-Introduction: Deuteronomy could be termed “A Book of Remembrance.” Moses, the author, looks back, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, at the journey that His people have had in the wilderness right before they take hold of the Promised Land. These words are spoken and written on the east side of the Jordan River as they look into the future of destiny fulfillment with a remembrance of the past as tainted as it was. This work is laid out in the form of a treaty between a God and His vassals, which was a very common way to look at agreements in the second millennium B.C. This treaty calls for Israel to remember who their LORD was and what He had done for them. It implored them to move forward in faith, in opposition to a lack thereof which had held back their ancestors and slowed God’s intended progress. This was a preparation and a consummation of sorts before Moses turned the reigns of leadership over to Joshua (Deuteronomy 1:37-38). There are history lessons and covenant restatements all throughout this Divine book to clarify God’s purposes and direction to those with a willing heart. Therefore, obedience is extolled as a major theme with the LORD’s Laws the standard. Along with history and obedience, God’s love, superb teaching, and man’s choices round out the powerful emphasis of this work. So as you read and venture through this book in view of Canaan, remember the LORD’s powerful and loving work in your own life with a renewed commitment to trust, hope, and caring obedience.
-Chapter 1: “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab (Deuteronomy 1:1).” This place was only an eleven days journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea, but it had taken the children of Israel by now the prophesied 40 years of wandering in the wilderness to get to this point. They were now on the brink of taking the Promised Land with a totally new generation with the exception of Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14, Deuteronomy 1:2-3a, 35-39). Moses follows the command of the LORD to reiterate their journey’s lessons and to “expound this Law” now that the kings of the Amorites and Bashan had been defeated (Deuteronomy 1:3b-5).
-God speaks a history lesson starting from the point of Horeb (Mount Sinai), where God told them to depart after they had received the Law and the Covenant from His servant Moses. They were told at that time to venture to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah and to the lowland in the Negev (South country) and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon and as far to the north and east as the great Euphrates River (Deuteronomy 1:6-7). God promised that they would possess this particular land that He had given them as early as Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 15:18-21; 17:8), and His testaments continued through his line from Isaac and Jacob on down through their descendants after them (Deuteronomy 1:8).
-God now emphasizes delegation from Moses’ experience in the wilderness when his father-in-law set him straight (Exodus 18:13-26). The load of leadership would be a shared burden and organization would be necessary with this large amount of people to govern. Wise and discerning and experienced men from the tribes would be selected and appointed as heads over thousands and hundreds and fifties on down to tens of people. These would be officers for the tribes of Israel. They were to judge righteously between both countrymen and alien sojourners with them in cases that came up. Impartiality was stressed along with the fear of God over the fear of man. If difficult cases arose, Moses would be the supreme authority under the LORD’s direction in this constitution (Deuteronomy 1:9-18).
-The narrative now turns more negative as the saga of Israel’s disobedience takes the limelight. Even though the LORD had promised to be with them and give them victory, the spies came back with the bad report that made the congregation fearful and tentative. Their trust was not strong enough, so God became angry and judged them severely with an oath for their defiance and grumbling in not loving God by thinking that He hated them because of their hardships. They thought success was inconceivable because of the obstacles in their way. Their faith became faint and they were afraid. They forgot about the power of the LORD to work miracles and erase deficits. This evil generation would not be allowed to see the good which God had sworn to their fathers. Again, only Caleb and Joshua were rewarded. Not even Moses was allowed into the Promised Land on the people’s account. His leadership was found lacking in areas. As the children of Israel heard this, they did repent, but they also tried to work in their own power and thought God would recant His oath. They vainly tried to attack the Amorites in the hill country and acted presumptuously in rebellion to the LORD’s commands. He was not among them at all in this courageous, but wayward, action. They were soundly defeated and chased back as if being chased by bees from Seir to Hormah. Their subsequent weeping and wailing did not convince the LORD to listen or give ear to them and they remained in Kadesh many days (Deuteronomy 1:19-46).
-*Application* God is making a point here as to His transcendent (distinct and above) nature in covenant keeping. He is the boss and in total charge. He is higher by far. God is not like us. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). He takes pity and blesses when He desires, and judges with righteous accuracy when needed. Who can understand or fathom the mysteries of the LORD? For us, keeping His covenant means complete blessings. When we are out of His covenant, we are without hope and will despair. Now that Jesus has broached and implemented a new and better covenant by His blood, rejection of Him is catastrophic (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:20, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, Hebrews 8:8-9:28, especially Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 10:29;12:24-29). Choose wisely, choose Jesus!
Verses to Memorize: Deuteronomy 1:8, 17, 21, 29-30, 42-43