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I discovered a treasure in this underrated fifth book of the Pentateuch.

When my mentor suggested we study the book of Deuteronomy, I thought, “Really? Deuteronomy? Isn’t that one of the books that makes people quit their Bible-in-a-year reading plans? Isn’t it a dry list of Levitical laws that don’t apply to the church today?” 

My hesitations aside, we dove in, and I discovered a treasure in this underrated fifth book of the Pentateuch.

The word Deuteronomy is Greek for “second law” or “copy of the law.” It is a retelling of the law and the instructions God gave Moses in previous books, now in a short and sweet memo for Joshua and the Israelites as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. But this brief is also rife with reminders, promises, warnings, and lessons that still apply to us today.

A few key words by the number: Moses uses the word “listen” 18 times, “remember” or “do not forget” 21 times, and “obey” 30 times. Did you get that? Through Moses, God is making a very clear point: listen to my words, remember/do not forget my words, obey my words! Not much has changed in 3,000 years.

What is God so desperate for God’s people to know? Twelve times God tells Joshua and the people “Do not be afraid,” “Do not be terrified,” “Do not be discouraged,” “Do not be fainthearted,” and “Do not panic.” But why shouldn’t they be panicked or fainthearted about their dangerous present and uncertain future? Because “The LORD your God himself will fight for you” (Deut. 3:22). Because “The LORD your God … will be with you” (20:1). Because “The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (31:6). Because “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you” (31:8).

Of all the imperatives and minutiae of Levitical laws and details of worship, the critical thing God wants his children to remember as they enter the Promised Land is that God is with them. Without that, none of the rest of the law matters.

But God doesn’t just leave them to take God’s word for it (remember, those who actually saw God triumph over the Egyptians were long gone). Over and over God reminds them of what God has already done. Want an extensive coloring experience? Try highlighting every time in Deuteronomy that God did or promises to do something. Chapter 1 alone recounts: “I (the LORD) have given you this land” (v. 8); “The LORD your God has increased your numbers” (v. 10); “See, the LORD your God has given you the land” (v. 21); “The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you” (v. 30); “The LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son” (v. 31); and “The LORD your God … went ahead of you on your journey … to show you the way you should go” (vs. 32-33). Reminder after reminder after reminder.

But not all reminders and assurances are comforting. Moses also notes, “When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry” (vs. 34) and “He paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you” (vs. 45). The consequences of not listening, remembering, and obeying are dire. Again, not much has changed.

Sadly, we know that the Israelites did not always listen, remember, and obey. But God through Moses preserved this message for more than just Joshua and his contemporaries. The Levitical law doesn’t apply to the church today, but the promises of a God who never changes still hold for you and me. Our faithful, omnipotent God who rescued, redeemed, punished, forgave, and guided the Israelites is still invested in our rescue and our redemption. God still desires our love and obedience, and God still goes with us every step of the way. That is just one of the precious treasures hidden in the underrated book of Deuteronomy.

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