It has taken Israel 40 years to make an 11-day journey from Horeb to the Jordan, because of their disobedience and failure to trust God. Moses is exhausted and grieving over God’s judgment that he will not be allowed to cross the Jordan to the Promised Land. Deuteronomy (deutero = combining; and –onomy = law) is the farewell address of Moses, a summary of all that has gone before and a reminder to the younger generations of Israel to obey the laws set down by God speaking through Moses.
Chapters 1 – 3 are a summary of Israel’s journeys, focusing on their points of departure from God’s plan for them and God’s commands to turn away from the Promised Land numerous times, while God executed his judgment that the generations of rebels must die off before Israel can take possession of their inheritance.
Chapter 4 addresses the new generations directly with two key observations: 1) despite Israel’s historic disobedience, the Lord has blessed Israel every step during the painful 40 years of wandering; during that time God has been with them and they did not lack for anything (verse 2:7); and 2) those who held fast to the Lord are alive today, every one (verse 4:4).
This is a powerful chapter and I urge you to pull out verses 15 – 28 right now and follow Moses’s series of prophetic warnings to the new generation.
And I challenge you to read them with three things in mind: 1) historical Israel; 2) contemporary America; and 3) the church of Jesus Christ:
· Watch yourself carefully, because you have heard the voice of God speak from fire;
· Do not act corruptly or make an image to worship;
· Do not worship nature; it is God who has allotted nature to all people;
· Watch yourselves, so you do not forget God’s covenant with you;
· If you remain long in the land and act corruptly, you will be utterly destroyed;
· The Lord will scatter you and you will be few in number among the nations;
· There you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.
First, we know that Moses’s prophecy came true – Israel acted corruptly over time, they were scattered, and served other gods. That is the historical Israel. We also know that it took God a long time to make his final judgments, perhaps because many of his children did obey his commands.
Second what do we see in America today? Unprecedented corruption. Have we lived in the land long enough to invite God’s judgment at last?
Third, the church – not only have we experienced corruption, we have failed to obey the New Commands of Jesus. And we have no excuse, because we too heard the voice of God in the fire – at Pentecost.
It seems that God expects one thing – one nation, under God, indivisible – in perfect unity.