Moses 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 this world.
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 law?
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?”
1. 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 guilt…
2. 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. 14:32-35).
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.
1. 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.
2. Obedience is 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).
3. The obedience of faith involves a renunciation of all the imaginary gods of men (4:15-40).
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. 12:2-10).
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. 21:43-45).
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. 33:26-29).