DEUTERONOMY: THE BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE
The book of Deuteronomy consists of numerous messages delivered to Israel warning them of the dangers of forgetfulness: "Beware lest ye forget," he said again and again. (Ch 4:23). "Thou shalt remember." These two warnings run like a refrain throughout the pages of the book. "Take heed to thyself, and keep thou soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen." (Ch. 4:9). "And remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt." (Ch. 5:15). "Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Ch 6:12). "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness." (Ch 8:2). "Beware lest thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments." (Ch 8:11). "But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth." (Ch. 8:18). "Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness.". (Ch. 9:7). "Remember what the Lord thy God did unto Miriam." (Ch. 24:9). "Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way." (Ch. 25:17).
The generation which experienced the redemption from Egypt was dead. Joshua, Caleb, and Moses alone remained, and Moses himself was soon to die. A new generation stood on the threshold of the Promised Land. A new leader stood ready to conquer Canaan. New challenges loomed ahead, new dangers, new prospects. In those 10 "remember" sermons quoted above, Moses sought to prepare the peoples of God for the future by reminding them of the past.
There are four ways we can look at the book. (1) The backward look - the history of Israel (Chapters 1-3). (2) The Inward look - the holiness of Israel (Chapters 4-11). (3) The Forward look - the heritage of Israel (Chapters 12-30). (4) The upward look - the hero of Israel (Moses) (Chapters 31-34).
Looking backward. The fear of the giants of Canaan struck terror in the Israelites and brought about spiritual paralysis - a death sentence in the wilderness. Now, the shadow of the giants once more loomed before them. Moses wanted to make sure that history did not repeat itself. He skillfully reminded them that other nations had their giants, too. The giants in Canaan were no more terrible than were Sihon and Og, kings overwhelmed by the Israelites earlier.
Looking within. The source of national greatness lies in a right relationship with God. This was especially so with Israel since God's purpose in granting them nationhood was that they might be a witness for Him to all mankind. Moses therefore warned Israel against forgetting the law of the Lord. Moses reminded them that their life in the Promised Land hinged on their giving God His proper place in their lives. He did this by setting before them blessings and curses on Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal.
Looking forward. Some 19 chapters deal with principles and precepts that concerned the occupancy of Canaan. Moses warned the people against making alliances with the Canaanites and falling into the snare of idolatry. The practices of the pagans were to be avoided. Israel must beware of compromise. They were to be a holy people, a living witness to all mankind, a testimony to the world of the one and only true God.
Looking upward. The last four chapters deal with Moses looking over a dark Jordan, the river of death. His last words to Israel, his vision, his song, and the strange burial by God on Mt Nebo are full of interest. Deuteronomy closes with Joshua standing in the shoes of Moses on the threshold of the Promised Land.
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