Ten Things About Deuteronomy 4:32–40: Or, What It Means for God to Speak from the Midst of the Fire

10 thingsIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon on expositional preaching, here are ten observations from Deuteronomy 4:32–40.

1. Future hope (vv. 25–31) is based on God’s past actions (vv. 32–39).

Grammatically, verse 32 begins with the word “for” (ki). This opening word reveals the relationship between verse 32 and what comes before it. Previously, verses 25–31 explained the future mercies of God—what Yahweh promised to do to restore his people (vv. 29–31). Verse 32 explains why Israel can have confidence in this future grace. Because God saved Israel from Egypt with omnipotent power, so we can trust he will act in power again to restore his people in the future. In short, Israel’s future hope (and our hope) stand on the powerful working of God’s grace in the past.

2. Covenant obedience (v. 40) is also the past actions of God (vv. 32–39).

On the other side of verses 32–39, we find another implied reason for action. Covenant obedience (“keeping his statues and rules”) is motivated by the redemption of God from Egypt and the revelation of God’s word at Sinai. In short, just as God’s previous works of salvation strengthen our future confidence in God, they also call for faithfulness. Continue reading

Ten Things About Deuteronomy 4:1–14

10 thingsIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon on worship, here are ten observations from Deuteronomy 4:1–14.

1. Deuteronomy 4 is the last chapter of Deuteronomy’s covenantal introduction.

In Deuteronomy Moses follows (and reformulates) a covenant structure identifiable by anyone living in the ancient Near East. Just as covenants made between kings and their servants (i.e., Suzerains and their vassals) followed a standardized pattern, so does the book of Moses.

Ancient Near Eastern Suzerainty Treaty[1] Deuteronomy as a Covenant Document
Preamble (“These are the words . . .”) Preamble (1:1–5): “These are the words of Moses addressed to all Israel . . .”
Historical Prologue: a survey of the relational history between covenant partners Historical Prologue (1:6–4:49)
General Stipulations General Stipulations (ch. 5–11): general commands to love, serve, fear Yahweh
Specific Stipulations Specific Stipulations (ch. 12–26): an exposition of the Ten Words
Divine Witnesses: various deities called to witness the treaty Blessings and Curses (ch. 27–28)
Blessings and Curses: relating respectively to the maintenance of breach of the covenant Divine Witnesses (see 30:19; 31:19; 32:1–43)

From this outline, we see where Deuteronomy 4 is situated. It is the final word of the covenantal introduction (i.e., the historical prologue). Moreover, in a way that deviates from the classical ANE treaty formula, it adds covenantal instructions that anticipate the next sections—namely, the general and special stipulations given in chapters 5–26. Continue reading

The Wisdom of God is Seen in Intended Obsolescence

If God is the architect of the Old Covenant, and the Bible says that the Old Covenant failed (Hebrews 8), the question may rightly be asked: Did God create something that did not work?  Did the sovereign, omnipotent God make a lemon?  Was the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-13) a repair job?

Hardly!

The relationship of the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, shows the unfathomable riches of God’s wisdom! (Rom 11:33-36).

On this challenging subject of covenantal relations, Barry Joslin gives an inspiring (but not inspired) vision of the way God wisely designed the first covenant with “purposed insufficiency.”  God’s plan did not fail.  It was designed to break down, so that Christ’s better covenant could be installed for eternity.  Professor Joslin explains,

The inadequacy of the first covenant espoused in verse 7 centers on the inabilities of its sacrificial system to deal with sin and in the “rebellious hearts” and “stiff necks” of the people (recall [Hebrews] 3:7-4:13 and the indictment of Ps 95).  The criticism here [Heb 8] comes from God, the speaker.  This is significant given that he was responsible for making the first covenant.  God, the covenant-maker, established a covenant which he knew to be anticipatory and limited in its abilities.  He knew that it would be insufficient and that its sacrificial system would ultimately not be acceptable to him in order to take away sin (9:1-10:18). Therefore one must pause and make the assertion that God had, in this manner, always planned for a [New Covenant] that would be superior to the old, and one that would consist of the blessings both to take away sin as well as to make obedience a hallmark of the NC People.  Thus [Hebrews] 8:7 reinforces the point that the first covenant was not a failure, but was insufficient due to its built-in insufficiencies that anticipated a new arrangement.  Therefore the [Old Covenant] fulfilled its divinely-ordained anticipatory purpose (Barry Joslin, Hebrews, Christ, and the Law: The Theology of the Mosaic Law in Hebrews 7:1-10:18, 183-185).

From before the foundation of the world, God had planned the salvation of his people, and from Genesis 1:1 until the cross of Jesus Christ, God’s history was being worked out according to his sovereign and wise plan.  The intended obsolescence of the Old Covenant is just one feature of God’s perfect wisdom refracted through redemptive history.  It is for this reason that all the redeemed should study the works of God (Ps 111:2), so that they may praise with Paul,

Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has know the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Amazed at the wisdom of God in redemptive history, dss