If you felt a little lost with the hodgepodge of material in Numbers, then Deuteronomy should come as a welcome change. Deuteronomy is raw and intense, full of emotion and reflection. As Numbers could feel distant, Deuteronomy is personal, proximate, close to the ground.
The very first line establishes the setting of the book: “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness…” Three extensive speeches fill the first thirty chapters: it’s what Moses wants Israel to remember most of their journey together, of God’s covenant with them, and even of him.
Remember that Moses will not join them in Canaan, and you’ll see today that his feelings are still raw about this. Along the way, it’ll be important to keep in mind Moses’ final, passionate plea:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Chapters 1 through 3 present the history of Israel’s journey: from Egypt to the borders of Canaan. Listen for the LORD’s reminder of His provision and protection throughout. Listen also for how the LORD has looked out for Esau, and Lot, names we’ve barely heard from since Genesis.
When Moses recounts their conquests, pay attention to the phrase, “…and we devoted them to destruction…”. This is a translation of the Hebrew charam, which is to set apart for destruction to the LORD – in the sense of a sacrifice. You will see this term often through Deuteronomy and Joshua.
And finally, you might need to listen twice to Moses’ intense acknowledgement of how much it burned him to lose Canaan. Remember the LORD’s reason for excluding him, listen to Moses’ own perspective on the matter, and take time to sort through your own feelings on this.
Our verses for this week are Matthew 22:37-38: “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
Deuteronomy chapters 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.