The final section (vv. 39-43) of this song deals with the nature of God and final victory. At the very end, the word atonement suddenly appears. He will “make atonement for his land and people” (v. 43). They would probably think of the Day of Atonement, which is pointing forward to the coming of Jesus Christ. You see, it’s only because of the coming of Jesus Christ that you and I are ever going to escape the judgment which hangs over us. Christ shields us from all wrath; outside of Christ, we are exposed to all wrath. Moses’ great song teaches that judgment is coming, but God provides deliverance from it by making atonement. The people need to find refuge in Him.
At the very end of the chapter Moses charges the people one more time: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess” (vv. 46-47).
This final assessment of Moses is very important. Deuteronomy is not just a law book. It is true that if you follow the legal maxims laid down in Deuteronomy, you will have an ordered society, you will keep violence under control, and people will be encouraged to do good things. But this is a matter of life and death—and not just physical life and death, but spiritual life and death. As Jesus said, quoting from this very book, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3). You can have plenty to eat, you can have a lovely house to live in, and you can be highly regarded by people in this world, and yet die and go to hell. But the Word of God, blessed by the Holy Spirit, gives spiritual life for eternity. And though you may go hungry or homeless, the time will come when you will spend eternity with God. Jesus Himself says He has gone there to prepare a mansion for you (see John 14:2-3).
Moses ends by telling the people to take these things to heart, and to command them to their children so that they will obey them, too. These words that Moses is speaking are God’s words, and thus they are the people’s very life. Whatever may come, remember that these words that come to you from God are your life. By them you must live, and therefore you have to give attention to them.
As Moses comes to the end of his life, he is focusing on God. So let me just review a few of the things about God we have seen from Deuteronomy. The first is that God is sovereign. Moses has a great sense of the sovereignty of God. God is the eternal Creator and Sustainer of His people, and, in fact, of all people. He determines the boundaries of the earth’s nations and, more than that, He determines all things. What that means is that nothing ever surprises God because He controls everything.
Do you have a God like that? Do you know that your God really is in charge of all things, including all the little details of your life? If you do, then you’ll trust him. Jesus said that since God clothes the grass of the field, which is here one day and gone the next, we must stop worrying about tomorrow because God will take care of us (see Matt. 6:34).
The second thing we see is that God is faithful. And that God is faithful demands faithfulness from His people. He had entered into a covenant with the people of Israel and He has entered into a covenant with us. He is not going to abandon us, and He is not going to allow us to abandon Him either. He requires faithfulness from us. Have you been faithful to Him? Knowing and following God is the only adequate foundation for a happy and prosperous spiritual life.
The third point is the grace of God. God has been gracious to the people even though they have gone their own way, even preferring at times false gods, turning their back on the very God who created, redeemed, and preserved them. It’s the grace of God that has saved you and me, too. It’s the grace of God that has kept you and me as well. It’s the grace of God that takes us back even when we go our own way. John Newton called it “amazing grace,” and it is amazing!
Finally, we see that God’s words create and sustain life. I suppose there is nothing that Moses emphasizes more in his final words. He says that God’s words are not just idle words; they are your life. Do you really believe that? If you do, then you will give attention to the Word. You’ll study it. You’ll make time for it. And not only that, you will obey it. God’s Word will be your meditation day and night.