Deuteronomy: The Gospel according to Moses 

Our lives are filled with reminders: we use calendars, set phone notifications, wear wedding rings, keep photos, and make contracts. We need reminders because we easily forget. We need help to keep our commitments and follow through on our promises.

The Book of Deuteronomy is a long reminder. It was written in the form of an ancient contract commonly used between nations, so that God’s people would remember who God is, what he has done for them, and how they were to respond to him.

We’re going to be studying Deuteronomy on Sundays and in our Growth Groups for the next few months. Now immediately, some of us might be intimidated. If you’ve ever tried to read Deuteronomy, you’d know it’s long and confusing. It contains seemingly random and irrelevant laws. In chapter 22, we’re given instructions about what to do if you find a bird’s nest by the side of the road. A few verses later, we’re given some Jewish fashion tips. If you get to that point in the book, you begin to wonder why you’re reading it at all. We’re confused about how these ancient commandments can be of any relevance to us today.

We see God’s determination to save his people and fulfil his promises.

Deuteronomy is a long sermon (or series of sermons) given by Moses to the Israelites, as they stand on the edge of the Promised Land. Many have called it one of the greatest speeches in human history. Moses has led the Israelites for almost 50 years in the exodus from slavery in Egypt and in their wilderness wanderings. Whilst this generation of Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land, Moses won’t. His journey will soon be over. He’s going to die.

Moses reminds the people of where they’ve been so far. He gives them warnings because of their failures, but also encouragements because of the victories that God has provided. Moses calls on them to keep faithful to their covenant with God, to remain loving and loyal. He explains the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, and unpacks what following them looks like in life. Deuteronomy finishes with Moses anticipating the future, the people’s failure, and God’s constant grace.

So, why are we studying this book? Deuteronomy is frequently called the centre of Old Testament theology. It influences and shapes everything else in the Old Testament. It fortified Jesus in his wilderness temptations and provided the apostle Paul with his understanding of Israel and the nations in God’s plan.

More significantly, Deuteronomy is about our God. As we read Deuteronomy, we learn about God’s character and how he meets us in his word. We learn about right worship and right behaviour; how to pursue righteousness in response to his immense grace to us.

Although Deuteronomy is spoken to people in a different time and place, it’s profoundly important for us because we are just like Israelites. We are sinners in need of rescuing, and we frequently forget God’s grace. We need reminding. In Deuteronomy, we see the gospel according to Moses, God’s determination to save his people and fulfil his promises.