Looking at the flow of the book, Deuteronomy can be divided up into three sermons. The first installment (Deuteronomy 1-4) was a brief historical survey of how they arrived at the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan. From the start, he covers the rebellion forty years earlier, when the spies swayed the entire congregation with a negative report. As a result, the people went backward instead of forward. Deuteronomy 2:1 sums up many years in one verse, “Then we turned back and set out toward the wilderness…For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir.” During the forty years of waiting, Moses stressed the faithfulness and provision of God. The Lord watched over them in the wilderness, blessing the work of their hands, so they lacked nothing. (Deuteronomy 2:7).
The second message is the longest and communicates the central theme of the book (Deuteronomy 5-26). Obedience to God and his commands brings favor, protection, and blessing, while disobedience leads to judgment and hardship. The title Deuteronomy comes from two Greek words – deuteros and nomos, meaning “second” and “law.” In this sermon, Moses restated the laws of God, and expounded and applied them to different areas of life. He consistently calls them to obey the Lord, not from sheer will power or sense of duty, but a heart of love and gratitude. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Moses revealed where lasting obedience begins, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The final message in the series was by far the most memorable (Deuteronomy 27-30). Moses listed all the blessings that will come on the people of God if they obey. Deuteronomy 28:13 says, “The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.” A more extended section follows, detailing the curses for disobedience. If they turn from God, despise his goodness, and abuse his love, disaster will come – plagues, famine, suffering, confusion, panic, defeat, and slavery. This does not have to be. In his conclusion, Moses again pleaded with the people to obey, to choose life and not death.
By the way, if we are going to live in a covenant relationship with God, obedience is still a non-negotiable. I love this quote by Dallas Willard, “The organ of spiritual knowledge is obedience. Just as you open your eyes to see colors, you know the presence of the kingdom of God by obeying. You act on the knowledge you have. And in acting you encounter the reality of the kingdom.”
This brings us to the short account of his death. We can learn much from the final moments of a person’s life…