The Bible in a Year, Week 7: Deuteronomy
This is the seventh weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is the book of Deuteronomy. It should only take about 10-15 minutes a day, or about five chapters a day to complete the assignment.
Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy comes from the Greek title for the book which can be translated the second giving of the law. However, though there are many similarities to the previous giving of the law, Deuteronomy is more than that. To summarize the book we could say that it is mainly a repetition, explanation, and expansion of the previous laws delivered by Moses. Moses delivers this message in three speeches during the 40th and final year of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness.
Deuteronomy 1-4: The first four chapters give the setting of the book. They remind the reader about the place and time in history. They review what had taken place in the wilderness. They restate that it is God who has been in control and the people who had rebelled against him. Chapter four includes special exhortations from Moses that the people show wisdom by remembering what they saw and heard at Mt. Sinai and by serving the Lord, the one true God.
Deuteronomy 5-11: In these chapters Moses encourages the people to fear and love the Lord God. To fear the Lord in a proper sense does not mean to be afraid of him, but rather to have ultimate respect and reverence for him. As Moses gives this encouragement he concentrates on the moral law for the people. Thus, Moses repeats the 10 Commandments in chapter five.
Deuteronomy 6:4 is a very important verse. It is also a very fascinating verse. It says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” It is so important because it reveals much about who the true God is. It uses the name LORD, or YAHWEH, for God, which is his covenant name of free and faithful love (read more about this special name in the comments on Exodus 3-6 here). Also, it speaks to the oneness and unity of God–“The Lord is one.” But most fascinating of all, the Hebrew word for God is actually plural. It could perhaps be read: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our Gods, the LORD is one.” In this case it would speak to the very thing that the rest of Scripture teaches–that we have a Triune God who is three persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The very next verse is equally important. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” is essentially a summary of all that God wants us to do. Jesus himself quotes this passage as a summary of what God commands.
The following four verses are also ones to be memorized and taken to heart. In 6:6-9 Moses encourages the people to impress the teachings of the Lord on their own hearts, as well as the hearts of their children. These verses are a good reminder for us about the importance of Christian education and making God’s word a focal point of our lives.
While chapter six speaks about the oneness of the only true God, chapter seven warns the Israelites about the heathen people and false gods in the land of Canaan which they would soon possess. Further, Moses warns in chapter eight against forgetting the Lord because of a love of excess, possessions, and pleasures. Chapter eight is certainly one that we who live in America can take to heart!
Chapters 9-11 contain further reminders that it is only because of God’s grace that the Israelites had made it this far and were about to take control of Canaan. Thus, the people of Israel (and we!) are reminded to serve and obey the one true God only.
Deuteronomy 12-18: In these chapters Moses moves to encouragement to follow the Lord’s decrees regarding worship, purification, and the like. These are the ceremonial laws of the people.
Chapter 12 first reminds the people of the one place of worship for the Lord. Unlike the heathen people they were about to conquer who had multiple gods and multiple altars, the Israelites were to worship the one true God in the tabernacle. These words can remind us as well that while we may be able to worship the Lord in our home lives, God also desires that we gather together with other people for public worship.
Chapters 13-16 include more exhortations from Moses to follow the ceremonial laws which the Lord had already given the people. At the end of chapter 16, Moses begins to encourage the people to follow the civil laws of the Lord which governed their everyday lives.
A key section in these chapters is Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Here Moses prophesies that the Lord would raise up a prophet like him from among the people of Israel. God would put his words in his mouth and the people were to listen to him. Jesus is the great fulfillment of this prophecy as he is the great Prophet whom God sent. Several portions of the New Testament indicate that this section was in fact a Messianic prophecy (sections of John and Acts).
Finally, it is good to note that the root of the word for prophet denotes “a spokesman, one who proclaims.” Thus, a prophet is not necessarily one who foretells the future (though some did that in the Bible). Specifically, a prophet is one who speaks the Word of God. Therefore, all Christians are God’s prophets!
Deuteronomy 19-26: As Moses had been giving encouragements and reminders about the moral, ceremonial, and civil laws of the Lord in the previous chapters, he continues in these chapters by giving more exhortations regarding various aspects of civil and family life.
A verse of note among these chapters is 21:23 which mentions that anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. The apostle Paul applies this to Jesus in Galatians 3:13 since he became a curse for us and took the curse of our sins upon himself on the cross.
Deuteronomy 27-30: This third oration of Moses begins with instructions for the people for setting up the law in the land of Canaan after they crossed the Jordan. It contains special sanctions–blessings and curses–for the people that would come to them if they obeyed or disobeyed the laws of the Lord. As Moses begins with the curses, they become more and more severe and even turn into prophecy of would come later when the people did disobey the Lord and the Babylonians swept them off into exile. But as Moses speaks about the blessings of following the Lord, he also begins to prophesy about the restoration which the Lord would bring in chapter 30.
This restoration of the people of Israel is a common theme throughout the Bible. It has three fulfillments. The first is the physical restoration of the people when a remnant of Israelites was allowed to return from exile to Israel. The second fulfillment is the spiritual restoration that Jesus gives by freeing us from the burden and bondage of sin and death. The ultimate fulfillment is the eternal restoration which we receive upon entrance into heaven. There and then we will enjoy permanent and everlasting freedom as rest securely in the presence of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 31-34: These chapters contain the last acts and death of Moses. In chapter 31 Joshua is chosen to succeed Moses as leader of the people. Chapter 32 contains a song of Moses that beautifully recounts the works of the Lord, concluding in verse 43 with a prophecy of the Savior to come who would bring atonement for the people. At the end of the chapter Moses dies on Mount Nebo. We recall that not leading the people into the Promised Land was a punishment for his disobedience to the Lord (Numbers 20).
Deuteronomy closes with the final blessings of Moses and his epitaph in chapter 34. As the founder and mediator of the Old Testament covenant, it can hardly be disputed that Moses was in fact the greatest prophet, as Deuteronomy says. The only greater prophet is the fulfillment of that Old Testament covenant, the mediator of the new covenant–Jesus Christ.
Next week’s readings (starting 2/21/10): Joshua
To view or download and print the One Year Bible Reading Schedule, click here.