Three Applicational Emphases in Preaching Deuteronomy

OpenScroll5DeuChristians tend to view the books of Moses as a flat collection of laws.  Many tend not to distinguish the progression within the books, both in terms of the progression of revelation of law (in response to progressive sin and failure), as well as the progression in generations.  Deuteronomy is anything but flat.  Here we have a new generation and the aged Moses giving his parting-shot sermon to the people he has seen grow up in the wilderness.  There is a passion in Moses and a unique opportunity set before the people.  Don’t miss the following applicational emphases in the book:

1. God’s loving instruction.  It would be a gross misrepresentation to turn Deuteronomy into a flat book of laws and codes.  Through Moses God is communicating a loving desire for the people to thrive as His people, to be blessed, to prosper in the land, etc.  It is easy to communicate threat without love, or warning without motive.

2. The danger of comfort.  Surely a people who had watched their parents die in the wilderness, who had heard stories and perhaps remembered their miraculous deliverance from Pharoah and his armies, who had seen the miraculous as children and as adults, surely such a people would be well situated to thrive in the land before them? Deuteronomy repeatedly warns of the dangers of forgetting.  We humans can struggle to remember.  Especially when things are going well and we are comfortable.  Perhaps Deuteronomy should be preached in our culture once a year?  It wouldn’t be wasted!

3. The motives of obedience.  God certainly lays out for the people the expected obedience.  What would it look like for them to be faithful to the marital arrangement that is set before them?  Obedience, of course.  But Deuteronomy never lets us settle for an outward conformity.  Just as in a human marriage there is no satisfaction in ritual and plastic obedience, so in relationship with God the core issue must be the heart.  That is what needs to be circumcised.  How easily we turn loving instruction into self-concerned ritualistic obedience.  Even in these days God knew that ultimately it would take a prophet greater than Moses to capture the hearts of a straying humanity.

2 thoughts on “Three Applicational Emphases in Preaching Deuteronomy

  1. Hi Peter, thanks for this.
    I’m thinking of doing a series on Deuteronomy sometime this year, but I have a question that wasn’t there in my former missionary context but is very present in my now church context: How do we do the sheer quantity of Bible reading that the bigger books demand, when Sunday’s don’t really lend themselves to it? If we summarize then it seems that’s not really allowing Scripture to speak, but if we read big chunks, it often doesn’t work well on a Sunday (and I admit our Sunday’s may therefore be “wrong”).
    I hope that makes sense.
    Answers on a postcard…..

    • Hi Richard – I’m not sure there is a solution. I suppose we have to select representative highlights, but also preach in such a way that we motivate listeners to want to go back and read it themselves. There are creative options like working with a group of people to do effective dramatic readings in order to allow for a longer reading without concentration being lost (but we may have to sacrifice a hymn to allow time!)

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