What kind of movie or book ending do you prefer? If you are like most people you want a happy, neat and tidy ending. What do we get at the end of Deuteronomy? We get the song of Moses in chapter 32, his blessing over the nations tribes in chapter 33, and finally his death on the Plains of Moab in chapter 34. In particular, due to the death of Moses and the general tone of his song, we could conclude that the great book’s ending is rather sad. Not only do we see the passing away of Israel’s greatest prophet before the nation enters the Promised Land, but before anyone enters they are told that this generation will also fail to honour God’s covenant and thus will be cast out of the land. Is there any good news to be found?
I believe there is, consider the following:
1) God’s gracious offer to choose to serve God and live. (Deut. 30:15-20)
He sets before them “life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God…by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments…then you shall live and multiply”
2) Yet, our limitations are clearly stated. (Deut. 5:28-29; 29:4)
Left to our ourselves, we are not able to merit God’s blessings on the basis of law-keeping. Speaking to Moses, the Lord says: “I have heard the words of this people…they are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” Later, Moses added, “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”
3) God’s grace, steadfast love, and covenantal faithfulness on display. (Deut. 30:6-8; 32:43)
Given the circumstances, God’s blessings to his people come on the basis of his grace, love, and faithfulness alone. It is God who avenges his people, it is God who delivers, and it is God who cleanses.
The book of Deuteronomy is a favourite source for the New Testament writers. It not only lays out a history of Israel, but also a clear foundation for the message of the gospel. We read of a creator God who is holy, powerful, abounding in love and mercy, yet also just. We read of man who is of frail and fickle heart, incapable of saving himself or living up to God’s standards. Deuteronomy is a call to trust in God and obey his commandments, and this call extends to every generation. It ultimately points to the one who did fulfill the law completely, the one whose death in the place of sinners makes salvation a reality for all who trust in him.
With the words of Deuteronomy 30 ringing in his ears Paul writes some of the high points of Romans (consider looking up 8:3-4 and 10:4-13) announcing, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”