First, it is unfortunate that Deuteronomy, and the Pentateuch as a whole, are for the most part ignored. They are a part of divine revelation and as such should be discussed a bit more. In all fairness I am also guilty of this. I admit that I am not a priest or deacon, but do teach children, and to a lesser extent some adults.
However, the message contained in Deuteronomy is one that is applicable to us all. Deuteronomy has the unfortunate distinction of being called “second law” based on its naming in the Septuagint. As an exhortation it can be synchronized with what we read in the New Testament.
Moses And The First Address of Deuteronomy
In Deuteronomy four, Moses challenges the Israelites to look at the evidence of what God has done for themselves. He describes everything that God has done for the people. At this point they have seen the events of Sinai and seen various miracles occur.
They heard the voice of God themselves. Moses declared the great things that the Lord has done, is attempting to stir the hearts of the people, and implores them to follow the instructions given. This is the first address of Moses.
You Must Choose
The second address takes places in Deuteronomy 5-11. Here Moses is using personal pronouns like “I” and “We” and includes himself in the conversation. The tone of this address is quite different from that found in Exodus 21-23 which utilizes a third person element.
This is an important distinction as in Exodus Moses is giving the law while Moses in Deuteronomy in challenging the people. In Exodus he is addressing the people as a whole and in Deuteronomy, based on the pronouns used, he is addressing the people individually.
This is an important distinction not only for Israel, but for us today. Moses is not shy about saying how YHWH chose the people, saved them from bondage in Egypt, and provides for them in the desert. The Lord chose the people of Israel, but the people are also responsible for their own actions.
Choose Life And Stay Faithful
The third address of Moses takes place shortly before his death in Deuteronomy 29-30. Moses reminds the people of the need to stay faithful to the Lord, the consequences for not, and tells them to choose life not death.
Moses has seen the people fall into sin before and exhorts them to stay on the narrow path. The things that they had learned in Egypt would manifest themselves at times and cause them to stumble.
This is something that Moses was aware of, but out of love for the people, he addressed the issue again. Choose life. The way of the Lord is life and not following leads to death.
Deuteronomy And The Pentateuch
Deuteronomy presents itself differently than other law texts in the Pentateuch. This can be seen based on language, tone, and the content in the addresses. There is more than can be taken from Deuteronomy, but the three I have provided provide a good start.
Though we may have grown up in a Christian family, there comes a point where we have to evaluate evidence for the faith ourselves. Like Moses says to the Israelites, we need to see for ourselves everything that the Lord has done.
Also like the Israelites, there comes a point where we cannot hide within the group. Basically just because your parents and grandparents were Christians does not make you a Christian by default. You are responsible for your own actions, which is what Moses told the Israelites.
It is up to you to choose the way of death or the way of life. True we are several centuries removed from the writing of Deuteronomy, but its message stands the test of time and the addresses of Moses can be applied to situations today.
Circumcision Of Heart
The law was given to Israel, but it goes further than that. The heart has to be changed. If it is not changed then we are missing the point. The law was written on tablets, but not on the tablets of the peoples’ hearts.
The issue of a changed heart is mentioned in several other parts of the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 31 the Lord speaks of writing the law on the hearts of the people. In Ezekiel 11 the Lord discussed removing the heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh.
It is in this way that Deuteronomy and Malachi coincide a bit, especially in Deuteronomy 34 and Malachi 3. Moses is the messenger of the Old Covenant. He was the shepherd and messenger of God to the people of Israel. Deuteronomy 34 says that a prophet has not risen like Moses, but Malachi 3 says another is coming and he will purify the hearts of the people.
Much more can be said, but the heart of the Gospel can be seen in Deuteronomy. It is unfortunate that it is something that is ignored for the most part. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy for than any Old Testament book and for good reason.
The message of Deuteronomy was also his message. Love the Lord with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. It not only breaks up the ten commandments into two sections but is a rule of life. If you love God with everything you got, you will hand your life over to him and your heart will be changed. In other words, the law will be written upon your heart and from there you will love your neighbor because your heart is now after the things of God. In short, doing this is to choose life.