In verse 8 of the fourth section, a universal note is struck when it pictures God as the Most High God who gives to every nation the territory that it is supposed to have. With a very nice turn of phrase Moses says in verse 9, “For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” Paul refers to verse 8 when he preaches his sermon before the Greek intellectuals on Mars Hill, telling them that God has given all the nations their own portion of land as their inheritance (see Acts 17:26).
The fifth section (vv. 15-18) talks about Israel’s rejection of God. Having spoken of God’s goodness, the people’s evil, and how God has blessed them, Moses then says that Israel has turned away from God to follow after foreign gods, which are actually no gods at all.
In verses 19-27, which is the sixth section, the people have rejected God, so God is going to reject them. There is an interesting play on words here in the Hebrew. They have rejected the true God for a “no god,” and so God says He is going to reject them for a “no people.” In this idea, He is referring to people who are nothing in His sight. God will go on to reject them in favor of the Assyrians, who centuries later overthrew the northern kingdom, and then in favor of the Babylonians who overthrew the kingdom in the south.
In the seventh section (vv. 28-33), we see God’s assessment of the people. What are we to think of a nation that has acted like this? God had called these people, led them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, preserved them in the desert, brought them into their own land, and would soon give them cities that they didn’t build and vineyards that they didn’t plant. Yet in spite of how God had prospered them, they have gone their own way and went after false gods. What are you to say about people like that?
Well, the kindest thing you can say about them is that they lack common sense, which is what this section does. They lack spiritual discernment. God gives them up, you see, to go their own way, which is the way of the depraved mind, drawing parallels between what Moses says here and what Paul says in the first chapter of Romans. When people go their own way, He gives them up to a depraved mind, which means a mind which sets itself in opposition to God and actually approves evil.
It’s an interesting feature that a number of famous sermons have been preached on texts from this chapter of Deuteronomy. One is a sermon preached around the world by D. L. Moody. It is on verse 31 and takes its title from there also: “Their Rock Is Not Our Rock.” When great troubles come, the gods of unbelievers are no help at all. They are not adequate when the real crunch comes. But the God of the Bible is a sure foundation for those who build upon Him.
The eighth section (vv. 34-38) contains another text that has contributed to a great sermon, probably the best-known sermon that has ever been preached in America. It was based on the verse, “Their foot shall slide in due time” (v. 35), and was preached by Jonathan Edwards in Enfield, Connecticut, on July 8, 1741, with the title Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. God blessed that sermon so effectively that, although he delivered it almost in a monotone, people began to moan as he was describing the terrors that awaited those who did not find salvation in Jesus Christ.
Puritan preaching always had three parts. The first was the exegetical section, where the Puritans took the text and explained what it meant in its context. Next was the theological part, in which they drew out the doctrine that was found in the passage. And finally they had a section that was application, showing what it ought to mean to us and how we have to respond.
Edwards skipped over the first part, exegesis, quickly, not because it was not important but because his hearers knew the Bible well enough to know the context of the passage. He then developed a theology from the text very clearly, point after point. Then, for more than half the sermon, he presses the application on the people. The foot of the sinner will slide in due time, he reminds them. Judgment is certain. The only thing that keeps them out of hell right now, he says, is the sheer mercy of God who nevertheless is infinitely angry with them. Yet there is a way to escape this judgment through the mercy of Christ. Edwards described the wrath of God and the mercy of God so well that by the blessing of God revival came to that town in Connecticut.
The points Moses is making to Israel are exactly the same. Number one, judgment is being prepared for the wicked. Number two, this judgment is close at hand. He says that their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them. Number three, there will be no one to help them when that terrible and inevitable day of judgment comes. The gods they took refuge in will not be there.
This is a very unpopular message today. I don’t hear many pastors preaching about the wrath of God, hell, the damnation awaiting the wicked, or stressing that it’s nothing but the sheer good pleasure of God that keeps us from hell at that very instant if we are not in Christ. But these truths were preached so powerfully in those days and were used to bring much conviction to sinners in need of God’s saving grace.