people. He bought them. He brought them
out. And he cared for them, all because he loved them and chose them to be his
own peculiar people!
In a word, Moses says the same thing Paul
did later. – “The love of Christ constraineth us.” Like Israel of old,
we are always motivated to the obedience of faith by gratitude to our God for
his great mercy, love and grace revealed and experienced in election,
redemption, deliverance, and providence.
neither more nor less than faith in and submission to the revealed will of God
in Holy Scripture, worshipping him alone as our God and Lord (4:1-14).
obedience of faith involves a renunciation of all the imaginary gods of men
In this passage, Moses calls for Israel, calls for us, to worship
the Lord Jehovah alone as God, because he has proved himself to us to be God
alone, sovereign, solitary, and great in grace.
Moses’ Exposition of The Law (De. 4:44-28:68)
Beginning in chapter 4 at verse 44 and going through chapter 28,
Moses gives us the law of God again. But, in these chapters he does not simply
repeat what was given at Sinai, he expounds it. He tells us its meaning. Remember,
this exposition was not the same as the preaching of faithful men today, but an
exposition given by divine inspiration, an infallible exposition of the law.
Here Moses deals with divorce, remarriage,
fornication, idolatry, witchcraft and the like. It is essential to understand
that the land of Canaan, into which these people were coming, was inhabited by
pagans, morally degenerate idolaters, just like the society in which we live
today. They were utterly given over to lewd and obscene practices. The Book of
Deuteronomy shows us that God expects his people to live in the midst of a
sex-crazed, sex-saturated society, among people who were idolaters completely
committed to the most vile practices, as his people for his glory. How does he
inspire us in this matter?
In Deuteronomy 6 he shows us our weakness
and inability to do the very things required in the law. (Read Deuteronomy
6:20-21) "And when thy son
asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the
statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord
our God hath commanded you? Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were
Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord
brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand."
That is where we began, and that is where
we are, sinners entirely dependent upon the goodness and grace of God in
Christ. "And the LORD showed signs and wonders,
great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before
our eyes: And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give
us the land which he sware unto our fathers” (vv. 22-23). He brought them out so that he might bring
them into the land. These ceremonies are all symbols by which God constantly
reminds us of what it takes to get us out of Egypt and into the land. That was
the explanation they were to make to their sons.
Then, Moses inspires our devotion and
consecration to our God and Savior by assuring us that we belong to him
exclusively, not by anything we have done but by his own work of matchless,
free, and sovereign grace (Deut. 7:6-8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 19-20).
Throughout this Book Moses constantly
reminded Israel that everything God had done for them, was doing for them, and
would do for them was by grace alone. The same is true of
us. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Rom. 8:28; 11:6; Eph. 1:3-6; 2:8-9;
Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 1:9-10).
"Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people" (Deut. 9:4-6).
After forty years of experiencing grace
and being taught of God in the wilderness he says, "As long as you live in
this body of flesh, you will never get to the place where you can stand on your
own. Never.” Only as we know our weakness can we walk in his strength (2 Cor.
Agreement with God
At the end of this section (chapter 27 and 28) Moses commanded the
children of Israel to observe a ceremony, not at an appointed time, but from
time to time in the land of Canaan. It is very instructive. The children of
Israel were to gather upon two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, six tribes on one
and six on the other, with the Levites (the priests) standing in the valley
between the two mountains, calling out blessings and cursings. When the Levites
called out a blessing in the name of God, as his priests, the tribes on one
mountain would shout in unison, “Amen!” When they called out a curse, the
tribes on the other mountain would shout, “Amen!”
I looked to see if there was any significance to the names of
these mountains, and found nothing of importance. So, I have to ask, “What is
the meaning of this ceremony?” Let me show you. God requires that we be in
agreement with him, in all his righteous judgments, and we shall. When a sinner
is converted he is, like David, made to agree with God’s justice, even against
himself (Ps. 51:3-5). Believing sinners bow to God’s providence and his
providential judgments upon men, even their own families (1 Sam. 3:18). I do
not suggest that such reconciliation is perfect, or immediate; but the Lord
will cause his own to bow to his will. And in eternity all men shall
acknowledge both Christ’s rightful dominion as Lord (Phil. 2:8-11), and the
righteousness of his dominion in the exercise of his grace and in the execution
of his justice (Rev. 19:-16).
God’s Appointed Deliverer (29:1-31:29)
God has fixed things the way they are, leaving us in this world in
this body of flesh, constantly struggling with the world, the flesh, and the
devil, just as he did the children of Israel, that we might be compelled
constantly to look to Christ, trusting him alone as our Savior, and, thereby,
stand forever as monuments to his matchless, free, amazing grace, “that no
flesh should glory in his presence.” I will leave it to
others to explain this mystery more fully. For my part, I am content to know
that this is God’s wise and good purpose (Deut. 29:29).
In chapter 18 (vv. 15-21) Moses spoke of
Christ as that Prophet God’s people would hear and obey. By the effectual
teaching of Christ our Prophet we are taught of God (Tit. 2:11-14). In chapter
30 (vv. 5-7) he declared that God would circumcise the hearts of all his
covenant people, speaking, of course, of the new birth (Phil. 3:3; Col.
2:12-15). Circumcision in the Old Testament was the sign and seal of God’s
covenant with his people. As such, it was a type of the new birth, the seal of
the Holy Spirit by which God’s elect are given assurance of our interest in the
covenant of grace. This is the universal teaching of the New Testament.
Circumcision had no reference at all to baptism. In the last part of chapter 30
(vv. 11-20) Moses called the nation to faith in Christ, using the very language
Paul used many, many years later in Romans 10:5-13. Then, in chapter 31 Moses
tells the people that he must die and turns them over to Joshua, God’s
appointed deliverer, promising that the Lord God would, by Joshua, bring them
into the land of promise and fulfill all his covenant; and he did (Jos.
What a picture this is of Christ! He is
God’s appointed Savior for his elect. We are assured that he shall save them
all (Matt. 1:21); and save them all he shall (Heb. 2:14; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). As
it is written, “He shall not fail” (Isa. 42:4). Again, the Scriptures
declare, “All Israel shall be saved.” Christ, “the Deliverer, shall
turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26).
Once Moses had done this, once he put the
people into Joshua’s hands, he broke out into a song of praise to God (Deut.
31:30-32:43) that is still being sung by the redeemed in heaven (Rev. 15:3),
and blessed the people (Deut. 32:44-33:29). In precisely the same way, the holy
law of God, beholding us in Christ (our Joshua), pronounces upon us all the
blessedness of heaven and everlasting glory, just as fully as the grace of God.
Moses’ Death (De. 34:1-12)
Then, Moses died. When he had done everything he was sent to do,
when he fulfilled all his purpose, he died and was never seen upon the earth
again, until he was seen with Christ upon the Mount of Transfiguration talking
about the death he should accomplish at Jerusalem. Once Joshua appeared to
Israel as their deliverer, Moses’ work was done. And once Christ appears in the
hearts of chosen sinners as their Savior, the law’s work is done. “For
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).
Now saved sinners sing – "There
is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help,
and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath
are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee;
and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the
fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall
drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved
by the Lord, the shield of thy
help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found
liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places" (Deut.