Read This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 1:19–37

Not Law but Torah

Most people have little interest in reading Deuteronomy, often because they think it consists of a bunch of laws that either they already understand or are no longer applicable. But this is a wrong picture of this book. Deuteronomy is not law at all! It is sermons. It is covenant. It is Torah (which means guidance or teaching in Hebrew). It is life.

Moses is about to die, Israel is about to cross the Jordan, and Moses wants to encourage and remind the Israelites of their covenantal commitment to God. He longs to inspire and motivate them, to move their hearts to greater faithfulness to Yahweh. And yet the people are already rebellious (see Deut. 31:27) and seem to have forgotten all that their parents went through and how God helped them. So, Moses preaches a series of sermons and then writes them down, structured in the form of an ancient Hittite treaty/covenant that the people would be familiar with. The covenant begins by recounting all that the initiating party (God) had done in rescuing and helping the receiving party (Israel) of the covenant. Deuteronomy 1–4 is full of all the ways that God has helped Israel in their journey.

And yet, the story that Moses tells is also full of the many times that Israel has already rebelled against God and lacked faith in His care and deliverance. This is a story of grace, God’s grace in helping a people bent on rejecting Him. And this grace is all the more reason that the people are to respond with obedience. But this obedience flows out of a heart of love and gratitude for salvation, not in order to be saved.

So, even at this most crucial juncture, Moses is not trying to browbeat the people but instead to win their hearts, their minds, their allegiance to God.