The Pentateuch: Deuteronomy

God Reminds

During the month of August, we will examine themes found in the first five books of the Bible: the Pentateuch. These themes will tell us about God, humanity, faith, and the world. Join us each week as we discuss each book in the Pentateuch.

The book of Deuteronomy primarily consists of 3 speeches or sermons of Moses to the people of Israel. As we reach this fifth and final book of the Pentateuch, we hear Moses’ impassioned petitions to the people to follow the Law. The three speeches are roughly broken down like this:

  1. Deuteronomy 1:1-4:43 – Reminder of the Wilderness Wanderings
  2. Deuteronomy 4:44-28:68 – Recounting of the Law
  3. Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20 – Reassurance that Repentance will Restore the People

The book comes to a close in the final four chapters with the death of Moses and the installation of Joshua as leader of the people. 

And if you are tempted to read the book of Deuteronomy after having followed along with our blog series, you likely will find yourself in a familiar place. Much of the book is dedicated to reminding the people 40 years later of something that their parents and grandparents were taught and which we read in books like Leviticus and Numbers. 

The reason for this is quite simple, and yet so important. God takes the time here, at the conclusion of what we call the Pentateuch, what the Jewish people call the Torah to remind the people of what has come before. To tell them what he has already told them. 

If you have listened to many public speakers, you likely have heard at some point that a good speaker will tell you what they are going to tell you before they tell you. Then they will tell you what they are setting out to tell you. And finally, the will remind you of the thing that they want to tell you. This is essentially what the book of Deuteronomy is here to do. To remind us of the thing that God has already told us but wants to make sure that we don’t forget.

As we consider the role of remembrance in our lives and as a part of our faith, I hope there are some obvious connections that come to mind.

To remember is extremely practical. History, they say, is especially prone to repeat itself when you stop learning lessons from the past. To remember the failures of our predecessors is conventional wisdom that we ought not to ignore. 

To remember is vital for success in life.

Additionally, to remember can provide comfort and catharsis in life. Think about some of your fondest memories, friendships, experiences. These provide us with happiness and joy in life. To reminisce about the “good ole days” can lead us to some of the best things in our lives.

To remember can bring joy.

But most importantly, to remember is vital for us to continue the story of faith. We must remember what took place amongst God’s people, we must remember the life and teachings of Jesus, we take the time in our church every week to remember the body and blood of Jesus that were given so that we can have life. We remember the early church and seek to imitate the best of their faith. 

To remember is vital for the continuance of faith. 

I believe that God, in the book of Deuteronomy, wishes all three of these for His people. It is God’s desire that His people learn to lead successful lives where they learn from the mistakes of previous generations. It is God’s desire that the people remember what God is doing for them through the Law–providing them a way to have relationship with God!–so that they can have joy. It is God’s desire that His people would grow in the life of faith. That they would be faithful to the Law. That they would help bring blessing upon the entire world because of their relationship with God.

So today, when we speak of remembrance, we don’t do it solely because of nostalgia. We don’t do it because the good ole days truly were better than days today. We do it because it helps lead us ahead. To remember is vital if we are going to move forward.

And this is exactly where God’s people find themselves at the end of the book of Deuteronomy. They are trying to find a way forward. God promised them that they would grow into a great people–descendants as countless as the sand on the seashore or the number of stars in the night sky. They have done so and will continue to do so. But God also promised them they would receive the Promised Land as an inheritance. As the Pentateuch comes to a close, this promise still hangs in the balance. The people are trying to find a way forward. And God, through Moses, takes the time to stop to remind the people of where they have been. Not so they will get stuck in the past, but so that they will be ready and prepared for God’s future.

As we continually learn how to live in this world of ours, may we remember where we have been. May we remember most importantly where God has led us. And may this help us to continue to follow God faithfully every day.