Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22: Growing in grace by every word from God

The roller-coaster ride of ancient Israel through trust in the LORD, apathy and rebellion mirrors the turmoil that swirls around our daily lives.

This week’s Torah reading, דברים Devarim (“words,” Deut. 1:1–3:22), starts a “second telling” — deuteronomy in Greek — to the post-Exodus generation of why Israel exists and what its mission is. The parallel reading in Isaiah 1:1-27 and the Sermon on the Mount teach us how our interpretation of and living out the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah can go terribly wrong if we don’t learn the why behind the what of God’s instructions.

This is in the 40th year, setting the stage and preparing the Promised Land. Moses is giving this second generation a sweeping history lesson. As we look at this, we may be tempted to wonder how stubborn, ignorant, myopic the children of Israel were? Let’s no go there because we can be equally stubborn, ignorant, and myopic, too.

They just saw God’s words as “blah, blah, blah” and we can fall into that same sin too. We should see this as a roadmap for ourselves and how we can nudge those around us back onto the correct path.

There are three major addresses in the book of Devarim where Moses addresses the people. Everyone wants to know where they come from, which is only partially told by our biology and our biology is not the most important part of our story. The most important inheritance we carry with us are the words of God.

When the people of Israel lost sight of the words of God, their DNA connection with Abraham didn’t get them anywhere. They were sent into exile and diaspora when they fell into idolatry and iniquity. God can create sons for Abraham from the rocks. The most important thing we can receive from God are His words. For example, the people of Nineveh trusted God’s words through Jonah and received a great blessing because of it.

A couple of years ago during Sukkot, we read through the entire book of Deuteronomy. The reason this is helpful is that you can see how it elaborates on all of the 10 commandments.

In English class, you were probably told repeatedly to create an outline before writing an article or a story to keep you from going off on strange tangents. The 10 commandments are like an outline for Israel. They were given to keep Israel from going off on strange tangents in their walk of faith.

‘Under the hood’ of the Ten Commandments

A significant part of the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:1-26:15) is a longer outline of the Ten Commandments.

The media is dying while there are over 100,000 churches in America, yet the media have more influence in our culture than the church.

These words that come out of God’s mouth are supposed to be proclaimed to influence those God has given to us, but often we treat God’s word like an on/off switch.

When you go through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) and on the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17–49) were Yeshua’s way of calling out how the interpretation of Torah had gone wrong. They are called “the antithesis” in some circles, as though Yeshua was changing the Law or disparaging the Law but what Yeshua is giving us is the heart of God’s law.

Those things that are called “irrelevant” or “obsolete” by those who claim leadership in Yeshua’s church are actually very important teachings to show us how to keep the 10 commandments, which are just as much Yeshua’s law as they are God’s law.

“Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” in Devarim/Deuteronomy helps us live out the Ten Commandments.

Lesson from the beginning of Devarim: Choose good leaders

What should have been an 11 day journey took 40 years because of Israel’s stubbornness is very sobering. Entering God’s rest is connected with the Shabbat and the rest Messiah brings.

Moses encourages the people to choose their elders and Moses would anoint them for office. We need to be very careful when we vote for our leaders.

Your voice and your voice count, even if just for those who look to you for guidance. We need to choose our leaders well, follow their lead and hold them accountable for their leadership.

Apostle Paul outlined qualifications for leaders of congregations in letters to Timothy and Titus (1Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–2:14). Overseers are held to a very high standard.

“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Tim. 3:1-7 NASB)

Some of those leaders led rebellions against Moshe as prophet-judge and against Aharon and his sons as priests. Ten of 12 chosen representatives from the tribes led the people ultimately against the LORD.

Deacons, who are servants, also have to meet a high standard.

“Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 3:8-13 NASB)

We need to always be mindful that we should exemplify this type of behavior. We should be dependable. One can’t really meet these standards at the same time without God’s help.

      • Overseers (episcopos, bishop):
        • Above reproach, respected outside the congregation (Titus: not accused of drunkenness or rebellion)
        • One wife
        • Temperate, “not given to much wine”
        • Prudent
        • Respectable
        • Hospitable
        • Not pugnacious (a bully)
        • Gentle
        • Able to teach
        • Not greedy
        • Manages his children well (Titus: who are believers)
        • Not a new convert
      • Deacons/deaconesses (diakonos, ministers):
        • Dignified
        • Temperate
        • “Holding to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience”
        • Deaconesses (and deacons): Not malicious gossips
        • One wife
        • Tested before serving
        • Manages children well

As the children of Israel went from Sinai to the Land the first time. Moses recalls the rebellion that had caused them to not take the land 40 years before. God had cleared the way for Esau (Edom) and Lot (Ammon & Moab), who were also descendants of Abraham but Israel did not believe that God would do the same for them.

God cleared the giants for Esau and Lot’s descendants, but the giants dancing in the heads of the first generation of Israel prevented them from entering the land. They made their lives as well as God’s message to the nations much more difficult.

We need to walk the path God has for us, regardless of how scary it might be. The people of Israel had given into their fear rather than overcoming their fear.

The children of Israel ended up wandering for 38 years as the “generation of war” die off, the generation who did not believe that God would clear out those giants from them.

Lesson from the ‘abominations of desolation’: Connect the ‘what’ of God’s instructions with the ‘why’

I also want to go over the parallel reading (haftarah) for Devarim, located in Isa. 1:1–27. This reading is a part of three admonitions between the fast of the month of Tammuz (fourth month on God’s calendar) and the fast of the month of Av (fifth month):

The prophet Isaiah levels four accusations against the children of Israel in his day:

  • Sinful nation
  • People weighed down by iniquity
  • Offspring of evildoers
  • Sons who act corruptly

They were fighting against God, which is not a wise action to take. He compares them to a sukkah in a vineyard. God protected and tended Israel but rather than being grateful, they rebelled. They became a byword to the nations, a warning of the consequences of disobedience rather than an example of the blessing of obedience.

This is brought up in Revelation 11 as Jerusalem is compared to Sodom, a city doomed to destruction. God goes on to criticizing them for how they were bringing down His feasts to their level. Israel had followed the “what” but forgotten the “why.” When you see this change, how is Israel going to move from desolation to a living nation.

There are four stages of repentance.

  1. Wash yourselves. Make yourselves clean.
  2. Remove the evil of your deeds from YHWH’s sight. God sees what is done in secret.
  3. Cease to do evil. Change your behavior.
  4. Learn to do good.

Apostle Ya’akob (James) mentioned examples of learning to do good, such as:

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27 NASB)

The LORD doesn’t want the abomination of desolation, the destruction, the exiles, the 40 years of wandering. But what is our response when we are given the chance to enter God’s rest (Hebrews 3–4)? Will we go in or shrink back because it’s “too tough” (Hebrews 10)? All of us have to face this question: Do we go in and stay in, or do we just enter on a “tourist visa” then return to our old way of life?

Banner Photo: Patiently learning Torah from the Master. Photo from, license exclusively by 

Summary: Tammy.


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