Purpose of Deuteronomy

The book of Deuteronomy is written in the form of a treaty between a king and his vassal state typical of the second millennium B.C. It calls Israel to remember who God is and what he has done. Lacking faith, the old generation had wandered for 40 years and died in the wilderness. They left Egypt behind, but never knew the Promised Land. Then on the east bank of the Jordan River, Moses prepared the sons and daughters of that faithless generation to possess the land. After a brief history lesson emphasizing God’s great acts on behalf of his people, Moses reviewed the law. Then he restated the covenant—God’s contract with his people.

Deuteronomy is a series of farewell addresses by Moses to the Israelites as he prepares to die and as they make ready to enter the Promised Land. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, they faced a turning point in their history—new foes, new temptations, and new leadership. Moses called the people together to remind them of the Lord’s faithfulness and to challenge them to be faithful and obedient to their God as they possessed the Promised Land.

What God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob centuries before is about to come true. Deuteronomy is the proclamation of a second chance for Israel. Israel’s lack of faith and disloyalty had prevented the conquest of Canaan earlier. Moses realizes that the Israelites’ greatest temptation in the new land will be to forsake God and to take up the worship of the Canaanite idols. Thus he is concerned for the perpetuation of the covenant relationship.

To prepare the nation for life in the new land, Moses expounds the commandments and statutes God had given in His covenant. Obedience to God is equated with life, blessing, health, and prosperity. Disobedience is equated with death, cursing, disease, and poverty. The covenant showed God’s children the way to live in fellowship with Him and with each other.

Deuteronomy teaches that the relation of God to His people is far more than law. The indispensable conditions of our covenant relationship with God are obedience and loyalty. Our love, affection, and devotion to the Lord must be the true foundation of all our actions. Loyalty to God is the essence of true piety and holiness. Success, victory, prosperity, and happiness all depend upon our obedience to the Father. The book is a plea for our obedience to God based upon the motives of love and fear. (10:12, 13)

Jesus often quoted from Deuteronomy. When asked to name the most important commandment, He responded with Deuteronomy 6:5. When confronted by Satan at His temptation, He quoted exclusively from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:16; 6:13; and 10:20).

Several of his most significant prophecies included

The coming of the Messiah (18:15),

The dispersion of Israel (30:1),

The repentance (30:2)

Restoration (30:5) of Israel,

Israel’s future national restoration and conversion (30:5, 6),

Israel’s national prosperity (30:9).

The lessons are clear. Because of what God has done, Israel should have hope and follow him; because of what he expects, they should listen and obey; because of who he is, they should love him completely. Learning these lessons will prepare them to possess the Promised Land.

As you hear the message of Deuteronomy, remember how God has expressed his kindness in your life, and then commit yourself anew to trust, love, and obey him.