I wonder if you remember what you were doing on 15 September 2013? Any ideas? Can you remember back that far? If you can’t remember, I can tell you. At least I can tell you what most of you were doing, because most of you, although not all of you, were listening to me preach on Genesis chapter 1. And since then, I’ve preached through the whole of the Pentateuch. That’s the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I preached on Genesis and Exodus on Sunday evenings between 2013 and 2017. But then I preached on Leviticus and Numbers on Wednesday evenings from 2017 to 2019. And since June of last year, I’ve been preaching on Deuteronomy on Sunday evenings again. And today we’ve come to the end of the book of Deuteronomy and the end of the Pentateuch. But before we look at today’s passage, I thought we’d spend most of our time this evening reviewing what we’ve covered and some of the things we’ve learned.
And so, we began, of course, with Genesis, the book of beginnings. Genesis is the beginning of the Bible and it tells us about the beginning of the world and how God made all things including Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. It tells us about the beginning of sin and how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and how God’s good world was spoiled because of their sin. It also tells us about the beginning of the gospel, because the Lord announced in the Garden that the Seed of the woman would one day crush and destroy the seed of the serpent. The Seed of the woman is the Lord Jesus Christ who came into the world to destroy the works of Satan and to set his people free from sin and Satan.
So, the book of Genesis is the book of beginnings. But then, after the first eleven chapters — which form a kind of prologue or introduction to the Bible — we read how God revealed himself to Abraham and made certain promises to him. These promises were repeated to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and then to Isaac’s son, Jacob, who became the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. And do you remember that the promises he made are summarised by the three Ps: people, place, presence. God promised to give Abraham and Isaac and Jacob a people. In order words, he was going to make them into a mighty nation so that the number of their descendants would be like the stars in the sky and like the sand on the seashore, too many to count. And God was going to give them a place: a land of their very own where they could live in peace and safety. And when the people come into into the right place, they would enjoy the presence of God in their midst. God would dwell among them.
So, that was God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob: all of God’s people, living in the place he had prepared for them, enjoying his presence in their midst. And I made the point often that God’s promises to them are fulfilled in two ways. They are fulfilled in an earthly, ordinary and provisional way. And they are fulfilled in a spiritual, greater and eternal way. They were fulfilled in an earthly, ordinary and provisional way in the people of Israel and in the land of Canaan and in the temple, because the people of Israel became a mighty nation and they lived together in the Promised Land of Canaan; And God dwelt among them in the temple in Jerusalem.
But, then, God’s promises are fulfilled in a spiritual, greater and eternal way in the church of Jesus Christ and in the new heavens and the new earth, because everyone who trusts in the Lord Jesus is a spiritual descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and we’ll live together in the new and better creation to come, where we’ll enjoy the presence of God in our midst forever. And according to the book of Revelation, the church triumphant in heaven comprises a great multitude that no one can count, drawn from every nation and tribe and people and language. A multitude like the stars in the sky and like the sand on the seashore, countless men and women, who will live with the Lord forever and forever in the place God has prepared for us.
And all those promises which God made to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob point to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to save his people and to bring us to our eternal home to be with the Lord forever.
The book of Exodus opens by making clear that God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob concerning a people had already been fulfilled, because over the years, the people of Israel had multiplied. At the end of the book of Genesis, they numbered only 70. But at the opening of the book of Exodus, it says they had become ‘exceedingly numerous’.
However, God’s people were in the wrong place. Instead of living in the Promised Land of Canaan, they were living in the land of Egypt. And they were living as slaves and their lives were miserable, because the Egyptians made their work and their lives hard and difficult. And their groaning went up to the Lord who heard them and who sent Moses to deliver them out of their slavery and to bring them into the Promised Land.
The Pharaoh, of course, refused to let them go and so the Lord revealed his mighty arm and sent one plague after another to break the Pharaoh’s resistance; and eventually, after the tenth and the worst plague, Pharaoh gave the order that the Israelites could leave. But once they left, he changed his mind and sent his men to recapture them. The Israelites were afraid, because the Egyptians were coming up behind them; and in front of them, blocking their way, was the Red Sea. But the Lord miraculously opened a way for them through the Red Sea so that they crossed over safely, while their enemies were drowned.
Then, in the wilderness, when they were thirsty, the Lord provided them with water. When they were hungry, he provided them with manna and quail. When more enemies attacked them, he protected them. And so, the Lord brought his people safely to Sinai where he came down and entered into a covenant with them. In the covenant, he promised to be their God and to watch over them and to care for them; and they promised to do all that the Lord commanded. And the Lord revealed to them all the terms of the covenant: the laws they were to keep. But he also revealed to them instructions about the tabernacle which they were to build as a dwelling place for the Lord. And he gave them instructions about the priest who was to appear before the Lord on behalf of the people. And right at the end of the book of Exodus, we read that the tabernacle was set up according to the Lord’s instructions and the glory-cloud of the Lord appeared and filled the tabernacle. God had come to dwell among his people. In other words, although they weren’t yet in the right place, nevertheless God’s people were able to enjoy the presence of God in their midst.
And, of course, the things that we read in Exodus point forward to the gospel. In order to escape the tenth plague, God commanded them to kill the Passover lamb and to smear the blood of the lamb on their doorposts so that the angel of death passed over their homes and those inside were spared. And the Passover lamb points to Christ, the true Passover lamb, who shed his blood on the cross so that all who believe in him are spared from God’s wrath. Then they passed through the waters of the Red Sea, leaving behind their old life as slaves in Egypt to begin a new life of freedom. And that illustrates and points forward to the way believers are washed and cleansed through faith in Christ; and by believing in him we leave behind our old life of sin and misery to begin a new life in Christ. And the priest who served in the tabernacle points to Christ our Great High Priest who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins and who has now appeared in heaven, which is the true tabernacle, where he intercedes for us before the Father.
And so, all those things we read in the book of Exodus point to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to save his people and to bring us to our eternal home to be with the Lord forever.
The book of Leviticus answers the question:
How can sinful men and women ever hope of come into the presence of a holy God?
And Leviticus answers that question by making clear that what the Israelites needed was a priest to offer the right sacrifices. With a priest to offer the right sacrifices, the people were cleansed from the sin that defiled them, so that they would continue to live before the Lord.
And so, in chapters 1 to 7 of Leviticus, the Lord gave instructions to Moses about the various sacrifices they were to offer to the Lord. Then, in chapters 8 to 10, there are instructions about how to ordain the priests. Then, in chapters 11 to 15, there are a series of laws about what makes a person or object unclean and unfit to be in the presence of the Lord; and there are instructions about how to be purified and made clean. Chapters 17 to 20 contain similar laws. Chapters 21 to 22 contain further instructions about the priests. And chapters 23 to 27 contain instructions about the special days and the feasts they were to observe and the sacrifices they were to offer.
So, there’s a pattern to the book of Leviticus: Chapters 1 to 7 and chapters 23 to 27 contain instructions about sacrifices. Chapters 8 to 10 and chapters 21 and 22 contain instructions about the priests. And chapters 11 to 15 and chapters 17 to 20 contain those laws about being clean and unclean. And then, right at the middle of the book of Leviticus, and right at the middle of the Pentateuch, is Leviticus 16 which is about the great Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement, the priest would slaughter a goat and sprinkle its blood on the tabernacle in order to cleanse the tabernacle and the people from the stain of their sin. And another goat was let loose to signify that God had taken away their guilt.
And so, right at the centre of Leviticus, which is right at the centre of the Pentateuch, are these instructions about the Day of Atonement, which foreshadows the day when the Lord Jesus died on the cross and shed his blood to cleanse us from the guilt of our sins. All those Old Testament sacrifices which were offered by the priests were designed by God to make do until Christ, the true priest, came to make atonement for our sins by shedding his blood on the cross. And all of God’s people may come to God through faith in him.
The book of Numbers contains lots of numbers, because it contains a census of the men of Israel at the beginning of the book; and there’s another census in chapter 26. There are two censuses because in the first one, the men who left Egypt are counted. However, the people of that first generation — all the ones who escaped from Egypt — died in the wilderness with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. They all died. And so, the second census was a census of the next generation. They are the ones who will eventually enter the Promised Land.
So, the book of Numbers contains lots of numbers. However, while we know it by that name, the Jews know it by the name ‘In the wilderness’. And they know it by that name because in this book we read how the people of Israel finally left Mount Sinai and began their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. However, when they first got to the border of the Promised Land, instead of believing God’s promises and going in to take over the land, the people doubted the Lord and his promises and they rebelled against him and began to talk about going back to Egypt. And so, because of their unbelief, the Lord was angry with them and swore than none of them — apart from Joshua and Caleb who believed — would enter the Promised Land. All of them would die in the wilderness. And so, the book of Numbers tells us about their time in the wilderness.
And it’s a sad story of rebellion and unbelief and moaning and groaning. And so, it’s a warning to us today not to doubt God’s word, but to believe all his promises. None of deserves to live in the presence of the Lord in the new and better creation to come. All of us deserve to perish, far from the presence of the Lord, because like the Israelites we too are sinners who sin against the Lord continually. But whoever believes — and does not doubt and does not turn away from God — whoever believes God’s promises of salvation receives forgiveness for all we have done wrong and the hope of everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.
Back in Genesis, God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a people, a place, and his presence with them. The book of Exodus opened by making clear that God had fulfilled the promise of a people, because they had become exceedingly numerous. And the tabernacle signified God’s presence with them. But in Exodus they only got as far as Sinai. And they remained at Sinai throughout the book of Leviticus. They then left Sinai in the book of Numbers, but they turned back from entering the Promised Land and remained in the wilderness. But the book of Deuteronomy opens with the people camped near the Jordan River, across from the city of Jericho. They’re about to enter the Promised Land, the place God had prepared for them.
And we’ve seen in Deuteronomy how Moses has been preparing them for life in the Promised Land. In the opening chapters, he reminded them of some of the things God had already done for them. So, he helped them in the past; and they can count on him to help them in the future. And then he reminded them of the Ten Commandments which he gave to their parents at Sinai and which he was giving this new generation of Israelites. And in the following chapters, Moses explained and applied the Ten Commandments to life in the Promised Land. And then God revealed to them the blessings they could expect to receive if they obeyed the Lord; and the curses they would suffer if they disobeyed him. And then, they renewed the covenant which the Lord made with their parents forty years previously at Mount Sinai. But even as they renewed the covenant, the Lord warned that they would break it. Though they promised to obey the Lord, they would turn away from him and they would bow down to false gods. And when that happened, he would send them into exile, far from the Promised Land. However, even then, the Lord would not abandon them, but he would be willing to bring them back to the Promised Land whenever they repented and returned to him.
But the fact that they would break the covenant highlighted the need for a better covenant, which they could not break. And sure enough, later in the Bible, the Lord revealed that the day would come when he could make a new covenant with his people, in which he would pardon his people for their sins like never before; and he would fill them with his Spirit like never before; and he would enable them to love and obey him like never before. Through the prophets, the Lord announced a new and better covenant. And on the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, he took the cup and announced to his disciples:
This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
He was announcing the new covenant. The time for the new covenant had come, when God would pardon his people for their sins like never before; and when God would fill them his Spirit like never before; and when God would enable them to love and obey him like never before. The Lord Jesus shed his blood on the cross for the complete forgiveness of all our sins. Then he was raised from the dead and he ascended to heaven to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, whom he has poured into our hearts. And the Holy Spirit renews our hearts and he enables us to love and to obey the Lord our God and to keep his law like never before.
And it’s because of the work of the Lord Jesus — who died for our sins and who was raised to give us life — that all of God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled in a spiritual, greater and eternal way, because — thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ — the day will come when a great multitude of people from every nation will gather in the place prepared for us in the new heavens and earth to enjoy the presence of God forever.
And so, from the book of Genesis right through to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, everything we’ve read points in one way or another to the good news of the gospel and to the great hope that God gives to all who trust in his Son.
And Deuteronomy 34 fits into everything else we’ve been reading. We read in verse 1 that Moses climbed a mountain. And there on the mountain, the Lord showed him the whole of the Promised Land. Moses was not allowed to enter the land, because of what he did when the people in the wilderness complained because there was no water. And instead of speaking to the rock, as the Lord commanded, Moses struck the rock. And in doing so, he dishonoured the Lord before the people. And so, the Lord said he could not enter the land. But still, the Lord who is merciful, let Moses see the land, this land like the Garden of Eden, flowing with milk and honey, where God’s people would dwell in the place God had prepared for them, enjoying his presence in their midst. And the Lord spoke to Moses in verse 4 to make clear that the land he was seeing was indeed the fulfilment of the promise God made with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. He said he would give them the land; and he had.
And then Moses died and his remains were buried in a secret grave. Moses was 120 years old; and yet his eyes were not weak and his strength had not gone. Nevertheless, it was time for him to die. And the Israelites grieved for him for thirty days. And Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him and set him aside to lead God’s people. The spirit of wisdom is probably the Holy Spirit, who came and helped Joshua to lead the people. And the people of Israel listened to Joshua.
And the chapter ends and the book ends by saying that since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses. He was a great leader and a great prophet. As the text tells us, he knew the Lord face to face. He was able to perform all kinds of signs and wonders in Egypt. And no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
So, since that time, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses. Not until the coming of the Lord Jesus, that is, because the Lord Jesus is not only our Great King and our Great Priest, as we were hearing this morning, but he’s also our Great Prophet. In the past — the writer to the Hebrews says — God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Moses knew the Lord face to face, but the Lord Jesus is the Lord, the Eternal Son of God and the Word of God the Father, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. Moses was a faithful servant, but the Lord Jesus is God’s Son, and he’s therefore worthy of greater honour. Moses was mediator of the Sinai covenant, which the people broke, but the Lord Jesus is the mediator of the new and better covenant, through which our hearts are sprinkled, and not just our bodies; and we’re cleansed from every sin that defiles us; and we’re pardoned from all that we have done wrong so that we can have everlasting life in the presence of God. Moses was able to lead the people to the edge of the Promised Land of Canaan. But the Lord Jesus is able to lead us all the way to the True Promised Land of eternal life in the presence of God. Indeed, he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the true way to eternal life and all who believe in him will have everlasting life. After Moses died, Joshua had to succeed him. But after the Lord Jesus died, he was raised and he has gone before us to our heavenly home to prepare a place for all who trust in him. And when the time is right, he’ll return to gather his people together and to bring us to that place he has prepared for us, so that where he is in the presence of God, we may be also.
Moses was a great prophet, but the Lord Jesus is far, far greater than Moses ever was. And so, we should give thanks to God the Father for sending his Son into the world to be our Great Prophet and to make known to us God’s willingness to pardon sinners and to give eternal life to all who believe in him. We ought to give thanks to God for him.
And we ought to trust in Jesus Christ, and keep trusting in him, not turning away from him and not turning to other things. We ought to trust in him, because he’s the only one who can bring us to heaven and to eternal life.
And we ought to look forward with hope to that new and better world which Christ has prepared for us. In the beginning, Adam sinned against the Lord and he was sent out of the Garden of Eden and away from the Tree of Life which held out the promise of eternal life in the presence of God forever. Adam was sent away. And because of him and his sin, the world God made was spoiled and death came into this world, so that we all die.
But then the last Adam appeared, Jesus Christ. And instead of disobeying God, he was obedient in everything, even to the point of death on the cross. And after he died, he was raised and exalted to heaven. And he promises eternal life to all who believe in him. And so, the day will come, when we will be brought into that new and better world to come, that new creation, where we will eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. And forever and forever all of God’s people will enjoy the presence of God in the place he has prepared for us. And there we will worship him forever.
And in the meantime, while we wait for that day, we should seek to obey the Lord and to do his will on earth as it’s done in heaven above.