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Deuteronomy The Law Then and Its Impact Today
Dr. William James Carter, The 1st
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There is little doubt that the fifth book of the Pentateuch is a fascinating one. It is fascinating on many levels particularly in light of the fact that Moses is found rehearsing the law just prior to his death. The fact that Moses is rehearsing the law brings much to light about what Deuteronomy truly is. It is not a record of a dying man just getting some burdens relieved from his chest rather it is the work of a man of God providing focus to a new generation of followers.
Before the new followers of God are brought to the forefront it needs to be noted that Moses, from an early age, was welcomed into Pharaoh’s house. He was taught by the best and dined well. Yet over a period of time Moses came to realize that he really did not belong to Pharaoh but that he had a much longer and sure history with the Hebrews; that is the Israelites. God used Moses to lead His people from the hands of tyrannical leadership that refused to let the Israelites worship God. After much ado the children were allowed to leave the house of bondage which was Egypt. After the release the people of God became rebellious and stiff-necked. Unthankfulness was the order of the day even while God continued to provide for and protect His people.
Because of their rebellion the Israelites, with Moses, wandered in the wilderness for a generation. During this time God provided Moses with the law the Israelis were to abide by. Meanwhile the older and rebellious people were dying in the wilderness leaving the younger people unfamiliar with the entire law. It is for this reason that there had to be a reiteration or a repeating of the Law. This is what “Deuteronomy” loosely means. It is a repeating or restating of the law. With this the new generation of God’s followers had to be instructed in the Law which is what prompted Moses to give a series of three speeches revisiting not just the law but also the very nuances of it.
Moses, in chapter four provides distinct a warning in respect to the Word of God, or the Law. His warning was “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. 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.” The reason for this warning was to prevent what happened to the older generation who chose not only to rebel against the Law but often served other gods as is evidenced in Exodus 32:4. And while the term “law” is not used in the text the Law is most definitely referenced with the term “Commandments” and these commandments are from the Lord.
The Law was to guide the people while the more important matter of the Law was to present a holy people before a holy God. The Israelites were to be separate from the world in every aspect of their lives. This is why the nuances of the Law were so important as laid out by Moses. The people of God were to be holy from the onset and they were to see themselves as “an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6) The people of God were never to be like other peoples and had to be separated from things that were an offense to God. This is what holiness is about and this is what the Law sought to do- keep the people of God separate and apart from ungodly offenses.
In order to maintain holiness the people of God were not to alter the Law in any form. It was to remain intact without exception. This can be furthered by the fact that because God is holy His Word must also be holy. This is why it cannot be altered and must be honored in whole. Revelation 22:18-19 repeats the very idea mentioned in Deuteronomy. The text reads, “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: 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.” Clearly the first freed generation of Israelites was caught in certain plagues because they chose not to adhere to the holiness of God’s Word.
With this it is important to know that the Law (Word of God) was put in place for the holiness of a people. While it is evident that the Law was directed to the Israelites present day followers of God have been grafted into the Tree of Life (Romans 11). That Tree of Life is Jesus who came not to destroy the Law rather He came fulfill the Law. Matthew 5:17 makes this point abundantly clear. The Law, while the ceremonial aspects of it are not in use today, is directive for the holiness of a people. Moses, during his speeches, pointed the people to holiness. Jesus in His life lived holiness. Christians today need to take the Word of God and hide it in our hearts so that the impact of the law will be holiness. The fact is that without holiness no man shall see God yet with a life of holiness man walks with God. The Law then was pointing to holiness; the impact now, a life of holiness.
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