The best way to summarize Deuteronomy 11-34, and really the book as a whole, is the statement in Deuteronomy 30:20 that Israel is to “love Yahweh your God, to obey His voice, and to cling to Him because He is your life and your length of days so that you may dwell upon the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them.” Many of the emphases in Deuteronomy connect in some way to these words.
1. Love Yahweh your God.
The emphasis on loving Yahweh (and Yahweh loving Israel) is a marked distinctive in Deuteronomy. God does not just want obedience. Nor does He just want sacrifices—as if Israel can appease God by tossing Him a bull now and then. He wants Israel to cling to Him in love (11:1; 13:3; 19:9; 23:5; 30:6, 16, 20; 33:3).
2. Obey His voice.
One expresses love for God by obeying His voice. We noted before the emphasis on careful obedience to God’s words that marks Deuteronomy. God’s words are not meaningless or empty—they are Israel’s life (32:47). Obedience to God necessitates intolerance for disobedience to Him. The phrase “purge the evil from your midst” (“put the evil away from the midst of thee,” KJV) is almost unique to Deuteronomy (13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21-22, 24; 24:7). Israel must insist on conformity to what God wants. Helpful to Israel’s obeying God is remembering. As you read Deuteronomy, note how many times Israel is to remember what God has done for them or not forget the commandments He has given them (e.g., 4:9, 23, 31; 15:15; 16:3, 12; 24:9, 22; 25:17, 19; 32:7).
3. Cling to Him as your life and length of days in the land.
God is their life and length of days in the land He is giving them. Moses, in Deuteronomy, is preparing Israel not just to enter the land, but to live in it. The land itself is a gracious gift of God, first promised to Abraham hundreds of years earlier (Gen. 12:7). Therefore, life in the land must be done God’s way or not at all. That’s what the curses and blessings are all about in Deuteronomy 27-28: life in the land will be good or bad depending almost entirely on what they do with their God and His words. The theme of living long in the land is distinctively Deuteronomy’s (e.g., 4:40; 5:16, 33; 11:9; 22:7; 25:15). There is no life in the land apart from God. Israel will decidedly not enjoy peace in the land if they follow their stubborn heart (29:19; 30:17-18). Conversely, to follow God and to choose His ways is the ticket to joy and blessing. Multiple times in Deuteronomy, God encourages Israel to rejoice in the land He is giving them (12:7, 12, 18; 14:26; 16:11, 14; 26:11; 27:7). God intends Israel to enjoy His good gifts. Life in the land is an abundant one, if lived in the path of obedience.
4. Choose Life.
Finally, Deuteronomy 30:20 is in the context of Moses’ final plea for Israel to make a decision. Deuteronomy 29-30 calls for a covenant commitment very similar to what God sought from the first generation at Mount Sinai. Only here, on the Plains of Moab, the consequences are stated a bit starkly. “Today, I call upon heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life in order that you and your offspring may live” (30:19).
These key themes in Deuteronomy have many parallels for New Testament believers. Just as God instructed Israel how to live in the land, He instructs us how to live in Christ. The pathway to the abundant life is to cling to Christ and to His words. Christ and His words are our life! Like Israel, we also are to love God and exhibit our love to Him through our obedience. As we do so, we are to rejoice in the Lord and enjoy all that it means to be Christ’s. Our experience can be that of Israel’s: “How enviously happy you are, O Israel! Who, like you, is a people saved by Yahweh?” (33:29a)
- Which verse contains a statement that nicely summarizes the essence of Deuteronomy?
- Identify 3-4 thoughts or expressions that are distinctive or unique to Deuteronomy. How do each of these contribute to the overall message of Deuteronomy?
- What does Deuteronomy 30:20 mean when it declares to Israel that God is your life?
- Is Moses more concerned about Israel entering the Promised Land or staying in the Promised Land? Explain.
- What are some verses in Deuteronomy that suggest that God wants His people to enjoy life in the Promised Land?
- Israel’s life in the land was to be an abundant one. Is our life in Christ to be an abundant one?
- How would the emphases we have seen above in Deuteronomy lead New Testament believers toward an abundant life in Christ?