Introducing Deuteronomy

Text Deuteronomy 1:1-8 Time 16 01 08 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church (Midweek)
I would like us to begin today looking at the fifth book of the Bible, the Book of Deuteronomy. Let's begin by saying something by way of introduction. The book is, of course, the fifth book of Moses and he is its principal author. The opening verses read These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the desert east of the Jordan - that is, in the Arabah - opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. (It takes 11 days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.) In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying: .... Firstly then there are several things to note by way of introduction. I also want to say something about the shape or form of the book. It is called Deuteronomy from the Latin – Second Law, Law given a second time. The Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 are repeated and developed in Deuteronomy 5.
1. Important things to note about the book of Deuteronomy
1. Note the human author of this book
These are the words Moses spoke ... Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them ... Moses began to expound this law, saying:
How thankful we should be for the human authors of Scripture and none less than Moses that great man of God through whom we have received so much.
2. Note the heavenly author of this book
Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them.
Whenever we read the Scriptures we need to remind ourselves that behind the human authors is God himself the inspirer of every word of Scripture. This is the very Word of God.
3. Note the first recipients of this book
These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel ... Moses proclaimed to the Israelites ....
These words were first spoken to God's people of a previous generation. What they needed to hear then we also need to hear now. Obviously many things have changed in the intervening time but a great deal has not and these words remain relevant to God's people.
4. Note the time when the words of this book were spoken
In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, (This was after he had defeated Sihon, etc).
This is at the end of the period of their wandering in the desert. The people have left Horeb and their unfaithfulness at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 13) is in the past. As it says in verse 2 It takes 11 days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road but the people had been made to wander about these 40 years because of their unbelief and rebelliousness. But now they are about to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. It is now the last month of the fortieth year of wandering.
Again, it is a many years since the words were first preached but they have lost none of their truth or ultimately their relevance to us when properly applied.
5. Note the place where the words in this book were spoken
in the desert east of the Jordan – What later came to be known as Perea, where Jesus later ministered that is, in the Arabah - opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab ... East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab.
This is in Transjordan then, in Moab, east of the Jordan. The further elaboration - opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab does not help us much today as we are not sure exactly where these places are. The reference to the defeat of Sihon and Og is a reminder that the land here has been secured and Canaan now beckons.
Once more then, they were spoken very far from here but that does not stop them from being effective in our lives in this place just as they were in the case of some them there.
6. Note the purpose of this book
Moses, speaking in God's name, is now about to expound this law, the law that they had received at Horeb or Sinai. He was about to make it distinct or clear. We cannot doubt the importance of exposition of God's Word. Everything needs to be done to make it as clear and as explicit as possible. It is right that we use translations. It is right that preachers seek to expound the Word. We should take advantage of every help in this direction.
7. Note the form of this book
For many years now it has been recognise that the Book of Deuteronomy follows the form of an ancient near eastern suzerainty treaty. In ancient times covenants between people were common enough. Among the more common forms were those between equals and those between unequal parties. This second type of covenant was between an overlord or suzerain and his vassals or inferiors. Most often they occurred when a King made a covenant with his people. In such covenants it was the suzerain who chiefly took on responsibility for the various stipulations but certain obligations were also laid down for the vassal, although his inferiority meant that he never took on responsibility to the same extent as the suzerain.
Many such ancient treaties have been found, more than half from the Hittite Empire of the second millennium BC. Later ones from Hittite, Assyrian and Egyptian sources also exist but Deuteronomy seems most like the former type. The typical order for such treaties (according to John Currid in his commentary) is
1. Preamble – spoken by the suzerain. The purpose is to identify the suzerain and engender fear and awe in the vassal.
2. Historical prologue – a survey of previous relations
3. Stipulations of the treaty – obligations spelled out
4. A witness clause – the gods and nature itself are called upon
5. Sanctions – Blessings and curses for keeping or not keeping covenant are listed
6. A statement of display – How the covenant has been recorded
7. Other treaties include other elements such as an oath of obedience, ceremonial details, etc.
In Deuteronomy we see then
1. Preamble – 1:1-8.
2. Historical prologue – 1:9-4:43
3. Stipulations of the treaty – 4:44-26:19
4. Sanctions – 27:-29:1
5. A statement of display – 27:1-4
6. Deuteronomy includes and oath of allegiance, 29:2-30:20
7. A witness clause – 31:1-32:47
The Book of Deuteronomy then is an official document ratifying the formal covenant relationship between the LORD as King and Israel as his vassal. It reveals God's sovereignty over his people and the special relationship that his people have with him.
The evident unity of the book when read as a treaty or covenant argues against attempts to see it as the result of editorial work on various sources over many, many years.
We do not need to become experts in ancient near eastern culture to see that this knowledge can be a great help to us in seeking to understand God's Word at this point, Let's take full advantage of these more recent discoveries in seeking to understand the Word of God an keep these things in mind as we study the book.
2. Important things to consider from the preamble to the Book of Deuteronomy
1. Consider God
In verse 6 Moses says The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, You have stayed long enough at this mountain. The LORD our God is rare in the first four books of the Old Testament but common enough in this fifth book. It combines the covenant name of God and the words our God. There is a God, the God who made this world. He is the God of the covenant who enters into covenant with his people. He is our God. He is a God who speaks – he spoke at Horeb and he speaks here too. He is the Lawgiver but not only the Lawgiver but the one who calls on us to move on. Matthew Henry says “Though God brings his people into trouble and affliction, into spiritual trouble and affliction of mind, he knows when they have dwelt long enough in it, and will certainly find a time, the fittest time, to advance them from the terrors of the spirit of adoption.”
2. Consider his gifts
Here there is a focus on the Promised Land. It is
1. Land to be seen
7, 8 Break camp they are told and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighbouring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. The first thing they need to do is to see this land – to observe it. Often the first thing we need to do is to realise what God has in store for us, what he has and will make available. We ought to know about the Christian life and what it holds – about justification, adoption, etc. Practice is important but we need to know the teaching first.
2. Land to be possessed
Verse 8 says See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land. Having seen it, we must take possession of it. It is no use to us if we simply look at it. Merely looking at a healthy meal will do us little good. It needs to be consumed. Knowing you have property is not the same as actually living in it. We need not only to know the doctrine but also to have the experience of living the Christian life. Are we working at it?
3. Land promised beforehand
The Land is, of course, the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers - to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - and to their descendants after them. Moses is reminding the people of their long history. Today people are more interested in their roots than perhaps at any time. Roots are certainly important. We ought to know something about our roots as Christians. We learn something of it in Eph 1:3-6 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
You notice that God does not prepare the people to enter Canaan by discussing war, strategy, etc, but chooses more exalted themes. There is a final lesson for us in that.

One God, One Mediator

Text 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 Time 04 11 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist ChurchI want us to consider some verses this evening found in 1 Timothy 2:5, 6. These words For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all men - the testimony given in its proper time.These verses lay down some very basic and fundamental truths, important truths that no-one is going to make very much progress without knowing.
The verses come in Paul's first letter to his son in the faith Timothy. Timothy is in Ephesus acting as Paul's deputy and successor. There are certain things that Paul wants him to know about how the life of the church is to be conducted and so he writs this letter.
At the beginning of what we call Chapter 2 Paul urges that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – all sorts of people, especially kings and all those in authority. The church, especially the men, are to be urged to pray that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, says Paul and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men ie all sorts of men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. God is not just interested in the poor but also in the rich, not just in the weak but also in the powerful. He wants all sorts of people to be saved and to know the truth. Paul goes on then to give three fairly obvious reasons as to why we must accept this. He doesn't argue for these reasons but rather asserts them as being fundamental. These reasons are very important for all of us to be absolutely clear on. So let's consider these things.
1. Realise that there is only one GodThe first point is the most basic and incontrovertible For there is one God. We should pray for every sort of person because who ever they are, they are all under the one true God and who ever they are they can only be saved by the one true God. There is no other. We encourage the children to say – "How many gods are there? There is only one God." That's right! There is not one god for the rich and one for the poor. There is just one God. Rom 3:29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one - who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.Now I know that some people object.
1. Some say that there is no God at all
They are a very, very small minority who even suggest this. Many more live as though there were no God but over 90% of people you are likely to meet will accept that there is a God. Those who disagree do in fact know that there is a God but the Bible tells us that they seek to suppress that truth. They try to push under all thoughts of God and some do it so well that they can even say they are sure there is no God. It creates great difficulties for them, of course, as it is impossible to prove there is no God and things like creation and providence and conscience and the Bible and the overwhelming majority who do believe in God keep pointing in the opposite direction.
2. There are also those who say that there are in fact many gods
Hindus for example will tell you about Lakshmi and Rama and Krishna and so on. They have as many as 30 million gods. And yet if you question them carefully you will find that they also believe in ion ultimate God. Even the most rabid idolater will usually have this idea in his mind too. From the Christian point of view Paul says (1 Cor 8) We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live. You can make a “god” of anything – your car, your wife, your religion, your traditions – Dagon, Baal, Rama, Krishna, etc. Such so-called gods are in fact idols. They have no power to change lives or to do anything. The OT prophets often pointed this out with some glee (Ps 115:3-8)
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
3. But there is only one God
Now, when it comes to speaking of God in the proper sense – the God who made the world and who rules it, the God who has power over our lives to change them and who will one day judge us all. When it comes to those things there is only one God and there can only be one God. There cannot be two creators or two rulers or two judges. What confusion there would be if that were possible. Sometimes people who think about these questions put it in these terms. "'Believe in God' you tell me but which God – the God of the Christians, the God of the Muslims, the God of the Hindus, which God?" Well, let's be clear on this it has to be the one true God. It cannot be Allah, the god of the Muslims. If you read about Allah you will see that he is not the God of the Bible. Like the Samaritans the Muslims do not know who they are worshipping. It cannot be the god of the Jews either, the god whose name they will not use. Yes, they take many ideas from the Bible but others (especially those found in the New Testament) they refuse to accept and so they again worship a god they do not know.
No, there is in the end only one true God. There only can be one. It is something that it would seem Satan found out the hard way. He wanted to be equal with God but it cannot be. There can be only one God. This is something that we need to see if we are ever to come near to God. It is one of the barriers we face. We wan to rule our own lives. We want to be captain of our own ship, in charge of our own destiny. But there is only one God. There can only be one God.
Perhaps this is one of the clearest lessons in all the pages of the Bible. The sooner we learn it, the better for us all. To fail to realise this fundamental truth is a very big mistake indeed. There is only one God and if people seek other gods or no god at all then they are doomed. We must urge them to seek the one true God, the one and only God.
2. Realise that there is only one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ JesusSo there is only one God. Many would agree. But look how Paul goes on and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. Back in 1 Corinthians 8 he says yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. The point in both verses is the same. Let's focus on the way he puts it in 1 Timothy. We need to start with the word Mediator. What is a mediator? A mediator is a middle man, a go-between. When there is conflict then a mediator or an arbitrator, an umpire, what used to be called a daysman, is needed.
So for example some while ago the then shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram was calling on the then Prime Minister Tony Blair 'to mediate in the row between some EU member states and the Americans over Iraqi reconstruction contracts'. He was suggesting that 'Britain is perfectly placed to act as a mediator in any dispute.'
I found on the internet The Centre for Employee Mediation. Their slogan is 'Conflict at work? Don't hesitate - Mediate!'
There are some who see no need for a mediator because they do not think there is a dispute between man and God. Yet clearly the difference between God and man is vast and down through the ages men have generally felt the need for a mediator, an arbitrator, a go between. Remember Job's words (9:32-34) He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. When we reckon with man's animosity to God and the fact that God is angry with man then we see that a mediator is absolutely vital.
Many think that this mediation can come about in various ways. You know, they say, different people come to God in different ways. Some find him in the quietness of Buddhism or Quakerism, others come to him through Islam or some other religion. Some think that the saints, people like Mary and Joseph and Peter and Paul, can be mediators with God. Most organised religions have some place for a priesthood. The idea is that through the priests you come to God.
In fact, the Bible is clear on two things
Firstly, just as there is only one God so there is only one Mediator between God and men. There are not many mediators but only one. It is stated here and it is implied in other places too. Jesus himself, as we were reminding ourselves the other week, says I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.Secondly, that one Mediator is the Man Christ Jesus. He alone is able to act as the go between. Why? Because he is man. He is fully human and so on the manward side he fully understand us and enters into our world. Yet he is also Christ. He is the Messiah. He is God come in the flesh. No other Mediator therefore can bridge the gap between God and man as he does. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the staircase or ladder that reaches form earth to heaven and from heaven to earth. He is described to us as the great High Priest who is able to bring us to God. That is why we need no other priest if he is our mediator.
If there was more than one mediator it could be very confusing. And if the mediator is not both God and man then there is going to be a problem on one side or the other. How can God so condescend? How can any man attain to such a height? Jesus Christ is uniquely able to be our Saviour and Mediator that is why we must look to him.
Do you realise then that you need a mediator? Do you realise that only one will do? Do you realise that there is only one anyway and he is the man Christ Jesus? Look to him then. Come to the Father through the Son and find forgiveness and life in him.
3. Realise that Jesus Christ gave himself as a ransom for all sorts of peoplePaul adds some explanation as to how Jesus acts as Mediator. He calls him the one who gave himself a ransom for all men - the testimony given in its proper time. Three things then
1. A ransom
We are used to the word ransom in connection with kidnaps, for example. Earlier this year the BBC reporter Alan Johnson was kidnapped in Palestine, on the Gaza Strip. The kidnappers were at least at first demanding payment of a ransom price for his release. The word was also used for the payment of a price to release any prisoner or slave. The ideas of exchange and of payment are both there. So when Paul speaks of Jesus as a ransom, echoing Jesus's own words about himself – the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many – he is saying that Jesus has paid a price in order to bring about an exchange of prisoners or slaves. He is referring, of course, to his death, his death on the cross. That death was a ransom payment, a substitutionary death on behalf of others to bring them near to God.
2. For all men
At first blush that would seem like Jesus died for everyone and that is certainly what many Christians believe. But we must be careful with that word all. When Paul says (Acts 22:15) he was told you will be a witness for him to all men it is clear that there must be some sort of limit to that all men. I think that a closer examination of the various New Testament texts would show that we are wiser to say that Jesus died for his people. He died not to make salvation possible but to actually save specific people. It is sometimes called limited atonement but particular atonement is a better word (hence the labels Particular and General Baptists). Paul's point here is that those people are of all sorts. It is part of the point that he is making about praying for all sorts of people. Christ died both for Jews and for Gentiles, for religious and irreligious, young and old, rich and poor, etc. All sorts.
Remember that Jesus died for all sorts of people. We can never assume that doesn't include me or you or him.
3. The testimony given in its proper time
There is only one way to be saved. There always has been only one way to be saved. However, the actual act that saves - the death of Christ as a ransom for many – took place in time and so some lived before that event and some, like us, lived after it. God planned exactly when in time the testimony should be given. In one sense it doesn't matter whether we lived before or after. The important thing is that the testimony has now been given and all must hear it and take note. Are you paying heed to it? Are you taking note? The ransom has been paid and there is forgiveness for all the redeemed, for all who trust in the Saviour, in the one Mediator between God and man. Trust in him today.