12/1/13: The Greatest Story Ever Told — DEUTERONOMY (Part 2)
“You are standing today all of you before the Lord your God…so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is making with you today, that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 29:10-13)
If you were Moses, what would you say to the people you have been leading for 40 years…the people who are about to begin the conquest of the Promised Land…the people who will soon be burying you and leaving you behind? We find our answer in Deuteronomy, which contains the last three messages Moses delivered to Israel. Written as a covenant, it begins with a review of the history of God’s dealings with his people (chapters 1-4), reiterates the laws God has established (chapters 4-26), and details the blessings and curses the people can expect if they obey (or disobey) God’s commands. The last few chapters include a beautiful song written by Moses, his blessing on each of the twelve tribes, and his transfer of leadership to Joshua.
Drawing from Mark Dever’s insightful outline in The Message Of The Old Testament, I focused Sunday’s lesson on three aspects of one central truth revealed in Deuteronomy: God chooses his people.
Who Is This God Who Chooses? He is the one true God. Surrounded by foreign nations who worshiped a host of false gods, Israel needed to be reminded that “the Lord is God; there is no other beside him” (Deut. 4:32-39). He is also the sovereign God, able to exalt and crush kingdoms as easily as we crumple a piece of paper. On the eve of their assault on Canaan, the Israelites needed to “remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt…So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid” (Deut. 7:17-19). The 12:13 students were asked to apply these two truths about God to their own lives with a couple of questions for further reflection:
- Who are the false gods in my generation?
- Does anything seem too hard for my God?
Why Did He Choose This People? The more you study the Israelites, the more obvious this question becomes. As Moses makes painfully clear, God did not choose them “because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:4-6). God’s motive for choosing Israel is beautifully captured in Deuteronomy 7:6-8: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people…for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers.” Can you spot that gospel truth rooted in this Old Testament book? Can you hear echoes of John 3:16? “For God so loved the world….” God chose the Israelites for the same reason he chooses us — despite their stiff-necked rebellion and sin, he loved them. The application to our class was immediate:
- Why would God choose me?
What Do His People Get? There are some pretty amazing benefits to being God’s chosen people. Israel received the law — a priceless collection of commands revealing God’s own character and values. So valuable was this law that God told his people to inscribe it on their hearts, to talk about it constantly, and to write it on the gates and doorposts of their homes (Deut. 6:4-9). Israel also received descendants as numerous as the stars (Deut. 10:22) according to God’s original promise to Abraham. They received a resource-rich land of their own “flowing with milk and honey” (Deut. 6:3). But best of all, Israel enjoyed God’s own presence as their birthright and greatest inheritance: “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).
The God who traveled with Israel in the pillar of cloud and fire…the God who dwelt with his people in the tabernacle…is Immanuel who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), the Lord Jesus Christ who declared, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). What a promise! What a God!
On Sunday, December 15, we will hold our first “Bible Bowl” competition of the year. All students will compete in teams of 3 or 4 as they answer 50 questions taken from the book of Deuteronomy (ESV translation). Students are encouraged to form teams now and assign specific chapters that each team member will study. With a section of Scripture this long and complex, students are going to have to study hard if they hope to hoist the annual “Bible Bowl” trophy!
FOR DISCUSSION WITH PARENTS
- What does it mean to trust God as a sovereign God?
- Why would God choose us? (See Deut. 7:6-8)
- Do you sense God’s presence in your life?