These are the last words and testimony of a man who is about to die. It is the farewell address of Moses. He reflects on the last 40 years. The first Torah portion from this book is called “Devarim” which means “words” and it is the actual name in Hebrew for this book. This portion goes from Deut 1.1 to 3.22.
The word “Deuteronomy” is Greek and it means “Second Law (Torah)” and immediately you can see the Greek word for “law” in this word (“nomos”). Anomos means “no law” or “against the law” and it is translated in English as “lawless” many times in the Gospels and Epistles. It means people who think they are free from the Law (Torah) and it doesn’t apply to them. You do not want the Lord to call you “anomos” or “lawless” in the judgment because that means you are against the Torah, as many so-called believers are today. The False Messiah is called “lawless” in 2 Thes 2.8 because he is against the Torah, and so are some people who think they are believers (Matt 7.21-23). They believed the Torah didn’t apply to them anymore and they were “free from the Law” and the Lord says “I never knew you.”
As we learned at the end of the book of Numbers, Israel is at the border of the promised land and Moses recounts the events of the previous 40 years. He warns the nation of all the impending temptations awaiting them in Canaan. He warns them of God’s judgment if they disobey, and the blessings if they observe the Torah. He goes over the principle laws (Ch 12-26) which were to be observed in the land. He gives a farewell song in Deut 32.
The word “Devarim” (“words”) in verse 1 is a unique word. Devar means “word” and it can also carry the meaning of “speak” or “things.” Where this has meaning for us is at creation where the Lord “spoke” and there were “things.” The word for “wilderness” is “midbar” and it has the same root as “devar” (dalet, bet, resh). The Holy of Holies is called the “Devir” (speaking place) in 1 kings 6.5 (and other places) and that is because that is where the Lord “spoke.” All of these words have the same root.
In English, this book is called Deuteronomy and it comes from the Greek meaning “Repetition of the Law” but that isn’t exactly accurate. It repeats the Torah, meaning “teaching or instruction.” It repeats the teaching but it is the “words” of God (Devarim). This book is quoted many times in the Gospels and Epistles, and the book talks about “transitions.” We all know about that. The Lord has multiplied the people from a small group to as many as “the stars of heaven” (verse 10). Here is a concept to understand. When the phrase “stars of heaven” is used the Lord is alluding to “heavenly/spiritual children. When He uses “dust of the earth” he alludes to earthly/physical children.
You will notice as the Moses begins to recount history he mentions the fact that he needed help with the people in Deut 1.9-15. He says in verse 13 he was to choose “wise and discerning (perceptive, discreet, intelligent, observant, prudent) and experienced men” to help him. But in v 15 he says that he took “wise and experienced” people and appointed them as leaders. You will notice that “discerning” was left out. Did Moses have a hard time finding such men? Are people any different today?
Deut 1.19-40 is a very interesting passage and it gives the words said the day Israel did not get into the promised land. Why didn’t the Lord let them go in? They did not have confidence (faith) in God and they were not willing to go in. What did they do? They sent in scouts to look at the land, which was not God’s idea, and these scouts were not really needed. The Lord brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand for the purpose of going into the land, and he didn’t need scouts to determine whether or not that was possible or not. They were looking for excuses not to go in because they didn’t believe. They refused to follow the “pillar.”
They were not willing to “go up” (v 26) and they rebelled. They grumbled and complained saying “God hates us.” They say he brought them out of Egypt so that they could be delivered into the hands of the Amorites and be destroyed (v 27). He saved them, gave them covenants (his “devar”) and that makes their belief look illogical. But we feel like that sometimes and we think God hates us because of the troubles we have had. We need to look at the big picture and keep our eyes on the pillar.
Now, some say “but my present situation” but that is all part of the plan. We need to remember we have covenants going all the way back to Adam. Moses clearly tells them in this book that God was testing them to see what was in their hearts. God knew what was there, but the people didn’t. They stood at Sinai and said “Whatsoever the Lord tells us, we will do it” (Exo 19.8). What was in their hearts? They really weren’t willing to do what the Lord says, and the tests will prove it. The key for us is to get what comes out of our mouth to match what is in our hearts. When we say something, believe it. Don’t honor God with our mouth and not in our hearts. When did Israel “test” the Lord? When they said, “Is God among us?” This angered the Lord.
In Deut 1.19 it talks about “that great and terrible wilderness” and it was. Water evaporates immediately and there were fiery serpents, scorpions and death all around them. Believing isn’t what you did in the past, we must do it everyday. In John 11.21 Mary had faith in the past, and in John 11.22 she had faith in the present, and in John 11.24 she had faith in the future. Her problem was she wasn’t so sure what Yeshua would do “now.” Martha had some conflicts because she thought Yeshua was upset with her because he let her brother die. Have we ever thought like that?
Yeshua wept in John 11.35 because nobody believed him, even after all they had seen, but that is not the whole story. In John 11.33 it says he was deeply “moved (Greek ’embrimaomai’ …#1690 in Strong’s meaning ‘to snort with anger’) in spirit” and was “troubled” (Greek ‘tarasso’..#5015 in Strong’s meaning ‘agitated’). He was angry about this and was agitated (v 33-38). It was the same thing in the wilderness, they didn’t believe God either and it led to rebellion, and the Lord was angry about it and the people were judged. People today don’t think they will be judged for unbelief in God’s word in the Torah because “grace” covers it all. However, Jude warns us otherwise (Jude 5). In what religion has a whole nation heard the voice of God? They all knew what to do (Torah-Deut 4.32-40). That is a unique religion, and in spite of all this, they didn’t believe.
In Deut 1.31 we have the imagery of a man and his son. This imagery is alluded to in Exo 19.4 where it says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. The idiom “eagles wings” means “protection from heaven (eagle).” God covered them from heaven. Some people think being borne on “eagles wings” means they never had any trouble, but we know that they did. This imagery is talking about protection from heaven (Rev 12.14) and Matt 6.9 talks about “our Father” and Yeshua is reminding them that this is the same Father who provided for their fathers in the wilderness (Deut 1.31). That is who to believe in.
In Part 2 we will pick up here.