Well, guess what. Wal-Mart has joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. I guess that settles it. I am going to have to resign from their national shadow board. Coises! Foiled again!
We got the name Deuteronomy through a happy misnomer. The name is taken from the Greek version of the text below (17:18), where the king was to write out a “second” copy of the law for himself. But at the same time, the occasion of the book of Deuteronomy was a covenant renewal. A covenant had been made with God at Horeb (Sinai), but this book was a distinct covenant made in Moab many years later (Dt. 29:1). So in a real sense, it is a second giving of the law to Israel. Note that the book of Deuteronomy is quoted over eighty time in the New Testament. Christian thinking is impossible apart from it.
“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites.” (Dt. 17:18).
Infidels have fun in their discussions about the date and authorship of books like this. But for us it must be sufficient that the Lord Jesus says Moses wrote it (Matt 19:8; Luke 24:27,44). The apostle Paul says the same thing (1 Cor. 9:9). The book of Deuteronomy is a collection of three sermons by Moses, assembled together as a covenant document.
The three sermons are structured this way: in his first address (1:1-4:43), Moses reviews the great historical deliverances of Israel by God. In his second address (4:44-28:68), his long sermon, Moses expounds, explains, and applies the ten commandments. In his third address (29:1-30:20), Moses presses the requirements of the covenant upon the people, urging them to accept its terms. The last section of the book (31:1-34:12), shows us the transition to Joshua, a ceremony of covenant renewal, and the death of Moses.
Detailed structuring of a book like this will be watertight, and we ought not to assume that other legitimate ways of ordering the book are impossible. But at the same time, we should look for the order which Moses gave to the book—we assume that he was not rambling.
We know that Moses was a faithful steward, a faithful servant in all God’s house (Heb. 3:4). As such, he speaks this word to the people (1:1-5). And we do not have covenant renewal without a need for that renewal (1:6-4:43).
The second message revolves around the ten commandments, which were a summary of the covenant.Moses presents the law to the people first in summary form (4:44-5:33). He then goes on to apply each of the laws in such a way as to show that their entire lives were to be lived out under its authority.
There are no other gods: here we have much application of the first commandment (Dt. 6-11). God is God alone, and there is no other. The biblical message is not that there are no other gods in our faith community; it is that there are no other gods.
We are to avoid graven images in worship: this section concerns mediation and how God is not to be worshipped (Dt. 12-13). It is not enough to avoid bowing down to images of false gods; believers are not to worship any image of the true God either.
As Christians, we are called to hallowing the name of God: the third commandment is addressed in this section (Dt. 14:1-21a).
Then we come to the need for sabbath living: beginning with the law about boiling a kid in its mother’s milk, we have instruction on what we might call the sabbath mind (Dt. 14:21b-16:17). The sabbath mind, when understood biblically, is not censorious or unkind, but rather liberal, generous, and full of rest.
This last command concerning the sabbath finishes instruction on our duties to God directly, as found in the first table of the law. This first table is summed up in the greatest commandment, which is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength. The second table addresses our duties to our neighbor, and is summed up by the command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
And in the task of loving our neighbors, we start at home. This begins with a love of parental authority. We are called to honor authority. But keep in mind that the fifth commandment concerns all authority in principle, not just that of parents (Dt. 16:18-18:22).
Murder is prohibited. Violence and warfare are addressed in the next section (Dt. 19:1-22:8).
Adultery is treason against the home. The instructions on sexual and symbolic purity are found here (Dt. 22:9-23:14).
Larceny is out. The prohibition of theft is expounded here (Dt. 23:15-24:7).
Because truth is the language of God, false witness is prohibited (Dt. 24:8-25:3).
The commandments end with a commandment that addresses heart issues alone. He prohibits covetousness of any kind whatever, and He requires us to be content with what He gives (Dt. 25:4-26:19).
After this is all made perfectly clear, the covenant is implemented. Once the terms are established and made clear, the covenant is made (Dt. 27:1-30:20).
Once this is done, we find succession established. God provides for the perpetuation of the covenant (Dt. 31-34).
We must return to an understanding of the glory of obedience. As we study this wonderful book, we must remember the nature and effect of obedience to the terms of the covenant. There is such a thing as covenantal “cause and effect.” The effect of right and faithful obedience is blessing from the hand of God. This blessing occurs in history. Only unbelief sees our lives as random. This remains true regardless of what dispensation we live in, whether old covenant or new covenant. It remains true that God is not mocked, and that a man still reaps what he sows.
This means we have to recover a covenantal worldview: the nature of our obedience is to be comprehensive. God is the Lord of the covenant, and this means that when we are in covenant with Him, we discover that His authority extends over all of life. God’s ten words in this book cover all of human activity, from undertaking war to the discovery of a bird’s nest. He is the Lord of all that we might find ourselves doing.
“Moses required that the Israelites refrain from seething or boiling a kid in its mother’s milk (Deut. 14:21). The placement of this law in Deuteronomy is right at the beginning of Moses’ exposition of the fourth commandment, the Sabbath law. This insignificant law has many applications, which ostensible friends of the Sabbath need to learn. Unfortunately, it also contains a principle that has been too frequently ignored in broader contexts, including that of education. The law says that a young goat must not be cooked in its mother’s milk. The principle is self-evident. That which is intended by God to be the means of sustaining life must not be changed into an instrument of death. In this regard, God clearly demands respect for the natural order of things” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, pp. 145-146).
“In fact, statistics show country fans to be more educated than either adult contemporary or rock audiences. Thirty-six percent of country fans have a college degree, as opposed to 30 percent for adult contemporary and 22 percent for rock fans” (Gene Edward Veith, Honky-Tonk Gospel, p. 11).
“Imitation does not merely draw people together, it pulls them apart. Paradoxically, it can do these two things simultaneously. Individuals who desire the same thing are united by something so powerful that, as long as they can share whatever they desire, they remain the best of friends; as soon as they cannot, they become the worst of enemies” (Rene Girard, A Theater of Envy, p. 3).
We are the bride of Jesus Christ, and we are in the process of being knit together with Him, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh.
This glorious and supernatural process is being accomplished by the Holy Spirit and the Word, the Holy Spirit and the sacrament. There are things being accomplished here by the Spirit which the natural man cannot and will not comprehend. The doctrine is so great that we cannot grasp the entirety of it at any one moment. Rather, God stoops for us, and gives us first this truth, then that one; first, this flavor, then that one; first, this taste, then that one.
We are joined to Christ on the basis of His death—which is why we have the signs of bread and wine, body and blood—but we are being joined in fact to a living Christ. We are being knit together with our living and resurrected Lord. We do not feed upon a dead body; rather, we are joined together with Him in the power of an indestructible life, and we are being built up into that life.
The grapes that made this wine were once alive, but now they are dead. The grain that made this bread was once alive but now it is dead. This is the mystery of physical eating. Life, death, and then another life sustained. But there is a contrast. In this Supper, we eat spiritually, by faith, but in the eating we partake of that which is alive, alive forevermore. Because Christ has died, once for all, death no more has dominion over Him. This is a table, not a tomb. Because of His death, and the power of His resurrection, and the nature of that resurrection, we are privileged by God’s grace to eat life itself. And in having us do this, God is bringing us up into that life, fitting us for it. What we are eating is what we are becoming—truly alive.
As we come to God to worship Him, our constant prayer should be that He makes us unable to stand before His holy presence. When this happens, there is always a winnowing effect in the church. One of the names historians give to such winnowings is reformation.
Men love religion when that religion enables them to feel they have God in a box. That box may be a golden Temple, an ancient liturgy, a contemporary three chord mantra, or some correct doctrinal opinion, found inside the box, pinned to the pages of a systematic theology as though it had all the frailty and beauty of a dead butterfly. Regardless of the nature of the box – whether it is made out of the stainless steel of honored traditions or the cardboard of autonomous contemporary assumptions – God is not and cannot be contained by it.
But as soon as it becomes apparent that God is moving in the holiness of His sovereignty, all men are undone. Some, like Isaiah, cry out in faith and their lips are cleansed by a coal from the altar. Others do not want what is happening at all, and so they look for a place of refuge, somewhere else, anywhere else, a place where these unsettling things will cease. But the only safe place of refuge from the holiness of the Father is found in the holiness of Christ, His Son. The only way that the opening to this place of refuge can be found is through the Holiness of their Spirit, who leads us to salvation.
When we enter into this salvation, we find that it is no box at all, but is rather unbounded, infinite, glorious, unmeasured grace.
God is greatly to be praised. He is worthy of all honor and praise. Our ability to praise Him falls short of necessity, and yet we are still summoned to it. Unlike the failures of sin, there is a glorious failure in praising God. Who can even begin to do it justice?
Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise . . .
This psalm is an exuberant and robust expression of praise and adoration to God. The first section (vv. 10-3) is an invitation to the righteous—praise Him. In the meat of the psalm we have a number of reasons given for praising Him. Praise is not offered in a generic; praise loves to be specific. We first praise Him for His excellent character (vv. 4-5), for His greatness in creation (vv. 6-9), and for His wisdom in providence (vv. 10-11). Because of what He is like, the people who belong to Him are greatly blessed (v. 12). We celebrate His omnipotence (vv. 13-19). Because of what God is like, and our recognition of this in our praise, it is then possible for us to wait onHim patiently. We know that He will deliver us (vv. 20-22)
Comely For the Upright:
Praise and thanksgiving are central duties for us. But God hates it when we discharge the duty externally while cherishing corruption internally. Praise is comely for the upright (v. 1). It is inappropriate for the righteous to not praise, just as it is inappropriate for the unrighteous to praise Him. The righteous want to be loud in their praise, and so it is not long before they seek out the reinforcement of instruments (v. 2). We come before the Lord with a renewed or fresh knowledge of His grace. We sing to Him a new song (v. 3), and we are called to offer our praise skilfully. And so we learn here what our praise to God should be like. Praise should be righteous, robust, loud, fresh, and skilful. And we ought to be careful not to substitute any one of these attributes in for another—skill for righteousness, say, or loudness for skill.
A World Full of Goodness:
Whatever God speaks is right (v. 4). Whatever He does is done in truth (v. 4). God is never a hypocrite; there is never a division between His words and actions. Notice also that this is stated differently than we might want to speak of human actions. We would tend to say that our words are truth and our actions are right. But here it says that God’s words are right and His actions are truth. There is no division between them. God loves righteousness. He loves discernment and judgment (v. 5). The world is full of His goodness (v. 5). Look anywhere.
A Foundational Truth:
The heavens and earth are here because God spoke them into existence. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made. The stars and galaxies are the very breath of God (v. 6). Just as
you breathe out a cloud on a wintery day, so God with one puff of His breath caused all that is to spring into existence. The creation of all the heavens and the earth, ex nihilo, were nothing for God. It was easy. The scale of everything in the universe that is staggers us. A tiny fraction staggers us. Look at the Pacific Ocean and you have some idea of the immensity of eternity. And God keeps the Pacific Ocean in a jar in His pantry (v. 7). The doctrine of creation overwhelms us, and it is most necessary for us to be overwhelmed in this way.
Certain things follow from the doctrine of creation, and those things are what give the theory of evolution all its “attractiveness.” Let all the earth fear the Lord, let every man stand in awe (v. 8). All God has to do is speak, and the immensity is done and stands fast (v. 9).
The Glory of Providence:
But God does not just create and then walk away. He brings the counsel of the heathen down to nothing. All their ingenious devices blow up on the launching pad (v. 10). Compare the counsel of the heathen to the counsel of the Lord. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever (v. 11), and it is His counsel with regard to earthly affairs. We are talking about His counsel over against the counsel of the heathen. The thoughts of His heart extend to all generations, which incidentally, would include our generation. For this reason, the nation that serves Him is blessed (v. 12).
Rejoice That God is God:
This section emphasizes the eyes of God. He looks from heaven (v. 13), He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth (v. 14). He considers all our works, being aware of them (v. 15). The eye of the Lord watches those who fear Him (v. 18). Always, all the time, everywhere, day or night, God is watching. The biblical doctrine of God is an in-your-face doctrine. Beware of any doctrine that seeks to make this a little more “comfortable.”
The heart of the beggar and the heart of the emperor are alike fashioned by the Lord (v. 15). No king is saved by the might he is able to muster or command. The might of your armored cavalry is a vain thing to hope in (v. 17). Napoleon marched off to Russia with half a million souls. Man proposes; God disposes. And how does He dispose? His eye is on those who fear Him (v. 18). Hope in His mercy, and you will never be disappointed. He will deliver you from death and from famine (v. 19).
So Wait in Patience:
God delivers in the course of the story (v. 20). He is our help and shield, but this is not a static reality. We have to wait for that moment of deliverance, and this is how our faith grows. But we pray, “Lord, I want patience and I want it now.” We have already rejoiced at what God has done in the creation and governance of the world; the time will come when we will rejoice at what God will do for us in the future (v. 21). He will be the same in the future as He has been in the past—which is to say, faithful. And so we compose ourselves, and we compose our spirits. With that heart, we pray, “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us.” We ask for this in accordance with our hope in Him (v. 22). We wait patiently—but note that we cannot wait patiently without robust praise for God’s character as evidenced in the gifts of creation and providence.