Deuteronomy 1–3: Catching Up on the Past


You can find a complete audio teaching of this session here.

This week we began to study the Book of Deuteronomy. Landon MacDonald, the pastor of student ministries for Harvest Bible Chapel, provides a comprehensive overview of this final chapter of the Pentateuch in this YouTube video.

The Book of Deuteronomy is, without doubt, one of the longest farewell speeches in recorded history. It’s certainly the longest farewell speech found in the Bible. But, as we dig into it, we’ll find it’s much more than a farewell speech, because in this series of addresses Moses sought to equip this generation for their new life in the Promised Land. Remember, the generation that escaped from Egypt has died except for Moses (who will soon die), Joshua and Caleb. Moses desperately wants this “new” generation to know God and obey Him, so they can grasp the rewards found in the Promised Land.

The theme of Deuteronomy can be summarized easily. It’s Know, Do and Remember.

Know what God says,

Do what Moses commanded and,

Remember how God took care of you so that when you face difficult circumstances, your memory of God’s provision and goodness will pull you through.

Simply said: Do what God says and be blessed, don’t do what God says and be cursed.

Dr., John Maxwell wrote, “In Deuteronomy, a dying leader stands before Israel, a nation about to give birth to a long-awaited promise of God. Moses’ words, if heeded, will all the people of God to reach their potential; if ignored, Israel’s dreams will be dissolved.”[1]

To begin his first speech to the generation, Moses begins with a three-chapter history lesson. In Chapter one Moses remembers the journey of Israel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh Barnea (This was the place where, in Numbers 13 and 14, Israel believed the report of the unfaithful spies and rebelled against God, refusing to go into the Promised Land). Moses gives the Israelites vision and also a simple way for them to manage disputes as he creates a system of judges within each tribe. He recounts the story of the twelve spies and encourages the people to have faith and take the land that God promised them.

In chapter two Moses remembers the desert years and the march on to Canaan. As we read this section It’s possible to feel this is one of the saddest stories for Moses to tell. The wilderness journey most likely brought to mind a sense of waste. It may also have helped the people remember God’s faithfulness to them in spite of their wandering.

Deuteronomy 3 is Moses remembrance of the march on to Canaan and the appointment of Joshua as the new leader. Sadly, Moses doesn’t enter the Promised Land. His disobedience, like the generation he led from Egypt, cost him the opportunity to cross into the Promised Land. We can appreciate what a painful time this must have been for Moses. He lived the first forty years of his life confident in his own ability to deliver Israel. He spent the next forty years of his life having his confidence destroyed as he tended sheep on the back side of the desert. He spent the last forty years being used mightily by God to do what he was called to do. But, he’s not allowed to share in the final result.

Moses had the heart of a true shepherd. He knew his ministry was not centered on himself and his own satisfaction, but on God and His people.


  1. There’s a difference between unbelief and doubt. Unbelief is a matter of the will; it causes people to rebel against God and say, “No matter what the Lord says or does, I will not believe and obey!” Doubt, however, is a matter of the heart and the emotions; it’s what people experience when they waver between fear and faith. The doubter says, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” God seeks to encourage doubters and help them believe, but all He can do with unbelieving rebels is bring judgment
  2. Moses described this victory as “the Lord giving rest” (Deut. 3:20), a phrase that is used again in 12:10 and 25:19 and frequently in the book of Joshua. The New Testament Book of Hebrews picks up the phrase and applies it to the spiritual rest we have in Jesus because we have trusted His finished work on the cross (Heb. 3:11, 18; 4:1–11). Israel at Kadesh-Barnea wanted to go back to Egypt, and the Jewish believers to whom Hebrews was written wanted to go back to the old life and the old religion. Instead of trusting old ways, the writer urged the people to go ahead by faith into the rest that only Jesus can give (Matt. 11:28–30). Canaan isn’t a picture of heaven; it’s a picture of our spiritual riches in Jesus, the inheritance that we have in Him.
  3. Moses refuses to fear because of God’s faithfulness (3:22). The words of Moses, “The Lord your God … fights for you,” represent a major theme in Deuteronomy’s historical prologue. As Moses transfers his leadership duties to Joshua he emphasizes the necessity of a strong faith, a positive response to what God has said. Notice in 3:21 and 22 Moses’ continual focus on God’s ability: “… the Lord your God has done … so will the Lord do. … The Lord your God Himself fights for you.” Israel’s leader for forty years is exhorting his people not to leave God out of the picture. Promised lands without God are impossible! F. B. Meyer wrote, “Unbelief puts our circumstances between us and God. Faith puts God between us and our circumstances.”[2] Moses knew that if the people could see nothing but God they would begin to learn that God is enough!




[1] Maxwell, John C., and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. Deuteronomy. Vol. 5. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1987.

[2] John Maxwell, Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success, (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2004), e-Book edition


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