“Love Has a Context” – Deuteronomy 1:1-8

January 1st, 2017

Deuteronomy 1:1-8

“Love Has a Context”

Call to Worship: Psalm 135

Aux. text: Philippians 2:12-18


Service Orientation:  Agape love must manifest itself in a context.  To forget the context of the Lover is for the beloved to forget love.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus — Galatians 3:26


Background Information:

  • In the Pentateuch’s basic narrative, stretching from the creation and the promise to the patriarchs in Genesis to the point at which the nation of Israel stands ready to take its promised land across the Jordan, Deuteronomy marks a pause. Its opening sentences (Dt 1:1-5) follow directly from the final verse of Numbers (Nm 36:13), and prepare for an account of the words spoken by Moses to Israel there.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 18)
  • After forty years of aimless wandering and unrealized potential, he is compelled to press on in the direction God desires. Forty years of facing failure motivates him to emphasize God’s ability to provide success.  Samuel Wilberforce said, “Some clergy prepare their sermons; others prepare themselves.”  Moses is ready on both accounts.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 25)
  • Perhaps the most striking similarity between Deuteronomy and the prophets is the theology of the “heart.” In the former this is best known in the exhortation called the “Shema” (after its first word in Hebrew):  “Hear, Israel!. . . you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (6:4; cf. 10:12), but it occurs more widely and in key places.  In the metaphor of a circumcision of the heart (10:16; 30:6) it has an express echo in Jer 4:4, and in general comes close to the strong prophetic rejection of ritual actions that have no genuine corresponding devotion to God (e.g. Isa 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-24).  In Dt 30:1-10, in fact, the emphasis on obedience from the heart together with the need for the grace of God in restoring the covenantal relationship puts Deuteronomy close to the new-covenant theology of Jer 31:31-34.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 20-1)
  • The book is a commentary on the command, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt 6:5). The language is not that of the law; it is the language of the heart and the conscience.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 16)
  • The word of God, while often formally consisting of command and sanction, has the positive purpose of forming the people. This explains why so much of what God speaks through Moses in Deuteronomy will be in the form of exhortation.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 74)
  • The theological significance of Deuteronomy can scarcely be overestimated. Inasmuch as this book offers the most systematic presentation of theological truth in the entire OT, we may compare its place to that of Romans in the NT.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 25)
  • Judging by the number of quotations from Deuteronomy, this was Jesus’ favorite book. This impression is reinforced by his distillation of the entire law into the simple command to love Yahweh with one’s whole being and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30; Lk 10:27).  This form of the command is thoroughly deuteronomic.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 26)
  • It is significant, though not surprising, that when Jesus crossed his personal Jordan from the obscurity of village craftsman to the temptations and hostilities of public ministry, he turned to Deuteronomy for the resources to confirm his own loyalty and obedience, as he wrestled with the implications of the mission he had embarked upon (Mt 4:1-11). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 9-10)
  • The NT writers either quote or allude to Deuteronomy nearly two hundred times, making it one of the most referenced volumes of Hebrew Scripture. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 1)
  • Comparison of Deuteronomy with Leviticus provides a clear contrast in style and purpose, even though both books cover much of the same material. Whereas Leviticus is technical, Deuteronomy is human.  Leviticus emphasizes ritual in worship; Deuteronomy emphasizes obedience in worship.  Leviticus speaks to the head; Deuteronomy speaks to the heart.  In short, Deuteronomy is a series of messages from Moses to his people, appealing for a “higher law.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 17)
  • Review magazine once documented that one-third of all references and quotations in America’s political writings come from the Bible. And the book of the Bible most frequently cited by Americans during the founding era of our nation was Deuteronomy.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 26)
  • (v. 1) This sermon is delivered at a place where God’s people had previously failed. They are surrounded by reminders of their earlier disobedience to God.  Imagine the emotional war raging within their minds.  Moses continues to exhort the people because they need assistance in making their decision to cross over into the Promised Land.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 26)
  • (v. 2) There is sad irony in the remark that the journey from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea ordinarily took 11 days on foot. What could have been finished in less than two weeks took an entire generation.  Of course, this forty-year delay wasn’t God’s fault; it was the Lord’s righteous judgment on Israel’s rebellion at Kadesh Barnea (Nm 13:1-14:45).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 17)
  • (v. 2) The historical context is fixed in two ways. First of all it is dated very precisely to the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt.  The generation that had experienced God’s liberation in the exodus had failed to enter into God’s promise of the land because of their fear and rebellion, and had perished in the wilderness.  The present generation is here addressed as if they had shared in that collective failure (1:26ff.).  It is this implication of verse 3a that may explain the otherwise enigmatic note in verse 2, about the length of time it normally takes to travel from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh Barnea (the oasis just to the south of the land, from which they could have launched their invasion a whole generation earlier).  A journey that should have taken them eleven days had already lasted forty years.  The implication, which is hammered home repeatedly in the following chapters, is that they should not squander the opportunity this time.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 22)
  • (v. 3) Note that Moses refers to God as “the LORD our God” (1:6). This way of identifying God points to the covenant relationship between God and the people.  The word “LORD” is a translation of the Hebrew word probably spelled as “Yahweh”, which is the covenant name of God.  (The usual Hebrew word for Lord, adonay, is translated as “lord” in most English translations.)  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 39)
  • (v. 4) In this first attempt to enter the land, which failed, Amorites were living in the southern highlands settled subsequently by Judah and Simeon (1:19-20, 44). The Gibeonites, living north of Jerusalem, were also a remnant of the Amorites (2 Sm 21:2).  “Amorites” is a name given in the OT to the pre-Isrealite inhabitants of Canaan and Transjordan.  Sihon and Og in Transjordan were Amorite kings (3:8; 4:47; 31:4).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 167)
  • (v. 7) The emphasis on “land” is unusually strong in Deuteronomy. The word occurs almost two hundred times.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 30)
  • (v. 8) “I have set before you” (See, I have given you” – NIV) is a stereotyped expression in Deuteronomy, referring to the land, the law, the blessing and curse, and the way of life over against the way of death. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 169)
  • (v. 8) Land (v. 8). This becomes the dominant theme of the Pentateuch from the point in Numbers when God told Israel to leave Sinai and head toward the land (Nm 10:11).  From then on the focus of the narrative and the perspective of the laws is the promised land, even though the Pentateuch ends just a day’s march short of it (Dt 34).  The geographical extent of the land (v. 7) includes the whole of Palestine from the edges of the Sinai desert (the Negev), from Mediterranean coast to Jordan valley (the Arabah), and as far as Syria in the North (to the Euphrates)–a larger area, in fact, than Israel ever historically controlled, even under Solomon.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 25)
  • Just as John wrote his gospel after several decades of reflection on the death and resurrection of Jesus, so Moses preached the sermons in Deuteronomy after almost four decades of reflection on the significance of the Exodus and God’s covenant with Israel. Thus, like the gospel of John, the book of Deuteronomy functions as a theological manifesto, calling on Israel to respond to God’s grace with unreserved loyalty and love.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 25)
  • For God’s pilgrim people, moments come when God says “long enough.” There is a boundary to cross, a new phase to enter.  Deuteronomy is a book for such times of movement and change. . . .

This moving forward was grounded in God’s promise.  The covenant with Abraham had three main elements (cf. Gn 12:1-3) and all of them are woven into vv. 8-11.

People (v. 10).  God had promised to make Abraham into a great nation, as numerous as sand and stars.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 24)

  • Indeed we may not use some of the laws and regulations that are given there because they apply only to the Jewish nation. But the religion of this nation had the same basic ingredients that the Christian religion has today.  Their life was to be a response of faith and obedience to the God who had graciously acted to redeem them.  So even the laws that are specific to Israel have principles behind them that help us in the life of faith today.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 22)
  • The Biblical writers seem to have considered Deuteronomy to be a very important book; they used it all the time. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart say that “Deuteronomy has perhaps had more influence on the rest of the biblical story (both Old and New Testaments) than any other book of the Bible.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 23)
  • Deuteronomy is teaching (and preaching) about the law and other things. It teaches Israel about Yahweh, the covenant demands, and how Israel is to worship Yahweh its God.  It describes life lived under blessing and curse and how Israel can choose either.  It teaches about faithlessness and rebellion in Israel’s first attempt to take Canaan (ch. 1), earlier rebellions in the wilderness (ch. 9), and about Israel’s success in taking the Transjordan when it followed Yahweh’s leading (chs. 2-3).  Moses wants to make this all clear so people will hear, understand, and in the end obey.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 162)


The question to be answered is . . . What is God teaching us through Moses in the opening verses of Deuteronomy?


Answer: That the beloved need to remember what the Lover has done for them so faith and love can continue to grow.  Love always has a context.


Porter’s definition of Context = the words or circumstances surrounding an act, event or sentence that explains its meaning or significance.


The Word for the Day is . . . Context


A prominent evangelical leader once told me that he exegetes society more than exegeting the Scriptures so that he can give a relevant message to the people.  But wouldn’t the message of the Creator to his creation be most relevant to people?  Indeed, because the Bible is a message for all time we will need to work hard at applying its eternal message to a particular context.  Yes, we must exegete society, but it is even more important to exegete Scripture because that is where the power to change lives lies.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 33)


What is God teaching us through Moses in Deuteronomy 1:1-8?:

I-  God’s love is in the context of the beloved trusting that God (The Lover) wants what is best. (Dt 1:1-2; see also: Gn 50:20; Ps 84:11; 145:13; Jer 29:13; ; Jn 3:16; Rom 4:16; 5:1-10; 8:14-17, 28; 1 Cor 2:9; Eph 1:13; 3:14-21; Jam 1:12, 17, 24-25; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 2 Pt 1:4)


“God loves you just the way you are.   God loves you too much to allow you to stay there.”  — Buddy Greene


Unbelief can rob God’s people of joys that he intends them to have.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 10)


Once God has offered his people life, it must be grasped by faith.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 12)


Blessing (v. 11).  God had promised a relationship of special blessing with the descendants of Abraham, a relationship later described in covenantal terms (Gn 15, 17).  Blessing within covenant relationship is the focus of God’s dealings with Israel at Mt. Sinai, as recorded in Exodus and Leviticus.  The second term of the Abraham covenant thus forms the second major element in the structure of the Pentateuch.  Moses prays for that blessing to continue as promised, even as he struggles to cope with its consequences!  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 24-5)


It has been said that postmodernism is elitist about people and egalitarian with respect to ideas.  Biblical faith is precisely the opposite. Yahweh is unique (Dt 6:4), and he tolerates no rivals.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6).  Only a consistent, wholehearted dedication to remain faithful to the true God will enable the people of God to maintain a vibrant relationship with God and a powerful testimony for him.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 5)


The comparison with the prophets suggests that Deuteronomy should be seen, in the context of the ancient world, as a radical blueprint for the life of a people, at the same time spiritual and political, and running counter to every other social-political-religious programme.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 21)


The expressions “LORD our God” or “LORD your God” appear 260 times in Deuteronomy.  We belong to him, and in a sense he belongs to us in a covenant relationship.  That is the most important thing about us.  We are his, and he is ours.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 39)


Deuteronomy is a book for believers who are living on the edge of a hostile culture.  Just as Israel was about to face the challenge of living in a land occupied by idolatrous and pagan peoples, modern Christians in the West must learn to live in cultures that are hostile toward their faith.  Whether those forces are modern and claim that all religions are false, or postmodern and claim that all of them are true, the process is the same.  By giving exclusive loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the believer can maintain a distinctive identity in a culture that seems determined to destroy or reshape his convictions.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 5)


Emphasis is placed on the close relationship between Israel and its God, bonded as they will be in the Horeb covenant.  Hoerb = (Mount) Sinai.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 167)


What the people needed most was not eloquence or attractive speeches.  They needed a word from God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 33)


This corner of the ancient world had been occupied by other people for centuries, but now the Lord of history planned to give it to the sons of Jacob.  This was a major step forward in the Savior’s master plan to rescue his world from sin and destruction.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 21)


The aim of Torah is to create a righteous community.  The issue of law and grace does come up, in the context of the people’s failure to keep the covenant.  This poses the question of moral capability, which is finally resolved theologically in a passage reminiscent of the new covenant of Jeremiah (Dt 30:1-10; Jer 31:31-34; 32:39-40).  In both these places Yahweh enables the renewed people to be faithful, and faithfulness involves the keeping of Torah, or commandments (Dt 30:8; Jer 31:33).  Torah is therefore not in tension with promise or forgiveness; rather, the latter come to fruition in the issue about the keeping of Torah.  As for individual piety, the devotion of Israelites, both as community and as individuals, is the aim of the book’s exhortations to love the LORD from the heart (6:5; 10:12; 29:10-12 [9-11]).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 43)


II-  God’s love is in the context of reminding the beloved that He is best.  (Dt 1:2-4; see also: Psa 42:6; 77:11; ch 78; 103:2, 17-18; 105:5; 106:7, 12-13, 21; 119:93, 140141, 153-154; 143:5; Isa 46:8-9; Jer 2:32; Jam 1:24-25)


“My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things:  that I am a great sinner and that Jesus is a great Savior.”  (John Newton as quoted by John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 264-5)


There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune.  No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 29)


In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” (Max DuPree;  Leadership Is an Art, 100)


God’s promises are greater than life’s problems.


Remember never to forget


The mercy of God to us should melt our hearts into mercy toward others.  It is impossible that we should be cruel to others, except we forget how kind and compassionate God hath been to us.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 86)


The significance of the victory over the kings Sihon and Og is evidenced by the fact that, apart from the two basic descriptions of this event in Numbers and Deuteronomy (Nm 21:21-26; Dt 2:26-3:11), the victory is mentioned four other times in Deuteronomy (1:4; 4:46-47; 29:7-8; 31:4) and eleven times in other parts of the OT, yielding a total of seventeen occurrences. The victory appears as part of a song of praise three times (Nm 21:27-32; Ps 135:10-12; 136:17-22).

The reason for the frequent repetition is that God’s intervention in giving us victories in the past gives us confidence and the assurance of God’s similar intervention as we face present challenges.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 38)


The mention of the victory over the two kings Sihon and Og seventeen times in the Bible encourages us also to use our past victories, which demonstrated God’s faithfulness and power, as encouragements to pursue God’s way in anticipation of final victory.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 39)


Sometimes we get such a brief moment at the mountain top before we’re knocked back down into the valley.  Remember the view.  Cherish it.  Safeguard the memory.  (Buddy Briggs: Facebook  5-21-16)


God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December. — J. M. Barrie


I want to do what Deuteronomy itself does:  bring the power of the past to bear on the present, with an eye to the future.  When this happens, Deuteronomy should come alive and breathe spiritual renewal into the personal histories of its readers.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 19)


The theme of Deuteronomy could be “Don’t forget God.”  A society that tends to go chasing false gods needs Deuteronomy’s emphasis on worship of Yahweh and Yahweh alone.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 18)


When Moses says, “The LORD our God said to us at Horeb” (6), this is not strictly factual, for by this time the vast majority of the generation that had actually stood at Horeb has passed away (see on 2:34-40).  However, the new generation is often addressed as if it had stood itself at Horeb.  This is a way of expressing the solidarity of Israel, and the need to re-enact the covenant in each generation (see further on 5:2-3).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 63)


The whole book is also intended to motivate the people to enter the promised land and to live faithfully to God in the land, and what is found in verse 4 will help motivate them to do this.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 37)


Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.   — George Santayana


Remember the Gift sent from heaven above

Wrapped in humanity, destined to love.

Remember the Gift that caused angels to sing,

A true Treasure worshiped by shepherds and kings.

Remember that Gift gave His life on a tree,

How He suffered and died to set you and me free.

So every Gift that you give and receive

This season, remember the cost to believe.  (Christmas card 2015)


We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember. (Judith Shulevitz, “Bring Back the Sabbath”, March 2, 2003)


Law and history are not to be put apart in Deuteronomy.  That is, the “Torah” in Deuteronomy involves recalling God’s deliverance of the people from Egypt, his guidance through the wilderness, a hint of their rebellion, which made an eleven-day journey take forty years, and at last the beginning of the conquest, the firstfruits of the promise of land (Gn 12:1-3; Ex 3:7-10) fulfilled in the defeat of Sihon and Og in Transjordan.  Finally, it is essential to the concept of Deuteronomy that the encounter between God and Israel at Horeb was not final, but that there must be further encounters in Israel’s history with him.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 74)


Never forget what is worth remembering or remember what is best forgotten.


Jesus promised His disciples three things:  that they would be completely fearless, totally happy, and in constant trouble.


When our sinful desires threaten to take us away from God’s path, we remind ourselves of the promises.  When we think that we need to watch something unclean on the Internet or on TV in order to get pleasure, we remind ourselves of the promise that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11).  God will give us the pleasure we need if we obey him.  So disobedience is both unnecessary and harmful to us.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 43)


III-  God’s love is in the context of the promise to the beloved to be so much more than they currently are if they obey. (Dt 1:6-8; see also: Ps 85:8; 106:24; 119:49-50, 57-58, 76, 116, 123, 140-141, 148, 153-154, 162, 170; Prv 3:11-12; Jer 29:10; 32:42; 33:14; Mt 5:9; Jn 1:11-12; Rom 4:16, 20-21; 8:14-17; 2 Cor 7:1; Gal 3:16-19, 29; 4:5-7; Col 1:10-12; Heb 8:6; 10:23; 12:5-6; Jam 1:12; 2 Pt 1:4; 1 Jn 3:1-2)


Phillips Brooks once said, “Sad is that day for any man when he becomes absolutely satisfied with the life that he is leading, the thoughts that he is thinking, and the deeds he is doing.  Then there ceases to be a desire to do something greater for God than ever before.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 31)


Jesus promised us that everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt (see Mk 9:49, NKJV).  The desire for ease, comfort, and stress-free living is an indirect desire to remain an “unseasoned,” immature Christian.  Struggle makes us stronger; it builds us up and deepens our faith.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 129)


Teresa of Avila wrote, “Lord, how you afflict your lovers!  But everything is small in comparison to what you give them afterward.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 132)


My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.  —Henry Ford


Recent surveys in Britain have brought out the fact that great numbers of people have affirmed that the best years of their lives were those in which they shared the experience of the war.  The bombing of cities, the destruction of homes, the absence of rest or holiday, the shortage of food and clothing, and the constant presence of death were all part of the picture; but what colors it all is the memory of shared commitment to a common purpose.  That is what brings human beings to their very best, and most of us know it.  Part of the terrible irony of war is that it enlists the best in human nature for purposes of mutual destruction.  But to eliminate from the public life of a nation any accepted self-chosen goals and making covetousness the prime mover of human affairs, is to invite destruction in another way, destruction from within.  (Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 122)


The battle against despondency is a battle to believe the promises of God.  And that belief in God’s future grace come by hearing the Word.   And so preaching to ourselves is at the heart of the battle.  (John Piper; Future Grace, 304)


You can’t break God’s promises by leaning on them!


Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God.  No one sins out of duty.  We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness.  That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself.  (Ps 63:3).  Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s.  All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 9-10)


The dimensions of this land, described in verse 7, are enormous.  All of Palestine and Syria are included in this geographical description.  This is a larger area than Israel ever possessed, even during the reigns of David and Solomon.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 31)


I think one reason for the woeful statistics, showing that Christians are not behaving very differently from non-Christians today, is that the church has focused much on keeping the people entertained and much less on making them strong through the Word.  In this marketing-oriented era we have concentrated on providing people a program they will like and have neglected our responsibility to give them “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).  Jesus asked God to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17:17).  People who are not properly fed the word will not be sanctified.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 33)


Often in life we have to make decisions to move away from where we are and travel in another direction.  When the time to do that has come, we cannot delay.  We have to “break camp,” say good-bye to the things and people we are comfortable with, and decisively move forward.  In this process we need to be very sensitive to God so that we sense what his mind is on this launch forward.  Often he gives us a sense that the time is ripe for us to move. . . . The founder of Operation Mobilization, George Verwer, is credited with having said, “Some people say they are waiting for a call.  What they need is not a call.  That they have already received.  What they need is a kick in the pants!”  Once the decision to move forward is made, then there is no turning back.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 41)


The future is as bright as the promises of God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 43)


A heavyweight boxing champion who dodges all serious contenders to consistently fight marshmallows is derided and ridiculed–and rightly so.  Christians who dodge all serious struggle and consciously seek to put themselves in whatever situations and relationships are easiest are doing the same thing–they are coasting, and eventually that coasting will define them and–even worse–shape them.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 133)


I would not consider any spirituality worthwhile that wants to walk in sweetness and ease and run from the imitation of Christ.  —John Climacus (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 129)


Father Zossima, a character in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, comments, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in dreams.”  The real thing wants the best for the beloved, and that may mean a mother denying her child’s insistent plea for more candy, or a social worker holding his client responsible for destructive behavior, or a wife demanding a change in the behavior of her abusive husband–or God damning to hell the sin that is destroying creation.  (Donald W. McCullough, The Trivialization of God, 94)


Ignatius of Loyola defined sin as refusing to believe that God wants my happiness and fulfillment.  Human rebellion began in the Garden of Eden when God said in effect, “Trust me.  I know what is best for you.”  Adam and Eve failed to test, and we have paid the consequences ever since.  (Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace, 79)


I have argued that the key to fighting sin is to battle unbelief, and keep the fire of faith in God’s promises red hot.  The power of sin is the false promise that it will bring more happiness than holiness will bring.  Nobody sins out of duty.  Therefore, what breaks the power of sin is faith in the true promise that the pleasures of sin are passing and poisonous, but at God’s right hand are pleasures for evermore (Ps 16;11).  This way of fighting sin with the hope of superior satisfaction, is called, in Heb 11:24-26, living “by faith”:  “By faith Moses…[chose] to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, [rather] than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin…for he was looking to the reward.”  Therefore the cry of this book, to fight sin, is a cry to pursue a joy superior to anything sin could offer.  It is the cry of Christian Hedonism.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 386)


Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace.  As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety.  The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 54)


The mission of Israel was to be a model to the nations.  Mission was not a matter of going but of being; to be what they were, to live as the people of the God Yahweh in the sight of the nations.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 13)


While Deuteronomy is firmly grounded in the past events of election and redemption, it is predominantly a future-orientated book.  It looks not only to the immediate future–the crossing over to the promised land–but also to the long-term future of Israel in relation to God and of both Israel and God in relation to the nations.  In this respect it is immediately relevant to a biblical understanding of mission, since nothing is more central to that than a vision of God’s ultimate purpose, which draws each generation of God’s people toward the future.  And in its prophetic anticipation of the broad shape of Israel’s history as it unfolds in the OT, Deuteronomy also gave shape to the historical-eschatological theology of mission that is central to the NT.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 14-5)


Obedience is matched by progress; disobedience by retreat and failure.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 59)


The first reported command of God is now to move from Horeb and enter the land of Canaan (7).  “Set out now” is literally “Turn,” which carries the connotation of decision, a leaving behind and setting the face to the new destination.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 63)


The area thus described is now called simply “the land” (8).  It is the land shown long ago to Abraham (Gn 12:1), and given to him and his descendants by a promise that was repeated throughout the patriarchal narratives, to Isaac and Jacob as well as to Abraham (e.g. Gn 13:17; 15:13-16; 26:2-3; 28:13, 15).  The appeal to that promise here is of central importance for Deuteronomy, which sees the imminent entry to the land of Canaan as its fulfillment (cf. 1:21; 6:3).  The promise of land goes closely, of course, with that of descendants for Abraham (Gn 12:2; 15:6).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 64)


It takes eleven days to travel from Horeb to the border of Canaan.  But it took forty years for the whole journey from Egypt to Canaan.  They traveled for about two years before coming to Kadesh.  This means it took about thirty-eight years to go from the border of Canaan to Canaan itself and only eleven days to go from Horeb to the border.  That is the price of disobedience!  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 31)


The blessing that God gives his people is freely available for us to take hold of, but we must obey.  If we turn away from God’s path, these promises are going to be fulfilled in the lives of others.  Churches that were vibrant at one time may die spiritually, but God will raise up other groups to demonstrate vital Christianity to the nation.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 42)


As we face challenges in our lives, as we launch into challenging exploits–like a new job or a difficult project–often all we have to fall back on is the knowledge that the Lord is our God.  Things may look bleak.  The task may be very difficult.  It may seem like a huge risk to launch out into the dark unknown.  But we know that he has promised to look after us and that we have tried to be obedient to him.  As our God, he has been with us before and has seen us through, and we can trust him to see us through again.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 39)


The Lebanon range, with its natural beauty (3:25; Isa 35:2; Jer 22:6), agricultural abundance (Ps 72:16), snow-covered peaks (Jer 18:14), and celebrated stands of cedar and other trees (1 Kgs 4:33; 5:22 [8]; Isa 10:34; Cant 5:15), was originally envisioned as a western boundary of the promised land in the north (11:24; Josh 1:4), but it never became part of Israel (Jdg 3:3).  Only the very southern portion of the valley of Lebanon was penetrated by Joshua (Josh 11:17; 12:7), and Solomon is said to have had building projects in Lebanon, perhaps in this southern area (1 Kgs 9:19).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 169)


Deuteronomy makes land tenure more conditional than any other OT law code.  No one understood this better than Jeremiah, who, while affirming Yahweh’s gift of land to the fathers (Jer 3:18; 7:7, 14; 11:5; 16:15), preached at great cost that tenure in the land was contingent upon covenant obedience (Jer 7:5-7) or else a repentance of covenant disobedience (Jer 25:5; 35:15).  In the end, the prophet concluded to his great sorrow that the land would be lost (Jer 7;12-15; 21:9-10; 24:10; 25:8-11, etc.).  Jeremiah is recorded as saying that the land grant to the fathers and to Israel was to be for all time (Jer 7:7; 25:5; cf. Lundbom 1999, 464; 2004a, 244-45), which goes considerably beyond anything said in core Deuteronomy, where obedience to the covenant will simply enable Israel “to live long in the land that you shall possess” (5:33; 11:9; 32:47; cf. 4:26; 30:18). . . . Permanent loss of land is ruled out in the enlarged Deuteronomy (ch. 30) and in Jeremiah (16:15; chs. 30-32), where it is stated that after divine punishment Israel will once again repossess the land.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 170)


John Climacus, who centuries before Teresa wrote, “If individuals resolutely submit to the carrying of the cross, if they decidedly want to find and endure trial in all things for God, they will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 132)


Soon after Adoniram Judson went to Burma as a missionary he was captured by natives who strung him up by the thumbs and then flung him into a filthy prison.  Then they asked him, ‘And now what of your plans to win the heathen to Christ?’, to which Judson replied, ‘My future is as bright as the promises of God.’  Every Christian can say the same!  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 128)


Consult the many precious promises which are written for your support and comfort in all dangers.  These are your refuges to which you may fly and be safe when the arrows of danger fly by night, and destruction wasteth at noonday.  There are particular promises suited to particular cases and exigencies; there are also general promises reaching all cases and conditions.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 60)


I’m currently watching hundreds and hundreds of ants lining up in single file across the floor of my house.  The little guys are climbing on top of each other to get to this delicious, poisonous stuff.  It’s amazing to watch.  They have no idea that their pursuit will lead to their demise.

What an amazing picture this is of how many of us live in today’s culture.  We’re lining up by the thousands to pursue what we’ve been convinced is the good life.  And while the very thing we chase looks good or feels good or tastes good, it’s also poison to our souls.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 24)


The promises of God give life to the law.  —Nathan Plummer 11/20/16


Here is where we Christians part company decisively with our modern culture.  Our modern culture says, “Ignore your self-doubts, feel only positive thoughts about yourself.”   But I say the opposite.   Pay attention to all those lurking doubts.  Listen closely to all that nagging discontent.  It is important to find yourself . . . sure.  But those who want the last in their lives to be the best, must face the worst at the first.  It is only in giving up on ourselves, that we can ever go beyond ourselves to find ourselves.  That is Christianity.  Why?  Because the cross.  (Becky Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons)


The enemy does not appear with fierce countenance; he does not threaten us with retaliation if we begin to seek God.  Satan is far more subtle.  He manipulates the good things of God’s blessings to keep us from the best gift:  God’s Presence.  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 121)


Do not let ourselves be troubled when we are sometimes beset by adversity, for we know that it is meant for our spiritual welfare and carefully proportioned to our needs, and that a limit has been set to it by the wisdom of the same God who has set a bound to the ocean.  Sometimes it might seem as if the sea in its fury would overflow and flood the land, but it respects the limits of its shore and its waves break upon the yielding sand.  There is no tribulation or temptation whose limits God has not appointed so as to serve not for our destruction but for our salvation.  God is faithful says the Apostle, and will not permit you to be tempted (or afflicted) beyond your strength, but it is necessary for you to be so, since through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God in the steps of our Redeemer who said of Himself, Did not the Christ have to suffer all these things before entering into his glory?  If you refused to accept these tribulations you would be acting against your best interests.  You are like a block of marble in the hands of the sculptor.  The sculptor must chip, hew and smooth it to make it into a statue that is a work of art.  God wishes to make us the living image of Himself.  All we need to think of is to keep still in His hands while He works on us, and we can rest assured that the chisel will never strike the slightest blow that is not needed for His purposes and our sanctification; for, as St. Paul says, the will of God is your sanctification. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 31-3)


A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.


  1. God’s presence—”I will never leave thee” (Heb. 13:5)


  1. God’s protection—”I am thy shield” (Gen. 15:1)


  1. God’s power—”I will strengthen thee” (Isa. 41:10)


  1. God’s provision—”I will help thee” (Isa. 41:10)


  1. God’s leading—”And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them” (John 10:4)


  1. God’s purposes—”I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (Jer. 20:11)


  1. God’s rest — “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)


  1. God’s cleansing—”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)


  1. God’s goodness—”No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly” (Psalm 84:11)


  1. God’s faithfulness—”The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake” (1 Sam. 12:22)


  1. God’s guidance— “The meek will He guide” (Psalm 25:9)


  1. God’s wise plan—”All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28) (Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985)


The only actions Satan really cares about are future actions.  The sins of the past are gone.   He cannot change them.  He can only deepen them, by influencing our future responses to them, or add to them, with more future sins.  All the sins that can be committed are future sins.  If Satan is going to bring us into sinful states of mind and into sinful actions, he will have to use promises.  This is what he did with Adam and Eve.  This is what he does with us.  He holds out alternative promises to the promises of God.  He subverts faith in future grace with promises of God-neglecting pleasure.  (John Piper; Future Grace, 327)


Similarly, “Humble yourselves…casting your anxieties on God.”  One way to be humble is to cast your anxieties on God.  Which means that one hindrance to casting your anxieties on God is pride.  Which means that undue worry is a form of pride.  Now why is casting our anxieties on the Lord the opposite of pride?  Because pride does not like to admit that it has any anxieties.  And if pride has to admit it, it still does not like to admit that the remedy might be trusting someone else who is wiser and stronger.  In other words, pride is a form of unbelief and does not like to trust in future grace.  Faith admits the need for help.  Pride won’t.  Faith banks on God to give help.  Pride won’t.  Faith casts anxieties on God.  Pride won’t.  Therefore the way to battle the unbelief of pride is to admit freely that you have anxieties, and to cherish the promise of future grace in the words, “He cares for you.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 96)



Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who continues to truly love us more than we can ever know.


We forget that both the biggest human contribution and the greatest human weakness are irrelevant in the face of God’s infinity.  God’s unlimited power is neither strengthened by our contribution nor lessened by our weakness.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 142)


Gospel Application:  Our relationship with God is only reestablished and maintained by our being “in Christ” Who was the Israel that never was.


Christ has indeed fulfilled the law (and the prophets, Mt 5:17), which means not only that he is the perfect embodiment of all that the law demands and the perfect interpreter of its meaning, but also that he represents the climax of the narrative that includes Yahweh’s gracious self-disclosure at Sinai and his mediated self-disclosure through Moses on the plains of Moab.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 38)


The promises of God are not given so that we can do and have, but so that we can be (found in Him).  That is why the promises of God are not made to us as individuals but to Jesus, as the apostle explains:  “for as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor 1:20).  Paul further clarified this to the Galatians: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one:  ‘And to your seed’ that is Christ” (Gal 3:16).  He reiterated this again in his letter to the Ephesians:  “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.  These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph 1:18-19).  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 67)


I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love.  I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient.  We are not strong or good enough, and it doesn’t work that way.  None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.

But despite our inability to change ourselves in this way, to simply become more peaceful or joyful, we expend a great deal of effort trying.  We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people He wants us to be.

Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us.  Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives.  And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 148)


Spiritual Challenge:  God loves you far too much to allow you to stay where you are.  It only makes sense that God would show His love for us by stretching us to become more than we think we can be:  A light to the World.  (Mt 5:13-16; 1 Pt 3:15)


To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives–the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections–that requires hard spiritual work.  Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.  As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.  Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 31)


The function of the book of Deuteronomy is to call every generation of Israelites to faithful covenant love for Yahweh in response to his gracious salvation and his revelation of himself (cf. 6:20-25) and in acceptance of the missional role to which he has called them (26:19).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 38)


“The Jewish people,” he declared, “are a messenger who have forgotten their message.”  —Rabbi Abraham Heschel)  (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, 418)


The geographical context was in the desert, or wilderness, east of the Jordan. . . in the territory of Moab (vv. 1, 5).  The precise location is uncertain from the list of the place names given.  But the point is clear.  Israel was still in the wilderness.  This last book of the Torah begins and ends with them awaiting possession of the promise that had shaped both their destiny and the literary structure of the Pentateuch itself–namely, the land that God had promised to Abraham.  Wilderness, certainly, was the place of God’s grace, protection, and provision, but it as not the place where they were meant to remain.  Indeed, the reason they were still there was that it was also a place of God’s judgment and discipline.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 22)


So What?: Knowing God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, kind, good, and loving; we need to interpret life in light of the promises of God that He must stretch us to become so much more than we are or think or even want to be.


After citing a story that appears in Deuteronomy, Paul writes, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 22)




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