Moses delivered Israel from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness of Sinai because of their unbelief and rebellion. After that 40 years, the new generation heads via the east side of the Jordan River through the plains of Moab (look at a map). Moses is not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his sin of hitting the rock and speaking rashly. God will bury him on Mt Nebo, but before he dies he gives a few “sermons” to Israel. These are found in the last book of the Pentateuch, the book of Deuteronomy. The name of the book means “2nd law”, which comes from Moses repeating the 10 commandments to the new generation, most of whom were not born 40 years earlier when Israel received the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai.
So what would Moses tell Israel in his sermons right before he died? What warnings would He give them? What laws would he emphasize for them to keep? Let’s study the book looking at the answers to these questions. Certainly a main theme is the shema: “Listen, O Israel, the Lord our God is one” (6:4). Monotheism (the belief in one God) is unique to 3 world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This belief would be key to Israel coming out of Egypt, having observed the many gods (polytheism) of the Egyptians, even worshiping those gods at times. Stephen says they worshiped the gods Moloch and Rompha in the wilderness (Acts 7:42,43). God continually sent prophets over the next 1500 years rebuking Israel from violating the 1st 2 commandments: No other gods and not worshiping images. They repeatedly worshiped the gods of the Canaanites (Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, etc.). It was only after God sent Judah into captivity for 70 years in Babylon that the sin of idolatry was eliminated.
Moses commands them to teach their children the laws of God (6:5-9). Parents are to teach their children when they get up, when they lie down, in their homes, as they walk around, etc. Parents often leave the responsibility of teaching their children to churches, youth groups, Bible teaches, etc. It is the parents’ responsibility to teach the word of God to their children. That means teaching them the Bible stories to increase their faith in God. My mom and wife wore out several Bible stories books while teaching their children. Children need to believe that God defeated the gods of the Egyptians in the plagues. They need to believe that God made the walls of Jericho fall. On and on we could go. In just daily life with your children, how often did you parents mention God, His creation, His working, trusting in God when problems arise? An interesting command is that a rebellious son should be stoned to death (21:18-21).
God has several warnings to the people as a nation. He tells them that God chose them to be His chosen people, but that they should not be puffed up with pride because of that (7:6-11). If they disobey Him, they will be rejected as His chosen people (8:11-20). He reminded them of how God had tested them for 40 years in the wilderness to see if they would trust him for the daily manna (8:1-10). He warned them to not imitate the detestable practices of the Canaanites, such as offering their children to their gods, divination, witchcraft, mediums contacting the dead, etc. (18:9-14). He told them that a very special prophet like Moses would arise in the future whom they better listen to (18:15-22). Peter said that Prophet was Jesus (Acts 3:23). He gave them very special laws on marriage, premarital sex, rape, etc. (Ch 22) that would make them different from the nations around them with all their sexual immorality. He told them they would be given many physical blessings if they would obey God, such as fruitful crops and fruitful wombs, no diseases or sickness, protection and defeat of their enemies, etc. (7:12-16). The blessings of the old covenant made with Israel were primarily physical blessings such as these. The new covenant that replaced the old covenant would be primarily spiritual blessings, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He reminds them to celebrate the 3 main feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Booths (Ch 16). This was important to each year remember how God had delivered them from Egypt and to bring their first fruits of their crops to show their gratitude. He commanded them to support the priests, Levites, and the poor with their tithes (14:22ff).
One of the greatest lessons Moses taught is found in 10:12-22. It begins, “Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you?” Moses gives all these other laws, but how would he sum up the essence of the main thing that God required of Israel? Was it the animal sacrifices? Was it observing the feasts? Was it not eating unclean meats? Now read this section and see what Moses says that God required of Israel. Fear God, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him, keep His commands, circumcise your heart, show love for orphans, widows, and strangers, cling to Him, and praise Him. These are the main things God requires instead of animal sacrifices, etc. These are the main things God requires of us today as His chosen people, are they not? Moses concludes His sermons with a simple choice for them to make (30:15-20). “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (30:19). God has always allowed free will choices of man. How would diehard Calvinists deal with this passage? They believe in
unconditional election”: i.e. God predestines certain ones to be lost or saved not dependent whatsoever on their free will choices. Moses obviously believes that Israel is free to choose life or death, and the consequences that go along with each choice. It’s that simple. We can choose life or death. Just be prepared to accept the consequences, eternal life or eternal damnation. The book ends with Moses dying on Mt. Nebo and God burying him. Joshua will take his place and lead Israel into the promised land.