Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book of the “Pentateuch” (the first five books of the Bible), written by Moses. God promised Abraham that his offspring (the Israelites) would live in the land and enjoy a covenant relationship with God (Genesis 17:6-8). Before that, God promised Adam and Eve that their offspring would destroy Satan and God’s enemies (Genesis 3:15). The promised offspring seems to be the nation of Israel—and they’re about to inherit the promised land. Are God’s promises going to be fulfilled?
Do you remember the anticipation that came with Christmas morning? Perhaps you remember being a kid, staying up late, sneaking peeks to see when the presents would magically appear under the tree. Maybe you remember the anticipation of your wedding day. The months turn into weeks, the weeks turn into days, and the days turn into hours as you eagerly await marriage to your loved one.
Deuteronomy builds this kind of anticipation. Because of Israel’s sin, a whole generation of Israelites will not be allowed to enter the promised land. So, as they wait for that generation to pass, Moses, the leader of the Israelites, gathers the Israelites to speak to them. He reminds them of their history as a nation and gives them God’s Law. Then he begins instructing people on what life in the land should look like.
God lovingly provides all his people need to live righteously and obediently. Will they?
For instance, Deuteronomy 15 instructs the Israelites to cancel debts, to lend generously to the poor, and release slaves after seven years of work. Just as we saw in Leviticus, the Israelites are to be concerned about how they live before God. They are to be holy, as God is holy (Leviticus 19:1).
The question for us, however, is: Can the Israelites obey God?
Given their checkered history of obedience, we have a right to doubt if they can fulfill God’s commands. Of course, we need only look at our own lives for that, too.
Moses ends his instructions with this, “See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16 CSB). God through Moses sets the way of life and death before the Israelites—what will they choose?
This is what the entirety of Deuteronomy is about: that God lovingly provides all his people need to live righteously and obediently. Will they?
Unfortunately, we know that God’s people are unable to live righteously or obediently. As Moses predicts, just one chapter later, “For I know that after my death you will become completely corrupt and turn from the path I have commanded you” (Deuteronomy 31:29 CSB).
What, then, should the reader take away from this ambiguous ending?
We should recognize that nobody enters God’s promises by virtue of their own merit. Even Moses, God’s chosen leader of Israel, wasn’t allowed to enter. The Israelites were still waiting for the promised offspring who would lead God’s people into God’s promises.
The perfect leader of God’s people, Jesus Christ, is the only hope for entering into God’s promises. Jesus Christ fulfills all of God’s commands and promises for us.
In Christ, God offers us life. The question, then, just like Deuteronomy asks us: Will we choose life or death?