1 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.
The book of Deuteronomy is the last book of the Pentateuch, completing the five books of Moses. They were all written by Moses, according to tradition, and Scripture. In John 5, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of Israel for not believing in Him. Jesus appealed to the writing of Moses to vindicate His ministry and teachings, “for he wrote of me” (John 5:46), said Jesus.
For the past 300 years, following the period in European history known as the Enlightenment, liberal religious scholars began to attack the authorship of Moses. The idea has been promoted, and widely accepted, that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, or the Torah. Instead, it is argued that at least four different authors, or groups of authors, wrote various sections of these books over many centuries, which were eventually collected by one or more redactors (editors) and compiled.
Once liberal scholars questioned the integrity of Moses, they turned their attention to other books of the Bible, such as Isaiah, and argued for two or more “Isaiahs”.
This is a direct assault on the Word of God, and can be traced beyond the Age of Enlightenment to the Garden of Eden, when the Devil asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said,” (Gen. 3:1).
Let the truth go forth that all Scripture is God breathed, “and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteous; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
There is no need to entertain the idea that Moses did not write the Law, or that Isaiah did not write the Scriptures ascribed to him. Jesus believed in the authorship of both men, and so the matter is settled. Let the Church keep the faith once delivered to the saints of the verbally inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God in the original autographs.
The book of Deuteronomy is the last book of the Pentateuch, and the second time the Law is Given. That is why the book is called, Deuteronomy, which literally means, “Second Law”, from the Greek Septuagint (deuteros + nomos).
As Moses prepared to leave Israel, he wanted to address the nation and did so in three final messages.
- The First Message Deuteronomy 1:1 – 4:43
- The Second Message Deuteronomy 4:44 – 11:32
- The Third Message Deuteronomy 12:1– 33:29
Moses gave these final words to Israel because of his great love for the people. Moses wanted Israel to live and prosper. He knew the best way to survive as a nation, was to listen to the Word of God, and keep the statues [specific laws] and judgment [verdict] which he had taught them. Moses, in turn, had received what he taught, from heaven at the hand of angels (Gal. 3:19). If the people believed Moses, and obeyed the Word of the Lord, they would live, prosper, and possess the Land of Promises.
2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
In addition to keeping the statues and judgment, there was a prohibition against adding to, or taking from the Law. When God speaks, He does not want men, or angels, diminishing His message by adding any of their own thoughts to it, or taking away any royal command, instruction, or doctrine.
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19).
3 Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baal–Peor: for all the men that followed Baal–Peor, the Lord thy God hath destroyed them from among you.
To impress upon the nation the seriousness of what he is saying to them, Moses tells the people to remember what they have seen. They had already witnessed the judgment of God because of those who followed Baal-Peor. The Lord punished the Exodus Generation, and he would punish the Second Generation as well, if He had to.
Baal-Peor is a reference to Baal, the local deity of Peor worshipped by the Moabites. “And Israel joined himself unto Baal-Peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (Num. 25:3).
What made the worship of Baal so offensive to the Lord, was that Baal was believed to be the “giver of life.” That was a direct assault upon God, who alone is the Giver of life. It was the Lord who created man, the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them. God is not going to share His glory with anyone, especially a dead idol.
For the Hebrew people to unite themselves to Baal worship in Peor was blasphemy in the highest degree. The punishment God administered through Moses began with the leadership.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.
5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye everyone his men that were joined unto Baal–Peor. 8…So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel” (Num. 25:4-5, 8).
With that terrible memory in their minds, Moses was able to say to the Second-Generation words of reassurance.
4 But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.
God does not punish the righteous, but He does not hesitate to punish the guilty.
The spiritual lessons of this passage are to be learned.
There is a Law to keep. For the saints in the Old Testament era, the Law was codified in the Torah in 613 provisions.
For the saints in the New Testament the Law is summarized in “the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2). “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). There is always Law to keep. Christians are not anti-nomian, or lawless.
The Law of God consists of statues [individual commandments] and judgments [verdicts to be honored].
In the Old Testament era, the 613 commandments were to be interpreted by the Elders, and the Priests. Their word was final. What they decreed was to be executed. In the New Testament there are also many specific commandments to be kept. They are to be enforced by Elders, and members in the local assembly, according to established principles set forth in the Gospels, and in the Epistles. Church Discipline is part of Christian discipleship.
Those who keep the Law, those who keep Covenant with the Lord shall live, conquer their enemies, and enjoy possessions of promise.
For the Old Testament saints, life was to be lived in the Land of Promise after the conquest of the tribes of Canaan.
For the New Testaments saint, life is to be enjoyed in a super-abundant way as the world, the flesh, and the devil are conquered through the Cross, and by the Spirit, so that the hope of heaven is realized.
The Word of God is not only to be honored, it is to protected against all encroachments. Nothing is to be added to, or taken away from God’s Word.
The love of God is to be enjoyed and valued, but the wrath of God is not to be forgotten. Remember what happened at Peor, when a large number of Israelites embraced the false god, Baal. Judgment was certain, swift, and severe.
Just because others sin, does not mean that self has to do the same.