Hearing God’s Word: Deuteronomy 3, 4 (7)
Pray Psalm 78.1-5.
Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children…
Sing Psalm 78.1-5
Psalm 78.1-5 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Give ear, O my people, attend to my word,
dark sayings and parables sent from the Lord,
things we have before by our fathers been told,
which we would not dare from our children withhold.
The glorious deeds of our God in His might,
and all of the works He has done in our sight,
together with all of the words of His Law,
would we on ourselves and our children bestow.
Read Deuteronomy 3, 4; meditate on Deuteronomy 3.21, 22, 28
1. How many different directions did Moses instruct Joshua to “look” in Deuteronomy 3.21, 22?
2. Why must Joshua not be afraid?
Deuteronomy 1-4 are a history lesson, designed to remind people of God’s promises and works for them in the past, and to admonish them against falling into the same pattern of distrust and disobedience that characterized their parents.
In these chapters we get a glimpse into the kind of vantage point on life believers in God must maintain. At all times, believers must “look” in four directions at once. You say, “How can that be?” We do it all the time. Imagine you’re driving down the interstate on a day when a storm is gathering up ahead. You don’t want to miss your exit, and you can see a ramp up ahead with a green sign pointing to what you think is where you want to get off. You’re watching the road ahead, of course, but you also have an eye on your rear view mirror – just in case. You’re watching your speed as well, looking down from time to time just to make sure you’re within the limit. And you can’t help but notice the sky, where those dark clouds keep building. You do this all at once, all at the same time, and continually. And this is a type of the way believers in Jesus Christ must conduct themselves throughout their lives, a type which we can discern in Moses’ history lesson for the people of Israel.
First, we must at all times look up, looking to God. In chapters 3 and 4 of Deuteronomy, Moses reminded the people of Israel that God is a self-revealing God; He makes known Himself and His will to His people (3.2; 4.33, 34, 36). He is above all a God of love (4.37). He is also strong and powerful, even to overcome giants (3.3-11, 22; 4.34). He owns all the land of the earth, and He gives it to whom He will (3.18). He is a God of wrath against those who disobey Him (3.26). He is jealous for His Word (4.1, 2); the one true God (4.7, 36); and a consuming fire on those who choose other gods (3.15-24). Moses intended the people of Israel to keep this view of God in mind and on their hearts at all times.
Second – and this has been our focus throughout these first four chapters, so we won’t belabor it – Moses taught the people to look back. They must remember God’s covenant, His works, and His Word, given through Moses. And they must also learn from the mistakes of their forebears, lest they repeat them.
Third, Moses pointed the people of Israel to the future. He encouraged them to focus on taking all the land God had appointed for them, and to see in the defeats of Sihon and Og a foretaste of what awaited them in Canaan.
Finally, Moses taught the people to look at the present, a moment when a new leader was being appointed, and he and they must take courage in their hearts, and encourage one another, to the work of each day (4.39, 40).
The people of Israel would succeed and be blessed to the extent that they lived from this vantage point. The same is true for us. Look to Jesus, exalted in glory; look back to His Word, works, and promises, as well as the history of our people; look ahead to the coming of His Kingdom; look at the present, and make the most of the time that is given to you.
Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
God holds each individual to obedience to Him. Moses was not allowed to claim that the Israelites were irritating and thus he lost his temper and hit the rock rather than speak to it. Nope. He was expected to do what God told him to do, regardless of others’ behavior. “Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter” (Deut. 3.26). And just to solidify that this is true for all of us, Jesus told Peter to follow Him. Jesus tells us to follow Him. And when Peter questioned the bad news about his own demise, and wondered aloud about John’s end, Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (Jn. 21.18-22). “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8.34). He spoke to many, yet His message was personal. What He expected of Moses and Peter, He expects of us: “You follow and obey Me!”
1. Everything God has spoken and done for us is intended to promote obedience to Him. Why?
2. How does living from the believer’s vantage point help us to obey the Lord?
3. What can you to do to follow Jesus more consistently?
He therefore infers from what had gone before, that the people must beware of shutting their eyes against the clear revelation of God's power, and therefore urges them to keep it in memory, because man's ingratitude is but too prone to forgetfulness. He afterwards reminds them wherefore God would be known, viz., that they might keep His Law and obey His statutes. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 4.39
Lord, teach me to live from my proper vantage point each day, so that I…
Pray Psalm 78.6-16.
As you pray these words, be conscious of the “four looks” that make up your Christian vantage point, and commit yourself to going into your day from this perspective.
Sing Psalm 78.6-16.
Psalm 78.6-16 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Lord, let all our children arise and declare
the truth of the Lord every day, everywhere,
and set all their hopes in God’s wonderful Word,
and never forget all the works of the Lord.
Our fathers were stubborn; they would not obey;
when faced with their foes they in fear turned away.
God’s work of redemption they wholly despised,
forgetting the pow’r He had shown to their eyes.
T. M. and Susie Moore
Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).