“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Jos.1:8).
The literal interpretation confronts the original recipients. The modern interpretation confronts believers today. And the application confronts the individual in their daily life. The purpose of application is obedience: being a doer of the Word and not just a hearer (Jas. 1:22). This is our final step!
Application can be difficult. Many people jump immediately into application without considering the other principles. This is dangerous. When the proper steps of interpretation are not followed, it gives the devil an opportunity to twist the meaning –especially in the application.
Considered this as a final precaution…
The Bible is not a story about you. Many people think, “That’s me” when reading a passage. Others read a passage and someone they know come to mind. But the Bible is not a story about you, or your friend, or that person who keeps coming to mind when you read about the fool in Proverbs. The Bible is a story about God! When reading the Bible, we should be looking for God and His Son Jesus Christ. We should be asking, what does this reveal about His character and nature? What work is accomplished by Him? What Promise is given?
Scripture points us to God, then it reflects on us, not the other way around. What we are to look for is how we fit into the story. But this will only happen as we trace all scripture back to God in Christ.
The best way to teach how application is executed is to show you…
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord you God will set you high above the nations of the earth. All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle and the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.”
As the Israelites are expecting to continue, God says wait. There was a necessity to remind them of where they came from, how they got here, who their God was, and what He expected of them. The surrounding nations are in fear. Israel is excited by their recent victory over the Kings of Moab and anxious to continue their conquest.
We can see Moses giving his speech in the Judean wilderness surrounded by tens of thousands of Israel. All the previous Israelites who rebelled forty years earlier are dead. This is a new generation. There are hundreds of children and virgin women captured from their defeat of the Midianites. Many are hearing the tail of Israel’s wanderings for the first time. In chapter 28 Moses is delivering the promise of blessing and cursing.
The Bible is a story about God and His desire to get Himself glory through the salvation of the elect and the condemnation of the sinner. Humanity has turned away from God and chosen to serve gods of their own making. It is God’s desire to call us out from these lost ways and reestablish a relationship with us as His people. This sweeping context finds its way into this book!
Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the Torah. Moses wrote this “book of law” at the end of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Deuteronomy means “second law” and was the title accidentally used in the Greek Septuagint (LXX). It was derived from a passage in 17:18 where the king was commanded to “prepare a copy of this law”. A common Hebrew title is elleh haddebarim (these are the words) –the first words in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy is a speech given by Moses. It recounts the stages of their journey and events that unfolded. Not only does it function as a book of the law but as a book of history. The book of Numbers closed with Israel temporarily settled in the plains of Moab after their defeat of the two kings of Moab (Sihon and Og). They are now paused, across the Jordan river, before entering the land of Canaan. It is the fortieth year since Israel left Egypt.
Israel is reminded of the character of their faith and nationhood. The demands of Yahweh and emphasis on total allegiance are a constant reminder in the book. Their primary command was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut.6:5). This command is later re-emphasized to Christians (Matt.22:37).
Deuteronomy is presented in the fashion of a suzerain/vassal treaty. The suzerain was the greater of the two –usually a king of some sorts –and gave the promise of protection, provision etc, etc. The lesser in the treaty was called the vassal –usually subjects of a province or nation that gave the promise of obedience, tribute, and servitude in exchange. This speech is given in this traditional form: with a Historical prologue (1:6-3:29); Laws –basic stipulation (4:1-40, 5:1-11:32) and detailed stipulation (12:1-26:19); a Summary/Document clause (27:1-26); blessing’s for obedience (28:1-14); curses for Disobedience (28:15-68); and Recapitulation (29:1-30:20).
The covenant in this book is the Mosaic Covenant and a short description of the Palestinian Covenant. God promised that He would be their God and they would be His people. He would be with them wherever they go; they would be a kingdom of priests and a Holy nation. He would bless them if they obeyed and curse if they disobeyed. He gave them a system of worship, with moral, ceremonial, sacrificial, and civil laws unique to all other nations
They were saved by faith. But the genuineness of their faith was proved by their adherence to this law. This was their dispensation. God revealed “who He is” to the nation within His law. His command was for them to be like Him. He revealed His will to atone for humanities sin and gave new revelation concerning His plan for redemption. Everything is hidden within the law and ceremonies of this unique covenant.
The culture and custom of the time (15th century B.C.) was different than the 21st century A.D. The nations inhabiting the land: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites are now extinct. Their worship practices were pagan, including child sacrifice and temple prostitution. Yet also, there was an importance placed on marriage, covenants and kingship. Their religious beliefs were mostly polytheistic (multi-god) and mythical.
Israel is monotheistic (one-God). They were not commanded to sacrifice children, practice prostitution, or adhere to monarchs. The laws God gave them were to make them unique, distinct, and wise in the site of the other nations (Deut.4:6-8).
We witness the responsibilities of both parties in this suzerain/vassal treaty. Verse one outlines the first clause, “If” … If you obey, “I will” … I will bless.
Israel was not commanded to obey SOME of God’s law, they were commanded to obey ALL of God’s law. God’s blessings would “overtake” them. The word overtake implies that disobedience would render God’s blessing unable to reach them. But if they obeyed, His blessing could cross into their borders.
Their cities would be blessed (v.3). The meaning of this can be very broad. Most likely it is a promise of the blessing on trade, business, and community.
Their fields would be blessed (v.3, 4). This is a blessing on their life in the country. The blessing is not confined by the city walls. They would never fail to produce a bountiful harvest when following the Lord. So much so, that God promised to give them three years worth of harvest in the 6th year. They would have enough to rest the land in the 7th year, live on the crops while they re-sowed the land in the 8th year, and still have enough to survive on while they waited for the crops to produce in the 9th (Lev25:4, 20).
For the 21st century Christian, a lot can be learned. We no longer live under the Mosaic Covenant (Heb.8). The requirement … “I will”, “If you”, no longer applies. God tells the Christian, “I am,” “I have,” and “I will”. We are beckoned to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, follow Him, and spread the Gospel. This is the unique dispensation of the Church. The Israelite’s love for God was tested by their adherence to this law. Our love is tested by whether or not we obey God by receiving Jesus and sharing the gospel.
The Covenant we are under is one of grace; a New Covenant that is greater the old. Christ was cursed for us when He was crucified (Gal.3:3). We can now inherit the promise of Abraham that came before the Law –a promise not based upon obedience but upon God’s faithfulness.
The New Covenant in Christ has some marvelous parallels. As the Israelite’s were promised physical blessings for obedience, the Christian is promised spiritual blessings “in Christ”. Ephesians 1:3b says, “(God) has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
Some of these blessings are described throughout the book of Ephesians. We are chosen (1:4), adopted (1:5); and forgiven (1:7, Ps.32:1-2); we are given the Holy Spirit (1:13), and guaranteed eternal life (1:14); we are given a living hope (1:18), an inheritance (1:18), and the resurrection power of Christ (1:19-20); we have access to God (2:18), spiritual gifts by God’s grace (4:7), and women who serve in varies roles of ministry by the Holy Spirit (4:11-16); we have varies commands that make us distinct and unique (4:17-6:10) and the armor of God to defeat the attacks of the devil (6:10-18). None of these blessings are dependent upon obedience. All Christians inherit these blessings. Whether we enjoy the benefits of these may depend on how closely we are walking with Christ, but we do not earn them, we already have them.
The principle of “reaping and sowing” is seen in Deuteronomy 28 and is also a New Covenant principle. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “God cannot be mocked, whatever a man sows that he will also reap. He who sows to the flesh (living according to the desires of the flesh), will of the flesh reap corruption. While he who sows to the spirit (living for Christ), will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”
The commands which dictate this principle are different for the Christian in various aspects but the principle still applies. We should guard against is a false expectation of blessings based upon specified blessing of the Mosaic Covenant. But does this mean that the Old Testament is irrelevant? Of course not! Does this mean that God has changed? May it never be!
A parent progressively uses different discipline, grants different freedoms, and requires different responsibility as a child grows. That doesn’t mean the parent has changed. They have the choice to relate to the child in whatever way they choose. What never changes is that the parent loves the child, protects the child, and provides for the child. So it is with God. He is Immutable (unchanging). As Father over creation, He can choose to relate to His creation differently, while never violating His unchanging character.
Deuteronomy 28 applies to the Christian in a much different way than it would have applied to the Jew. The fear of disobedience led them to carry scripture tied to their arms and on their foreheads; to wear tassels of blue, reminding them not to forget God, and to meticulously follow the letter of the law. It was a legalistic result.
The Christian can choose to REFLECT. We are no longer under the bondage of such a law. Wake up in the morning and chose to rejoice that God has freed you to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
The Christian can choose to REMEMBER. Remember God’s two greatest commands: to Love God and Love your neighbor. Love should be the defining law of our life (a loved based on the definition found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
The Christian can choose to RESIST. The principle of sowing and reaping applies today. If we live in the flesh the results will be bad. We may not become captives in a foreign land (Deut.28:64), but we must beware. Resist the temptation to disobey. Seize each moment as an opportunity to sow obedience and reap spiritual blessings.
The Christian can REST. Choose to rest in the finished work of Christ. God has granted spiritual treasures to those who believe. The promises that He guarantees exceeded far beyond the Mosaic Law. The next time you feel overwhelmed to “measure up” –whether in the workplace, in the world or in your marriage –choose to rest in your adoption as God’s child. You are known, chosen, loved, and redeemed!