The Greek and English name for Deuteronomy reflects its nature: it is the deutero nomos – second law. You’ve seen much of this material in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, but besides offering some new exposition, there are two significant traits that distinguish this book.
First, Moses’ speeches are presented in the first person; it’s as though someone is recording Moses’ words or he is writing them himself. That’s what makes this book feel so personal.
Second, Deuteronomy plays out as a cohesive covenant, complete with a historical prologue, lists of general and specific commands, promise of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, and calls for witnesses and acceptance. I touched on this in Exodus when the LORD offered His covenant on Sinai. There is no negotiation here; Israel can choose to obey or disobey, but not to walk away.
At Sinai, the LORD began his covenant with historical prologue: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…” Yesterday, we heard a much more elaborate prologue in chapters 1 through 3. Chapter 4 pivots from their history with the LORD to Israel’s righteous response: “And now…listen to the statutes that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live…”
As you listen to chapter 4, keep in mind the question asked in verses 32 through 35: “Ask now of the days that are past, …and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened… Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation… To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.”
In chapter 5, Moses begins his long second speech by recounting the Sinai Covenant. Listen carefully to how he makes the covenant alive and present: “Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us alive today.” What follows is the familiar ground of the Ten Commandments, and a reminder of this generation’s commitment to obedience.
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 4 and 5. 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.