Today, we begin the book of Deuteronomy. The book gets its name from the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) and means “second law.” What it is, is Moses’ final speech to Israel before he dies and they take the promised land. It is mostly a recounting of all we’ve seen in the previous three books. It is the third most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament, and the book Jesus twice quoted to refute the Devil in the wilderness temptations.
The book begins with an account of where and when Israel is in their wanderings. They are on the eastern side of the Jordan River (1:1), 39 years and 10 1/2 months after the Passover (v. 3). Moses reminds Israel that what they are about to do is a partial fulfillment of the promise God made to the patriarchs (v. 8). In verses 9-18, Moses reminds Israel that he has not been their only leader, which will be important for the nation after his death.
Of all the faithless actions taken by Israel, the refusal to take the land stands out as the worst. After His mighty acts in Egypt, there should have been more faith in His promise (v. 30), especially considering God was with them through all their wanderings (v. 33). But God was not with them in their reluctant attempt to take the land to avoid punishment (v. 43).
Chapter 2 is a summary of the 40 years of wandering. Note that the request to pass through the land of Edom peacefully (see Numbers 20) was by command of God (2:3-6). In the recounting of the exchange of lands in verses 10-12 and 20-23, we have an encouragement to Israel who now had to take the land from giants. It has been done before. Then Moses reminds Israel of the military victory they have already won, but points out that it is God Who fought for them and won (v. 33). He will do it again.
Chapter 3 begins with another reminder of previous military victory. Again, God won the victory (3:2). In verse 18 we see a reminder that every man of fighting age must go to fight, and in verse 20 that no one can rest until everyone has their inheritance. Everyone shares in the blessings, and everyone shares in the responsibility. Moses then again reminds Joshua and all of Israel that, based on what He has already done, they can believe that God will fulfill His promise (vv. 21-22). Moses then reminds Israel that he will not inherit the land with them because of his sin, which they incited him to (v. 26). If a little leaven leavens the whole lump, what does a lot do…
What Moses is doing with his final words, is pointing Israel to God – to what He has already done, and what He has promised He will yet do. Remembering what He has done and believing that He will yet do what He has promised is what faith is. It is knowing He will never fail, because He never has. It is believing not just what He has done, but what He will do (Heb 11:1), and living as if you believe it. Anything less, as we have seen, is sin. What Moses is doing is calling Israel to faith.